Too much blame being put on Brady

914389.jpg

Too much blame being put on Brady

There was a time (about 13 years ago) when the Patriots were not special. They were not Goliath, they were not a powerhouse, they were not "Brady's Bunch."

Then, one fateful day, Tom Brady came onto the field and changed all that.

Playoff runs. Magic. Super Bowls. 10, 12, 14 and even 16 win seasons became the norm. Lots of hair tosses and commercials. Dramatic comebacks. Record-breaking seasons. One of the most dominant franchises in sports history. A culture change in New England.

On Friday, Felger and Mazz debated whether the 2012 version of Tom Brady is being blamed too much for not living up to the other-worldly performances we've come to expect of him.

Some say Brady's age is getting to him and he's going to have more "off performances" like we saw in Seattle last week as part of that aging process. Don't tell that to Felger.

"For the love of God, the reason the Patriots knock on the door every year is because of Tom Brady," said Felger.

But there's also the group of people who refuse to believe the infallible Brady could ever succumb to something as mortal as age.

"That's just denying reality," said Felger. "That's just denying the condition of the human body in that sport.

The middle ground is acknowledging he's not quite what he was, but he's still damn good enough. And I think that's the middle ground and it feels like there's too many people on either side of it."

Both Felger and Mazz admit that Brady's performance has started to slip, but both note that it's not that pronounced, and when you consider how much better he was than every other quarterback in the league, his "slip" still has him above most every other quarterback in the league.

But there's one thing that's driving Mazz crazy.

"How much are they going to ask this guy to cover for? How long is this going to go on? He's been covering their ass for five years. He got them to two Super Bowls. But the point is, they've been asking him to cover up their shortcomings for four years. And now he's starting to slip and it's 'I'm tired of Brady'?

When you ask one guy to cover up all your mistakes, year after year after year... how much can he do?"

One thing is clear, there are about 30 other teams in the league who would love to have a quarterback like Brady leading their team, and both Felger and Mazz think the fans who already have Brady should be both realistic and grateful.

Ex-Patriot Tre' Jackson fails physical with Rams

Ex-Patriot Tre' Jackson fails physical with Rams

The Patriots' waiving of guard Tre' Jackson may have been related to his physical status, judging by what's happened since he keft Foxboro.

The Los Angeles Rams claimed Jackson off waivers last week, but the former third-round draft choice failed his physical exam and was again let go. He's now a free agent, and may have to prove he's healthy before another team will give him a shot.

Jackson missed the entire 2016 season because of a knee injury.

Prototypical Patriots: Foreman's size, athleticism ideal for 'big back' role

Prototypical Patriots: Foreman's size, athleticism ideal for 'big back' role

The Patriots may have their "big back" for 2017 and beyond by Monday if the Bills decide not to match the offer sheet Mike Gillislee received from New England. Maybe Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio feel as though Rex Burkhead can handle that role. Who knows? Maybe they end up bringing back LeGarrette Blount and use him as their between-the-tackles hammer. 

PHIL PERRY'S PROTOTYPICAL PATRIOTS DRAFT PREVIEW

However it shakes out, it's looking less and less like the Patriots will need to draft a big body to serve as their bruiser on first and second down. But at the moment there is enough uncertainty at that position that it's worth rolling through the series of names who fit what the Patriots typically like in their early-down runners.

Having the size to withstand the punishment associated with that role is obviously crucial. Drafting someone who looks like Blount (6-feet, 250 pounds) won't happen this year, but the Patriots have manned that spot with smaller players in the past. Stevan Ridley (5-foot-11, 225 pounds) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (5-foot-11, 220 pounds) are some of the more recent examples of Patriots "big backs" who weren't exactly built like tanks yet were entrusted with that job. 

Athleticism helps, too. Backs that size who can run a 40-yard dash in the 4.6-second range with a three-cone drill time of under seven seconds and a broad jump of about 10 feet? They're not your run-of-the-mill plodders, and would be intriguing fits in the Patriots offense. 

D'Onta Foreman, Texas, 6-feet, 234 pounds: Perhaps the best combination of size and athleticism that this class of running backs has to offer, Foreman ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. According to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, who has combine data going back to 2003, no running back weighing 232 pounds or more has ever run a 40 that quickly. He also recorded a 33-inch vertical and a 10-foot broad jump. Foreman fumbled seven times in 323 carries during his 2,000-yard season for the Longhorns, a number that might force the Patriots to look elsewhere if they're in the big-back market, but after the season he claimed he played with a broken hand that impacted his ability to secure the football. 

Kareem Hunt, Toledo, 5-foot-10, 216 pounds: Another eye-opening combination of power and explosiveness, Hunt ran a 4.62 40-yard dash in Indy, jumped 36.5 inches in the vertical (fifth-best among backs at the combine) and 119 inches in the broad jump. He ran for 1,475 yards and 10 scores last season while proving he has some value as a receiver out of the backfield as well with 41 grabs for 403 yards and a touchdown. Always falling forward, Hunt may not be quite as imposing as past Patriots early-down backs, but he plays bigger than his size.

Corey Clement, Wisconsin, 5-foot-10, 220 pounds: The former Badger checks just about every box from a physical standpoint: At his pro day he posted a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, a 6.91-second three-cone drill and a 10-foot broad jump. The Patriots may shy away for other reasons, though. Per Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, his 2015 was a wash due to "injury, attitude and an off-field incident."

Brian Hill, Wyoming, 6-foot-1, 219 pounds: A first-team All-Mountain West selection after running for 1,860 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, Hill stood out among running backs from bigger programs at this year's combine. He finished the week in Indy with a 4.54-second 40-yard dash, a 10-foot-5 broad jump, a 7.03-second three-cone drill, and his 11.29-second 60-yard shuttle time was second only to Christian McCaffrey who measured two inches shorter and almost 20 pounds lighter. He may require a Day 2 selection, but if the Patriots are still without a true big-back on the roster going into the draft, Hill could be the pile-mover they're looking for.

Wayne Gallman, Clemson, 6-feet, 215 pounds: The lightest player on this list, Gallman still runs as hard as any of them. His 4.6-second 40, 120-inch broad jump and 4.28-second 20-yard shuttle could be enticing for the Patriots. He was a first-team All-ACC player in 2015 after rushing for 1,527 yards. Last season he ran for more than 500 fewer yards but saw 87 fewer carries and still set a career-high for scores with 15. 

James Conner, Pitt, 6-foot-1, 233 pounds: Conner's athleticism (4.65-second 40-yard dash, 29-inch vertical, 113-inch broad jump, 7.41-second three-cone) doesn't quite stand up to the thresholds the Patriots have for their backs, but his frame, his hard-charging style and mental toughness may earn him a look in the later rounds. He overcame Hodgkin's lymphoma to rush for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Prior to his illness, he was named ACC Player of the Year in 2014 when he ran for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns.