WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

STEPHONE ANTHONY

Position: Inside linebacker

School: Clemson

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 245 pounds

Achievements: 2014 All-ACC first team, 2014 Butkus Award semifinalist for best linebacker, 2013 All-ACC third team

What he brings: Anthony is considered an athletic linebacker who can move well for his size. Scouts like his ability to make tackles consistently when he is squared up with the ball-carrier and his willingness to play physically, especially when taking on backs and tight ends in short coverage. However, there are concerns that Anthony needs improvement shedding blockers in run defense. Many scouts are hopeful that he has the ability to develop into a successful blitzer with some instruction and experience in the NFL.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-4

Notes: At the combine Anthony recorded the third-best time among linebackers in the 40-yard dash (4.56 seconds) and second-best time in the 20-yard shuttle (4.03 seconds). Anthony, a team captain in 2014, led Clemson in tackles with 90. He started all 26 games in his junior and senior seasons, and missed just one game in four years.

Related articles:

Tigernet.com: Anthony: [Clemson Coach Dabo] Swinney humbled him and woke him up as a player

Bleacher Report: Stephone Anthony could be the 2015 NFL Draft’s surprise first round pick

Video: Here’s Anthony recording eight tackles, a sack and a pass defended against FSU in September 2014.

Blog Author: 
Nik Beimler
Tom Brady was reportedly the first person at Monday's first official offseason workout. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Tom Brady was reportedly the first person at Monday’s first official offseason workout. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Even though Tom Brady is the oldest player on the Patriots, that doesn’t mean he’s taking short cuts or taking advantage of being a four-time Super Bowl champion.

The Patriots’ offseason program officially began Monday morning at Gillette Stadium and colleague Chris Price reported Brady was the first player to walk through the doors at 7 a.m.

Safety Devin McCourty has been a member of the team for five full seasons, so he sees how serious Brady takes his training. He said sometimes this can be taken for granted.

“For us, a lot of us take for granted because that’s all we ever see from him,” McCourty said. “I think especially newer guys that come in, free agents, you see the guy Tom Brady in here all the time — here early. Here before everyone got back and even now he’s always one of the first ones into the building. I think it forces you to raise your level of expectations just for yourself when you watch him and see everything he does. You say, ‘Wow, that must be why he’s great.’ It forces you to take it up a notch and do more.”

Brady drew some attention this offseason when he jumped off a cliff in Brazil. McCourty said he would never do that, but Brady can do whatever he wants.

“I thought that was cool,” he said. Tom has what four Super Bowl‘s now? You have to live on the edge.”

“He’s having fun,” he added. “He’s a great swimmer I guess. I wouldn’t have jumped, I can’t swim.”

With the Patriots winning the Super Bowl over two and a half months ago, the team is already excited to get back to work and prepare to defend their crown.

“I think the Super Bowl has kind of been over for awhile now and I think like all athletes after awhile you’re excited to get back into it and what the next year holds and what we can do as a team,” said McCourty. “I think everyone is more excited about that.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Logan Ryan will be one of the younger members of the secondary asked to step up this season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Logan Ryan (26) will be one of the younger members of the secondary asked to step up this season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — The Patriots’ secondary will look a lot different this coming season, as opposed to last year’s Super Bowl winning squad.

Arguably their two best cornerbacks in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner departed via free agency, to the Jets and Saints respectively. Without adding any major players to their secondary in free agency, it would seem the team will go into 2015 with some of the younger players stepping up and taking on more responsibility.

Defensive captain Devin McCourty is already moving on from having Revis roaming the secondary with him.

“Who? We’€™re past that,” McCourty said jokingly. “No, we’€™re still friends.”

With the two starting corners departing, some of the younger up-and-coming players on the defense will now need to step up in Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and possibly Alfonzo Dennard.

McCourty said he believes in those guys, as he’s seen the hard work they’ve been putting in.

