Who’s The FA? UDFA! (2015 Edition)

A gander at last year’s column here, with notable mentions of linebacker James Morris and a certain West Alabama cornerback who may or may not have made one of the biggest plays in Patriots history. (Go on. Go ahead: Watch it again. We’ll wait.)

Lots of info out floating around out there regarding UDFAs. We tend to stick with NEPatriotsdraft.com for all our NFL undrafted rookie signing needs. Below is a rundown of fresh free agents the Patriots called to Gillette. Plus: high school fun facts!

Georgia On My Line: After picking up two guards in the fourth round (Tre Jackson and Shaq Mason), New England continued to add to the interior offensive line with center David Andrews from Georgia.

Why undrafted: At 6-2, 295 pounds, Andrews resides on the smaller side of offensive lineman. This was also a solid drafting year for guards and centers, taking on-the-bubble players like Andrews out of the action.

Why invited: He has three years of experience as a starter. Makes up a bit for his relatively diminutive stature with speed (5.12-second 40) and strength (27 bench reps). Showed consistency, playing in 50 games in his Georgia career. From a positive Pats perspective, he was given the Frank Sinkwich Toughest Player Award (named after Georgia’s 1942 Heisman winner). Also voted the Bulldogs’ “overall permanent captain.” Somewhere Bill Belichick let out a happy sigh.

High School Fun Fact: At Wesleyan High in Johns Creek, Georgia, Andrews was named the 2010 Gwinnett County Offensive Lineman of the Year.

Come On, Quarterbacks Can’t Play Receiver: Former Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner (6-3, 218) tries to follow in the footsteps of another QB-to-WR convert currently working in the Foxboro area.

Why undrafted: Julian Edelman notwithstanding, the aforementioned conversion fails more often than not. As a QB in 2014, Gardner threw for 10 TDs and 15 INTs. At his pro day, he ran a 4.65-second 40, which put him on the slow end of receivers. His 9-foot, 9-inch broad jump was less than explosive.

Why invited: The Pats aren’t exactly overstocked with larger pass-catchers, and Gardner did haul in 16 passes as a junior. He showed guts with his 2013 performance  vs. rival Ohio State (passed for 451 yards and four TDs). Also put up some solid pro day numbers beyond the 40 (Beyond The 40, by the way, should be the title of the book on New England’s draft strategy). He had 15 bench reps and a 6.96-second 3-cone drill.

High School Fun Fact: Gardner was teammates with former Wolverine and current Patriot linebacker Cameron Gordon at Detroit’s Inkster High.

Wait – Is That Pronounced “Hopper”? Well, now it is, sort of. Cal-Berkeley pass-catcher Chris Harper (5-11, 182) gets a shot with the Patriots, looking to add depth as a slot receiver.

Why undrafted: During this draft, teams had their pick of solid wide receivers (Draft. Pick. Get it?), especially those in the slot role. Even as a smaller player, Harper’s weight (or lack of it) could concern some teams. While he has decent stats (see below), nothing there stands out. A down year for 5-7 Cal, with no players drafted.

Why invited: Harper caught 52 passes for the Golden Bears in 2014 (second-highest on the team) for 634 yards (12.2 avg) and six touchdowns. He also served as their main punt returner (7.7 avg). He has decent speed (a 4.52 40 at his pro day), and quickness (a reported 7.03 3-cone drill). Also – and most importantly – he made this rather Gronkesque catch vs. UCLA last October.

High School Fun Fact: As a senior, Harper led the Serra League in receiving at Crespi Carmelite High. He also played cornerback and was ranked as the 12th-best corner in Southern California.

Come Back to the Nickel and Dime, Jimmy Jean, Jimmy Jean: Free safety Jimmy Jean out of Alabama-Birmingham adds some height to the defensive backfield at 6-2, 202 pounds.

Why undrafted: The NFL seems to overlook Conference USA a bit. More importantly, Jean had an unimpressive showing at his pro day, with a meh 40 (4.58), blah 3-cone (7.34) and yeesh bench press (seven reps).

Why invited: Jean did some of everything for the Blazers, compiling 42 tackles, one interception, six pass breakups, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. He’s also got the height New England could be seeking this season.

High School/Junior College Fun Fact: After attending Blanche Ely High in Pompano Beach, Florida, Jean played two years at Arkansas Baptist Junior College, where he earned their Little Rock Touchdown Club 2012 College Player of the Year Award.

You Come At The King, You Best Not Miss: New England went after – and got – another bigger defensive back, strong safety Brandon King (6-2, 217) out of Auburn.

Why undrafted: Though he went into Auburn as a safety, ranked as one of the top junior college DBs in the country, it seems that King got moved around on defense for the Tigers. Didn’t compile many stats there. Ended up with just 12 tackles on the season last year.

Why invited: Took one for the team in 2014, as he was asked to take on a pass-rushing role (had two QB hits). Tested very well at his pro day, with a 4.49-second 40, a 10-foot-6 broad jump, and 19 bench press reps. Has similar size to draft pick Matthew Wells, which makes us think that Belichick is up to something with these safety/linebacker hybrid types.

