The Ochocinco "brand" begins to re-emerge

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The Ochocinco "brand" begins to re-emerge

It's starting. For more than two months, "Chad Ochocinco, Patriots wide receiver" was able to keep "Chad Ochocinco, Marketing Brand" in the basement. But "The Brand" is restless. And this week, it peeked out to see if the coast was clear to start promoting itself again. It began with an end to Ocho's Twitter silence, an extended layoff from the social media forum that he said came as the result of a lost bet.
During his first return foray, he ripped back at fans who criticized him for a lack of on-field production and his notable late-game drop in the Patriots only loss of the season at Buffalo. And then on Friday, Ocho's girlfriend Evelyn Lozada, started marketing shirts mocking Ocho's lack of production for the Patriots. Ocho put up a half-hearted protest on Twitter, asking, "You hating also?" Of course, he also re-sent the path to make a purchase to his nearly 3 million followers so they'd have a chance to follow along and buy a shirt if they wanted to. It's impossible to believe Ocho didn't sign off on this little marketing campaign by his girlfriend. And if he'd taken real exception to it, he wouldn't have passed along the link. Talk about tone deaf. How do you think that goes over with teammates who are busting their asses to perform when a guy who dropped a touchdown pass in the team's only loss is signing off on someone making a buck off his ineffectiveness? How do you think that goes over with the coaches working to get him up to speed in an offense he's so far been an afterthought in? How does it go over with the people who are giving him 6 million to play football. Extreme example? Imagine if, after two weeks, Devin McCourty's girlfriend had started selling "Devin Can't Cover" t-shirts. Ocho is far from a bad person. He's a fascinating guy who is making the most of the life he's carved out for himself. Football has played a major role in his being able to create an audience, but football is only a part of who he is now. It is a means to an end and the end, it seems, is fame, attention and being able to share his life-view with a sprawling forum. The Patriots like to say about their best players, "Football is important to him." Football might be important to Ochocinco, but it's far from the most important thing he's got going. But even I'm surprised to see that selling t-shirts that make a joke of his vocation is more important to him than the game.

Another burner for Brady: Kraft compares Cooks to Moss

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Another burner for Brady: Kraft compares Cooks to Moss

PHOENIX -- For an indication of just how high the expectations sit for newly-acquired Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks, have a look at what team owner Robert Kraft said during the annual league meetings at the Biltmore on Monday. 

Asked about all the moves Bill Belichick and his front office have made this offseason, Kraft started with the former Saints big-play threat.

"I think what they've done is excellent this year," Kraft said. "And I know bringing this young man from New Orleans, I don't know, except since I've owned the team the only player who could make an impact like that at wide receiver is Randy Moss. He doesn't have his height, but he's got his speed. I think that's complementary to what we have on the team. I'm excited about him joining us."

Cooks gives the Patriots one of the most dynamic pass-catching threats in the NFL and should provide an additional boost to an offense that ranked third in the league in points scored (27.6) in 2016. He is one of three players to record 75 catches, 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. The other two? Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr.

Those are some big names, but Moss may be the biggest ever associated with Cooks. What Moss did when he arrived to New England in a trade with the Raiders in 2007 was historic, catching 98 passes for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns. 

As excited as Kraft is for Cooks' arrival, not even he will project a similarly gaudy statistical year. But he's clearly thrilled that Tom Brady will have yet another explosive receiving threat to pair with Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and an impressive stable of pass-catching backs.

Kelly's a potential weapon in the Red Sox bullpen

Kelly's a potential weapon in the Red Sox bullpen

Joe Kelly’s ascent to the eighth inning has been pretty darn rapid.

Tyler Thornburg’s questionable right shoulder and the loss of other relievers elsewhere -- remember Koji Uehera, now of the World Champion Cubs? -- have thrown him into the spotlight.

That doesn’t make Kelly anything close to a certainty, though.

Entering spring training, even Craig Kimbrel, one of the very best closers around, faced some doubt after control flare-ups a year ago.

In Kelly, the Sox have an overpowering righty who couldn’t harness his stuff in the past. Someone who conspired with Clay Buchholz in making the Red Sox rotation look dismal midseason.

Kelly’s ineffectiveness last year, in fact, was one of the reasons they traded for Drew Pomeranz on July 14. And, logically, one of the reasons the Red Sox did not want to subsequently rescind the trade for Pomeranz.

The last start Kelly made with the Red Sox (and possibly in his big-league career) was on June 1 against the Orioles. He allowed seven runs in 2 1/3 innings and was immediately demoted.

He didn’t make it back to Boston until late July.

The best reasons to believe in Kelly now, in Thornburg’s absence, are straightforward: he was awesome at the end of last year, and he is overpowering.

In an eye-opening September, he held hitters to a .180 average in 14 innings. He gave up one earned run, carrying a 0.64 ERA, struck out 20 and walked just three.

That’s awesome potential.

He’s always had that, if nothing else, though: potential. What’s to say Kelly lives up to it? He might. There’s just not a lot to hang your hat on.

In eight innings this spring, Kelly has as many walks, seven, as he does strikeouts.

“The point we’re trying to stress to him, no one in this game is perfect,” Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Monday, including the Boston Herald. “He doesn’t have to be perfect with every pitch located. He has premium stuff. Trust it, and get ahead in the count a little bit more frequently.”

Early in spring training, Kelly talked about how he was still learning on the job, as you’d expect. That’s going to continue to be the case, and he'll continue to have to prove he's at last arrived.