NFL Player Profile: Kevin Faulk (New England Patriots)

Kevin Faulk is officially back with the New England Patriots and ready to go to work!

By Matt Noonan 

Kevin Faulk (New England Patriots/Running Back): This was a no-brainer.

Kevin Faulk knew he was going to be playing for the New England Patriots this season, but it was only a matter of time until the paperwork was officially filed. On Saturday, he inked his name to a new contract, as well as expressed his excitement for the upcoming season.

He stated the following to the media: “Before the lockout started, Bill [Belichick] called me and told me, ‘Look, Kevin, I want you on my team in 2011,’ and that was motivation enough for me to go out and rehab my butt off and get ready for the season, whenever it may be and whenever it may come. So, that was pretty much enough for me,” (courtesy of ESPNBoston.com). 

The veteran halfback has spent his entire 12-year career in Foxborough, Massachusetts, as well as was a member of all three Super Bowl teams too, (’01, ’03 and ’04). He spent a majority of last season on the sidelines after he tore his ACL during the Patriots week two contest against the New York Jets.  

Faulk’s best season with the Patriots was in ’03, as the running back tallied 638 yards on 178 carries and averaged 42.5 yards per game, but didn’t record a single rushing or receiving touchdown.

All in all, this is a great move because New England has a variety of young rookies and second-year players on their roster that’ll gel quite well under Faulk’s tutelage.

Career Numbers: 154 games/3,550 rushing yards/16 rushing touchdowns/ 3,667 receiving yards/ 15 touchdown receptions

NFL Player Profile: Chad Ochocinco (New England Patriots)

Chad Ochocinco is excited to be a member of the New England Patriots!

By Matt Noonan 

Chad Ochocinco (New England Patriots/Wide Receiver):  One of the most colorful, animated, as well as talented players in the NFL joined Bill Belichick’s roster on Thursday and nope, it wasn’t an early “April Fools” joke.

Chad Ochocinco, who spent the past 10-seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, was excited to join forces with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Wes Welker. He’ll certainly provide depth on the offense, as well as be the perfect slot-man for Brady, but also, help with the running game by opening lanes for BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris.

Yet, besides participating in the “Patriot Ways,” he’ll definitely become one of Brady’s go-to-guys and could certainly help improve Brandon Tate and Taylor Price’s performance on the field. In fact, maybe he’ll convince Julian Edelman to cut his hair, but that’s not totally necessary.

Although, besides all the positives and leadership qualities Ochocinco brings to the table, it’s certainly important to note that he’s a top-notch receiver who’s a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time First Team All-Pro. In ’05, he led the Bengals in receiving yards, [1,432] and touchdowns, [9], but overall, his numbers in various categories have gone up and down over the years, yet have indeed remained consistent.

All in all, despite being 33-years-old, Ochocinco is focused and prepared to have a great season, especially since he’s wearing his two favorite numbers…thanks, Aaron Hernandez.

Career Numbers: 151 games/751 receptions/10,783 reception yards/66 touchdowns

Top-10 New England Patriots of the 21st Century

By Andy Lindberg

Who makes the list?

Well my Red Sox top-10 of the 21st century got lit into a few times, which I was happy to see, because it means people are reading and looking at the website.  However it is now my great pleasure to create even more of a fervor with my top-10 Patriots of the 21st century.  The bottom line is, with lists like these when you can only pick ten players, you’re leaving out some great athletes.  That’s the challenge of creating such a list.  No matter who you put on there, people will always desire another player or two who were left off the list.

Honorable Mentions: Corey Dillon, Logan Mankins, and Randy Moss

10 Rodney Harrison: Harrison came to New England and immediately won two rings.  He had 317 tackles from the safety position and brought a mean streak to New England that had opposing receivers quaking.  Harrison shut down Peyton Manning on numerous occasions, including in the playoffs.

9 Kevin Faulk: This is the pick that will probably catch the most heat.  However, Faulk was indispensable for the Patriots in the past 11 years.  While it seems his tenure is done now, he was extraordinarily reliable and executed his role fluently as the 3rd down back and return man.  Faulk is a threat as a runner and coming out of the backfield as a receiver.  In his New England career, he has averaged 4.2 yards per carry.

8 Ty Law: One of the members of the original Law Firm (Law and Lawyer Milloy) Ty Law picked off 16 passes in the five years he played for New England this century, including a pick-six off Rams’ QB Kurt Warner in Super Bowl 36.  Law was the shutdown corner the Patriots missed so much after he left.

