Ihedigbo proving worth in many ways

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Ihedigbo proving worth in many ways

FOXBORO - In three previous NFL seasons with the New York Jets, James Ihedigbo rolled up 49 tackles. Total.

In 15 games with the Patriots, the 28-year-old safety has been in on 69 stops.

The revolving door at the back of the Patriots defense has given opportunities to many. We can debate whether the door ushered out some good players. We can debate the merits of many who walked through it.

But we can generally agree that Ihedigbo has been a mostly decent addition. Not without flaw, certainly, but with significant upside as well.

"Very professional, smart guy, very professional," Bill Belichick raved Friday morning. "Did a real good job for us in the kicking game, well prepared on defense even though he didnt have a lot of defensive playing time early but hes one of those guys that always paid attention, knew what to do. You put him in there, he was on top of it. As hes gotten more of an opportunity to play, hes really shown that he communicates well, he makes quick decisions, I think he has good football instincts and understands the game whether its in the kicking game or defensively."

There are times Ihedigbo looks like a bumper car desperately in search of a bumpee.An injury timeoutbrought on by No. 44 propelling himself over, into or through a pile is a weekly occurrence. But he does have a grip on what he's doing, said Belichick.

"The kind of guy that you tell him once and he understands it or hell ask a question that's kind of one step ahead of your explanation," Belichick recounted. "Youre explaining something and then hes like, So if this happens, then would you want me to do this? Yeah, exactly, that would be the next thing to go to. Hes kind of thinking one step ahead like that. Hes been a real good addition to this team."

In addition to growing on the field in the regular defense and perhaps carving out a long-term future, Ihedigbo's simply a solid, likeable, communicative, honest guy.

Players reared in the Patriots' system have a leeriness of being candid. Probably because they've seen the stray nail that sticks up too high get pounded down by Belichick's hammer.

Ihedigbo didn't get the memo when he got to town. Interestingly, Belichick doesn't seem to care.

"I would say along the lines of Brian Waters, Andre Carter, Ihedigbo, are guys that have come onto this team from other teams that have showed a high degree of leadership as well as just being able to do their job, have some flexibility, throw different things at them but they can handle it, they can process it, it doesnt phase them, theyre able to make adjustments either quickly or in their role whatever it happens to be and approach the game with very professional and attitude," Belichick pointed out.

Interestingly, all three have been excellent at articulating the game and team's mindset to reporters in the locker room all year. Maybe it has something to do with their being brought up in other systems. Some of the most candid players in years gone by - Rodney Harrison and Mike Vrabel, for instance - started their careers elsewhere. Why that would be, I don't know. But they all exude confidence.

"Theyre well prepared, theyre calm under pressure," Belichick said of the Carter, Waters, Ihedigbo troika. "They can handle things flying around in a game that are different or a little bit unsettling but theyre able to handle those . . . When youve been through a year with a player, going through all the situations that you go through, you really appreciate that. I would say similar things about all three of those guys that we didnt know that we now know and I have a real appreciation for it."

Ravens safety Weddle was interested in joining Patriots before landing in Baltimore

Ravens safety Weddle was interested in joining Patriots before landing in Baltimore

FOXBORO – Back in March, Eric Weddle batted his eyes longingly at the Patriots. The two-time All-Pro safety’s time was done with the Chargers and he wanted to spend his NFL autumn with a team that had a chance to win it all. 

He didn’t land in New England, but he didn’t too badly, winding up with the usually competitive Ravens.  

On a Thursday conference call with New England media, Weddle confirmed that there was mutual interest expressed. 

“Obviously, I was interested,” he acknowledged. “I have nothing but high regard, respect and admiration – and envy, quite honestly – of the success of the New England Patriots over the years. Obviously, battling them in my career, it’s always been a great game. I love the way they play, love the foundation, love everything about it. It was definitely on my radar. There were talks both ways, it just didn’t end up [working out].”

The numbers massed at the position with Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon played a role in the two sides not being able to reach accord, according to Weddle. 

“I’m good buddies with Patrick Chung,” he said. “I grew up playing with him and Devin [McCourty] is one of the best to play, so I don’t know if it would have worked out personnel-wise. But obviously, I could have seen myself fitting in there seamlessly.”

Weddle’s New England attraction apparently wasn’t love that bloomed late in his career. Toward the end of his conference call, Weddle said, “I’m still wondering why they just didn’t draft me in ’07; I could have been still playing there now.”

As reporters puzzled for a moment trying to recall the 2007 first-rounder, Weddle chipped in with the answer: “[They took] Brandon Meriweather.”

Khudobin simply ‘has got to be better’ for Bruins

Khudobin simply ‘has got to be better’ for Bruins

BOSTON – There wasn’t much for Anton Khudobin to say after it was all over on Thursday night. 

The B’s backup netminder allowed four goals on 22 shots while looking like he was fighting the puck all night. It was one of the big reasons behind a tired-looking 4-2 loss to the lowly Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

The loss dropped Khudobin to 1-4-0 on the season and puts him at a 3.02 goals-against average and .888 save percentage this season. Three of the four goals beat Khudobin despite him getting a pretty good look at them. The ultimate game-winner in the second period from John Mitchell just beat him cleanly on the short side. 

Matt Duchene beat Khudobin from the slot on a play that was a bad defense/bad goaltending combo platter to start the game and MacKinnon ripped a shorthanded bid past the Bruins netminder to put Boston in a hole against a woeful Colorado team. 

Afterward, Khudobin didn’t have much to say, with just one good performance among five games played for the Black and Gold this season. 

“Four goals is too much. That’s it,” said a to-the-point Khudobin, who was then asked how he felt headed into the game. “I don’t know; too much energy…yeah, too much. I don’t know. I just had a lot of energy and I think it just didn’t work out my way.”

Khudobin didn’t really expand on why he had too much energy, but perhaps it’s because the compacted schedule has really curtailed the team’s ability to hold team practices on a regular basis. Or maybe he was just disappointed it took him a week to get back between the pipes after playing his best game of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Either way Claude Julien said that the Bruins needed better goaltending on a night where they weren’t at their sharpest physically or mentally, and Khudobin clearly wasn’t up to the challenge this time around. 

“We needed some saves tonight and we didn’t get them. He’s got to be better. A lot of things here that we can be better at and take responsibility [for],” said Julien. “But at the same time, you got to move on here. To me it’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, and we would have had a chance. Now we’ve got to move forward.”

Clearly, the Bruins have no choice but to move on with a busy schedule that doesn’t let up anytime soon, but one of the lessons learned from Thursday night is that the Bruins need to get better backup goaltending from a collective crew (Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban included) that’s won just once in eight games behind Tuukka Rask this season.