Safety Jordan Richards was taken 64th overall by the Patriots. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Jordan Richards was taken 64th overall by the Patriots. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Trying to find draft patterns in regards to the Patriots can occasionally be a fruitless exercise, but one idea we feel pretty good putting some stock in is the fact that when it comes to measuring defensive backs and wide receivers, they love to use the 3-cone drill as an indication of how that prospect might do in their system.

While it’s certainly not the be-all and end-all when it comes to assessing a prospect — and with the understanding that anything under 6.8 is considered extremely quick — it’s easy to draw a line between the 3-cone and the Patriots scoring process. They wound up with three of the top 10 finishers in the drill from the 2013 combine — third-round pick Logan Ryan (6.69), fourth-rounder Josh Boyce (6.68) and undrafted free agent T.J. Moe (6.53).

Going back a few years, Julian Edelman, Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Nate Ebner, Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty all posted excellent 3-cone times as collegians (Welker and Butler were the only two who exceeded seven seconds in the drill), and while all weren’€™t necessarily considered elite prospects coming out of college, all have managed to find some level of success with New England.

With that in mind, it was interesting to see that the only two defensive backs selected by the Patriots this past weekend — Stanford’s Jordan Richards and Marshall’s Darryl Roberts — both excelled in the 3-cone drill as collegians. Richards had the ninth-best 3-cone time of any prospect at the combine with a 6.74. Meanwhile, Roberts didn’t get an invite to the combine, but his 6.66 time at his pro day would have been the fastest of any cornerback in Indy.

After he was picked by New England, Richards was asked how his excellent 3-cone time reflects in the way he plays.

“It’s change of direction,” he said. “In playing defensive back, there are a lot of different things (going on).”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Trey Flowers takes down LSU's Zach Mettenberger in a 2013 game between the Razorbacks and Tigers. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Trey Flowers takes down LSU’s Zach Mettenberger in a 2013 game between the Razorbacks and Tigers. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema isn’t a man prone to hyperbole, but when asked to compare new Patriots’ draft pick Trey Flowers approach and attitude to someone currently in the NFL, he invoked one of his former Wisconsin players.

“I will say this — I’m cautious to compare anyone to J.J. Watt, but Trey’s mentality and his work ethic and his attitude is like J.J.,” Bielema said Tuesday when asked about Flowers, who was taken in the fourth round (101st overall) in this year’s NFL draft by the Patriots. “They have a similar approach to the game. Trey just goes hard, especially when the situation is biggest.”

Even though it was more about worth ethic and desire than on-field production, the Watt comparison is high praise from anyone, especially Bielema, who coached Watt for two seasons as a collegian at Wisconsin. (Maybe it’s because while as a collegian, Flowers used to make some ridiculous feats look mundane, like this box jump.) Regardless, it’s clear the Patriots might have landed an intriguing prospect in Flowers, a 6-foot-2, 266-pound defensive end who led Arkansas in tackles for loss (15.5 for 95 yards), sacks (six for 71 yards) and quarterback hurries (nine) last season.

Working in one of the toughest college football conferences in America, Pro Football Focus had Flowers as one of the five best edge defenders in the 2015 draft class, and he provided three of the four pressures that elite tackle La’€™el Collins of LSU surrendered in the entire season. As a result, he was named 2014 All-SEC second team, 2013 All-SEC second team (coaches) and 2011 Freshman All-SEC team.

“(He was a) real productive player at Arkansas,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Flowers shortly after the pick was made on Saturday. “(He) played mainly on the edge, a little bit inside. But a he’s a young player that I think has got a lot of good football in front of him; a lot of great qualities in terms of leadership, toughness.”

Toughness and versatility seem to be Flowers’ calling cards. A tweener who spent time at multiple spots and in multiple schemes, both Flowers and Bielema said his strength is in stopping the run and being physical, with his old coach calling him “country strong.”

“It’s just something I take pride in — just really being physical with the offensive linemen and setting point of attack and just really wanting to be dominant as far as putting the hands on them,” Flowers said. “When the time permits — say third down or a certain type of formation or a certain type of tendency appears — I can get after it with a good pass rush.”