High School Fun Fact: As a senior at Thompson High in Alabaster, Alabama, King racked up 116 tackles, including 21 tackles for loss.

While We’re Young: Looks like Shane Young out of Sam Houston State will try to get a chair at the increasingly crowded tight end table this summer.

Why undrafted: Not anything in particular. As in, not particularly fast (4.90 40), nor particularly quick (7.45 3-cone), nor particularly explosive (31.5-inch vertical). Young (6-3, 250) only played in three games last year, catching four passes. Sam Houston State runs in the Southland Conference, which is part of a lower division (FCS).

Why invited: Caught 11 passes for 151 yards and two TDs as a junior. Went to the FCS National Championship with the Bearkats that year. Can play H-back and fullback.

High School Fun Fact: A captain at Lago Vista (California) High, Young was named the offensive line MVP. He was also All-District in baseball.

He’s A Brick, House: Ah, the Commodores. Appropriate reference for Vince Taylor, a defensive lineman from Vanderbilt who manned the nose tackle spot.

Why undrafted: At 6-1, 306 pounds, Taylor seems a bit small for the position. Does not have much speed (5.40 40) or quickness (7.46 3-cone). Vandy went 3-9 last year, 0-8 in the Southeast Conference.

Why invited: We’ll refer again to the “Brick House.” At his pro day, Taylor bench-pressed 225 pounds 36 times, which would have led all defensive linemen at the NFL Combine and tied for second-best overall. Last fall, he had 43 total tackles, including 20 solo stops and three for loss (1.5 sacks).

High School Fun Fact: A First-Team All-State defensive tackle as a senior at Oak Grove High in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Taylor had 97 solo tackles (117 total) and returned a fumble 55 yards for a touchdown.

Another Non-Starter For Red Sox

With the obvious disclaimer that it’s just the first week of May, things aren’t looking so great for the Boston Red Sox at the moment.

The biggest problem continues to be starting pitching, which has been worse than likely even the most pessimistic observer had feared. Seemingly every night they’re getting lit up, and while the offense has generally been OK, last night saw their best hitter thus far, Hanley Ramirez exit the game with a shoulder injury.

Real bad, real quick: Hanley Ramirez injury punctuates Red Sox problems – Rob Bradford looks at how just about everything has gone wrong thus far.

Red Sox-Yankees series a tale of two bullpens – As Alex Speier tells us, the bullpen hasn’t been great, either.

Weak pitching, light hitting land Sox in cellar – Scott Lauber has the scuffling Sox trying to figure things out.

Sox season could hinge on length of Ramirez’s absence – Sean McAdam says that the rest of the season might be in jeopardy if Ramirez is out for a while.

For Hanley Ramirez, health has always been easy come, easy go – Gordon Edes is pessimistic on Ramirez returning anytime soon.

If you want some memories of better times with the Red Sox, may I recommend:

pedrobookcover

It’s out today. Enjoy.

Speaking of books being released, we should expect the Wells Report sometime this week, right? While @SharksofVegas has been adamant from the beginning that the investigation was not focused on the Patriots, the comments of Roger Goodell recently have me thinking that he’s going to whack the team no matter what. He also misses the point completely by saying he’s not going to apologize for the investigation, because the investigation itself was never the issue. The issue was the slanted leaks from the NFL offices which made the Patriots look guilty, even if Goodell continues to insist that no judgments were made.

I know nothing about Alcohol rehab, so I should probably stop here, but does it strike anyone else as strange that John Dennis has been Tweeting from rehab? And that he’s claiming to be in the “homestretch” after only two weeks?

Welcome To The 2015 Sports Radio Draft – The website SportsRadioPD had 32 sports radio program directors across the country select who they would wish to start their station with.

A few interesting notes:

WEEI Program Director (and NY Sports fan) Kevin Graham picked Mike Francesa at #8

Former WEEI afternoon host Mike Salk, selected 98.5’s Fred Toucher at #13

Bruce Gilbert at Cumulus/Westwood One-Dallas picked Rich Shertenlieb at #32.

No other locals were involved.

Finally, NESN interviewing “Darth Vader” while the Red Sox were getting destroyed last night might well be a low point in the network’s history.

2015 Patriots Draft Review (“That Guy” Edition 3.0)

After 16 Patriots drafts under Bill Belichick, we’d have to be nitwits to overlook some patterns. As we pointed out in our first “That Guy” draft preview back in February,  certain types of players tend to get called to Foxboro during this time of year.

New England came into the draft with nine picks. They added two over the course of two separate trades and ended up using all eleven. How many of these rookies will make the final roster? Tough to say, but we know where they fit into the Patriots’ outlook this past weekend.

