Harrison disappointed in Patriots soft coverage

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Harrison disappointed in Patriots soft coverage

There was once a time when opposing wide receivers feared the Patriots defense.

Rodney Harrison. Ty Law. Lawyer Milloy. Tedy Bruschi. Mike Vrabel. The list goes on.

If Hines Ward was to skip a game against the Pats in those years, it wouldn't be because he wasn't needed by his team. It would be because the Steelers would be worried that Harrison could end his season.

You can understand then why it was so painful for Harrison to watch the Patriots secondary get run all over.

"Well, I think the biggest thing for me is when I look at that secondary and that defense, they blitzed Pittsburgh, yes they did, but I saw those corners and those linebackers playing so timid, playing soft coverage," Harrison told Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran on 'Quick Slants'. "You need to get up there. I know those guys are fast, Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace and those guys, they're very fast, but you have to get up there and challenge these guys. I just see just such soft coverage and I'm very disappointed in that."

So now the offense is a "finesse" style and the defense is "soft". Hey, when did the Patriots cheerleaders make the 53-man roster?

The secondary is a glaring weakness on the Patriots, one that opposing teams (at least the ones who did their homework) will surely take advantage of on a weekly basis. Curran points out that the Jets and Cowboys didn't do it, but why wouldn't anybody else?

Harrison is quick to note that the young and defenseless Pats are supposed to make up for inexperience with speed -- speed that they don't seem to have.

"Well, I mean, when coach Bill Belichick developed this defense and he brought younger guys in, the one thing I hear everyone say is, 'Well, he wants to get younger, he wants to get faster.' Well, where's the speed? I don't see a fast defense. I don't see an explosive defense out there.

"When I look at other defenses I see the speed. I see the speed on Green Bay's defense or even Pittsburgh's defense. But I don't see that fast speed with the New England Patriots. I'm just very disappointed because I look at that team and I say, you know, get up there and jam those guys, play some man-to-man coverage, blitz, and force the quarterback to make some mistakes."

At least the Patriots can fall back on their offense, right? It's bailed them out many times before, but when the playoffs roll around, it's got to be a team-wide effort, or again they'll be one and done.

"I think the thing is Belichick understands the strength of this team is in the offense," Harrison said. "They believe that they can go out and score 30 points a game even if they give up 23 points or 400, 500 yards on defense, it doesn't matter.

"But my problem with that is, when you start reaching in November and December in those critical months and the playoffs and stuff like that, you're going to have to be able to come up and play good defense and you can't rely on your offense because now you have to run the ball more and you have to have shorter passes."

Patriots take just 4 players in smallest draft class in franchise history

Patriots take just 4 players in smallest draft class in franchise history

FOXBORO -- Heading into the opening of the 2017 draft on Thursday, the Patriots had just six selections -- none of which were in the first two rounds. It stood to reason that the team might get creative and find a way to make either more selections or earlier selections. When all was said and done, the opposite had occurred. 

The Patriots concluded the draft having made just four selections -- two in the third, one in the fourth and one in the sixth -- in what proved to be the smallest draft class in franchise history. 

The Pats’ selections were: 

Amongst other trades, the Pats moved the fifth-round pick they had entering the weekend to Kansas for tight end James O’Shaughnessy. They also traded a seventh-round pick to the Cowboys in order to move up in the sixth round to select McDermott. 

During the offseason, the Pats moved first, second and third-round picks in deals that netted them receiver Brandin Cooks and pass-rusher Kony Ealy. The team also surrended a fifth-round pick to the Bills for signing restricted free agent running back Mike Gillislee. 

Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said after the draft that he isn't surprised that the team, which has historically placed a high value on draft picks, only picked four players. 

"Whoever we end up with, we end up with," Caserio said. "I mean, the draft, whoever we pick -- OK, there's four players there -- we acquired players as a part of trades. They're a part of it; the undrafted players are a part of it, so let's call it, I don't know, 25 to 30 new players that we've sort of added to the team. However they get here, they get here. We can't necessarily control that. We just try to take our resources and try to make the best decision for our team and get the players on the team however we can get them here. That's what we try to do."

Prior to 2017, the Pats’ smallest draft class was in 2002, when the team made six selections. That class also featured higher picks, however, as the team picked in the first round (Daniel Graham) and second (Deion Branch). Rivers’ selection at No. 83 made him the latest into a draft that the Pats had made their first selection. 

Patriots begin to stock up on undrafted free agents with Mizzou DT Augusta

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Patriots begin to stock up on undrafted free agents with Mizzou DT Augusta

FOXBORO -- After making just four draft picks this weekend, the Patriots will be loading up on undrafted players to help round out their roster.

The picks of Derek Rivers (third round), Antonio Garcia (third round), Deatrich Wise (fourth round), Conor McDermott (sixth) brought the number on the team's roster to 69. They'll hit 90 before the start of training camp, and the majority of those could end up being undrafted rookies. 

We'll track reported undrafted signings in this space and update it as the weekend progresses . . . 

Josh Augusta, Missouri, 6-foot-4, 347 pounds (per Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star): While speaking about Alan Branch last season, Bill Belichick said, "Guys that weigh 350 pounds and are athletic and long like he is, I mean they don’t grow on trees. They’re hard to find." Augusta wasn't even considered a starter during his last season at Missouri, but his unique size and quick feet (he was used as a fullback at times by the Tigers) made him an interesting fit late on draft weekend. He weighed closer to 400 pounds last fall, but according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he was diagnosed with a thyroid issue in January and has shed weight since, which helped him post a 5.12-second 40 time (which some had clocked as a sub-5.0 time), a 28.5-inch vertical, a 108-inch broad jump and a 7.9-second three-cone at his pro day. Though he only played about 50 percent of his team's snaps the last two seasons, guys like him don't grow on trees. Branch, 32, signed a two-year extension this offseason.