“I’m excited for all those guys,” he said. “They’ve put in a lot of work. I was in Arizona with Logan for a little while and since I met him when he was freshman in college he’s always one of the guys putting in extra work trying to get better. I think Malcolm is a guy, he came in last year really not knowing anything to expect and now making a great play in the Super Bowl, I think it’s exciting for him. For all those guys, when you’re young in the NFL you just want to try and learn as much as you can year in and year out. I don’t think they should worry what everyone will try and ask them, just try and get better.”

Although they may not be the biggest of names — the organization did sign a few veterans to potentially help out the secondary. Chimd Chekwa, Bradley Fletcher and Robert McClain are all cornerbacks who have joined the team this offseason.

Being the most experienced member in the secondary, as well as a captain, McCourty knows it’s his job to get those players acclimated to playing in New England.

“We just worked out. There’s been no 1-on-1 meetings or anything like that,” said McCourty. “I think the great thing is once you get on the football field and we start talking scheme and everything — right now it’s all about working out and trying to get better along those lines. Once we start talking about scheme, I am just a guy that tries to be another way to explain things and say things.

“Sometimes I think players can relate to players a little easier than a coach lecture or talk about it. I think I try to always be that bridge so that we can get everyone on the same page. At the end of the day we have to make sure all the players on the field are thinking the same way. If we can do that we have a chance to be good.”

Personally for McCourty, he could have been a free agent himself, but just before free agency was set to begin he and the Patriots struck a deal. The Rutgers product is happy to stay in New England and now it’s all about football.

“I think it’s finally now just all about playing football and I think the best thing is I get to be back with the same guys that I started the journey with,” McCourty said. “I love my teammates here. I love how hard we work with everything we get done. It was exciting to be back in the offseason program and being a leader, trying to lead these guys.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

The official release of the 2015 NFL schedule is Tuesday night at 8 p.m., but the first game of the year has gotten out early.

The official release of the 2015 NFL schedule is Tuesday night at 8 p.m., but the first game of the year has gotten out early.

The defending Super Bowl champion Patriots will host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the opening game of the season, Thursday, Sept. 10 at Gillette Stadium. As has been the case for many years, the defending champions open the year on a Thursday night at home and raise the banner from its Super Bowl winning year.

There was much debate as to who the opponent would be with the Eagles, Bills and Jets all being talked about, but ultimately it was Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers coming to Foxboro. Roethlisberger will face Tom Brady for the 16th time, with Brady holding a slight 33-32 touchdown pass lead.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — The general population learned Tuesday morning of Nate Solder being diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer prior to last season. But, for some of his teammates they knew last year, and were blown away with how he handled it, especially during a Super Bowl winning season.

“I was aware of it, and you know, I have so much respect for Nate Solder and the type of man that he is, the faith in God that he has and the way he carries himself and I can’€™t think of anyone who’€™s handled a situation like that better than he did,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “I don’€™t want to get too much in detail, I’€™ll let him speak on that, but Nate Solder is a great man and the way he handled that last year was really admirable, with so much courage and a positive attitude, a sense of peace, it was really something to behold.”

Devin McCourty, another veteran and team captain, said he knew, but said there were some players on the team who didn’t.

“I don’t know if everyone knew,” he said. “I think some guys knew, but I think that was more for him a personal process. It wasn’t something as a team that everyone talked about, it was more for him. I think as a teammate you’re just blown away by everything he was able to do — getting over that, playing at a high level.

“To me it was highly impressive. Nate is a great guy and he does so many things — on the field, off the field and I think that is another battle that he passed and now he’s going to do great things with it spreading awareness.”

The report Tuesday morning said Solder goes to Mass General every three months for check ups and everything is going according to plan.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — It was just two years ago that Aaron Hernandez shared the same locker room and was a teammate of many of the current players on the Patriots roster.

They too had emotions when the former tight end was convicted of murder last week.

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was convicted of murder last week. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was convicted of murder last week. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — It was just two years ago that Aaron Hernandez shared the same locker room and was a teammate of many of the current players on the Patriots roster.

