Tough defensive decisions loom for Patriots


Tough defensive decisions loom for Patriots

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - The Patriots four-man front to start the game Friday night had Shaun Ellis, Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth and Andre Carter on the line. Soon after, it was Mike Wright, Gerard Warren, Haynesworth and Carter. As the night progressed, we saw Eric Moore in for Carter. Idle Friday night was Mark Anderson. In trying to get down to the 53-man roster limit by Saturday at 6, there are some hard decisions to make. These guys are good. And we're not even discussing the situational interior linemen the Patriots have like Myron Pryor, Darryl Richard or the injured Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick. Let's set the situation.

Mike Wright isn't going anywhere. He's an explosive, experienced end who -- when right -- is very, very good. I can't imagine Warren is going anywhere either because that inside tackle rotation of him, Ellis, Wilfork and Haynesworth is going to make opposing offenses have to think twice about trying to run between the tackles at all. Carter's explosion off the edge has been on display throughout the preseason.
Meanwhile, Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham seem safe because they can either play down and rush or drop in coverage because of their linebacking backgrounds. That opens zone-blitz possibilities where they drop and someone like Jerod Mayo fills in as the fifth pass-rusher. One of the edge guys will have to go and it seems a battle between Anderson and Moore is shaping up. In general, I think Moore anchors and sets the edge better than Anderson. Both have shown an ability to get past their man in 1-on-1 pass-rush situations. My guess would be Anderson goes. We'll see what Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio and Co., decide. But it's almost certain there will be an eye-opening release among the defensive linemenends. Too many good players and not enough spots.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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


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.