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."

Bart Scott: Falcons have 'the better quarterback' in Super Bowl

Bart Scott: Falcons have 'the better quarterback' in Super Bowl

Former Ravens and Jets linebacker - now an "NFL Today" analyst for CBS - Bart Scott usually "can't wait" to make his disdain for Tom Brady and the Patriots known. 

He was back at it Tuesday in an interview with CBS Radio's Damon Amendolara, in which he said the Falcons have the better quarterback heading into Super Bowl LI.

“We know they’re the better offense, and right now, you could say they got the better quarterback because they have the MVP of the league,” Scott said. Ryan is the favorite to win the NFL MVP, which will be announced the night before the Super Bowl at the "NFL Honors" show.

“Now that’s a debate, but Matt Ryan has earned the right for his name to be put up there with the upper-echelon quarterbacks," Scott said. "He’s always been elite in the regular season, but now he’s taken this show into the postseason and he’s won the hard battles against the elite quarterbacks and now you have to give him his due.”

More from Scott: “I can’t see the Patriots stopping this offense. So, that means that these receivers are going to have to [keep] pace. It’s all going to come down to what it always comes down to. It’s going to come down to who makes the turnovers, who gets up early and puts the pressure on the other team. Matt Ryan and that offense showed me a lot when they went behind [in the divisional round against the Seahawks]. Seattle came and busted them in the face, and [Atlanta] went right back down and answered immediately.

"The Patriots always find a way, but I think it makes it more close of a game than what people think.”

Tuesday, Jan. 24: Crosby, Matthews top coaches' poll

Tuesday, Jan. 24: Crosby, Matthews top coaches' poll

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while rooting for “Manchester By the Sea” to upset some favorites at the Oscars.

*Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews top the annual NHL coaches' poll produced by TSN Insider Bob McKenzie.

*The oral history of Fox’s glowing puck used for the NHL during their run with the league is an entertaining one.

*Mike Babcock gives pep talks to the reporters along with his own players while running the show in Toronto.

*The Vegas Golden Knights are moving forward with their timetable toward hiring a coach with some good candidates out there now, and some other ones potentially available soon. I’ve wondered if Claude Julien would be interested in that spot if he’s let go by the Bruins this season, but the one sure thing is that he wouldn’t be out of work long if he is relieved of his duties.

*Claude Giroux needs to start playing a little more fearlessly and without dwelling on mistakes, according to his general manager.

*Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill doesn’t believe that fancy stats and analytics have had a major impact on the way the Wings do things.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the rundown on a Millenial’s dream of performers at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game: Nick Jonas, Fifth Harmony and Carly Rae Jepsen.

*For something completely different: keeping an eye on the notion that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is going to run for President.