Here’s a rundown of the action:

DAY ONE

ROUND ONE (32 overall): Malcom Brown, Texas DL (6-2, 320)

DAY TWO

ROUND TWO (64): Jordan Richards, Stanford SS (5-11, 211)

ROUND THREE (96): Traded along with 219 for 111, 147, and 202 (details below)

ROUND THREE (97): Geneo Grissom, Oklahoma OLB (6-3, 262)

DAY THREE

ROUND FOUR (101): Trey Flowers, Arkansas DE (6-2, 265)

ROUND FOUR (111): Tre Jackson, Florida State OL (6-4, 330)

ROUND FOUR (131): Shaq Mason, Georgia Tech OL (6-2, 304)

ROUND FIVE (147): Traded to Green Bay for 166 and 247 (details below)

ROUND FIVE (166): Joe Cardona, Navy LS (6-2, 242)

ROUND SIX (178): Matthew Wells, Mississippi State OLB (6-2, 222)

ROUND SIX (202): A. J. Derby, Arkansas TE (6-4, 253)

ROUND SEVEN (247): Darry Roberts, Marshall CB (5-11, 187)

ROUND SEVEN (253): Xzavier Dickson, Alabama OLB (6-3, 260)

Now, on to our categories, most of which we most recently spelled out in the “That Guy 2.0 Edition” draft preview in April.

The First Round, Solid-Bet Guy: Well, hello there, Malcom Brown. Nice to see you hanging around this late on Day One.

School Stats: At Texas, the consensus First-Team All-American (no Ken Sims references, please) had 72 tackles (15 for loss), 6.5 sacks, eight QB hits, and two forced fumbles.

Physical Testing Notables: Running a 5.05-second 40 and a 29.5-inch vertical at his size deserve mention. Also made top 15 of all D-linemen in the bench press with 26 reps.

Our Take: Can we compare him to Vince Wilfork? Eh, why not? It’s May. The Patriots can dream. Seriously, though, Brown could make the list of Patriots’ first-round defensive linemen (Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Wilfork) who, while not putting up big numbers, contributed in a big way to the team’s success by eating up blocks and freeing up teammates. He does have the power to take on double-teams and the speed to give offensive fronts fits.

Quick Take: Best available, and the right type of player.

The “Who’s That Guy?” Guy: How can we continue to be surprised at selections like Stanford Jordan Richards (5-11, 211)? He joins the ranks of Tavon Wilson (2012) and Duron Harmon (2013) in the “Safeties We Could Have Waited A Day To Pick” category.

School Stats: A team captain at Stanford, Richards had 79 tackles (third on the team) with three interceptions, five pass breakups, and three forced fumbles.

Physical Testing Notables: We found one biggie – his 6.74-second 3-cone drill at the combine, second-best of all combine safeties, ninth overall. Other than that, Richards made top 15 for safeties in the vertical jump (32 inches), broad jump (9-foot-3), and 20-yard shuttle (4.22 seconds) in an average 2015 field.

Our Take: On the one hand, we could have another Wilson, a smart player the Patriots rated more highly than most who has played mostly special teams. On the other hand, Richards could become similar player to Devin McCourty, an intelligent, football-savvy player keeping the defense properly lined up from his backfield spot. Words like “coachable” carry a lot of weight in Foxboro, but – speaking as a guy who won a few coach’s awards in high school (glorified participation trophies), that stuff doesn’t always translate to game-day production. Or popularity.

I’m just saying.

Quick Take: Richards gets on special teams right away, but limited safety work in 2015. The future is unwritten, as Joe Strummer might say.

The Trades: It happens in some form or other every spring. New England sent their late-third (96) and a seventh (202) to Cleveland for an early fourth (111), fifth (147), and seventh (219). They then traded that fifth (147) to Green Bay for a later fifth (166) and a seventh (247). In other words, the Patriots traded two picks and ended up with four in return.

The Versatile Guy: Too bad Geneo Grissom doesn’t quite qualify as a Freakishly Athletic Guy, or we would have gone 3-for-3 in our category predictions. Grissom, aka The Man Without A Position, played defensive end, linebacker, and even (as a sophomore) tight end for the Sooners. Will he find a spot in New England’s defense, or will he have a hard time contributing at Foxboro?

School Stats: At linebacker his senior year, Grissom had 39 tackles (6.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks, one interception, four pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.

Physical Testing Notables: At the combine, Grissom ran a 4.81 40-yard dash, lifted 20 bench reps, and had a 37-inch vertical. He also had a 1.65-second 10-yard dash, which is very quick for a man his size (running back David Cobb out of Minnesota had a 1.64).

Our Take: We thought we had an original idea by evoking Rob Ninkovich here, but then criminal mastermind Tom Curran over at CSNNE.com posted that comparison.  The similarly-sized Ninkovich ran a 4.91-second 40-yard dash and a 1.66-second 10-yarder at the 2006 combine, with 23 reps on the bench. Beyond the physical comparison, coaches also had a hard time finding a position for Ninkovich at the NFL level. He was a long snapper for the Saints and Dolphins with six career tackles before coming to Foxboro in 2009.

Quick Take: If the Patriots can make Grissom’s versatility a virtue, he will produce consistently.

