Daily Noontime – August 19, 2011

Why did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to close-line Danny?

It’s OFFICIALLY Friday, which means the weekend is finally here, wahoo! Let’s kick-off yet another summer weekend with some headlines and news, enjoy! 

Headlines: 

* It’s official, former NFL players are now suing the league they once played in because of “concussion-related injuries.”

* New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and his comment toward New England Patriots gunslinger, Tom Brady have seemed to help the New York City sports radio scene, especially Michael Kay on ESPN 1050AM.

* Here’s something interesting… should the Washington Nationals be allowed to sport Military Tribute hats on the diamond? Yes or No?

* Good news for New England Patriots fans, as Danny Woodhead admitted, “he’s fine,” especially after sustaining a serious helmet-to-helmet hit on Thursday.

* Apparently, China will ban contracted NBA players during the lockout, which probably isn’t the happiest bit of news these days, right?

* The NHL recently released their national television schedule and yet again, Carolina got the shaft, which means the Hurricanes won’t be seen on NBC this season.

Games to Watch: 

* St. Louis at Chicago Cubs (MLB) – 2:20pm eastern 

* Washington at Indianapolis (NFL Preseason) – 7:00pm eastern 

* Cleveland at Detroit (MLB) – 7:05pm eastern

* Atlanta at Jacksonville (NFL Preseason) – 8:00pm eastern 

* Boston at Kansas City (MLB) – 8:10pm eastern 

* New York Yankees at Minnesota (MLB) – 8:10pm eastern 

Video of the Day: 

This wasn’t a pretty thing to watch! 

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

Lindberg: New England Patriots Draft Grade

How much will Nate Solder impact the New England Patriots in the future?

By Andy Lindberg 

I feel like I should be yet another tool to give out a draft grade.  Therefore I will grade the Patriots. I have been watching the Patriots since I moved to Connecticut from Alabama in 1992. (Side note, I HATE how the New York Jets drafted Alabama’s former quarterback, Greg McElroy. That made me sad).

I love football, but what the NFL draft has become, a spectacle after the meat-market that is the televised NFL scouting combine, is a flash and flare party which sees men who have never taken a snap in the National Football League take their first steps toward garnering $40 million signing bonus’ who later turn out to be the next Ryan Leaf.

In short, it upsets me. It is unnecessarily exhibited and covered by men who can’t seem to do anything but yell at me over the television screen. I understand the player has great “football smarts,” but you’ve yelled it at me for the past eight picks.  It’s a wonder any of these players ever fails. So “tool upon tool” is screaming letter grades at me like these teams just took an exam. I will be joining the ranks of them, providing you a letter grade at the end of this and oh, by the way, I’m sorry in advance for my weakness.

That said the draft is a necessity for the business of building a football team.  There are a lot of teams who drafted well because they drafted needs. The Patriots last year had an exceptional draft, fixing gaping holes at the tight end and defensive back positions. This past season, both improved exponentially (especially at tight end) and the only glaring hole was the need for a pass rusher and offensive line help.  Before I begin let it be known that even though I may like some of the players New England drafted (as made obvious with my pick by pick coverage) that does not mean I feel they were smart picks in some cases.

The Patriots’ first pick was offensive tackle Nate Solder from Colorado. Given the futures of Matt Light and Logan Mankins with the team, this was a very good pick.  However after that, New England’s draft went downhill. They did nothing at all to address the pass rush, even with several on the board.

With the first overall pick of the second round, they drafted Ras-I Dowling, a cornerback from Virginia. I liked this pick because I thought New England could still add good pass rush depth later in the second round, given the talent still out there.  Even with Leigh Bodden coming back, Dowling could provide very capable help at the lower end of the depth chart in his first year, and could prove to be a very valuable special-teamer immediately.

Will the former Patriots running back core be effected by the 2011 NFL Draft?

After that it got bad. The Patriots drafted two running backs in a row even though BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a fantastic year and Danny Woodhead took over the Kevin Faulk role. Yes, New England needed a little more depth at that position, but one of those picks (preferably the earlier, Shane Vereen pick) should have been a pass-rusher.

Picking Ryan Mallett was a great selection, as I believe New England got a steal.  Mallett could also prove to be great trade bait in a few years if Tom Brady is still racking up great numbers. A guy like Mallett won’t sit as a backup for long, not with his potential.

In the fifth round New England drafted TCU’s Marcus Cannon, an offensive lineman who dropped to round five because of a very recent cancer diagnosis. His prognosis is excellent, and doctors anticipate a recovery very soon. If he can play up to his potential in a year or two, he will have been a good steal.

The Patriots finished the draft with Markell Carter, an outside linebacker from Central Arkansas and Malcolm Williams, a defensive back from TCU. Size-wise, Carter fits the profile of the type of linebacker New England loves. I hope he proves to be a fantastic player down the road, but for now, he’s simply a sixth round pick.