7 Asante Samuel: Samuel didn’t leave New England on the best of terms, especially after dropping an interception in Super Bowl 42 against the Giants that would have clinched New England’s fourth title of the decade, but he did win two rings and picked off 22 passes in five years for New England, including 10 in 2006.  Samuel had opposing quarterbacks consistently trying to take advantage of Samuel’s hyper-aggressive play, but were unable to do so.  Here’s to hoping Devin McCourty emerges as the next shut down corner in New England.

6 Vince Wilfork: Big Vince has been with the Patriots for seven years now and has already won one ring, has been to two Super Bowls, and has made three Pro Bowls.  Running up the middle is not a viable option for many teams against New England, as the big fella sits tough.  Wilfork is a cog in the 3-4 system, and is arguably one of the best nose tackles New England has ever had, if not the best.

5 Richard Seymour: What has happened to New England’s pass rush since the trade of Seymour should be answer enough to how important and effective Seymour was for the Patriots.  He spent eight years with New England and won three Super Bowls, as well as racked up 39 sacks for the Patriots, including pressuring the quarterback into poor throws on countless occasions.

4 Matt Light: Light played in four Super Bowls with New England (to this point), while protecting the blind side of one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play professional football.  Given the importance of the pass rush teams have placed on defenses over the past decade, Light’s job became harder and harder with the players he had to guard annually, and he did so in an exceptional manner, making three pro-bowls and one first team all-pro at left tackle.

3 Tedy Bruschi: Bruschi was long a staple of the New England defense, manning the inside of the linebacker corps for 13 years, a long time for any football player, let alone a linebacker.  One of my favorite Bruschi stats was having intercepted four consecutive passes and having brought them all back for touchdowns from 2002 to 2003.  Hardly a sack artist, Bruschi was the epitome of tough.  It seemed like he never made a poor play and rarely missed a tackle, something we see all too much of in today’s NFL, where wrapping up is an afterthought.  If Bruschi got to a ball carrier, that ball carrier was going down.  Bruschi overcame a stroke and a hole in his hear to win the Comeback Player of the Year in 2005 after it looked like his career was over and won three Super Bowls with New England.

2 Willie McGinest: Willie played with the Patriots for six years this century, making his mark with three Super Bowl victories.  He racked up 38.5 sacks from his outside linebacker spot in those six years, and his presence was sorely missed after he left, with New England still unable to rush the passer effectively.

1 Tom Brady: There really should be no argument here.  Brady took New England to three Super Bowl titles in four tries, including beating the 14-point favored “Greatest Show On Turf” in his first year as a starter after replacing the injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001.  Brady is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and holds the record for touchdown passes in a season with an even 50 in 2007.  In his time with New England this century, he has amassed a 111-32 record as a starter with 261 touchdown passes.  Keep in mind that’s all with having missed the entire 2008 season after suffering a catastrophic knee injury in the first quarter of the season opener against Kansas City.  Brady also happens to be a two-time NFL and Super Bowl MVP.  We may never see another quarterback even remotely close to Brady in New England in our lifetimes, so enjoy him while you still can.

Breaking Down the Patriots QB, RB and WR Positions

By Dan Rubin

With the NFL Draft beginning Thursday, let’s put the labor situation on the shelf and get back to actual football talk.  Let’s take a look at some positions as our beloved New England Patriots get set to stock their roster and try to make a run at league supremacy.  For our rankings of best available, we’re using the rankings by Rivals.com.  We start today with Quarterbacks, Running Backs, and Wide Receivers:

 Quarterbacks

Depth Chart: Tom Brady (starter), Brian Hoyer

Best Available: Blaine Gabbert (Missouri), Cam Newton (Auburn), Jake Locker (Washington), Ricky Stanzi (Iowa), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Andy Dalton (TCU), Christian Ponder (Florida State), Ryan Mallett (Arkansas), TJ Yates (North Carolina).

