Will defense betray Patriots in the end?

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Will defense betray Patriots in the end?

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

The Patriots' defense allows an average of 374.6 yards per game. They are on pace to alow 5,994 yards. A big play or two in the final two games against the Dolphins and Bills and they'll give up more than 6,000. How do teams that allow 6,000 total yards in a season normally do? Not awesome. Here's the results since 2001. 2009: Chiefs (4-12), Browns (5-11), Lions (2-14)2008: Seahawks (4-12), Chiefs (2-14), Lions (0-16)2007: Lions (7-9)2006: Nobody2005: 49ers (4-12)2004: Chiefs (7-9), Saints (8-8)2003: Texans (5-11), Falcons (5-11)2002: Cardinals (5-11), Chargers (8-8), Lions (3-13), Chiefs (8-8)2001: NobodyThat's a combined record of 80-179. Nary a team among that group with a winning record. And believe me, I get it. It's "points, not yards" and "bend, don't break," and a lot of the numbers have beenrolled up in blowouts. The point of this exercise, the reason for pointing out that the Patriots are 12-2 despite having been moved upon with startling ease, is to illustrate what an anomaly their defense is. Because the New England defense is not bad and it is not good. It is timely. But after watching the Packers roll up 369 yards behind just-out-of-the-womb Matt Flynn, it is worth wondering if the time may run out on them. So let's call this"Alarmist Tuesday" and look atfour major concerns with the Patriots defense. 1. Defensive Line DepthThe Packers ran 84 offensive plays Sunday night. Vince Wilfork played 75 of them, as tabulated by the estimable Mike Reiss at ESPNBoston.com. Gerard Warren, meanwhile, played 59 and Eric Moore played 53. New England is short on the defensive line and having to use their two wide-body veterans for so many plays is not conducive to their long-term viability. The Patriots really could use injured guys like Mike Wright (concussion), Myron Pryor (back), Ron Brace (concussion) and Brandon Deaderick (shoulder injury vs. the Packers) to take the heat off the older guys. Sunday night was an aberration - the Patriots aren't going to often get doubled up in time of possession - but Wilfork is the key to their front-seven and he is a vital playoff cog. 2. Secondary DisciplineI'm in the minority, but I think Brandon Meriweather's been pretty good this season. He's a much better hitter than in 2009, when he seemed to pass on contact against bigger players. Unfortunately, his hitting on Sunday extended to teammate Devin McCourty, who Meriweather wiped out on a 66-yard touchdown pass to James Jones. Not only was Meriweather taking too shallow an angle, it appeared he needed to be further back in support on the play. Same thing in the second half when he nearly collided with Kyle Arrington at the goal line on a pass that Arrington should have picked. Patrick Chung, outstanding at the start of the season, has not been as solid in coverage as he was earlier in the year. Aside from a timely late-game tackle on Sunday, he's been pretty quiet since the early part of the year. The back part of the Patriots' defense is - depending on the playoff opponent - going to be key. If the Patriots match up with the Colts or San Diego (as opposed to Kansas City of the Jets, for instance, the play of the safeties will be a key factor. 3. Stopping the Run In Sub DefenseThe Patriots were horrendous at stopping backs when they had their nickel-and-dime defenses on the field earlier this season. They fixed it for a long stretch, but Sunday night it re-emerged.Discipline and being able toread and communicateare thekeys to success in those situations.4. Linebacker TacklingThe Patriots missed Brandon Spikes on Sunday night. Gary Guyton - despite all his athleticism - does not arrive at the ball under control very frequently. That's on checkdowns and regular handoffs. Rob Ninkovich, who's usually pretty reliable at wrappingup, slipped Sunday and allowed a simple checkdown pass to turn into a touchdown. And Tully Banta-Cain has had issues all season wrapping people up on initial contact. The poor tackling was the first thing linebacker Jerod Mayo lamented after Sunday's game. With what happened Sunday night, there may be talk of the Patriots defense being "exposed." The truth is, when you're on pace to allow 6,000 yards, the mediocrity of the defense has been hanging out there for everyone to see. But just as the convincing blowouts of the Jets and Bears served to make the Patriots defense seem more daunting than it is, the same holds true for the Packers game and the perception they're vulnerable. They are what they are. If they don't get flagged and do get turnovers, they will - despite their statistical atrociousness - be able to take a bow when it's all said andor done.

