Will Brinson, senior NFL blogger for CBSSports.com, took pains on Monday to clarify what he means by tagging "impact" rookies in the NFL. His piece, which names 10 such players for the 2012 season, is prefaced with specific criteria: statistical production, game impact, and playoff impact.
That in mind, the Patriots should be happy Brinson put rookie Chandler Jones in the No. 2 spot.
"It hasn't been a great run for Bill Belichick on defensive players over the past few years in the draft, but he's mostly whiffed on defensive backs. With the Patriots losing a ton of sacks to free agency, they needed someone to step in and provide a multi-faceted attack on the quarterback. That someone is Jones, and he could be ready for a huge year defensively," the author explained.
"He'll allow the Pats to mix 3-4 and 4-3 and continually put pressure on the quarterback, and in a division with Matt Moore (or Ryan Tannehill! Or David Garrard!), Mark Sanchez (or Tim Tebow!) and Fitzpatrick, Jones could pile up the pressures. No, it doesn't hurt that he plays for someone who's coming off a Super Bowl loss. But that's how these rankings work; if you can put up big numbers while pushing your team over the edge, you're a bigger difference maker right now."
Jones is already being compared to Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul -- a player consistently lauded by Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
How so soon? Rawness.
Jones left Syracuse a year early and so is considered green. But his skill, instinct, and athleticism create a huge upside for New England. Or, as Brinson believes, "impact" potential.
FOXBORO -- The highly-anticipated first Patriots injury report of the week was released on Wednesday afternoon, and it was fairly predictable.
Both injured quarterbacks were active but limited in their practice participation, the report indicated. That comes as little surprise as both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) were spotted throwing passes early in Wednesday's practice. Neither appeared to be experiencing any significant discomfort as they made their warm-up throws.
Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) were also limited. Gronkowski admitted that the team was taking it slow with him in his first game back on the field last week -- he played just 14 snaps in New England's win over Houston -- but he said on Wednesday that he hoped to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Charles Clay (knee)
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)
FOXBORO -- Jimmy Garoppolo spoke Wednesday for the first time since getting his shoulder separated by the Dolphins’ Kiko Alonso. Standing by his locker, Garoppolo was predictably vague about the status of his arm, unless you consider, “Getting better day by day,” as being insightful.
The only two responses offered that were worth a damn came when asked if he could have done anything different when he got squished by Alonso while retreating and buying time.
“Just have to be smart I guess,” said Garoppolo. “I mean, it’s football and stuff’s gonna happen like that, but have to be smart in those situations.”
Asked if he regretted holding the ball as long as he did on a third-down play with the Patriots up 21-0, Garoppolo replied, “After it’s all said and done it’s easy to say that, but it’s one of those things, you’re in the heat of the game. But bottom line I have to be smarter than that.”
Meanwhile, as he worked last week to get back for Thursday night’s game against Houston, The Boston Herald reported that the Patriots were “putting pressure” on Garoppolo to be ready for the game. Working hard to get key players ready for upcoming games is standard operating procedure for a medical staff. Trying to force a player to perform is not.
I asked Garoppolo if he felt unduly pressured. He replied, “No.”