Tipping Pitches and the Patriots Defense

-by Hugo

In the aftermath of the Super Bowl, in which the Patriots became the first team since 1960 to lose a game in which they never had to punt, there has been a lot of talk about Malcolm Butler.

While it’s understandable to want to know why New England left Butler on the bench, I think the discussion about exactly “who covered who” is missing the bigger picture of what led the Patriots to their historic evisceration.

If you are big and can’t stop the run, you have a very fundamental problem. With 5-technique defensive end Lawrence Guy often playing wide, run-stuffing DT Malcom Brown in the middle, and strongside linebackers such as James Harrison and Eric Lee stationed at the end of the line, the 2017 Patriots played a lot of run-stuffing 5-man fronts. Add in gap-seeking run stopper Elandon Roberts patrolling the middle, and 250-260 lb jumbo weakside linebackers such as Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, and the Pats boasted what can only be described as a mammoth front seven. In spite of all that size, the defense gave up 4.7 yards per rush attempt, tied for 31st in the league.

Typically, fronts that struggle to defend the run are more athletic and get after the quarterback. This was not the case for the 2017 Patriots either, who were 31st in sack rate.

So… how did they get here?

The answer to that question, and the thesis statement of the 2018 offseason, is this: the Patriots defense has become overspecialized.

At the end of 2015, the Patriots defense had five front-seven players who were plus defenders versus both the run and pass – Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Chandler Jones, Akiem Hicks, and Jabaal Sheard. By the end of the 2017 season, they had one, on injured reserve.

By rotating heavily, almost to the point of having a separate run defense and a separate pass defense, the Patriots’ deployment of a massive front seven has been as effective as a pitcher with a great curveball who is tipping his pitches.

So while the Malcolm Butler saga had a sordid ending, the Patriots secondary should still be good enough to get a lot of stops next season. The defense’s ability to make a stand will hinge on becoming less predictable.

So… what now?

This process has to start with de-emphasizing the team’s perpetual search for edge-setting outside linebackers. Before the 2016 season, to replace a buyer’s remorse strongside OLB in Jonathan Freeny, the Pats signed Shea McClellin, an unproductive 3-4 edge defender, to a fairly rich three-year, $12M deal, and followed up with a trade for Barkevious Mingo, another disappointing 3-4 OLB. Not finished with their search, they acquired Kyle Van Noy mid-season. Then, before the 2017 season, they traded two picks for Cassius Marsh and one pick for Marquis Flowers, and made OLB Harvey Langi the highest paid UDFA in the league. While Van Noy has been reasonably productive, and Flowers has flashed some ability, this urgency to collect tweener 3-4 linebackers with very specific roles has been strange and misplaced.

Instead, New England will have to direct that effort towards getting stronger at the first level and faster at the second level. Deatrich Wise Jr. is the best in-house candidate to join Trey Flowers as part of the solution. A similarly promising player at DT will be needed, as Adam Butler seems unlikely to hold up on early downs.

Of course, every-down defenders are scarce. But actually looking for them, rather than using free agency and draft capital to churn through role players for a 30-front base defense, could pay dividends.

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DNOMN8R314
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NEW POST
—>

bring
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bring

With the NFL Combine here, I thought I would pass along the interesting measurement story on Drew Brees. Apparently there used to be a time window for your measurement, like 30 minutes or something. He initially measured in at 5-11 and 7/8. So he said not to record that, and ran off somewhere to get stretched out I guess. When he came back after a short period he was remeasured, and officially came in at 6-0. Height is still a stigma for QBs. When RG3 officially measured in at 6-2, all the media reports were about how rich he just… Read more »

Saturn III
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Saturn III

Funny how Loyko was poo pooing on the Sweeney hire and on Sweeney himself in the beginning, just proving again that the man knows nothing of hockey.

jdlboot14
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jdlboot14

2 concerns on this morning:
A. Gronk seems to be seriously considering his mortality
And 2. If NFL is going to change DPI to 15 yards, it will become a hack attack on WR’s on any pass beyond 15 yards. That could become more dangerous for injuring players at full speed, or going up for balls deep down field.