The Lanky Defensive End: Must admit, did not have this category in our “That Guy” columns this year, but Trey Flowers fits a trend of drafting long-limbed pass-rushers over the past few years, from Chandler Jones to Michael Buchanan to Zach Moore. Flowers lacks great quickness but – like the aforementioned players – has the loping gait to get around offensive tackles and hassle the QB.

School Stats: The All-SEC Second Teamer (Coaches’ vote) had 68 tackles last season, with 15.5 for loss (six sacks). He also had six pass breakups and nine quarterback hits.

Physical Testing Notables: Flowers put up 28 bench reps at the combine (top 11 for all defensive linemen), leapt a 36.5-inch vertical (top five for DL), and completed a 4.40 20-yard shuttle (top 11).

Our Take: We’ll ignore the nagging image of Jake Bequette (another big, athletic pass-rusher out of Arkansas) and go to the other end of the spectrum with Willie McGinest. I know, I know – we’re not fitting Flowers for his red jacket just yet –  but the way he holds off blockers against the rush, and his ability to tip passes rushing or dropping back (look again at those six pass breakups last fall) reminds us of McGinest a bit.

Too much, too soon? Eh. Again, no one’s putting on pads for a while. Let’s just go with it.

Quick Take: Not super fast, but athletic overall, Flowers adds his name to the growing list of Patriots hybrids who will give their defense all-important flexibility.

The Injured Guy: Normally, this category describes someone who has missed significant time in college due to injury. Rob Gronkowski couldn’t play his junior year at Arizona due to a neck injury; Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling was about as brittle as winter dog scat. Still, guard Tre Jackson fits here because he reportedly failed multiple NFL team physicals. Jackson had to sit out his junior year in high school with a knee injury, but he started 42 games at FSU. Apparently, that’s good enough for the Pats.

School Stats: Hard to measure stats for a lineman, but we can summarize all of his 2014 Honors with this – Unanimous All-American.

Physical Testing Notables: He’s not fast (5.52-second 40), nor super strong (20 bench reps), but he is 6-4, 330 pounds. so …

Our Take: The Patriots needed more mass in the middle, and they got it in Jackson, who was rated as a late second-round pick by many (including us, when we had New England taking him in our mock draft – oh my God we got one right, sort of!). Also important that Jackson played most of his career alongside former FSU and current New England center Bryan Stork.

Quick Take: If communication is key to an offensive line’s success, Jackson and Stork have the potential to become a solid combo again.

The Other Offensive Lineman Guy: Thinking the Pats would take at least two OLs over the weekend (just as they did last year with Stork and Cameron Fleming), we actually mentioned Shaq Mason in our mock draft.  (What?!? TWO hits on a Patriots mock draft? I hath slain the Jabberwock!). Another interior force, Mason made a lot of mocks because he was seen working with former Patriots line coach and current consultant Dante Scarnecchia during Georgia Tech’s pro day.

School Stats: Gained All-American status (USA Today) his senior year after starting all 14 games at right guard. Also started all 13 games there as a junior. Last year, Tech ranked number one nationally in rushing (342 yards per game, a school record).

Physical Testing Notables: Mason, whom we also mentioned in our “Combine Snubs Who Showed ‘Em” series, ran a 4.99-second 40, which would have made him the second-fastest offensive lineman at the combine, just .01 seconds behind Ali Marpet. Mason also put up 25 reps on the bench and had a 32-inch vertical leap (tied for fifth-highest for combine OLs).

Our Take: Anyone who appears to get the okey-doke from Coach Scarnecchia certainly passes our test. Last year, New England traded Logan Mankins, known as their toughest lineman. Mason has been described as a mauler who could bring back some of that edge to the offensive interior.

Quick Take: The Pats, after going up to the buffet for seconds in the fourth round last year, again come back to the table with some grade A offensive linemen.

The Navy Guy: Wow. They did it. They really did it. While we listed Joe Cardona as the example for our Navy Guy category, and also mentioned him in our mock draft (wait: THREE RIGHT?!?), we figured he would only get signed after the draft ended. (Oh … Still, we’ll take credit.) Coach Belichick (a “Navy Guy” in another sense) couldn’t wait any longer and nabbed the long snapper before anyone else could.

School Stats: Cardona, who played lacrosse throughout high school (another Belichick talking point), started all four years as the Navy long snapper. He was regarded as the best in the nation.

Physical Testing Notables: The only player at the combine representing his position, Cardona put up 30 bench press reps, tying him for top 13 overall.

Our Take: As we’ve mentioned every time his name has come up, Cardona has a five-year military obligation. After two years, he can apply to opt out of the final three and instead serve six years in the Navy (or Marine Corps) Reserve while playing football. Now, unless Belichick has some kind of connection at Annapolis (hmmm…), there’s little chance Cardona will work in Foxboro this fall.

Quick Take: Stranger things have happened, but we don’t see Cardona snapping for New England beyond a camp appearance this summer. See ya in 2017, Joe!

The Special Teams Guy: While he played outside linebacker at Mississippi State, Matthew Wells’ size (222 pounds) takes him out of contention for that position in a base defense. He joins the ranks of Matthew Slater and Nate Ebner as late-rounders taken with an eye for their potential prowess on kick and punt teams.