Who’s On the Radar: The Patriots have six picks in the first three rounds.  Odds are they’ll move at least two of them for future picks or current players.  But they have to remember that Brady is 33 years old.  If there’s no football this year and with his birthday in August, he wouldn’t play again until he’s 35.  Now is the time to start planning for the unthinkable of life after Brady.  Gabbert, Newton, and Locker will be off the board by the time New England can even think about a draft pick.  Having seen Ponder over the past few seasons, he’s the prospect most like Brady.  Ponder never really had a full grasp on the starting job at FSU, and even when he did, a lot of people doubted him.  He’s also similar in body type to Brady, and the knocks on him are very similar.  He’s a dink-and-dunk passer who can’t go deep, and but he’s tough, intelligent, and competitive.  He’d look great taking over in the offense after learning it for three or four seasons.  He would just have to be okay with being drafted under the understanding that he’s not playing for three years until Brady retires.

I don’t really like Kaepernick because he played in Nevada’s Pistol offense, and Dalton only really had the one season as a starter.  Mallett and Yates are works in progress, and I wouldn’t take either of them, especially Yates, who threw more dying quails than a shooting range.  If the Patriots don’t take a QB in the first four rounds, they’re probably not going to get one, unless they decide to sign Greg McElroy (Alabama) as an undrafted free agent.   Honestly, they still have a couple of years, so I’m not giving the position too much thought.  Whoever plays isn’t going to be a starter until Brady retires, and 99% of the Patriots’ fan base doesn’t want to see that day.  The other 1% wants Brady to leave before he pierces his ears, starts calling himself “Tomas,” and becomes an acclaimed mariachi musician in Brazil.

Woodhead provided a much needed spark for the Patriots offense, but is his job with the organization safe?

 Running Backs

Depth Chart: BenJarvis Green-Ellis (starter), Danny Woodhead, Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk

Best Available: Mark Ingram (Alabama), Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech), Dion Lewis (Pittsburgh), Daniel Thomas (Kansas State), Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State), Mikel Leshoure (Illinois), Shane Vereen (California), Jacquizz Rodgers (Oregon State), Delone Carter (Syracuse), Jordan Todman (Connecticut)

Who’s On the Radar: Patriots fans love their running backs.  The Law Firm gave them their first 1,000 yard rusher since Corey Dillon, and Woodhead became the most beloved member of the backfield since Moses Tatupu.  We still love Faulk, even though the Patriots proved they could live without him, and they extricated themselves from the steaming pile of running back dung known as Lawrence Maroney.  Taylor’s just kind of there, and I’m not sure, but Sammy Morris might still be kicking around somewhere.

But we’re also not stupid.  We love Green-Ellis as the starter, but there are doubts he can replicate his season from a year ago.  He’s a savage runner, loves to hit and be hit, and he’s probably the toughest guy on the field.  He’s not afraid of taking a linebacker on if it means getting that one extra yard, which was Maroney’s biggest issue and why he played himself right out of Foxboro.  We just don’t know if he’s got the talent to do what he did a year ago, since defenses figured out how to stop him (see also: Ryan, Rob and Ryan, Rex).  Likewise, Woodhead’s a great story, and we love him to pieces.  But he’s a Honda Accord compared to the NASCAR engines around him.  He did great on third downs to be the next Faulk, but they’re an injury to Green-Ellis away from having him in on every down.  And yes, Woodhead’s good, but he’s not that good.

So that makes the running game one of the bigger focal points for fans going into the draft.  There’s a very good chance that Ingram is on the board when the Patriots pick at both #17 and #28.  Ingram is the man we want because he has the body and pedigree to play for the Pats.  His father, Mark Ingram, Sr. played for the Giants during their Super Bowl heyday.  That means the family knows Belichick.  He’s a Nick Saban guy, who is a Belichick guy.  That counts for something.

Body-wise, Ingram makes his best move at the line.  He doesn’t have breakaway speed, but he has an initial burst that can crush through opposing defensive lines.  Think about what The Law Firm does, then dial it up a notch.  He rarely fumbled in college, and he’s small enough at 5-10 to be shifty at the line.  This is a guy that would fit perfectly in the Patriots system.  Then again, we said the same thing about Maroney.

I don’t think the Patriots pick him with their first pick because I think Anthony Costanzo will be there as a tackle, and New England desperately needs to repair their offensive line with the departures of Stephen Neal and Nick Kaczur.  But I think if Ingram is around at pick #28, he will be wearing blue and silver as a rookie.  That’s not to say it’s a guarantee because Belichick is more likely to trade the pick than actually draft in it, but what this guy brings to the table makes him suited for this team.

