Tag Archives: Jonathan Wilhite

Artificial Turf: Colts Make Pats Eat Turf, Pride

Just a foot too short. Faulk must not have seen the yellow line.

The game wasn’t lost on the 4th and too short completion to Kevin Faulk as the clock ticked towards the two minute warning last night. Whether or not we broke our televisions shortly thereafter, from a coaching perspective, I stand behind the decision to go for it on that down & scenario and if you didn’t, you’re too thin skinned for the NFL.

The Colts were going to score from wherever on the field they got their last possession, so it was imperative to either keep the ball through the end of the game or work it down for a field goal to make it a 9 point game. We have Tom Brady and they have Peyton Manning. The decision was, keep the game in Tom’s hands, don’t put it in Manning’s. And Tom Brady, with the game on the line, in a must-have 2 yard situation with 5 WRs… I like our odds. The problem with odds… are the long shots. Freaking Faulk who played great up to that point didn’t run far enough, Brady rushed the throw, the press coverage was perfect and we turned the ball over on a non-reviewable play because we were out of time outs, we got a questionable spot and there was just nothing we could do.

Well shit.

And would someone please shadow the coverage on Reggie Wayne!?!? Man I hate Wilhite today.

I would rather be dancing now than then.

If you want to hear about any upside… like Moss’s 179 yard/ 2TD performance, Edelman’s return to the lineup with a score, Welker’s 9 catch / 94 yard day or how rookie tackle Sebastien Vollmer made Dwight Freeney his bitch and held him to straight zeros on the stat sheet, you’re gonna have to wait till later in the week. I would also like to address the fact that Moss, Green-Ellis and Wes Welker have all gone full-pirate. Seriously, look at Moss’s beard, Green-Ellis’s leather scullrag… personally, I think Edelman needs to join in on it. But I’m gonna wait till I’m less pissed at everybody to talk about something funny.

But we're not dancing. We're dejected losers.

The fact is, we won the game, and then effectively made the statement: we aren’t ready for this win. The Colts were. It just kept feeling… even in the first half, alla 2006, like tha game wasn’t over. They were a better team last night. A F you, NBC for when you gave the magazine cover montage of Brady and Manning you used a bunch of gay magazine covers for Brady and a bunch of sports illustrated covers for Manning. (And I mean ‘gay’ like Details Magazine photo spread with your shirt off, not like homosexual). Just so we’re clear, Brady has been on 9 Sports Illustrated Covers. So go Screw, NBC… tryin to make my boy look like a Mary and Peyton The Thumb Manning look like a football star…

The only thing that will make this feel better is pounding the Jets into the ground next weekend. And then by beating the Saints. If we don’t do those two very important things, we risk this game being the defining moment of the season.

Well shit.

StartMattCassel

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Artificial Turf: Big Pads to Fill as Rodney Hangs Up Spikes

Thanks for the hardware, Mr. Harrison. You will be missed.

Thanks for the hardware, Mr. Harrison. You will be missed.

The NFL charitable partners, the beneficiaries of NFL fine monies, have all lowered their projected campaigns this year as Rodney Harrison, the most fined player in NFL history, calls it a career. Well, his playing days are done, and now Rodney embarks on a broadcast career. And he’s gonna be good, less hitting though.

Harrison, at least when he was on your team, never seemed like a dirty guy -don’t let the fines fool you-. He was an enforcer in the defensive backfield and a stand up guy to fans and media. Rodney’s 15 year career saw nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers and six with our New England Patriots. He retires as the NFL All Time leader in sacks by a d-back with 30 and a half and the only player in NFL history to record 30 or more sacks (30.5) and 30 or more INTs (34) in a career.

Taken from the Patriot’s announcement: “Since entering the league in 1994, press box statisticians have credited Harrison with 906 solo tackles, leading all NFL defensive backs during that span.”

A concerned Teddy Bruschi looks on after Rodney Harrisons rinal blow in 2008.

A concerned Teddy Bruschi looks on after Rodney Harrison's Final blow in 2008.

“Rodney Harrison is one of the best players I have ever coached,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in the statement. “In the biggest games, in any situation and on a weekly basis, his production was phenomenal.”

Harrison was a guy that Did His Job.

Like with every new season, the Patriots always stress that ‘It’s a whole new team out there.’ Which has been Bruschi’s sentiment, “Its different, its different for me especially when you have a couple good friends that are missing.” He says, “Its changed, its changed and you get used to it and you move on.”
She's a Pats fan too, apparently.

She's a Pats fan too, apparently.

The focus now will be on filling the mammoth hole now left at Strong Safety. Not that the Patriot’s aren’t used to shuffling the d-backs, but finding a permanent replacement for a guy that was such an emotional leader on the field is never an easy task. 3rd year player Brandon Mariweather seems most likely the next in line. He went from a 27 tackle 2007 rookie season to establishing himself as a true force in 2008 with 83 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 INTs and 2 forced fumbles.

