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Paralyzed Former Rutgers Player Signs with Buccaneers

By on May 3, 2012 at 9:47pm

An inspiration, a “symbolic gesture” and a dream come true…

Eric LeGrand gets drafted to the NFL.

With the NFL picks in full affect after this past week’s draft, the 90th and final pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was left empty until early Tuesday morning.

Head coach Greg Schiano left this spot open for a special someone, a person who left jaws hanging and hearts broken back in October of 2010, Rutgers defensive tackle, Eric LeGrand. Continue reading Paralyzed Former Rutgers Player Signs with Buccaneers »

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Football fans will not be treated to another installment of Brady vs Manning on Sunday as the Broncos quarterback is still out with an injury. They will, however, be treated to one of the most captivating battles of the entire football season: the Patriots offense vs the Broncos defense. Each unit is the best at what it does. The Patriots offense has scored at least 20 points in every game despite several key injuries and the Broncos defense has been absolutely suffocating with just 284 yards per game allowed and 18.3 points per game given up.
When two units that do so many things well meet on the field, things generally come down to a handful of individual matchups and this game is no different. The two things that will most determine who wins this clash are how the Broncos will cover Rob Gronkowski and how the Patriots will block Von Miller.

Aqib Talib could be asked to cover Rob Gronkowski, similar to when he covered Jimmy Graham as a member of the Patriots. Talib held Graham to zero catches in that game and did a masterful job sticking with the tight end throughout. Still, Gronkowski is better than Graham and Talib will have his hands full if asked to stay with the mammoth Patriots tight end. The Buffalo Bills played a lot of zone on Monday night and blitzed Tom Brady often, both which resulted in Gronkowski having one of his lowest outputs of the year. The Broncos have another option in Danny Trevathan, who is a nimble linebacker that does well in coverage. Trevathan is 6’1” and 230 pounds, not tall enough to challenge Gronkowski for jump balls but physical enough the jam him at the line.

This is where the rash of injuries the Patriots have suffered come into play. Without Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, or Danny Amendola the Patriots will have to rely heavily on Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell. If no other players step up and the Patriots fail to run the ball well, Denver will be able to divert extra resources, perhaps a mix of Talib and Trevathan, to stopping the Patriots All-Pro. Normally when articles are written about how a team can slow Gronkowski down, he answers them with monster performances. This week could be one of the few times were a team is expected to and actually does slow him down.

One thing that the Bills did an excellent job of against the Patriots was confusing the protection up front. They blitzed effectively but were also able to get pressure on Brady with less than five rushers because of how well they disguised what they were going to do. With a defensive coordinator who is as adept as Wade Phillips, the Broncos have a realistic chance of doing the same.

There is no doubt that Miller is licking his chops after watching the Patriots offensive line struggle on Monday night. Miller is one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the NFL and he has been a key piece of the dominant Denver defense. The Broncos can line him up in several different spots but it is likely they will target Patriots offensive tackle Marcus Cannon. Cannon is a backup who has been pressed into service due to Nate Solder’s injury and his performance has been spotty. He played well against the Colts before being injured and missing several weeks. His first game back was Monday night and he played poorly. He accounted for two penalties and was beaten off the ball consistently. Against a player like Miller, the odds are heavily stacked against Cannon. Earlier this season when the Patriots went against strong pass rushes, they made a point of having Brady get rid of the ball in less than two and a half seconds therefore negating the rush. With Edelman, Amendola and Lewis out they will have a tougher time of doing that and more pressure is put on the offensive line.

Going against a prodigious pass rusher like Miller is not the only concern of Cannon’s. As the Patriots left tackle, he will need to block Miller to the outside on many of the inside runs that the Patriots deploy. Much is made of Miller as a quarterback attacker, but he also needs to be accounted for in the run game. New England will surely give Cannon help from a running back or tight end, but he will have several plays in which he needs to defeat Miller on his own. If he cannot do that, it will be a long night for the Patriots offense. If he can, the Patriots will have a better chance at attacking Denver’s excellent secondary.

In both of these match-ups, the early advantage has to go to Denver. Gronkowski might be the best tight end ever to play football, but even he will need players around him to elevate their game in order to attack an opponent as qualified as Denver. Miller is a potential Hall of Famer in his own right and going against a backup tackle is almost not fair. This is not a death sentence on the Patriots undefeated season. They can go to Denver and win, but they will need to have success in both of these matchups more than 50% of the time. This shapes up to be a rock fight type of game that will be physical and punishing. It may not be Brady-Manning, but it will be must see TV.