After Ingram, there’s a major drop-off in talent, too.  Williams, the next best running back, is most likely a third round pick.  Maybe the Pats take Todman late, since he’s a local product who was dominant at UConn, but he’s 5-9, 190, and one midget on the roster is enough.

 Wide Receivers

Depth Chart: Deion Branch (starter), Wes Welker (starter), Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price, Rob Gronkowski (tight end), Aaron Hernandez (tight end)

Best Available: A.J. Green (Georgia), Julio Jones (Alabama), Randall Cobb (Kentucky), Greg Little (North Carolina), Titus Young (Boise State), Torrey Smith (Maryland), Jerrel Jernigan (Troy), Kyle Rudolph (tight end – Notre Dame), Lance Kendricks (tight end – Wisconsin), Virgil Green (tight end – Nevada).

Who’s On the Radar: The Patriots’ receiving corps is one of the most underrated enigmas of the offseason.  They pretty much rebuilt it on the fly last year, dealing Randy Moss for a bag of kicking tees to Minnesota, then orchestrating a trade to bring back Branch.  Welker is a mutant, coming back from tearing everything in his knee after tearing it at the end of the 2009 season.  Even though his brain will resemble split-pea soup by the time he’s 45, he’s the toughest and most consistent wide out in the NFL.  Gronkowski and Hernandez were revelations are rookies, even though they’re tight ends.  They’re phenomenal in open space.

Why didn't Chad Jackson pan out with the Patriots?

That leaves us to look at Tate, Edelman, and Price. Edelman took three massive steps back this year as a receiver, even though he’s going to stay on the roster because he’s a great return specialist.  Tate and Price, meanwhile, are incompletes.  Tate has breakaway speed, maybe better than Moss in his prime, but he doesn’t know how to run a pass pattern.  And Price was inactive or hurt for most of the season, so he’s starting to resemble Chad Jackson.

The Patriots historically don’t take receivers in the first round.  Then again, nobody other than Al Davis usually does.  They’re a dime a dozen, and with the exception of Green and Jones, the rest all fall into the same group.  When you start getting back into the third, fourth, and fifth rounds, maybe then you start grabbing a wide receiver along the lines of Cobb or Little.  Maybe they take Rudolph, who is in the same mold as Gronkowski and Hernandez.  But really, how many pass-catching tight ends does one team need?

Instead, I’m going to throw this one out there as a crazy but maybe solution.  I don’t think the Patriots take a wide receiver at all this draft to give Tate and Price one last chance to showcase themselves.  If they do anything, it’ll be to orchestrate the Randy Moss Trade, Part 2.  The Patriots have been very open about the fact that they have a number of picks in the first rounds, and therefore, they’d be willing to deal them.  Chad Ochocinco has pretty much been lobbying to be traded to New England.  He’s very open to coming here, and maybe, just maybe, the Patriots decide to trade for him, much like they did for Moss.

Stay tuned to Noontime Sports for your full draft coverage as we get set for all the action from Radio City Music Hall.

Expectations Were Exceeded: Patriots 2010 Season

 

No one in New England, not even in America, Europe and Asia or on the planet Earth imagined that the New England Patriots would finish their 2010 season with 14 wins.

Ask any Patriots fan this week and surely they may say, “I knew this would happen” or “Of course they were destined to earn 14 wins because of their quarterback, Tom Brady.

Yet, despite all the doubters who tossed around the ideas of the Patriots being a .500 team or even worse, clearly, their analysis was proven wrong.

Entering training camp in July, no one exactly knew what this Patriots team would be like or if they had fully recovered from their 33-14 beat down by the Baltimore Ravens during the first round of the 2009 NFL Playoffs. There were the usual faces, as well as multiple rookies or first-year players that made many fans begin to doubt the outcome of this squad. Although, under the guidance of Bill Belichick, it is almost a guarantee that they will have immediate success no matter who plays or sits every Sunday.

In fact, excluding his first season with the Patriots in 2000, he has led the squad to five AFC Championship contests, four Super Bowls and has acquired three Lombardi trophies.

The defense was the biggest concern during July and August, but so was their offensive line. Who was going to fill the void of Logan Mankins for nearly half the season? Was Brady healthy enough to lead his team to victory during the fourth quarter? Would Wes Welker be the same player he once was before tearing his ACL during the final regular season game in ’09?