There’s no doubt we’ll be looking at a young, fast and athletic secondary, but with limited leadership given the consecutive seasonal departure of our last 2 starting cornerbacks. 13 year veteran, and newcomer to the New England Patriots, Shawn Springs, will have an early opportunity to solidify a key role in the defensive backfield. Rookie CB Darius Butler, formerly of Uconn, has been coming along well in preseason OTAs and Terrence Wheatley & Jonathan Wilhite, both returning from injury, will have a chance to make names for themselves as well.

The team is starting to shape up from all angles now. Brady in form, the offense clicking, the defense shuffling and the rookies being rookies. An action packed NFL season is right around the corner.
With more to come,
StartMattCassel

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Artificial Turf: El Drafto

Granted... looks may be deceiving... but the combine is a display of phyical ability, raw talent, and frumpy looking college seniors.

Granted... looks may be deceiving... but the combine is a display of phyical ability, raw talent, and frumpy looking college seniors.

The combine is fun. It isn’t overhyped like National Signing Day, it isn’t shoved down our throats like Media Day… it’s a nice little gig on the NFL network (highlights available on ESPN of course) and for those of us who aren’t satisfied with the two bridge-the-gap sports of hockey and basketball, it can be a nice little topic to geek out on. The top college talent compete in events that most of us are familiar with, and that helps us to marvel at their abilities.

The combine is important because most NFL coaches are looking for raw talent and skill that they can mold, not someone who had 70% of their statistics against far lesser opponents than themselves. Even the most elite college teams play a bunch of scrub teams that affect their game stats for the better.

Players find ways to elevate their draft status, either buy benching the most reps and blazing the quickest 40 time… and some get creative by performing super-human feets. Adrian Wilson jumped over a 68 inch bar and landed on 2 feet and most recently, San Jose State DE Jarron Gilbert jumped out of the shallow end of a pool up onto the ledge.

At first glance, he makes it look so easy that you don’t really understand how much power is needed to complete the stunt… so I tried it. I made it up to my stomach and was bleeding from both shins.

Now, the fact that I am writing this article before any Cassel moves needs to be taken into consideration. The Patriots already have 3 picks in the top 60 (23, 47 & 58) and don’t really need much. The most obvious concern is the lack of depth (and talent, height, speed and aggressiveness) in the defensive backfield. The Pats have carried that problem for a couple years running now so I won’t be surprised to see a DB selection with the 47th overall pick.

The kid DOES look like a footballer. And footballers look mean.

The kid DOES look like a footballer. And footballers look mean.

Assuming that Belichick has gotten all of his first round TE’s out of the way in Graham and Watson, we’re likely to see an offensive lineman selected with the Pat’s 1st round pick. If James Laurinaitis (ILB, Ohio State) slips out of the top 20 it may be hard to pass on him. The knock is that he has a lot of trouble shedding blockers and as the size and speed of the people blocking you increases exponentially from Saturdays to Sundays it will be harder for him to rely on his sub-4.6-40-time in the NFL. That being said, had he been eligible last year, the Patriots were likely to have positioned for him in the top 10, though they did strike gold on defensive rookie standout Jarrod Mayo.

Should the Pats slate an interior lineman for their first pick, they may either go with a Center to move over to guard (Cal’s Alex Mack is in the upper echelon of intelligent Centers in a deep draft for that position) or an explosive tackle for the right side. Virginia’s Eugene Monroe is a beasts of his trade but you won’t see him slip past 5th overall. Should the Patriots choose to move DB to top priority, they could shoot for an DJ Moore style corner from Vanderbilt with the 23rd pick and hope either Max Unger (Center from Oregon) or Oklahoma’s Duke Robinson (Guard) are available at 47.

Terrence Wheatley hauls one in at the 2008 NFL Combine.

Terrence Wheatley hauls one in at the 2008 NFL Combine.

Vandy’s DJ Moore gives up the height advantage, measuring a mere Dustin Pedroiaish 5’9”… but his 4.36 40-speed is blazing. If selected in the 1st round, he will be Vanderbilt’s first round one selection since Jay Cutler in 2006… and before that, some guy named Will Wolford went 20th in 1986.

The Patriot’s first pick will give us an indication of how they feel about their 2nd & 4th round corners of 2008, Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite, both of whom looked promising before going on IR with injuries. None of the Patriots systems are easy to learn, so it would seem that the two players who have been with the team for a season are at a decided advantage over a rookie.

All this being said… we still have about 25 million dollars worth of Quarterbacks and a coach that loves to build from the draft. Everyone is looking forward to the Cassel deal, whenever it may come and whatever it may be for.