School Stats: The blitzing Bulldog had 45 tackles (8.5 for loss) and four sacks last year, breaking up eight passes.

Physical Testing Notables: Wells ran a preposterous 4.43 40 at his pro day, which – as we mentioned in our aforementioned Combine Snubs series – would have qualified him as the second-fastest safety at the combine. He also had a 6.97-second 3-cone drill.

Our Take: Linebackers Jonathan Casillas and Akeem Ayers, both acquired in mid-season trades last year, have left Foxboro for free agency. Those two helped special teams play an important-yet-underrated role in New England’s success, so it makes sense to address that area of the roster later in the draft (add Cardona to that list, as well).

Quick Take: Can’t stop looking at that 4.43. Could also play a run-stopping, safety-type role in sub packages.

The Backup Tight End: Here’s another category we should have thought of before, because New England always tries to add depth there. A. J. Derby was a man without a position, going to Iowa as a quarterback out of Coffeyville, Kansas Community College, but ending up as a linebacker/special teamer. He asked for a transfer and got it, playing two years at Arkansas. Converted to tight end as a senior.

School Stats: In 2014, Derby caught 22 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns. Had a career game against Alabama with four receptions, including a 54-yard TD.

Physical Testing Notables: Derby ran a 4.72-second 40 at his pro day, which would have placed third among tight ends at the combine. Also had a 6.99-second 3-cone drill, which would have come in second. He started one game at QB for Arkansas as a junior (vs. Rutgers), completing 14 of 26 passes for 137 yards.

Our Take: Now this pick makes more sense. Derby practiced under Belichick buddy Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, played his best game at tight end vs. Coach Nick Saban (another BB bud), then had one of his best games at QB vs. Rutgers, aka New England South. His experience leading offenses and practicing at linebacker can only enhance his potential.

Quick Take: Faster than Scott Chandler, bigger than Tim Wright, and quicker than both, Derby adds an intriguing option at tight end while learning special teams.

The Three-Cone Guy: Anyone who follows the Patriots drafts knows about their interest (some might say obsession) with quickness demonstrated by low 3-cone times. Darryl Roberts qualifies this year with a nifty 6.66-second 3-cone. (For comparison, part-man, part-housefly Julian Edelman posted a 6.62.)

School Stats: Roberts started 42 games in his Marshall career, second among cornerbacks in school history. He made All-Conference USA as a senior after tallying 75 tackles (3.5 for loss), one interception, and 17 pass breakups. That last one is not a typo.

Physical Testing Notables: Add Roberts to the list of Combine Snubs we noted this spring (in Part II). Beyond his 3-cone, which would have hit the top four at the combine, Roberts had a top-four-worthy 11-foot-1 broad jump and a seventh-best 4.38-second 40-yard dash.

Our Take: He comes from the disrespected Conference USA and looks about as bulked up as a leaky balloon animal. Still, Roberts reminds us a bit of a latter-day Randall Gay, another rail-like CB who made the roster as a rookie free agent in 2004.

Quick Take: All hail the 3-cone. The 3-cone is all.

The Alabama Guy: We put Xzavier Dickson in this category for Part I of our “That Guy” series in February and kept him there for Part II. Seemed to make a lot of sense then, and now we see why. Ranked as a mid-round player, New England gets a late-round bargain. Dickson, another large defender, consistently produced for a program with a system familiar to Foxboro.

School Stats: Dickson had 42 tackles last season, including 12.5 for loss, and a team-leading nine sacks. He also broke up two passes.

Physical Testing Notables: At the combine, Dickson ran a 4.74-second 40.

Our Take: He may not be Pats starting linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Good, because the Pats didn’t spend a first-round pick on him. Dickson provides depth at an obviously (and increasingly) important position at Gillette. Having played defensive end as a freshman (ranked as a top-five high school DE in his recruiting class), he converted to linebacker as a sophomore and played in all 14 games that year. If he understand’s Coach Nick Saban’s defense, then he has a shot to come to New England and contribute as a rookie.

Quick Take: Wait – 260 pounds of experienced linebacker in the late seventh? Now, that’s how you cap off a draft.

Please watch this space for our annual undrafted free agent (UDFA) review.

Chris Warner tweets relentlessly: @cwarn89

Patriots Draft Preview (“That Guy” Edition 2.0)

As seen in our first “That Guy” draft preview from two months ago, New England tends to bring in certain types of players during draft weekend. With nine picks, the Super Bowl champs could fill some holes in a roster that – despite some big losses in free agency – remains solid overall.

Here’s our outlook on what types of players the Patriots will seek out this weekend, and some potential names who could fill those roles.

DAY ONE – Round One (One pick): 32nd Overall

First-Round, Solid-Bet Guy: Under Bill Belichick, New England has done well drafting in Round One (you can see our Round-by-Round column for a review of the past 15 drafts). From Richard Seymour (2001) to Nate Solder (2011), the Patriots tend to find players who not only contribute on a consistent level, but excel and end up starting.