The Patriots had a need, and did not address it, even with all the available needs.  They added more picks for next year via trades, but the time for stockpiling picks is over. This year it was time to cash in and the Patriots didn’t do it. More than likely one of those running back picks is going to turn out to be a wasted pick. There’s only so much playing time for a running back with Ellis and Woodhead playing. There was no reason not to pick a pass rusher in that situation.

I used to give the Pats the benefit of the doubt, but for the past few years, one of the needs has been the same and New England has done little to address it. New York’s Mark Sanchez kept his jersey very clean during the playoff matchup with New England and that’s ultimately what ended up costing Tom Brady and Co. another shot at a title. If the Patriots cannot get to the quarterback, no regular season record is going to change the fact that in the playoffs, they’re going to get burned.

Patriots draft grade (according to me, who’s opinion really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but here at Noontime Sports it does): C

An average grade for an average draft.

I still love them, though. Go Pats!

NFL Draft 2011: New England Patriots – Rounds 2 & 3

By Andy Lindberg 

The New England Patriots selected four new players to join their successful franchise and here is some more information about each player. 

Round 2: Pick 33

Name: Ras-I Dowling

Position: Cornerback

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 198lbs

Overview: This isn’t a bad pick for the Patriots. Clearly New England did not think great pass rush value was available in the second round and figured if they were not going to put a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, shoring up the secondary would help.  Dowling had a tough time his senior year with injuries, but the Patriots have never shown hesitation to draft a banged up player to let him recover.  Dowling had 8 career picks for the University of Virginia and it is possible he can make an immediate impact as a number 3 or 4 corner behind Leigh Bodden and Devin McCourty.  Players like Dowling usually have to prove themselves on special teams, but Bill Belichick must think highly of Dowling to select him 33rd overall in the draft.

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Round 2: Pick 56

Name: Shane Vereen

Position: Running Back

Height: 5’8”

Weight: 204lbs

Overview: I like the selection of Vereen. Even though BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a fantastic year for New England, the Patriots need some depth at the running back position. Much like last year’s draft when New England selected two tight ends in the second round, this year the Patriots took two running backs. Vereen was the first and had a very good year for Cal as a junior rushing for 1,167 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught 22 passes for 209 yards and three scores.  He’s got a low center of gravity and should be able to help New England when needed.  I don’t anticipate a ton of playing time unless the Patriots decide upon platooning their running backs, but Vereen will be a very capable option behind the “Law Firm” and Danny Woodhead.

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Round 3: Pick 73

Name: Steven Ridley

Position: Running Back

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 225lbs

Overview: I watch a ton of SEC football being an Alabama Crimson Tide fan and Ridley is a bruiser. He looks for contact and can wear out a defense. In the toughest conference in college football Ridley ran for 1,147 yards and 15 touchdowns, including a 159-yard game at Vanderbilt and 123 yards against Tennessee. In the Cotton Bowl against Texan A&M he torched the Aggies for 105 yards on the ground and a score. I believe (partially biased) that Ridley is a better runner than Vereen, but it will be an interesting battle between the two in the pre-season (if there is one) for who comes out higher on the depth chart.

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Round 3: Pick 74

Name: Ryan Mallett

Position: Quarterback

Height: 6’6”

Weight: 253lbs

Overview: I will fully admit (again, I’m an SEC fan) I was completely stoked when New England selected Mallett. Not only do I believe Mallett is a steal, but also a first round, NFL ready talent.

Who better to put behind Tom Brady to learn?  No offense to those who wanted Jake Locker or possibly Blaine Gabbert, but Locker and Gabbert couldn’t hold Mallett’s jock strap in college. Again, Mallett played in (and torched) the toughest defensive conference in college football.  In 2010 he threw for 3,869 yards with 32 touchdowns and 12 picks.

Mallett ended his career with 69 touchdown passes and threw for 30+ touchdowns two years in a row in the SEC. However, what stands out the most (aside from his laser, rocket arm) is his size. Ben Roethlisberger is 6’5” and 241 pounds, making Mallett one inch taller and 12 pounds heavier. He has good awareness and with a lockout possible, the Patriots are preparing for the future of their offense without Tom Brady about a year sooner than anticipated.

Mallett was drafted to eventually take over as the starter after Brady leaves. Mallett will be under phenomenal tutelage and this pick for New England may prove to be one of the bigger steals of the draft in a few years. To editorialize some more, I believe this to be a great pick, if that wasn’t already very obvious.

NFL Draft and New England Patriots Talk with Mike Dussault

The 2011 NFL Draft is upon us, which means Noontime Sports is ready for the first round to begin on Thursday. So, with that being said, here is our conversation with Mike Dussault (Pats Propaganda) about the Draft itself, as well as the NFL Lockout and New England Patriots.

Matt Noonan: What would you say is the biggest and most important item the Patriots need to address in the NFL Draft?

