Patriots veterans trust in team's youth movement

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Patriots veterans trust in team's youth movement

FOXBORO -- First it was Donte' Stallworth. Then Jabar Gaffney. Then came Dan Koppen, Deion Branch and Brian Hoyer. One by one, veterans fell, casualties of training camp cuts. And with them went the Patriots' average age.

Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe pointed out over the weekend that of all the teams fielded by Bill Belichick during his tenure with the Patriots, this is the youngest roster he will take into a Week 1 game.

It's a youth movement that's opened eyes in the locker room.

"Yeah this locker room is starting to make me feel old now," Wes Welker said. "But it's been good. A lot of energy, a lot of energetic type guys and young guys. And, you know, I think the main thing is focusing day in and day out and understand it's a long season and you gotta keep on maturing and keep on playing well throughout the season."

Logan Mankins -- all of 30 years old -- joked about it, too.

"I am getting old," he said. "See all this gray hair? I guess it happens to us all."

Between New England's young tackles and tight ends, Mankins may find himself surrounded by relative whippersnappers, but he trusts them as he trusts veterans. He doesn't really have much of a choice.

"We are a lot younger team," he said. "Some older guys are gone so you just gotta count on each other that they're going to do their job, put in the film study, put in their work on the field so hopefully it shows up on Sundays."

The defense is where the Patriots have seen the most significant infusion of youth. Its starters, including rookies Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower, average 25 years old. Second-rounder Tavon Wilson also worked his way into a prominent role for the defense during training camp. And second-year corner Ras-I Dowling should also contribute a great deal to the secondary when healthy.

"To be honest with you, I think we have a mature group," said Jerod Mayo, now in his fifth season one of the elder statesmen of the defense. "Guys come to work every day. They come in early and leave late. We're fortunate to have them."

But even Mayo knows there's no substitute for experience, and he's hoping that the enormity of playing in their first regular season NFL game doesn't get the best of his rookie teammates, from whom much is expected.

"It's definitely an unknown," he said. "We talk about the different speeds of the game, we talk about the preseason, the regular season and the playoffs. But I'm sure those guys . . . We've been prepared. We've been preparing, and the coaches have been doing an unbelievable job of getting us ready."

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Three weeks removed from his team blowing a 25-point, second-half lead in the Super Bowl, Mohamed Sanu offered a possible explanation for the Atlanta Falcons losing their edge against the Patriots.

Lady Gaga.

More specifically, it was the half-hour-plus halftime show that interrupted the Falcons' rhythm, the receiver said Friday on the NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."

“Usually, halftime is only like 15 minutes, and when you’re not on the field for like an hour, it’s just like going to work out, like a great workout, and you go sit on the couch for an hour and then try to start working out again,” Sanu said.

Sanu was asked if the delay was something you can simulate in practice. 

"It's really the energy [you can't duplicate]," he said. "I don't know if you can simulate something like that. That was my first time experiencing something like that."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick did simulate it. In his Super Bowl practices, he had his team take long breaks in the middle.

Sanu also addressed the Falcons' pass-first play-calling that didn't eat up clock while the Patriots came back.

"The thought [that they weren't running the ball more] crossed your mind, but as a player, you're going to do what the coach [Dan Quinn] wants you to do." Sanu said. "He's called plays like that all the time."


 

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 third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* 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.