StartMattCassel

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Artificial Turf: A Good Scrimmage

It was a great day to be watching football… at home. It was raining in TV land but the brown liquor was still room temperature where I was…

Sammy Morris turns it upfield for a first half Six.

Sammy Morris turns it upfield for a first half Six.

The Patriots had what is likely the best statistical game they’ve had all year in Oakland yesterday. Set aside Special Teams defense (who allowed 2 kick-off returns for touchdowns) and set aside the fact the it was indeed, the Oakland Raiders we played, the home town ball club did a little mouth-punching: 8-13 on Third Downs, 487 total yards, 277 on the ground and only one turnover. Sammy Morris billed the Raider D for 117, including a 29 break and score and Lamont Jordan was back to the action and The Always Improving Kevin Faulk added 45 on the ground (not to mention the usual 66 yards receiving and a table setting Six off a screen pass on the first Patriots possession of the game.) Together, our backs (minus Cassel’s 18 yards on 7 ungainly scrambles) averaged over 8 yards per rushing attempt.

Our defense was an early highlight as well, allowing the Pats to build a 35-14 lead by the close of half one; sloppy special teams coverage allowed 2 Oakland TD returns, one of which Ellis Hobbs answered in consecutive kind. Special Teams went even further towards apologizing for their absent mindedness when the blocked a late 3rd quarter PAT. Wilfork, who can currently barely lift his arms above his shoulders, found the most appropriate moment for a stretch.

Mayo breaks up a pass, quite efficiently, in the second half.

Mayo breaks up a pass, quite effectively, in the second half.

Again, with the caveat that we played a decent NCAA team at best, our depleted secondary continued their development. Jonathan Wilhite, the Patriot’s 129th overall selection in the 2008 Draft, had four tackles and a pick and Mariweather contributed 5 tackles and a tipped pass. Mariweather in particular continues to be a strong hitter and is showing a good nose for where a play is going to develop. It will be interesting to see him go this Sunday against a real QB with actual receivers that are complimented by a sound ground attack. Nevertheless, he has been a terrific player filling in for the injured Rodney Harrison and will likely be a mainstay in the defensive backfield for seasons to come.

Likewise, Jerod Mayo continued his dominance as my hands-down selection for defensive rookie of the year. Not only did he blast 8 tackles this past Sunday, leads all Patriots and all rookies with 114 tackles. It also stands to mention that the last 5 defensive rookies of the year have been linebackers. Mayo is clearly benefiting from veteran leadership provided by Vrabel and Bruschi, and the reacquisition of Rosie Colvin and Junior Seau will only increase Mayo’s educational platform.

Patriots fans in Oakland provided a lift for Matt Cassel.

Patriots fans in Oakland provided a lift for Matt Cassel.

Our condolences to Matt Cassel and his family for the loss of his father, Greg Cassel. Matt was absent for the first half of the week, with his family, but he came back to the field ready to go. With only 3 days to do so, he grasped the game plan, executed the plays and lead the team to a wrecking-ball like victory; which is not to say it was large and round, simply that the Patriots offense would not be denied. Cassel’s career-best 4 touchdowns was overshadowed only by the improvement of his passing accuarcy. His second TD pass to Randy Moss was what drew in my attention, and this coming off a week in Seattle that left MUCH to be desired in this department. Cassel was focussed, poised and surgical. He found his backs in the flats when he needed to check down, put the balls over the middle exactly where Wes needed them, and the deep ball, though limited by the rain, was accurate and catchable.

The injury bug bit Matt Light. Details of his injury are… you guessed it, unavailable. But based on the position of his arm in the ‘sling position’ as he moved slowly to the locker-room, we’re down a starting left tackle – likely at least until the playoffs start.

Arizona voyages to lovely Foxboro next week for an interesting matchup between the Patriots, who must win, and the Cardinals, who have already clinched a playoff spot but are in need of a win to set the tone for their playoff run. Vegas has set a high bar for the Pats to cover. As it stands today, they’re an 8 point favorite. The patriots will win next week based on these two facts alone: Cold weather and Eastern Standard Time. The desert birds will be traveling from the left side to an earlier time zone for a 1 o’clock start. Teams facing those conditions find themselves as 8 point underdogs. What worries me from a talent and matchup aspect, is Warner’s arm and his two big receivers, Boldin and Fitzgerald. Both of which outsize our number one corner by about a foot. Get big, Ellis, or next week’s Artificial Turf column will be written in your tears. And please, for the love of god, stop freakin’ dancing.

I think that Randy is pointing out to the Raiders fans that he had one touchdown for every S in his name.

I think that Randy is pointing out to the Raiders' fans that he had one touchdown for every 'S' in his name.

StartMattCassel

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