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

Patriots represented at Stanford, Utah, Missouri pro days

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Patriots represented at Stanford, Utah, Missouri pro days

The Patriots had a busy day of gathering intel on Thursday. A very busy day. 

While Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia represented the Patriots at Ohio State and Notre Dame, respectively, the team had other representatives at high-profile pro days around the country including Stanford, Missouri and Utah. 

Here are a few of the players the Patriots were able to get a better look at . . . 

Stanford: The Patriots have shown plenty of interest in players coming from David Shaw's program in the past (Cameron Fleming, Jordan Richards), and they'll undoubtedly appreciate the talents brought to the table by two of the school's projected first-rounders in Solomon Thomas and Christian McCaffrey. Thomas is a powerful 6-foot-3, 273-pound defensive lineman who can play just about anywhere up front. McCaffrey, meanwhile, is one of the most athletic running backs in this year's class. He worked out as a receiver on Thursday and could fill a multitude of roles as a pro, whether it's as a back, a slot receiver or a kick-returner. The Patriots would need to trade back into the first round to have a prayer at landing either player. 

Utah: The Utes have a handful of draftable offensive linemen and one who is expected to come off the board in the first round. Garrett Bolles, who lit up the combine, might be the top tackle available -- and there are those who believe he's just starting to tap into his potential. Isaac Asiata is a monster guard (6-3, 323, 34-inch arms) who put up more bench-press reps than any other offensive lineman at this year's combine, and center JJ Dielman is an intriguing later-round option. One of the quickest risers in the pre-draft process? Marcus Williams, who is an eye-popping athlete. He was top-five for those at his position at the combine in the vertical, broad jump and three-cone drill, and he looks like a ready-made NFL free safety. The Patriots are pretty well stocked at that spot, but if they're picking at the bottom of the first round and going with the best player available, they may very well think that's Williams. 

Missouri: Defensive players were in focus for scouts and coaches at the Tigers pro day, and Charles Harris was the headliner. One of the most impressive players within a very deep class of edge defenders, the 6-3, 253-pounder appears to have the quickness and burst to give NFL tackles fits. One of Harris' teammates up front, Josh Augusta, ran a pretty ridiculous 40-yard dash Thursday, clocking in just a shade under five seconds. Ridiculous, why? Because he's a defensive tackle who wighed 390 pounds during the season. That's moving. Augusta dropped down to 347 after being diagnosed with a thyroid issue in January and is looking to get to 335. Corner Aarion Penton can competes well for the football, but his size (5-9, 177) may scare teams off until late in the draft. 

Curran: Patriots, Darrelle Revis have not discussed deal

Curran: Patriots, Darrelle Revis have not discussed deal

The Patriots and Darrelle Revis have not discussed a deal that would bring the cornerback back to New England, according to CSNNE's Tom Curran.

This comes after CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported multiple anonymous NFL executives were convinced Revis would return to the Patriots.

Revis spent one season with the Patriots in 2014 when New England won Super Bowl XLIX. However, the Patriots did not pick up Revis' second-year option in the following offseason, and he elected to sign with the New York Jets in free agency. He played 14 games in 2015 and 15 games in 2016. He finished last season with 53 tackles, five pass deflections and one interception

The 31-year-old cornerback declined significantly during the 2016 season. Even Tom Brady said he noticed Revis was struggling phyiscally in the Patriots' Week 12 win over the Jets.

"I know he's not feeling great," Brady said in November. "I could see after the game, he winced a few times getting up. It looked like his leg was bothering him a little bit. But he's still very close on a lot of those plays. Even though you're hitting them, he's still very competitive.

"He's been one of the great players in the league for a long time. He's given up more plays this year than in the past, but you've gotta have a lot of respect for his style and his game."