DNOMN8R314
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There’ll be a NEW POST dropping in the morning but before then, my quick thoughts on the Gronk/Pats/Guerrero thing. As seen in Jess Flynn’s analysis (link below), Guerrero will say that he cares about his patient or client and that any other of that person’s physicians or trainers don’t. He also pushes his treatment regardless of risks other doctors may say that patient will face. My theory is that Guerrero has been discouraging the New England players he treats from seeing the Patriots trainers, and because he gets results with his pliability and flexibility, his regular clients don’t see team… Read more »

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Do you really think Yoko Guerrero has this much of an effect on the team? If this is the case, I think the team trainers should incorporate Guerrero’s pliability methods while also educating players on basic human physiology. How kidneys monitor pH level, why concussion water is a farce and cannot work, and maybe school Brady on why H20 consumption cannot protect you from those harmful UV rays of the sun. Maybe they can co-opt his message and phase out the snake-oil salesman and bring science and innovation back to Patriot Place.

DNOMN8R314
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I think because Brady and now Gronk are outspoken apologists of his, yes, it’s possible.

Neil X
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Neil X

Will Bergeron be back before the playoffs start?

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Yes.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Aaron Rodgers, you think you deserve to be paid as much as the great Jimmy G? —-> The best undefeated QB in NFL history?!?! I scoff at you!!!

MasterAndCommander
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MasterAndCommander

DINGOAL!!!!!! B’s win in OT

Neil X
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Neil X

Nice 3rd period/OT

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Babyface McAvoy with the game-winner in OT. DINGOAAAAAL!!!!!!

MasterAndCommander
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MasterAndCommander

Oh this should be good. Charles Barkley hosting SNL.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney
MasterAndCommander
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MasterAndCommander

Hope the Brooons can weather the storm while Bergeron is out.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Tommy Wingels to the rescue, baby!!!

MasterAndCommander
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MasterAndCommander

Who?

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Tommy Wingels
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Wingels

MasterAndCommander
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MasterAndCommander

Sounds like a cartoon character.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

He should be.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Goal, assist, and a bunch of hustle tonight in his first game as a B!!!!

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Starting to think Don Sweeney might know a thing or two about hockey. My cousin attended Harvard at the same time as him and she told me once he was always sleeping in the back of the classroom. Apparently dreaming about the game of hockey and what type of player he’d covet as an NHL GM.

MasterAndCommander
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MasterAndCommander

Yeah, I was skeptical at first, but so far so good.

MasterAndCommander
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MasterAndCommander

Hi

NorthShore
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NorthShore

Ho

NorthShore
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NorthShore

If this is the article that Mattdog was referring to below about Gronk, I have to say that if Gronk did train with Guerrero, it helped. He stayed healthy the entire season except for the concussion. Maybe Belichick needs to relent a little when it comes to some of this stuff.
https://www.patspulpit.com/2018/2/27/17059502/new-england-patriots-tight-end-rob-gronkowski-retirement-thoughts-2017-training-camp-super-bowl

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Mattdog was actually referring to a boston.com article that had less detail but more or less said the same thing. And I agree with you. Guerrero is sketchy but his pliability methods seem to have benefits. Maybe a compromise can be made. Maybe Kraft needs to step in and help them reach a compromise.

NorthShore
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NorthShore

there is definitely something to be said about Guerrero’s training style at least when it comes to certain positions.

MasterAndCommander
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MasterAndCommander

Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

NorthShore
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NorthShore

Of course you’d say that!

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

WINGELS BABY!!! Welcome to the Bruins…a goal and an assist so far in his B’s debut. 3-3!

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

And a ricochet off the cross bar. I never heard of him before the trade but he might be my new favorite.

dfwpatsfan
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dfwpatsfan

“Could Butler sign with the Jets to get back at Belichick?”

