Free Agent primer: Interior offensive line

191543.jpg

Free Agent primer: Interior offensive line

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

This is the fourth in a series of looks at the Patriots' position-by-position needs after the draft, and who's available to fill them via free agency . . . whenever free agency might come. Today's position: Offensive guardcenter.
Who's here?
Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Nick Kaczur, Dan Koppen, Ryan Wendell, Rich Ohrnberger, Thomas Austin, Marcus Cannon.Who's out there?
Robert Gallery (G - Raiders), Rudy Niswanger (C - Chiefs), Scott Mruczkowski (C - Chargers), Davin Joseph (G - Buccaneers), David Baas (GC - 49ers)What's the need?
From 1-10? Let's call it a6. Stephen Neal has retired, which leaves your presumptive starters across the front as Mankins, Koppen and Connolly. Mankins may be agitated with how he's being treated, but it's hard to fathom him forfeiting 10 million to play left guard for the Patriots in 2011, which he'll get as their franchise player (presuming the CBA gets worked out, blah, blah, blah). Not after receiving about 800,000 in salary as opposed to the 3 million he would have gotten if he'd signed his RFA tender and played the whole season. But plans need to be made for his exit after 2011. Koppen will be 32 in September. He is not dominant but he's the interior QB of a line that is exceedingly smart and efficient. The Patriots will miss him a lot when he's gone and that day is coming. His backup is Ryan Wendell, 25, a versatile player who has been capable in fill-in duty at guard and spot duty at center. Connolly is a pretty effective right guard and has the versatility to play the other side as well, as he showed during Mankins' holdout. Ohrnberger has done little to emerge in an area that's had opportunities for players to step up. Kaczur is in the mix as guard depth. Cannon, drafred in the fifth round and currently battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma, figures to be out of the mix in 2011. His potential, after he hopefully conquers his health problem, is very high. Who do they chase?
Baas seems a smart choice because he has that guard-center versatility. Meanwhile, I've been hearing the team remains enamored with one-time can't-miss prospect Robert Gallery, who is now 32 and has been plagued by injuries in Oakland. Who do we look at next?
Defensive endsTom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Cyrus Jones not concerned about criticism from 'fair-weather fans'

Cyrus Jones not concerned about criticism from 'fair-weather fans'

FOXBORO -- Cyrus Jones knows he's been criticized. He said on Tuesday that he doesn't care where the criticism is coming from so long as his coaches and teammates are happy with him.

"That's life," he said. "It is what it is. I know what I play the game for. I know who I play the game for. The people out there saying this and that, they're not important to me. They're not out there on the field, they're not my teammates. They're not my coaches. They're not my family. They really don't mean anything. They're fair weather fans. They're going to be with you when you're doing good, and as soon as you do something bad, they're on to the next. I've been dealing with that all my life . . .

"That goes far beyond football. You know who's in your corner. You know who's not. I don't really dwell on the people that really mean nothing to me. I don't know them and they don't know me. All they're doing is watching, spectating, criticizing. They're not Bill Belichick. They're not guys in this locker room. So those are the only people that matter when it comes to critiquing my play or whatever you want to call it."

MORE PATRIOTS

Jones returned four punts for 58 yards against the Texans on Saturday, including a 32-yarder and a 15-yarder that required him to elude multiple defenders early on. He also chose to field one punt deep in Patriots territory that resulted in a loss of three.

"That's one of those gray-area plays you just gotta use your instincts," he said. "It was a deeper punt than we anticipated . . . You just gotta use your better judgment. If it bounced and it's a dead ball right there, they still get the ball inside the 10. If I don't field it, it could bounce in the end zone. You really don't know. Just gotta judge it the best you can. The most important thing is possession."

Jones said that overall he felt like it was a positive outing. Though he has fielded kicks cleanly since the beginning of training camp -- an issue that plagued him during his rookie season -- he was in coverage for two long completions against the Jags in his team's preseason opener. Saturday against the Texans, Jones explained, was a good opportunity to build himself back up.

"It's better than negative stuff," he said. "Just using this preseason to kind of get my feet wet, get that comfort back there and gain confidence. I think that's what anybody's trying to do when they get on the field at this time . . .

"I got confidence in myself and my teammates have confidence in me, coaches got confidence in me. They know what I can do. It's just a matter of taking it day by day, focusing on the details and the little things, and going out there and getting it done and making it happen."

After Jones made his 32-yard return in Houston, he was mobbed by teammates and coach Joe Judge, picking up a player who'd experienced his share of down moments over the course of the last year.

"It just shows just how unselfish everybody is," he said. "Guys are more happy when somebody else makes a play than the person who made the play. That's just the culture of this team. Everybody wants to see each other succeed because that's only going to make the team better."

Jones insisted he's not worried about making the team when final cutdowns are made before Week 1. Under Belichick, the Patriots have never released a first or second-round pick going into his second season.

"I know what I can do, and I know what I can bring to this team," he said. 

CSNNE SCHEDULE

Quick Slants Podcast: Jerod Mayo reminisces about most talented roster he played on

quickslantspodcast_clean.jpg

Quick Slants Podcast: Jerod Mayo reminisces about most talented roster he played on

Tom Curran and Phil Perry give their first impressions from Patriots preseason games. Jerod Mayo discusses the most talented roster he had with Patriots.

Here's a rundown of the episode.

3:00 Dont’a Hightower returning to Patriots off the PUP list, will he be ready to be ‘all systems go’ going forward.

6:20 Was the eclipse worth all the hype?

10:40 Should the Patriots poor offensive line performance against Houston worry fans?

15:50 What were our impressions of Cyrus Jones against Texans

19:00 impressions of Jimmy Garoppolo so far during preseason

20:00 Which players are in danger of being cut?

36:00 Jerod Mayo tells Tom E. Curran that he needs to meditate

38:30 Jerod weighs in on whether the hit on Odell Beckham was a ‘dirty hit’

42:30 Does Jerod think that the 2013 TJ Ward hit on Rob Gronkowski was a ‘dirty hit’

43:30 Should there be an etiquette for how physical preseason games should be in the NFL?

47:00 Jerod breaks down how Bill Belichick does a different technique that most NFL teams during the draft, and how it has paid off.

51:00 Who was the most talented roster the patriots had while Jerod Mayo was playing?

54:00 Will the NFL ever turn back into the ‘old style’ of football?