“I told coach Belichick that whatever you want him to do, that’s what you’re going to get,” Bielema said. “When Trey was here, we had him to a bunch of stuff — rush the passer, come out of that c gap, cover pass catchers in the flat. I believe he can do it all.”

Bielema said Flowers is a smart and funny guy who wasn’t surprised to hear Flowers get off a Bobby Boucher reference in his first conference call with the New England media shortly after he was picked by the Patriots last weekend.

“Yeah, he doesn’t have too many bad days, I can tell you that,” Bielema said with a laugh.

While Flowers gave a Bobby Boucher comparison, from a straight on-field perspective, Bielema said that Flowers is reminiscent of defensive end O’Brien Schofield, who also played for Bielema at Wisconsin. Schofield, a defensive end now with the Seahawks who was taken in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Cardinals, has 13.5 sacks in five years in the NFL.

Meanwhile, before the draft, analyst Jon Gruden told ESPN’s Mike Sando that he’d compare Flowers to veteran linebacker LaMarr Woodley when Woodley was coming out of Michigan, praising Flowers’ versatility and instincts and echoing Bielema’s scouting report.

“He physically can play the run,” Gruden said of Flowers. “He could be an outside linebacker and stand on his feet. He has the ability to move on a zone blitz, read the quarterback, break on the ball and intercept it. He is instinctive, he is physical and he is relentless. A lot of times, teams are forcing you to play nickel all the time, anyway, and the outside linebacker in a 3-4 plays defensive end in the nickel. I need a guy who can play both positions. Flowers can do that.”

Ultimately, Bielema understands he’s biased, but believes the Patriots landed a “special player” in Flowers.

“Trey comes from an incredible family — he has nine brothers and sisters,” Bielema said. “He’s a really great kid, not a smarter-than-you type of player. He’s just really laid back, a nice kid and a hard worker. He’s earned everything he’s gotten, and he’ll work as hard as he can when he gets to New England, I know that.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The Patriots are among the NFL teams showing interest in undrafted offensive lineman La’el Collins, according to Nick Underhill and Ross Dellenger of The New Orleans Advocate.

The Patriots are among the NFL teams showing interest in undrafted offensive lineman La’el Collins, according to Nick Underhill and Ross Dellenger of The New Orleans Advocate.

Considered to be a first-round talent, Collins went undrafted after he was questioned in the wake of the death of a pregnant woman who might have been involved in a relationship with the LSU offensive tackle. Collins is reportedly not a suspect in the death at this time.

According to the report, the Bills and Dolphins also have contacted Collins.

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Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The Patriots announced Tuesday the have released cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, long snapper Tyler Ott and linebacker Deontae Skinner. Here’s a portion of the statement from the team on the moves.

Jabaal Sheard speaks Tuesday with reporters at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/

Jabaal Sheard speaks Tuesday with reporters at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO — Rookies aren’t the only new players who notice a big change when they come to Foxboro.

After playing the last four seasons in Cleveland, hybrid defensive end Jabaal Sheard learned that right away after signing as a free agent with the Patriots in March.

Belichick wrapped up Saturday’s press conference by telling reporters that each rookie better be ready to jump on board right away or risk getting left in the dust when the train picks up steam. Same goes for free agent newbies.

“You get that feeling as soon as you walk in the building,” Sheard said Tuesday at Gillette Stadium. “You’re here to work. It’s definitely work first, hard hat on, and I learned that the first day, from the first team meeting on, you kind of get that feel of being in the weight room. You’ve got to lift on your own. They give you a card, go follow it, what you choose to do, what you choose not to do is on you. You’re responsible. You become what you put in. They showed me that early, as soon as I got here the first week.”

Sheard, who will wear No. 93 with the Patriots, said he has nothing but respect for the Belichick system.

“Just come here and just work. Every coach is different. Just give him respect and let’s get to work,” Sheard said.

Sheard said that may be intimidating to some in the NFL but not him.

“I guess because he’ll call you out on what you do wrong but that’s part of wearing a hard had and hard shell,” Sheard said of his new head coach. “That’s part of football. If you can’t take any criticism, I don’t know how you can get any better.”

Sheard played college ball at Pittsburgh and was selected with the 37th overall pick in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Browns. The Patriots could’ve taken Sheard in that draft but instead chose cornerback Ras-I Dowling. Sheard went to the Browns four picks after Dowling at No. 37 overall.