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New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski (87) scores a touchdown in front of New York Giants' Jayron Hosley (28) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday Nov. 15, 2015, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The Patriots did something they have not done since the last week of the 2007 regular season on Sunday. They beat the Giants. The teams fought back and forth with many big plays and the Patriots won 27-26. Stephen Gostkowski kicked a field with six seconds left from 54 yards out to win the game.

The game began with a long Patriots touchdown drive capped off by a Scott Chandler touchdown catch. The Giants answered right back with an 87 yard touchdown catch by Odell Beckham on their second offensive play. The teams fought back and forth throughout the second and third quarters with the Giants taking a lead into the fourth.

Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski on a 76 yard touchdown to give the Patriots the lead 24-23. After forcing a punt, the Patriots drove down the field highlighted by a 50 yard catch by Brandon LaFell. With the ball at the two yard line, LeGarrette Blount ran into the end zone for a touchdown but the score was called back due to a holding penalty by David Andrews. Despite the penalty, the Patriots were still in position to increase their lead. However, the drive came to a stunning end when Brady threw an interception  at the goal line.

The Giants then drove nearly the entire length of the field and appeared to take the lead on another Beckham touchdown catch, but the play was overturned. The Giants settled for a field goal and a 26-24 lead with less than two minutes to go.

The Patriots took the field needing to get into field goal range for a a chance to win the game. After three straight incompletions, the Patriots faced a fourth and ten. On one of the biggest plays of the day, Brady hit Danny Amendola for a first down. The Patriots got the ball into Giants territory and set up Gostkowski for the game winner. In a truly memorable affair, the Patriots left New Jersey with a one point.

They also may have left with a significant injury. Julian Edelman left the game after the first play of the second quarter. His ankle got rolled up on and he went back to the locker room. He did not  return and the team hasn’t provided any further details. The Patriots offense had significant trouble moving the ball after Edelman went down for much of the game.

If he is out for a significant amount of time, it will be a huge blow to a New England offense that has already suffered a rash of injuries. He is their best wide receiver and is one player who Brady always turns to in difficult situations. He is a third down machine with a knack for making big catches and moving the chains. He also rarely drops a pass, even when taking a big hit.

In retrospect, the Patriots got a huge road win but may have suffered a serious loss as well. The next few days are crucial for Edelman, as much about the severity of his injury will be known by the middle of the week. The Patriots face Buffalo next Monday night and that is followed by a match-up with the vaunted Denver defense. If Edelman can’t play, he will be immediately missed.

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It became official on Monday what many in New England had feared following Sunday’s game: Patriots running back Dion Lewis will be out for the season with a  torn ACL. Lewis, who had been a major contributor out of the backfield for the Patriots, will undergo surgery with the goal of being ready for the start of next season.

Throughout the Bill Belichick/ Tom Brady run in New England, the Patriots have always had a shifty pass catching running back who can make key plays in the passing game. First it was Kevin Faulk and then Shane Vereen. With Vereen’s departure this past offseason, the team looked to fill that hole and had Lewis competing with James White for reps. Lewis won the competition and quickly established himself as an important component of New England’s offense. His ability to break tackles and maneuver through crowded areas made him very difficult to match-up with. On several occasions, Brady would target Lewis over Rob Gronkowski or Julian Edelman based on favorable match-ups.

This is not to say that losing Lewis is on the same level as losing Gronkowksi or Edelman, but he proved to be much more than just a safety valve out of the backfield and he will be missed. James White and Brandon Bolden will need to step up in order to shoulder the load left by Lewis. Bolden filled in admirably against Washington, but he does not have the speed or shiftiness of Lewis and White has had trouble cracking the lineup in recent weeks.

With Lewis out, the Patriots will need to hope either Bolden or White can fill his role. It can’t be expected for either one of them to play at Lewis’ level, but they will need to produce. If they cannot, the Patriots offense will have more difficulty moving the ball.

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stork IR

The Patriots on activated Bryan Stork of the short term injured reserve on Saturday. Stork was recovering from a concussion. By rule, the center’s placement on short term IR meant that he had to miss the team’s first eight games. In a corresponding move, the team placed offensive lineman Ryan Wendell on season ending injured reserve.

