Patriots running attack is a legitimate threat

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Patriots running attack is a legitimate threat

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - The numbers are uncannily similar.

In 2009, the Patriots ran for 1,921 yards and 19 touchdowns. They averaged 4.1 yards per carry and were ninth in the AFC in yards per game on the ground.

This year? They ran for 1,973 yards and 19 touchdowns. They averaged 4.3 per carry and were sixth in the AFC in yards per game.

But those are surface numbers. Plumbing a little deeper, you can uncover some of the key stats that show just how effective the Patriots were on the ground.

For instance, BenJarvus Green-Ellis was second in the entire NFL in second half rushing TDs.

Complementing that, Danny Woodhead was fourth in second half yards per carry (5.9, 50 carries, 297 yards).

In first half YPC, Woodhead was seventh in the NFL and Green-Ellis was 16th.

On first-and-10, Green-Ellis was 13th in the NFL with 623 yards.

On third down, Green-Ellis was tied for seventh in creating first downs (12 for 18). He trailed three fullbacks and three quarterbacks.

In the entire NFL, Woodhead finished third in yards per carry (5.64 on 97 carries).

Total yards arent as important as when they come. For instance, Laurence Maroneys 45-yard touchdown run in a 59-0 win over Tennessee in October 2009 were not quite as impressive as the Patriots 72 rushing yards in the second half at Pittsburgh in October. Especially with those yards coming against a team that hadnt allowed a 100-yard game by an opponent all year.

The general feeling about the 2009 Patriots running game was that it was pretty good. But this years edition spearheaded by a pair of undrafted guys is far more effective.

I think the durability of that running back position and to rush the way that our offense has been rushing lately, its been great, Tom Brady said Sunday night after the win over Miami. Weve played some really stout defenses lately, especially in the AFC East. The Dolphins are a great run defense and the Jets are tough. These 3-4 defenses are tough to run against, whether it was the Steelers or Green Bay was a good defense, so weve played a bunch of great defenses. So, I think theres really been a strong commitment over the course of the season to make yards in the run game and keep things balanced and use our run to set up play action. Its definitely been a huge threat.

The Patriots rushing attack is a realistic threat this year. Last year, it seemed more a device used until Brady could go long for Randy Moss again. The diversity of the offense with tight ends now being featured in the passing game has had an impact. And the blocking of the tight ends has as well.

Its interesting because, last February, the Indianapolis Colts presence in the Super Bowl despite having the planets worst rushing attack was seen as proof of a sea change.

The notion teams needed a legitimate, grind-it-out rushing attack to succeed was pass. Protections for quarterbacks and receivers, sophisticated advances in the passing game made the air the way to go. Indy was at the leading edge of that wave.

Last season, the Colts advanced to the Super Bowl with an attack that averaged 3.54 yards per carry, 80.9 per game. That was last in the NFL.

But the presence of Peyton Manning was the equalizer.

And this year, the presence of Brady and an effective running game has resulted in a Patriots team that is again historically explosive.

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

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

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It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.