Key roster battles on tap vs. Bucs

191543.jpg

Key roster battles on tap vs. Bucs

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
TAMPA BAY - Checking in with a few of the Patriots for whom Thursday night's preseason game against the Bucs is more than a tuneup. Jonathan WilhiteThe fourth-year corner out of Auburn got juked badly on an 84-yard kickoff return last week. With the Patriots' secondary pretty deep at the moment and Wilhite closer to the bottom than the top, he needs to play well on special teams and in the regular defense. Darius ButlerSame boat as Wilhite. Last week against the Jags, he got picked on and abused. He seems to play tentative and in fear of getting beat. Probably not long for this roster which is a tough reality since the team spent a second-rounder. Darnell JenkinsThe Patriots were high on him last year, giving him a fairly generous practice squad deal. But the likeable wideout may be faced with a numbers crunch at the position. With Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Taylor Price, Julian Edelman and Brandon Tate in the mix, an as-yet unproven Jenkins needs a surehanded performanceLee SmithThe strapping tight end from Marshall was drafted in the fifth round. At 6-6, 269-pounds, he's shown that he can block and catch during camp. There's a little battle going on to see who will be the third tight end behind Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Will YeatmanThis is the other guy in that competition with Smith. A6-5, 268-pounder, Yeatman went undrafted out of Maryland. How that happened is hard to understand because he's been every bit as impressive as Smith during camp. Brandon MeriweatherHe's not had an amazing camp. It may not be poor enough to warrant all the conversation he's generated, but the former first-round safety continues to be a player who can't own the free safety spot at the top of the depth chart. When he plays and how well he carries out his assignments will help decide if he can quiet the wolves at his door. Sergio BrownThe 6-2, 210-pound rookie free agent in 2010 keeps getting as many reps as Meriweather. The team isn't in a position to release any safeties - only Brown, Meriweather and Chung are healthy - but Brown could be the one to make Meriweather expendable. All Those DLsThere are the defensive tackles - Gerard Warren, Myron Pryor, Kyle Love, and Darryl Richard and Kade Weston- fighting to make this team and play alongside Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth. Then there are the defensive ends - Andre Carter, Eric Moore and Mark Anderson - battling to be the edge guy. Some talented players are going to be left behind when the cuts get made.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Belichick headlines big-name crowd in attendance at Ohio State pro day

belichick.jpg

Belichick headlines big-name crowd in attendance at Ohio State pro day

Bill Belichick has counted both Urban Meyer and Greg Schiano among the list of coaches he trusts. On Thursday, the Patriots coach was in attendance at Ohio State's pro day to watch players who've been coached by both. 

Belichick has been closely tied to both Meyer and Schiano over the years, drafting multiple players from their programs when Meyer was at the University of Florida and Schiano was at Rutgers University. The Schiano connection has been particularly strong in recent years as Belichick's son, Steve, played for Schiano, and the Patriots had three key players in their secondary -- Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan -- for the last four seasons who studied under Schiano. 

Now the head coach and associate head coach/defensive coordinator, respectively, Meyer and Schiano have tutored some of this year's top draft prospects. Here's a quick breakdown of some of the top-tier talent hailing from Columbus this year . . . 

Malik Hooker, safety: The 6-foot-1, 206-pounder is expected to be the first true free safety off the board. His impressive ball skills made him a turnover waiting to happen in the Big Ten. 

Marshon Lattimore, corner: With a 38.5-inch vertical and a 4.36-second 40-yard dash time, Lattimore is one of the best draft-eligible athletes this year. He was hampered by hamstring injuries in college, but he's still projected to be one of the first defensive backs taken. 

Gareon Conley, corner: Among the draft's fastest risers after putting together a strong combine (4.44 40-yard dash, 6.68-second three-cone), Conley will give his next team good size (6-feet, 195 pounds) and length (33-inch arms). He may not be as polished as Lattimore, but still could very well be a first-round pick.

Pat Elflein, center: This smart, hard-working pivot may not have the world's best footwork, but he should be among the first players taken at his position. Elflein (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) is a former wrestler who has experience at both center and guard. 

Curtis Samuel, receiver: A true all-purpose threat in college (AP All-American, first-team All-Big Ten), he could have trouble adapting to life as a full-time receiver in the NFL. At 5-11, 196 pounds that's probably where he'll end up.

Raekwon McMillan, linebacker: At 6-2, 240 pounds McMillan was a second-team All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten choice. He's instinctive, but there's some concern as to whether or not he has the strength to hold up inside at the next level. The Patriots, as we've noted, have been looking at the linebacker position throughout the pre-draft process.

FBI returns Brady Super Bowl jerseys to Gillette

FBI returns Brady Super Bowl jerseys to Gillette

The FBI returned Tom Brady’s Super Bowl XLIX and Super Bowl LI jerseys to Gillete Stadium Thursday, days after recovering the stolen items. 

After the FBI’s visit, Robert Kraft issued the following statement:  

"We want to thank the FBI, the Mexican authorities and the many different local agencies that were involved in the investigation and ultimate recovery of Tom Brady's Super Bowl LI jersey. Working along with the Patriots and NFL security, those agencies collectively coordinated an investigation that also led to the recovery of Tom’s missing Super Bowl XLIX jersey. It was great to have both jerseys returned to Gillette Stadium today. I don’t know that any agency could have accomplished this independently, but collectively multiple agencies -- both in the U.S. and in Mexico -- worked together to achieve the goal of retrieving the stolen property. It is another example of the importance of teamwork and what can be accomplished when everyone works together. We appreciate the effort of everyone involved and look forward to returning these jerseys to Tom when he gets back to New England."

Brady’s jersey was reported missing shortly after the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI victory over the Falcons, with it being learned in recent days that Martin Mauricio Ortega Camberos of Mexican newspaper La Prensa was the culprit. Video emerged Tuesday of Ortega illegally entering the Patriots’ locker room and leaving with the jersey.