Possible Pick: Carl Davis, Iowa Defensive Lineman (6-5, 320). We originally had Duke guard Lakinen Tomlinson here – and we find nothing wrong with that – but it seems that the Patriots could look to the defensive side of the line early. We’ll go back to where we were about three months ago: high on Davis after his Senior Bowl appearance. He only had 34 tackles and two sacks in 2014, but his position fails to rack up the stats. Davis’ size, speed (5.12-second 40-yard dash) and strength (28 bench reps, 33-inch vertical) could help him become part of the rotation this season. [Read more…]

Season Over, Celtics Look To The Future, Gasper on Media

So the upset in six games didn’t come true for Mike Gorman and the Celtics, as the superior talent of the Cavaliers finished off Boston in four games yesterday afternoon at the Garden. Despite the outcome, it’s safe to say it might be the most optimistic four-game sweep a team has suffered.

This promises to be an interesting summer for the Boston Celtics, who enter with four draft picks and cap space to spend.

Celtics hope playoff run helps lure free agents – Steve Bulpett has the club looking for a silver lining in the sweep, which was four nationally televised games, which likely raised the profile of the team.

A swan song to build on for Celtics – Jackie MacMullan notes that fans were cheering a team that got swept yesterday, which indicates where this team is now and what the hopes for the future are.

Meanwhile, Michael Felger demanded to know why the green-teamers weren’t booing their team and holding them accountable after a sweep.

Celtics proud, but not satisfied with end of season – A. Sherrod Blakely has the team taking this as a learning experience.

Can Boston Celtics become free-agent destination? Maybe not, but LeBron James, NBA noticing Brad Stevens – Jay King examines whether the coach could be a drawing card for NBA free agents.

Despite loss, Celtics have winner in Brad Stevens – Christopher Gasper trots out a catchy “In Brad we trust” slogan.

Get all the coverage at CelticsLinks.com.

*****

The Red Sox starting rotation is not good right now. The latest, an 18-7 rout by the Orioles in Baltimore yesterday.

Boston Red Sox rotation posts MLB-worst 5.75 ERA: Is it too soon for change? – Jen McCaffrey says the sample size is growing, and not looking too promising.

Time for Red Sox to torch struggling rotation – Michael Silverman feels it is time to pour the gasoline and light the match.

Plenty of blame to go around for Boston’s struggles – Brian MacPherson says that it isn’t only the pitching which is letting the team down.

*****

Inside ESPN, NFL Network’s coverage of the NFL draft; more Media Circus – Richard Deitsch looks at the NFL Draft coverage, but also provides this update on Bob Neumeier:

2b. NBC broadcaster Bob Neumeier is taping a piece for NBC’s coverage of the Kentucky Derby and will return fulltime to the on-air team for the Preakness. Neumeier suffered a stroke in October, which required 5.5 hours of brain surgery.

Great news there.

Finally, from over the weekend, Chris Gasper had an interesting, and I think mostly on-target column about the job of the media:

Media’s only allegiance should be to the truth

The jumping off point for this column is the profanity-ridden tirade by Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price last week, aimed at the media. Gasper summarizes the proper role of the media as such:

The job of a traditional media member is not to root, root, root for the home team, or aid its quest for victory. It is also not to intentionally undermine it. It is to report the news or provide insight or commentary. We strive for Swiss neutrality. But in an era of league-owned television networks, fawning team websites, and partisan fan blogs, it’s easy to see the lines between journalism and boosterism getting blurred and folks such as Price getting confused.

Fair enough. It is a little ironic though, that Gasper is writing this in a publication that is owned by the same man who also owns the local baseball team. Is there Swiss neutrality there?

Where Chris and I part ways a bit is a little later on.

The 101 media flavors have created an environment where objectivity is negativity.

The ironic part is that the material written with the unwavering fidelity of a fan expresses an obvious bias, but because it is a palatable and popular one the bias is ignored.

We have reached a point where expressing an opinion or relaying a truth that is inconvenient or not favorable to a team is immediately labeled “trolling,” which is a self-serving and self-centered way to deal with a dissenting viewpoint or unwelcome news.

A few things here. He states that we have an “environment where objectivity is negativity.” In many cases, I would actually reverse that. For some allegedly neutral media, being negative IS how they claim to be objective. If you’re being truly objective, most people with a brain and common sense are not going to think that you are “trolling.”

Is he saying that trolling by the mainstream media doesn’t exist? Dan Shaughnessy does not exist to be a conduit of inconvenient truth, he exists to troll people who enjoy following the local sports teams. He’s not expressing an opinion. He’s trying to upset people and provoke a reacting. He’s baiting them and getting them to chase, which fits the exact description of the fishing type of trolling.

Are there times in which someone is unfairly labeled a troll? Sure. I definitely don’t believe it is as common as Gasper suggests. Trolling by media members happens all the time. Gasper instead places the wrong on the reader, who is being “self-serving and self-centered” by rejecting the content as simply an effort to be provocative, rather than providing any sort of insight, which is what he had previously stated was the job of the media.