I hope whichever team Butler signs with is based on maximizing his monetary return, not because he is getting back at Belichick. He’s turning 28 in a couple of days and going by history on cornerback cliffs, he is likely to be out of the league by 31.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Would he really be getting back at Belichick by going to an irrelevant team? He’d be better off signing with the Steelers, Eagles, Saints or another team with a chance.

dfwpatsfan
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dfwpatsfan

Crap, Mike Reiss agrees with me that off-the-line LB might be one of the possibilities to pick in the first round. That’s not good.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Nash with his first goal as a Bruin!!!! Car – 1 Bos – 1

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

What’s for dinner, Dino?

DinoScapelli
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DinoScapelli

PapaJohn’s.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Imposter!!!

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

I’m just going to assume your Papa John is coming over to make you his specialty lobster cavatelli, baked orecchiette, sautéed broccolini, foraged wild mushrooms and a bottle of 2013 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

I just read the report about Gronk being unhappy this year. What the heck is going on down at Patriot Place? Do they stick bamboo shoots in your fingernails if you drop a ball in practice? Is Gronk just not a tough-minded Patriots type player anymore? Is he getting soft? Is BB getting more ornery in his old age? I can’t remember any previous Patriot lasting this long in the system and suddenly deciding it’s not fun anymore or it’s too hard.

DinoScapelli
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DinoScapelli

I’m pretty sure it’s the Bill vs. Alex Guerrero thing. Gronk wants to train the Brady way, as do other players, but Bill is trying to get rid of Guerrero. Brady is the only reason the guy is still around.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

I don’t know. He didn’t have any fun this season because he couldn’t train with Guerrero? And yet he said in December that he felt physically as good as he ever has? I saw Tom vs. Time and those massages didn’t look like that much fun.

DinoScapelli
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DinoScapelli

Apparently, Gronk is not the only player who didn’t enjoy the vibe around the team this year. I think Bill is messing with a good thing.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

I guess what I’m truly curious about is if Bill has changed or the players have changed.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

I would say that but it seems like TB is one of the guys who didn’t enjoy the vibe.

DinoScapelli
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DinoScapelli

Tom, Alex, and TB12 are the problem. Bill wanted Tom to retire and get rid of the problem, but Tom is here as long as he wants to be.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Damn that prima donna Brady! Let’s get fresh QB blood in here.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

The off-season is party time. Hopefully he gets the partying out of his system and starts missing football at some point.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Preston Brown anyone? —->

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

I assumed the fact that he talks openly about wanting to play for the Pats means he’s willing to take a discount to win. He should know he’s not getting paid here!

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Well, I’d love to sign him if he’s not looking to break the bank. He’s a good player at a position of need.

DinoScapelli
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DinoScapelli

Special Teams?

DNOMN8R314
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Lions tagged Ansah ->

DKINGG
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DKINGG

Not a fan of the NFL considering the 15 yard penalty for pass interference. I think its good the way it is. If they change it Defenses will have even more pass interference. Hope that rule doesnt go through. Terrible cause when a DB feels hes beat he will just pull the Receiver down an gladly take the 15 yard penalty. Terrible even the NFL has to think about this Cause I know they love fantasy football lol

MrScratch
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MrScratch

When a Defender commits PI it is assumed the ball would have been caught. But an offensive player commits PI there is no assumption that it would be intercepted.

hugo #FreeBoney
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hugo #FreeBoney

Yeah, it’s the only infraction in the game where there’s an estimate of the opportunity cost. Whether a hold prevented an incompletion or a strip sack, its just a hold.

DNOMN8R314
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I’ve been trying to come up with an article idea for the past couple days but am drawing blanks. Haven’t looked at free agents, haven’t looked at draft prospects, have spent a lot of time on spring training.

Pauly
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Pauly

Clearly you need to just do more of those…name things. Seemed like people really liked the last ones you did.