They too had emotions when the former tight end was convicted of murder last week.

Special teams captain Matthew Slater said he’s praying for everyone involved, including Hernandez.

“I’€™ll say this: that’€™s a very tragic, sad situation, for so many different people, for so many different reasons,” Slater said. “You know, I just feel like we all should keep everybody involved and affected by that situation in our prayers and our thoughts, that’€™s really all I’€™ll say on that. My heart is broken on so many different levels for that, and I just pray for everyone that’€™s been affected by it.”

Like Slater, McCourty is thinking of both sides — Hernandez’s family, as well as Odin Lloyd’s.

“It was just saddening,” he said. “I think you’re talking about two lives that are gone. I think it’s like everyone else, you look at that whole thing it’s just a saddening event and everything that went on.”

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

NATE ORCHARD

Position: Defensive end

School: Utah

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 255 pounds

Achievements: 2014 All-American, 2014 All-Pac-12 first team, 2014 Ted Hendricks Award for best defensive end, 2013 All-Pac-12 honorable mention

What he brings: Orchard is considered a quick defensive end who is able to use good footwork to avoid blockers. Scouts believe he is stronger as a pass rusher than against the run, and they would like to see improvement in run defense. Orchard only had one season of strong, consistent production, which concerns some experts, but others believe that he will continue to grow as a player. There are concerns that he lacks the physicality to shed tight ends and bigger backs who come across the line to block him. Many scouts think that if Orchard is able to develop more physically and continue to improve in the run game, he will be very productive in the NFL.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-4

Notes: Orchard was selected as a team captain in 2014. He participated in the Senior Bowl and recorded five tackles and two quarterback hits. His 18.5 sacks in 2014 set a school record and tied for the season lead in the FBS. He also tied a Utah record for most sacks in a game with four in October 2014. The 22-year-old did not miss a game through his four years with the Utes.

Related articles:

 ESPN.com: Catching up with Utah DE Nate Orchard

NFL.com: Nate Orchard excelling at Senior Bowl in unfamiliar position

Video: Here’s Orchard recording three tackles and one sack against Colorado State in Utah’s 2014 bowl game.

Blog Author: 
Nik Beimler
Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork and Dan Connolly were all smiles at several points this season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork and Dan Connolly were all smiles at several points during the 2014 season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the majority of free agency completed and the draft looming, we’re going to take a look at the Patriots depth chart by position, and try and assess the level of need going forward. We started with special teams, tight end, wide receiver, running back and quarterback. Now, it’s offensive line:

Current depth chart: Tackle Nate Solder, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, guard/center Ryan Wendell, center Bryan Stork, guard/tackle Marcus Cannon, guard/tackle Jordan Devey, guard Josh Kline, tackle Cameron Fleming, Chris Barker, Caylin Hauptmann.

Lost in free agency: Connolly hasn’t technically been lost in free agency, but he has yet to sign, and remains on the market.

Gained in free agency: None.

Other changes: Other than Connolly’s uncertain status, there’s not much to report as it relates to the state of the Patriots personnel along the offensive line. (Although the fact that Solder’s announcement this week that he was undergoing treatment for testicular cancer in 2014 certainly provides some context for some of his struggles last season.)

Is this an area of need going into the draft? This is a discussion that’s open to some debate. From this viewpoint, if the Patriots end up sticking at No. 32, they’ll take an interior offensive lineman, either FSU’s Cameron Erving or Duke’s Laken Tomlinson for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that New England needs a replacement for Connolly at left guard. However, if the Patriots do decide to let Connolly walk, there’s the possibility they feel secure with either Fleming or Cannon at the vacant guard spot, which might allow them to turn their attention to another position of need early in the draft. Regardless, with ex-offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia such an active presence on the pro day circuit, it would be surprising if New England doesn’t use at least one of its five picks in the top 101 on an offensive lineman.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price