On the other hand, Gasper also seems to be suggesting that fan sites or bloggers are incapable of being anything other than fawning and partisan. That’s as unfair as saying that anyone who expresses an unfavorable opinion is trolling.

Overall though, I appreciated Gasper’s column as an effort to sort of give the lay of the land in the media world these days.

Celtics Outmanned in 4th. Sox Win, Patriots Scheduled

The Celtics were competitive in Cleveland last night, pulling to within two points in the fourth quarter before LeBron James and Kyrie Irving exerted their will on the court, leading the Cavs to a 99-91 win and 2-0 series lead on the Celtics.

LeBron James takes charge, leads Cavaliers past Celtics in Game 2 – Adam Himmelsbach notes that while the Celtics cleaned up many of their game one issues, poor shooting doomed them in this one.

Celtics need to make their own breaks – Chris Forsberg says that while the Celtics may feel they got the short end of some calls last night, they need to make some of their own breaks.

Jae Crowder: LeBron James and Kyrie Irving’s late dominance not why Boston Celtics dropped Game 2 to Cleveland Cavaliers – Jay King has the Celtics forward lamenting other lost opportunities which he feels doomed the Celtics.

As Celtics look to take next step, Kevin Love is a good place to start – John Tomase thinks that the Cavs free-agent forward to do would be a great fit here.

Get all the coverage at CelticsLinks.com.

The Red Sox picked up a 1-0 win in Tampa last night, with an error accounting for their only run of the game.

First-pitch strikes ‘huge’ for Wade Miley vs. Rays – Sean McAdam has Miley’s 5 2/3 shutout innings due largely to his ability to throw strikes early in the count.

Bullpen pitches in to cap Red Sox’ victory over Rays – Peter Abraham has the ‘pen nailing down the win for Miley.

Mookie Betts’ slide latest reminder: Red Sox’ runners are starting to get a reputation – Rob Bradford notes how the Red Sox are becoming known as “bullies on the basepaths.”

The Patriots learned the dates and times of their 2015 schedule last night, and will open the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 10th.

I’m always amazed at how many people who are paid to talk/write about sports and have no idea how the NFL opponents are formulated each year. They honestly think the schedule is made up fresh each season.

Patriots’ 2015 schedule offers drama, intrigue – Mark Farinella looks at some of the highlights of the schedule, and while it’s bit too early for the game-by-game predictions (we haven’t even hit the draft yet) the schedule does have a number of interesting quirks this season.

Nothing routine about Patriots safety Devin McCourty – Mark Daniels has the newly re-signed defensive back being counted on for his leadership like never before.

WEEI Boss: John Dennis a “Hugh Hefner type of party animal”

While WEEI colleagues universally pledge their support and best wishes to John Dennis, a few more details have come out, thanks to a Boston Globe piece from media writer Chad Finn.

WEEI empathetic as John Dennis checks into rehab

Phil Zachary, the vice president and market manager for Entercom Boston talked to Finn about the events that led up to Dennis deciding to enter inpatient rehabilitation for alcohol abuse. His comments are interesting.

This has been going on for awhile, as back in February, Dennis first took time off for rehab, initially on an outpatient basis. He then apparently came back to work (feeling insecure because Glenn Ordway was filling in?) and tried to return to the program after only a couple days off.

While Dennis said in the statement and to Steve Buckley yesterday that it was one drink at the Red Sox home opener which made him realize he needed help, he apparently had enough that he called in sick on Tuesday – which turned out to be an inopportune day for that – and that’s when the decision was reached to enter the inpatient side. (Does anyone have a video of Dennis on NESN “gesticulating animatedly” during the game?)

While all statements are such that it is made to look like this was all Dennis’ idea, reading between the lines, it sure appears that he was “encouraged” to take this step.

Zachary refers to Dennis as having a “Hugh Hefner type of party animal” type of persona, which combined with Kirk Minihane’s statements yesterday that Dennis was straight out of Mad Men, really give you a picture of the lifestyle the 63-year-old Dennis leads.

***

Celtics in six!

That was Mike Gorman’s prediction on CSNNE’s Celtics Preview show last night.

A local media person making an upset pick for the home team? Awesome.

Of course, minutes after this prediction, CSNNE went to Sports Tonight hosted by Mike Felger and Greg Dickerson, who proceeded to laugh at the idea of the Celtics even being competitive against the Cavaliers.

Maybe if Lebron, Irving, Love and JR Smith GOT HIT BY A BUS, the Celtics MIGHT be able to take Cleveland to seven games HAHAHAHAHA!

Click.

Some are still clinging to the notion that making the playoffs is a terrible thing for the Celtics. (Hello, Chris Gasper!) I just don’t get that thinking. At all. The difference between drafting 16th and 10th in this draft isn’t going to make or break the Celtics future.

The team has plenty of assets and cap room going forward, and a rising star for a coach. Why not get this coach, as well as players like Marcus Smart a chance to face the best in the league in a postseason series? There is no downside to this.

For Isaiah Thomas, long road to success ended in Boston – Adam Himmelsbach has a feature on the Celtics guard, whose basketball journey is well worth the read.