Both moves highlight the health issues the Patriots have had along the offensive line season. Wendell and Stork were both starters on last season’s Super Bowl XLIX champion team. New England will also be without starting left tackle and Super Bowl XLIX winner Nate Solder the rest of the season due to injury. With only a limited number of healthy linemen, the Patriots may choose to get creative in their approach.

Undrafted rookie David Andrews has filled in well in Stork’s absence, but Stork is the better player and would play center if everyone else was healthy. This could still end up being the case, but with the injuries up front the Patriots could choose to play both at the same time with Stork kicking out to guard or even tackle.

Stork, in his second season, began starting in week four last season and remained the starter through New England’s Super Bowl victory. As well as starting experience last year, he also has experience playing with rookie guard Tre Jackson, both were on the Florida State team that won a National Championship in 2014.

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There was plenty of action on the field during the Patriots impressive 30-23 win over the New York Jets on October 25. It turns out that there was also plenty of action going on inside the walls of Gillette Stadium, as two Patriots employees fell under suspicion of Jets and NFL officials.

Prior to the game, NFL officials swept the Jets locker room for listening devices. Although the NFL has said it was part of their usual random checks, reports have leaked out that the Jets requested such a sweep to take place. It was mentioned in two separate news stories in September that several teams suspected the Patriots of bugging locker rooms, but there is no proof and the Patriots have never officially been accused of such activity. Most evidence points to this being a random check, but conspiracy theories are sure to develop.

While the game was taking place, a Jets security official became suspicious of three Patriots employees that were wearing headsets. Both employees were questioned during the game. One of them required a phone call to the league office because the questioner did not believe his story of being responsible for the referees batteries. After questioning, it was determined that no employee did anything wrong and they were allowed to continue working.

Had the Jets security personnel had a better understanding of who is in charge of referee equipment, at least the second part of the second incident could have been avoided. The first part could likely have been a case of Patriots paranoia. It is understandable that a Jets team employee would want to make sure that everything was on the level during his team’s game and in most cases this would not have made many headlines. But in New England, everything is a big deal.

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GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 1: during Super Bowl XLIX at the University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali) *** Local Caption ***

The Patriots have suffered through their share of injuries so far this season. From Center Bryan Stork to Tackle Nate Solder and Linebacker Dont’a Hightower, New England has seen several key players miss time. This week, however, they will likely be getting a key player back, as Brandon LaFell could start practicing again.

LaFell, who was signed during the 2014 offseason from Carolina, was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list prior to the start of the season. Placement on the PUP list meant that LaFell was forced to miss the first six weeks of the season.

Last season, LaFell had 74 catches for 953 yards and seven touchdowns. He was also a major factor in the playoffs, scoring the winning touchdown in the Divisional Round against Baltimore and adding another touchdown in the Super Bowl.

LaFell will instantly become a large part of the Patriots offense when he returns, taking some of the pressure of Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots offense has played well without him, but having LaFell back will be a boost.

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brady sack

Usually when a team scores 30 points en route to a road win, there is not much that goes wrong for them. For the Patriots on Sunday against Dallas, they did many things right in all three phases of the game en route to an impressive road win. One area that is a concern from Sunday, however, is pass blocking.

Tom Brady was sacked five times in the first half, including two drive killers on their first two possessions. New England was moving the ball well on each possession, but managed a total of three points from the two of them. The pressure was especially difficult around the edges, as Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer got beat several times.

Solder was playing against Greg Hardy, an elite pass rusher, so him having some difficulty is not completely surprising. What is surprising is how much difficulty he had and that it took until after halftime for the Patriots line to finally slow down the Cowboys pass rush. If the Cowboys had Tony Romo and Dez Bryant playing yesterday, the game could have looked a lot different especially early on.

The Patriots offensive line is still in a much better place now than it was last season even with starting center Bryan Stork unavailable. Things will not get easier for the Patriots line with games against the the Jets and Dolphins following this weekends trip to Indianapolis to face Robert Mathis and the Colts. New England is by no means in bad shape, but other teams will see first hand on film that if they want to slow the Patriots down, they need to get to Brady as fast as Dallas did. Not every team has the level of pass rushers the Cowboys do, but now every team will be attacking Solder and Vollmer.

It is up to the two tackles to prove those teams wrong for the Patriots offense to continue at its record pace.