“I actually did visit here coming out of the draft,” Sheard recalled. “I thought I was going to end up here at first. I think I came and visited a week before the draft. Coach Belichick and met with a couple of the coaches and here I am.

“I think I developed a lot. I learned a lot of different systems. Being in Cleveland [four] years, we went through three different defensive coordinators, three different systems, three different head coaches. I got to grow a lot and understand more what the league is about and what they expect out of you and how to be a professional in this league.”

The Patriots are getting a prototype Belichick front seven player in Sheard, someone who can play up or down and inside or outside.

“Obviously, I came into the league playing a 4-3, which is [playing with] my hand in the dirt,” Sheard said. “Through the course of the years, I learned a lot. I learned three different defenses, I learned how to drop back. It made me diverse and [made me] able to do a lot of different things. So, I think three different coordinators definitely helped me. I mean it prepared me to be a coach maybe one day. We’ll see how that goes.

“I’m just excited to be here. Coach Belichick is a smart guy. Obviously, they’re going to put us in the right situation to get the job done. He’s been there before. I’m just here to get the job done and do what I can to help the team, basically.”

Part of his acclimation in New England has been hanging out with new teammates and other teammates new to New England, like linebacker Jonathan Freeny. Sheard and Freeny both attended a Celtics playoff game against the Cavaliers recently and had a blast.

“Honestly, you may hate me a little bit. I’m a Heat fan,” Sheard admitted. “But I was there for the support of the game, support Boston. Obviously, being here. Everyone is a fan of LeBron and watching him play. So, I was just there to enjoy the game and get out and see the city and support Boston a little bit.”

“Freeny was there. Everybody else was still at the White House. I didn’t get to go there.”

Sheard is now joining a front seven that already features Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich.

“We just started installing the playbook so we’re just getting a little bit into the plays. Just what they want from you on the field as far as technique, as far as certain [techniques] on how to get off blocks, other small techniques that can help you later on throughout football, throughout camp,” Sheard said.

“Those little things that kick in right now, obviously when we’re allowed to get more physical and everything else kicks in, everything else will come in. Honestly, I’m excited, watching those guys on film for years. Chan was in the Big East. A younger guy but could always rush. I’ve been watching him play throughout the years. I’ve been a fan of his, just watching him rush. Same for Ninkovich. Chan, I’ve been watching him for a while. I just think we’re all going to work together, all three of us are going to work together to get the job done. It’s going to be exciting.”

In his rookie season, he started all 16 games for the Browns and led the team in sacks (8.5) and forced fumbles (5). Sheard and teammate Phil Taylor were chosen to the Pro Football Weekly 2011 All-Rookie Team.

In Week 2, Sheard recorded his first career sack and forced fumble against the Colts and recorded a career-high two sacks against the Cardinals in Week 15.

In 2012, Sheard started all 16 games for the Browns, recording seven sacks and 36 tackles. In 2013, Sheard was limited by injury but still started 13 games, recording 5.5 sacks and 19 tackles.

Sheard improved in 2014 under a new coaching staff led by head coach Mike Pettine. Last season, he started all 16 games and ended the year with 44 combined tackles (25 solo, 19 assisted) and two sacks.

Sheard hit the free agent market and the Patriots didn’t miss again. They remembered interviewing him in 2011 before the draft and looked at his film and his production, and decided to sign him to a two-year, $11 million contract on March, 11.

“It’s been fun. It’s been exciting,” Sheard said. “It’s been hard learning my way around the building but other than that, the city’s been great. I got go out and see the city a little bit, experience a [Celtics] playoff game against Cleveland and my teammates have been showing me around, showing me a good time.

“You kind of got your individual standards. Coaches, I think they relay more information to you of what they expect. Guys are just working hard, pushing one another.”

Here’s more from Sheard Tuesday:

On joining Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich:

“Outside linebacker group, Rob, Chan, and Eric Martin, who was with me in Cleveland. A couple of guys you see around the league that have bounced around. Familiar faces always make you feel a little bit more comfortable.”

On stability:

“It’s definitely good. You get to see familiar faces. You get to [develop] more of a family atmosphere. All the guys are kind of familiar with each other, coaches. It’s kind of like a family thing. Guys are pretty close and I think that helps out a lot.”