Questions, questions and more questions continued to build prior to their opening game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but after an impressive win, Randy Moss tried to steer the ship in the wrong direction by complaining for 14-minutes straight about needing a new contract. Unfortunately for Moss, his message didn’t distract the Patriots too much and eventually he was forced to leave town and return to the team that he began his NFL career with, which was the Minnesota Vikings.

Moss’s comments could not bring down the Patriots and neither did a Kevin Faulk season ending injury too during their week two contest against the New York “Football” Jets. Although, with a few minor tweaks and only one loss through the first five weeks, the Patriots seemed destined to finish the season 15-1.

The Patriots continued to pile up impressive wins against Baltimore, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Indianapolis and eventually New York on “Monday Night Football,” which prompted all Bostonians to believe that they were indeed watching one of Belichick’s finest teams. They may have not been the squad that finished [16-0] in ’07, but they were a team that relied heavily upon teamwork and hard work ethics.

Various players that had joined the team midway through the season or were deemed the typical rookies began to shine at important moments. Running back Danny Woodhead became a household name, as well as a fan favorite too. His small frame allowed fans to connect and realize that maybe they too could be the next Patriots running back, (fat chance).

Both rookie tight ends, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski became reliable targets for Brady, whether it was for a short yardage pick up or red zone strike, both young men were there to make the difference.

On defense, it was clearly cornerback Devin McCourty who provided great defensive coverage on all-star opposing receivers. Even linebacker Brandon Spikes chipped in when he could, although, it is debatable if he was more effective on the field or off it.

Besides these “no names” or rookies, the Patriots exceeded on all sides of the ball, but most importantly, they showed the importance of team football. They have always strived toward playing “team football” and not being one or two stars, but in the end, they clearly exceeded their pre-season expectations and were able to walk out of their locker room Monday feeling somewhat proud or optimistic for the future.

The Patriots maybe young and inexperienced at some positions, although, after a few more years of remaining as a unit, this squad could return to their ’03 and ’04 form and add a few more Super Bowl banners to Gillette Stadium.

For the time being, lets at least consider that this year was unexpected and that winning 14 games was unexpected, but beating rivals and all those “heavyweight” opponents clearly demonstrated to any casual or aggressive fan that expectations were exceeded.

Myles Tryder (PatsCast) on Noontime Sports the Podcast

Myles Tryder joined Noontime Sports to discuss the latest news surrounding the Patriots. Tryder gave his insight and analysis on running back Kevin Faulk, his injury, as well as who Pats fans could blame for their second half struggles.

Check out the PatsCast website, their YouTube page, as well as follow them on Twitter @PatsCast.

Noontime Sports the Podcast – Andy Lindberg & Matt Noonan

Andy Lindberg and Matt Noonan convened on Tuesday to discuss on their weekly podcast a few hot topic national and New England based sports issues.

Lindberg and Noonan discussed the latest news on New England Patriots running back Kevin Faulk, as well as how he suffered what seems to be a season ending injury. Also, the guys discussed Braylon Edwards arrest, Michael Vick being selected the starter in Philadelphia, along with much more.

Patriots fall to Colts/Lose ground in AFC race

NFL Spying

Belichick was sure not happy after watching Manning and the Colts score 35 points.

It was like the final scene of Friday Night Lights, when the Panthers came up one yard short to lose the 1988 Dallas High School football Championship. It was like the final seconds in a backyard football game, throw the winning touchdown and supper would taste just somewhat sweeter, but you failed to do that simple task too.

In the end last night was nothing special or worth smiling about this morning. Allowing 21 points in the final quarter is not anything to be proud of especially since the New England Patriots had a 34-21 lead with 2:30 remaining the fourth quarter. Yet, following some incredibly soft defense, as well as throwing the ball to the wrong Brady-target on fourth down, Kevin Faulk, the Patriots easily handed the Colts their ninth win of the season, as well as the keys to the driver seat in the AFC conference.

Could we say Manning was lucky and that the Colts escaped a possible big loss? Yes we can! Can we say that Coach Hoodie, a.k.a. Belichick did an awful job coaching in the final five minutes? Yes we can! Should we say that this game would definitely haunt the New England Patriots when looking back a few months from now? Yes we can!

With what would have been a huge plus, as well as some momentum going forward, the Patriots shot themselves in the foot, laid a big fat egg and now will have to most likely return to Lucas Oil Stadium in January en route to another chance of capturing their fourth Super Bowl title in Miami.