DNOMN8R314
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I did just that. Thank you!

hugo #FreeBoney
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hugo #FreeBoney

1 year of Vontae Davis is a sensible pickup for Buffalo

MrLucky
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MrLucky

If Gronk is using wrestling as leverage to get traded I would be very sad.

JLStokes
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JLStokes

Not sure Gronk wants to be traded. Probably just more money or he’s legit tired of the wear and tear that being a Football player brings.

I think someone should tell him that being in the WWE isn’t any better.

MrLucky
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MrLucky

Well now they’re reporting he was miserable last year. Is that because of football in general or have to do with the Pats? Either way it’s a sucky situation.

Jdog Lemon Head
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Jdog Lemon Head

Why would the Pats not want to resign Dion? Money? Will he really command that much?

PatriotPrideBoy
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PatriotPrideBoy

He definitely wants more money. We’ve had him onboard for pennies the past few years.

PatriotPrideBoy
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PatriotPrideBoy

comment image

cfpats4
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cfpats4

well with Lewis, Jimmy G and Gronk gone, this effects the draft drastically, the year they need to hit on picks in the first and second round for Defense, they will have to consider TE position and a prospect at qb

DNOMN8R314
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Gronk is not gone (at least, not yet). Neither is Lewis (although he will very probably leave).

cfpats4
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cfpats4

its a possibility

Jdog Lemon Head
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Jdog Lemon Head

Dye? I knew you were kinda Hippy-ish…

JLStokes
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JLStokes

Ahoy.

PatriotPrideBoy
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PatriotPrideBoy

Gang Gang

bring
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bring

Never thought the Vikes would be in the Cousins sweepstakes – kind of makes sense though.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Memphis with some elite level tanking tonight.

rking88
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rking88

you two that are here… how do you feel about the bills signing vontae davis? think he’s got that elite level still? if he does it, its certainly going to be tough secondary to face

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Groin injury? 30 years old in May? He may possibly have a year or two of elite level left but I don’t think he changes my opinion of the Bills at all. They need a QB.

rking88
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rking88

yeah i can see that… i think they’ll be a competitive team but they’ll have to play from ahead where they can control the game with their run game and i think the defense will be tough if they can make the opposing offense one dimensional… i definitely think davis is an upgrade to what they had though

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Yeah, their defense was pretty good this past year. If his health checks out and he’s an upgrade, they will certainly be more challenging this year. Their offense was so reliant on McCoy and I have to think the wear/tear on his body will someday catch up to him too. If Tyrod Taylor is their QB, they just don’t worry me at all, although I do respect his competitiveness.

rking88
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rking88

taylor is that guy who’s always just good enough to stick around… but never good enough to really make you worry

rking88
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rking88

knock knock

rking88
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rking88

it certainly seems that way

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

3 bruhs on PFF? It’s party time!!!

rking88
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rking88

awwww yeahhhh

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Zoo is kinda sketchy.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Mayock thinks Lamar Jackson is electrifying. There were a couple on this blog who really liked him (Zoo, maybe?) And one who really disliked him. I wonder what Bill thinks.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

His highlight reel reminds me of Mike Vick, which doesn’t excite me all that much.

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

There are no grizzlies in Memphis, just like there are no lakes in LA, and jazz has not yet made its way to Utah. Do these NBA franchises not realize they can change their names?

rking88
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rking88

I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

Leighton Vander Esch anyone? —–>

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

In the first round? So we don’t have a chance at him?

memokerobi
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memokerobi

Is it safe to say you win the SB if yoy have a healthy LeGarette Blount on your roster?

MattDog #FreeBoney
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MattDog #FreeBoney

After never making the playoffs, Chris Long can’t not win Super Bowls!

HunterCenter
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HunterCenter

Interesting that Mayock mentioned Mason Rudolph in his conference call today. I always thought he’d be a good fit for the Pats. Only thing that gives me pause is that Big 12 QBs have never had to play against a defense.