On Super Bowl and thinking about Patriots:

“Nah. I just watched it and enjoyed it as a fan, a fan of football. It was just exciting to watch. A very good game and came down to the very last second and that made it even better.”

On knowing if he was signing with Patriots:

“I had no idea. I was just coming into free agency, not knowing what was going to happen.”

On other teammates:

“It’s been cool, man. Everybody is like a family around here. They accept you in right away. It’s just been cool, showing you the city. It’s definitely a different city compared to Cleveland. There wasn’t a lot going on until LeBron came back. It was what it was. But here, there’s definitely a lot of life going on, people downtown enjoying the city.

“Just here in Foxboro alone, come out here by the strip mall, get some good weather [Monday], it’s been OK. Just get better as a player. Get close with my teammates and figure out the system and learn as much as I can throughout this offseason.”

Depth here with rookie draft picks:

“Huge. Coming into the season, you have injuries, you have guys fatigue. A lot of different things happen where guys have to step up and play. It’s important to have those guys there ready to play and ready to step up and make plays.”

On Matt Patricia:

“Definitely a great coach. I met him when I came here my rookie year. Great coach, very down to earth and speak to him anytime. He’s ready to work. He’s like another guy bring your hard hat. I think he’s very personable, though.”

On different coordinators in Cleveland:

“It gives me a lot of confidence. It’s kind of what we did a little bit last year, game planning week by week. That forces you to learn the whole defense and makes you a lot smarter and I think that’s part of the reason they brought me here.”

On wearing No. 93:

“That’s cool. A number is a number. Change it up. Different system. It’ll be exciting to start with a new number and a whole new lifestyle. I’ve been No. 97 since college and in high school I was [No.] 90.”

On pressure of winning:

“Every city you go to, even though I was in Ohio, we lost but the pressure was on us to win. Honestly, we went into every year thinking this could be our year. I think in football in general, I wouldn’t be on that team, playing for that team, if I didn’t think we had a chance to win. I want to win. Every player competes to win. Obviously, there’s going to be pressure to win every year. But that’s what we build for. That’s why we work so hard in the offseason.”

On the hope of actually going to White House as champion:

“Hopefully. That’s the big dream. That’s a big step so hopefully.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Alfonzo Dennard

Alfonzo Dennard

The Patriots announced Tuesday the have released cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, long snapper Tyler Ott and linebacker Deontae Skinner. Here’s a portion of the statement from the team on the moves.

Dennard, 25, joined the Patriots as a seventh-round draft pick (224th overall) out of Nebraska in 2012. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder, has played in 29 games with 20 starts over his three seasons with the Patriots and accumulated 92 total tackles, five interceptions for 95 yards with one pick returned for a touchdown and 17 passes defensed. He also started in four postseason games, posting 10 total tackles, two interceptions and one forced fumble. Last season, Dennard was limited to six games with four starts and finished with 15 total tackles and one interception. He was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 27 and missed the postseason. 

Ott, 23, originally signed with the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Harvard on May 16, 2014, and was released on Aug. 18. The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder, re-signed with the Patriots on March 6, 2015. Ott handled long snapping duties and saw action at tight end during his college career, finishing with 16 receptions for 194 yards and four touchdowns.

Skinner, 24, was originally signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Mississippi State on May 12, 2014. The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder, was released by the Patriots on Aug. 26 and signed to the practice squad on Sept. 1. He was signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on Sept. 13 and played in seven games with one start, accumulating 10 total tackles and three special teams tackles. He was released on Oct. 29 and signed back to the practice squad on Oct. 31. Skinner was released from the practice squad again on Nov. 26 before being re-signed to the practice squad on Dec. 3. 

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Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — Nate Solder has a fresh look on football, and life.

The Patriots 2015 preseason schedule was finalized Tuesday. Here are the dates and times for the games this summer:

Aug. 13 vs. Green Bay 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 22 at New Orleans, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 28 at Carolina, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 3 vs. New York Giants, 7:30 p.m.

The Patriots 2015 preseason schedule was finalized Tuesday. Here are the dates and times for the games this summer:

Aug. 13 vs. Green Bay 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 22 at New Orleans, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 28 at Carolina, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 3 vs. New York Giants, 7:30 p.m.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price