Bruins make Chiarelli the fall guy – Joe McDonald says that the fired GM deserved better.

It’s not about the ace; Red Sox require competence more than anything from rotation – Tim Britton looks at the Sox just needing their starters to be average.

How one of Red Sox’ most important pitchers has rediscovered his most important pitch – Rob Bradford has Joe Kelly getting his slider back.

No Offseason – Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler is the latest player to chime in on the Players’ Tribune, and he wants to be remembered for more than just that one play.

John Dennis In Rehab

A second unplanned absence from WEEI this year left many people wondering what was going on with morning host John Dennis. Some listeners wondered about his health, others speculated there was a suspension going on.

Things were cleared up last night when the Herald’s Steve Buckley broke the news that Dennis was entering rehab for alcohol use:

Rehab for John Dennis; WEEI host to take leave

Dennis tells Buckley that “rock bottom” for him came Monday during the Red Sox home opener. It was enough to convince him that he needed to seek help. He took a leave of absence from WEEI and entered a local inpatient facility where he is expected to stay or four or five weeks.

Statement from John Dennis – Statement from Dennis, which he says will be the last he’ll talk about it.

WEEI Morning Show Co-Host John Dennis to Enter Alcohol Rehabilitation – Chad Finn makes his report on the situation.

It would be easy to pile on and kick Dennis while he’s down. Many will do so. I’ll let others take that route and instead just wish him well, and hope he comes out of rehab a better person. It takes courage to admit you have a problem and to take steps to deal with it.

****

The Celtics finished off their regular season last night with a 105-100 win in Milwaukee. The Celtics finished the regular season with a 40-42 record. They finished the season 24-12.

Two years ago the Celtics went 41-40. That team had Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo (until he was injured) Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Doc Rivers and Courtney Lee.

None of those guys are here now.

Here is their playoff schedule:

Game 1 – Sun, Apr 19
@
Cavaliers
3:00 PM
Game 2 – Tue, Apr 21
@
Cavaliers
7:00 PM
Game 3 – Thu, Apr 23
vs
Cavaliers
7:00 PM
Game 4 – Sun, Apr 26
vs
Cavaliers
1:00 PM
Game 5 – Tue, Apr 28
@
Cavaliers
TBD
Game 6 – Thu, Apr 30
vs
Cavaliers
TBD
Game 7 – Sat, May 2
@
Cavaliers
TBD

Patriots 2015 Mock Draft (Mid-April Edition)

In our previous mock for New England, we looked at the positions the Pats could target in certain areas of the draft. We continue that practice this week, making a few tweaks in the wake of certain players’ pro day results.

As of this writing, New England has nine overall picks, including compensatory third- and seventh-round selections.

DAY ONE, Round One: DE/OLB

Possible Pick: Eli Harold, Virginia Defensive End (6-3, 247). Though we’ve considered both offensive and defensive linemen at this spot, there’s nothing wrong with getting some athleticism and production with their first pick. Harold had 54 tackles, seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss last year. He tallied 17.5 sacks in his career at Virginny, and he showed the ability to play off the line. Harold ran the 40 in 4.60 seconds and the 20-yard shuttle in 4.16 seconds, both impressive for a man his size. [Read more…]

Aaron Hernandez Guilty, Peter Chiarelli Fired, 98.5 Still On Top

This morning, the jury weighing the case against Aaron Hernandez found the former Patriots tight end guilty of first degree murder. He now faces the a sentence of life in prison without parole, in addition to another double-murder trial in Boston.

Minutes after the verdict the Boston Bruins announced that they had relieved GM Peter Chiarelli of his duties. Nice timing there. Perfect day for the NFL to release the Wells Report.

Sports Hub first, WEEI third in winter Nielsen Audio ratings period – Chad Finn reports on the latest ratings. It was fun hearing Gerry Callahan complain about the signal of WEEI. When they were drubbing the likes of 1510 and 890 in the ratings, they mocked the signal defense.

Looking at the figures Finn provides, WEEI is actually doing decent in the morning and afternoon drive shows, finishing a strong second in each. It’s the midday that is killing them, but as we’ve been told, that slot isn’t very important in terms of advertising dollars.

Speaking of the WEEI morning show. Gary Tanguay? GARY TANGUAY????

A Few Words About Running from the Great Larry Bird – Runners World picks up Bird’s running obsession from Finn’s recent oral history of #33 and gets more for the Celtic legend on the topic.

Q and A with Celtics owners Wyc Grousbeck and Robert Epstein – Adam Himmelsbach talks to the owners about the surprising season.

Celtics face long odds in playoff test with LeBron James & Cavs – The Celtics will officially face LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the first round, and Steve Bulpett looks at their chances of being competitive.

Wizards’ Paul Pierce speaks the truth – You have to love Paul Pierce. The former Celtics captain tells it like it, whether it s about his year in Brooklyn, or his relationship with Ray Allen.

At Fenway Park, no detail too small for Larry Lucchino – Well done by Alex Speier, but this piece reeks of the Red Sox using the Globe for PR.