Mankins, Wilfork next up on Top 100

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Mankins, Wilfork next up on Top 100

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
Nobody can argue that the NFL Network sits on its hands and doesn't come up with programming. Whether it's those Top 10 shows filled with knowledgeable and handsome sportswriters or the critically acclaimed "America's Game" Super Bowl retrospectives, if you're in for a minute, you're usually in for an hour on those. I haven't felt as strongly about their current countdown show "The Top 100: Players of 2011" and it's not just because of the awkward grammar (what's with the colon?). I think the main reason is, I don't trust the players to correctly evaluate their peers. There. I said it. Why? Well, most of them are pretty busy on Sundays when the actual games are being played, so I don't trust that they have a complete view of all the teams. And while there's no question a player like defensive end Jason Taylor is 19 times more of an expert than me on who the best left tackles in the league may be -- especially in the AFC East -- I'd be stunned if he knew who the best wideoutsand corners were. When does he actually spend time breaking that stuff down or even pay attention to it?Additionally, I think rooting interests among the players figure into these lists way more than they would if compiled by media types, scouts and pro personnel departments. If you don't think voting coalitions exist, ask yourself ifBrandon Meriweather would have been a 2010 Pro Bowler if he hadn't gone to the University of Miami, a school whose NFL alumni unabashedly promote their fellow Canes.And Lamarr Woodley of the Steelers pretty much agrees with me on this. So I've got that going for me. Be that as it notwithstanding irregardless, the countdown creeps into the top 30 this week and Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork will be in the mix from 40 to 31. Bill Belichick will present Mankins (further evidence, if you ask me, that the coach is about the biggest fan of the disgruntled guard one can find) and Jonathan Vilma of the Saints will present Wilfork. The two played together at... The U. The shows airs Sunday night at 8 p.m. Willie McGinest will be in on the reaction show beginning at 9 p.m. on the NFL Network.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Patriots’ ‘Pot Roast’ turns up the heat on pushing Durant to Celtics

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Patriots’ ‘Pot Roast’ turns up the heat on pushing Durant to Celtics

Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton’s biggest contribution to the New England sports landscape may not be in the middle of the Patriots defense.

The Hartford native and avid Celtics fan is close friends with Kevin Durant.

He says that once the Thunder close out the Golden State Warriors and have their way with the Cavaliers, he’ll be calling up KD.

“I’m leaving him alone right now, letting him finish it up,” said Knighton after Thursday’s Patriots OTA practice. “I love how he’s playing. I hope he wins it. I kind of hope he doesn’t.”

Knighton didn’t say why he kind of hopes Durant loses, but one can surmise it’s because he’d like to start recruiting.

“As soon as the season’s over, if he’s hoisting the trophy or not, I’ll definitely be texting him every day, calling him, flying down to OKC. I’ll be in his ear a lot, trust me.”

Durant has now twice promised to turn up the heat on Durant. 

If he can make that happen and do damage for the defense, he'll have his own Duck Boat. 
 
 

OTA observations: Brady holds side sessions with new weapons

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OTA observations: Brady holds side sessions with new weapons

FOXBORO -- The Patriots went through their third OTA of the week on Thursday. It was the first that was open to members of the media and lasted approximately two hours.

Here are a handful of observations from the afternoon of work the Patriots put in under the sun on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium . . . 

* The Patriots sported practice jerseys during the workout, which was noteworthy because in years past they have worn blank t-shirts during OTAs and minicamp. With the offense in white and the defense in blue -- and with every player assigned a number -- it made identifying players much easier. Why coach Bill Belichick opted to go this route is unclear, and it remains a possibility that the players will go without jersey numbers later in the spring. Still, it was a welcome sight for reporters trying to track the proceedings. Quarterbacks wore red non-contact jerseys and each player wore helmets and shorts. 

* Belichick appeared to make his players re-start the practice after they finished up their stretching period in a fashion that didn't satisfy the head coach. After breaking into position groups briefly, Belichick ordered players to get back into their warmup lines and finish more crisply. 

* With Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis all absent from the practice, new Patriots weapons were given a chance to take extra reps. Running back Donald Brown was lauded by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels after completing one particularly well-run route -- a slant-and-go, Martellus Bennett was the beneficiary of several targets from Tom Brady in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work. 

* In 11-on-11 work, Brady went 6-for-9. Jimmy Garoppolo went 8-for-9. Jacoby Brissett went 7-for-12.

* In 7-on-7 work, Brady went 3-for-5. Garoppolo went 2-for-2. Brissett went 2-for-4, and he had one rep where he tucked it and ran. 

* During periods focused on special teams, Brady worked in a few side-sessions with different targets. In the past Brady has used these side sessions to get a little extra work in with a handful of players. Two years ago, he threw to Gronkowski with Darrelle Revis in coverage as Gronkowski worked his way back from a knee injury. Last year, Brady worked with Gronkowski and Scott Chandler together in order to develop some on-the-field chemistry there. On Thursday, Brady worked with two new tight ends -- Bennett and Clay Harbor -- as well as fullback James Develin. In another side session, he threw passes to Bennett, Aaron Dobson, Nate Washington, Malcolm Mitchell. Tight ends coach Brian Daboll ran the show during both periods.

* Rookie second-round pick Cyrus Jones, receiver Chris Harper, receiver DeAndre Carter and undrafted rookie corner V'Angelo Bentley all took turns returning punts. On Wednesday we took a look at how Edelman and Amendola might benefit from relinquishing those duties to another player. Jones would be an interesting choice given his production as a returner in college. 

* Bennett was asked to run a lap after dropping Brady's first offering of the 11-on-11 period. He recovered nicely as the day went on, however, making perhaps the most impressive grab of the day when he reached around Patrick Chung, plucked a Garoppolo pass out of the air and hung on as the two players tangled and fell to the turf. It was a good back-and-forth between the athletic tight end and perhaps the best defender of tight ends on the roster. Chung broke up one pass intended for Bennett, and Bennett later beat Chung to the corner of the end zone, reeling in a soft Brady lob. 

* Brissett appeared to rely on his ability to scramble, as he often did as the signal-caller at NC State. He hit throws on the run to Mitchell and rookie Devin Lucien. We'll see in practice sessions going forward if Brissett will be encouraged to stick in the pocket longer during these non-contact practices. 

* Brissett and Mitchell appear to have a good early connection. They hooked up for four of Brissett's nine completed passes. One was on an impressive pitch-and-catch that saw Mitchell lay out in the back of the end zone during 7-on7s. Later in 11-on-11s, Brissett sensed pressure coming from his blind side and lofted a deep pass to Mitchell that was completed along the sideline. 

* Brissett was picked off by Jones late in the practice but came back two plays later to complete a nice skinny post to Carter from about the 15-yard line.

* Brady's business partner and friend Alex Guerrero was spotted on the sidelines of the session. Former Patriots running back Sammy Morris was also present, shadowing running backs coach Ivan Fears. 

* Among the musical artists blared over the speakers during 11-on-11 work to mimic crowd noise were Guns N' Roses, James Brown, Bon Jovi, U2, Kenny Chesney and Desiigner.