Mike Dussault: The biggest item that needs to be addressed has to be improving the 32nd ranked 3rd down defense and that begins with adding a three-down player to the defensive front seven. While outside linebacker may be the biggest position in need of a talent upgrade, this years draft class isn’t great for that particular position, especially in the mid-to-late first round. However the draft is extremely rich in defensive ends who fit the Pats system. Guys like Cameron Jordan (CAL) and JJ Watt (Wisconsin) would bring immediate impacts in both the run and pass games.

The Pats should be able to add an outside linebacker project or two in the later rounds, but early on look for them to address defensive end and offensive line. The interior offensive line could also use a talent upgrade and there are some great prospects like Danny Watkins (Baylor), Derrick Sherrod (Mississippi State) or Clint Boling (Georgia) who could solidify multiple positions.

There are also a fair number of developmental tackles who could be groomed to take a starting spot on the left or right side depending on how Sebastian Vollmer projects and what happens with Matt Light‘s free agency status. Nate Solder (Colorado) is one in particular that would make a great bookend of the future with Vollmer.

MN: Going into the draft, which Patriots unit could be considered the weakest? Which one is the strongest? Also, how can the weaker unit be improved, if not through the Draft?

MD: It doesn’t take a Patriots uber-blogger like me to tell you it’s pass rush, pass rush, pass rush! Of course this could be oversimplifying matters a bit, but with the return of Leigh Bodden and the continued development of Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty and hopefully Brandon Meriweather, it looks like the back end of the pass defense is promising.

The main problem was that opposing teams converted 47% of their third downs against the Pats, which is bad enough for worst in the league (the best teams are around 30%). This problem was compounded by the losses of interior rushers Mike Wright and Myron Pryor to injury, along with Tully Banta-Cain‘s return to earth following a 10 sack season in 2009. So whether it’s interior rushers or edge rushers the Pats need to add some talent who can, at the very least, get quarterbacks off the spot and out of their comfort zone.

The Patriots offense has been a great strength over the past four seasons, despite different quarterbacks (Matt Cassel in ’08) and going from a spread, vertical attack to more of a two tight end horizontal attack in 2010. As long as the Tom Brady gets the protection and time he needs the Pats offense should continue to roll in 2011.

Not to say they are without needs. Stabilizing the offensive line for the twilight of Brady’s career is priority number one on that side of the ball, and the Pats look to be in prime position to do so in this draft. They could also use another running back to go with Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, one who could compliment their games. While some say wide receiver, and specifically a deep threat, is a need, I believe they’ll allow Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, and Taylor Price another year to develop in the system. 

MN: Out of all the college players who are entering the draft this year, which will have the most promising career?

MD: As always predicting the draft is somewhat of a crapshoot, but I believe that Marcel Dareus (DL, Alabama), AJ Green (WR, Georgia) and JJ Watt (DE, Wisonsin) look like the three safest, can’t-miss prospects this year. All are supremely talented, check out off the field, and bring the professional attitude required to be successful at the next level. 

MN: Yes, the Judge lifted the NFL Lockout ban on Monday, but still, so much has to occur before players can actually work out and return to their day-to-day roles with the organization. How much has this current off-season downgraded the NFL as a whole and in your opinion, will there be a season come September? Yes or No? Why?

MD: While the NFL hasn’t lost the diehards like myself  just yet, the lockout, and perhaps most importantly the rhetoric thrown back and forth between the two sides has absolutely had an impact on the game, whether they want to admit it or not. Interest in the draft is down this year, as are the the number of visitors to NFL.com. The longer we go without a new CBA the more harmful that impact will be.

To be honest I really don’t know what will happen this fall. We could start on time. We could miss three games (and still manage a full 16-game slate because the NFL designed the schedule to accommodate), or we could miss the entire season. What I do know is that the debate will be tied up in the courts well into the summer.

What needs to happen is the two sides have to get back to the bargaining table and negotiate a new CBA. Either side winning outright would be bad for the game, so it needs to be a compromise that maintains the competitive balances the NFL has established, but also takes care of the players both during and after their careers.

My rough prediction? Games will be missed. 

MN:How much would not having a NFL season hurt the league, players and fans? Would college football then dominate the football world? Would football fans flock to the NHL or MLB instead?

MD: The NHL is still trying to recover from their lost season in 2004, not to say they were as big as the NFL, but the impact of a lost season cannot be understated. As Vince Wilfork said on Tuesday, he might consider retirement if there’s no football in 2011. I’m sure other players might do the same. Players like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, the stars of the NFL, would lose one of the last few seasons of their primes, and who knows what kind of effect a full year off would have on the quality of the product on the field.

MN: Finally, assuming that there is a season, which Patriots game on the schedule will be one of those “can’t miss games?”

MD: In week four, Rex Ryan and the New York Jets will return to Foxboro and while the Patriots would never admit to looking past week one, it’s surely a game that is circled in their minds. There’s also the annual Brady-Manning game, as well as a return to the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. These three games will likely be the defining ones of the season.

Follow Mike Dussault on Twitter (@PatsPropaganda