Padilla shaky in relief

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Padilla shaky in relief

FORT MYERS, Fla. Right-hander Vicente Padilla is in the mix for the Red Sox fifth starters job. But he had a tough time in his two innings in the Red Sox 7-4 loss to the Pirates Friday night.

Padilla, followed starter Clay Buchholz, and allowed four runs on five hits all in his first inning of work.

He had that 0-2 count, the 1-2 count, he wasnt executing two-strike pitches, manager Bobby Valentine said. I think first time that Kelly Shoppach was catching him, and I think there was a little quandary there where to go once he got ahead on a couple of those hitters.

Valentine also thought Padilla was having issues with his arm speed.

I dont know that his, for my money, Im not sure that his arm speed was what it was last couple times, Valentine said. It was pretty good. His location was decent. He was executing early. He just didnt execute late from what I saw. They hit his slow curveball one time and he went to throw the cutter away and it looked like the whole ball was on the plate. 0-2 pitch, 1-2 pitch really hurt him

PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

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PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

He may have been left off of the NFL Network's Top 100 list, but Jamie Collins isn't flying under the radar at Pro Football Focus.

On PFF's list of the top 10 defensive players in the AFC, the Patriots linebacker came in at No. 8 and was given the description as the top linebacker in the conference.

Collins' versatility within the confines of the Patriots defense is what makes him so valuable, PFF's John Kosko explains: 

"He doesn’t dominate in any one role like Luke Kuechly does in pass coverage and run defense, but he is very good at all facets of the game. Collins has the athleticism to cover TEs and HBs effectively, the explosiveness to rush the passer, and the size and strength to defend the run. 

"The former Southern Mississippi linebacker is arguably the most versatile player in the NFL, and allows Bill Belichick to employ a defense that confuses opposing quarterbacks. With the only knock against Collins being his 34 missed tackles the past two seasons, the Patriot is the best linebacker in the AFC."

Collins graded out as the No. 5 linebacker in football last year, per PFF's numbers. He ranked behind only Carolina's Luke Kuechly, Minnesota's Anthony Barr, Indianapolis' Jerrell Freeman and Seattle's KJ Wright. 

Fellow Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower earned the 10th-highest grade for linebackers last season, according to PFF -- a grade that likely would have been higher had his snap-count (602 in 2015) approached that of Collins (792).

While Collins is a rare physical talent, the argument could be made that it's Hightower who is the more important player to the Patriots defense given his prowess as a pass-rusher and run-defender. He also has myriad responsibilities as the extension of the team's coaching staff in the defensive huddle. 

In order to slow down opposing passing games, many Patriots defensive packages employ either five or six defensive backs and just two linebackers. Lucky for them, they have two of the best in the conference.

Both Collins and Hightower are entering contract years this year, and finding a way to keep them in-house figures to be near the top of the list of priorities for the Patriots front office.