What to look for in Patriots-Bucs


What to look for in Patriots-Bucs

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Last week, I cautioned before the preseason opener against Jacksonville that "if Ryan Mallett goes 9 for 11 for 141 yards and a touchdown" you needed to keep it in check and not make early proclamations. Thenthe kid went 12 for 19 for 164 yards and a touchdown and everyone started bouncing up and down in their La-Z-Boy. Be that as it may (one of the all-time great transitional quotes that means nothing), we move on to preseason Game No. 2. Here are a few more things to keep your peepers peeled for when the Patriots take on Tampa. 1. The Brady FactorDo you agree with this observation? Rarely has so little been made of remarkable individual performance as was made of Tom Brady's 2010. I mean, the guy was the unanimous NFL MVP (first time . . . FIRST TIME), set the record for passes without a pick and threw 36 touchdowns and four picks. He may have been better last year than he was in 2007 when he went 50 and 8. He is getting Jordan-esque. Ruth-ian. Thursday night, he will play his first game of the 2011 season. He figures to be as he's been in camp. Absurdly accurate, and rapid-fire in his decision-making. These are the autumnal years of what may be the best quarterback ever. Watch every snap. 2. Safety DanceRegardless of how unhappy, disappointed, crestfallen or otherwise chagrined the Patriots are with Brandon Meriweather, they don't have a lot of recourse at this point. The safety is a necessary evil because the team did not replace departed free agent Jarrad Page. And James Sanders is damaged. So, despite the fact the team has shuttled in safeties for a look-see, Meriweather - unless something bizarre happens - will be going nowhere. It's just him, Sergio Brown and Patrick Chung. So happy, unhappy, no difference. How he plays and who he plays with is worth watching Thursday night. Is he getting the bulk of the reps or is he an afterthought?3. Looking for a StarThe Patriots have rotated Darius Butler, Leigh Bodden, Chung, Meriweather and Jonathan Wilhite through the position that guards the slot position. Which one emerges as the lead will be interesting and it will be a critical position in the AFC East with the talented slot and underneath receivers in the division. 4. Gronk PlayThe tight end didn't play last week against the Jaguars because of an injury. This week, he'll be ready to go. And there is no player that's been more impressive in training camp than Professor Gronkowski. How will he perform against unfamiliar competition? No doubt ridiculously effective. Don't tell anyone but he's the next great tight end in the NFL. 5. Love HurtsKyle Love has actually been pretty good in this camp. Playing next to Vince Wilfork on the defensive line in the 4-3, he's most likely just keeping the spot warm for Albert Haynesworth. But the second-year defensive tackle has been a gap-shooting beast in the 4-3 and has no doubt earned a spot for himself at this point.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. 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.