MrLucky
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MrLucky

These vague Gronk tweets are starting to get old

hugo #FreeBoney
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hugo #FreeBoney

Can we make the Cowboys have to be the Football Athletes From Dallas

MrLucky
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MrLucky

McPhee still have anything left? Liked him as a player not long ago.

hugo #FreeBoney
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hugo #FreeBoney

@nytimes Roger Goodell plans to fine the Cowboys owner Jerry Jones millions of dollars, partly for his challenge to the NFL commissioner’s contract
There’s a lot of nuance in this story that is going to get glossed over. Goodell didn’t just wake up and say “I’m going to punish Jerry Jones for fighting my contract extension”. The owners wanted Goodell (hence extending him) and THEY want to punish JJ for not toeing the company line.

hugo #FreeBoney
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hugo #FreeBoney

I wouldn’t go as far as saying he’s the fall guy in this situation. But one of the twit feed people posted “you come at the king, you best not miss”. Is the “king” in the analogy really Goodell? Or is it Mara/Rooney/Kraft/the compensation committee guys who JJ has clashed with frequently in recent years?

Deadsmack #NotDone
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Deadsmack #NotDone

That’s what i posted the post below 🙂

Jdog Lemon Head
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Jdog Lemon Head

Awkward post? 😛

Deadsmack #NotDone
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Deadsmack #NotDone

Mike Reiss

@MikeReiss
With insight from @MikeMayock, why 2018 seems to be a good year for teams like the Patriots who might consider a developmental QB in the second-to-fourth-round range. http://es.pn/2osjKzf

dp73
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dp73

Gone 🙂

I know some he have fallen in love with Kyle Lauletta but I found it interesting that Mayock thought he was a 3rd or 4th round QB. Who knows maybe even after that.

History show we should only draft a QB in the 6th round 🙂

Deadsmack #NotDone
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Deadsmack #NotDone

I was just kidding, dp 🙂

Deadsmack #NotDone
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Deadsmack #NotDone

Jimmy G was a good pick, he never lost

Deadsmack #NotDone
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Deadsmack #NotDone

Malcolm Mitchell “feeling great” after missing entire 2017 season
Despite the decision to remain on the sidelines, Mitchell says he’s in good condition as the offseason gets underway.
“I’m feeling great,” Mitchell said, via ESPN.com. “This offseason will be big. Obviously I missed all of last season and I won’t shy away from the importance of making sure I’m ready when we start OTAs.”

http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2018/02/26/malcolm-mitchell-feeling-great-after-missing-entire-2017-season/

Deadsmack #NotDone
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Deadsmack #NotDone

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Chiefs will get the Rams’ fourth-round pick this year (124th overall), and their 2019 second-rounder in exchange for the star cornerback Marcus Peters.

UPDATE 1:42 p.m. ET: It keeps getting better. The Chiefs are also sending this year’s sixth-rounder to the Rams in the deal, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Deadsmack #NotDone
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Deadsmack #NotDone

Half of league spent above the cap in 2017
http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2018/02/26/half-of-league-spent-above-the-cap-in-2017/

14. Patriots, $168.97 million (101.18 percent).

Deadsmack #NotDone
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Deadsmack #NotDone

Why Luka Doncic is the new No. 1 overall NBA draft pick | SportsCenter | ESPN

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcZBI8UaMso

HunterCenter
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HunterCenter

Taking my kids to see/hear Malcolm Mitchell this Thurs night at our local bookstore, he’s doing a reading and book signing. Kinda cool. I’ll ask him about his knee and report back here.

FAB330
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FAB330

Tell Malcolm in the Mitchell to keep his ass off IR this year

HunterCenter
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HunterCenter

Will do. Although I may change that verbiage a little bit, since it is a children’s event

Jdog Lemon Head
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Jdog Lemon Head

Kinda near your area-ish. I think a bunch of folks for the ATL Pats fan club will be there too.

HunterCenter
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HunterCenter

it’s a 3 block walk from my house