2014 NFL Draft Targets: TE Eric Ebron, UNC

1o9ROG.AuSt.156Ebron is a tight end with ideal size (6’4”, 245lbs) and excellent speed (4.60 40yd dash). He also had good production on a team with shaky quarterback play (62 for 973yds and 3 TDs). Ebron is an extremely talented athlete that can make big plays with his feet and is difficult to tackle. A very versatile player, he can line up next to the O-line, in the slot, or on the perimeter. He plays similarly to 49ers TE Vernon Davis, although Ebron needs to work on his hands (a few too many drops) to reach that comparison. That being said, Ebron is still an incredibly gifted player. He was able to dominate any and every defense that he played in college. He has no issues catching the ball running in traffic, or going up to catch the ball at the highest point. Ebron’s blocking is average, but not bad for a pass-catching tight end. He would give Tom Brady an extremely effective weapon in the passing game to complement the often-injured Rob Gronkowski. That combination would be a matchup nightmare for any defense. Although he was projected to be picked by the Patriots in some early mock drafts, Ebron is unlikely to be unavailable when the Patriots pick. His meteoric post-season stock rise would force New England to move up into the mid to late teens to grab him.

Pro Comparison: Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

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Two a Day: Patriots Free Agency Preview 1/25

Now that the Patriots season has come to an unfortunate end, it’s time to look ahead towards free agency, which starts on March 12th.

To begin, let’s take a look at the Patriots on the current roster who are set to become unrestricted free agents this year.

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Sebastian Vollmer: Vollmer has been pestered by injuries in the past, but this year he was able to start 15 games, and remained an anchor in the Patriots offensive line. The 6 feet 8 inch, 320 pound offensive tackle has maintained steady protection during the time he has been healthy. Offensive line is a top priority in New England in order to keep Tom Brady safe, so Vollmer is an important player for the Patriots to resign. New England will most likely get a deal done with the 4th year player from Germany before free agency begins, but if they are unable to successfully negotiate a new deal, it’s possible that the Patriots will place the franchise tag on Vollmer; that is, if they have already dealt with Welker and Talib. Vollmer is a seriously underrated tackle who can play both the right and the left side, as we saw this year, so it is important to get a long term deal done with him.

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Danny Woodhead: Checking in at 5 feet 8 inches, the Patriots running-back Danny Woodhead is probably the most well rounded back on the team, as well as a fan favorite. Woodhead can run up the middle, take it to the outside, block, catch out of the backfield, and even line up on the line of scrimmage. He is incredibly versatile, and definitely fits the bill as a Belichick-type player. Woodhead’s role has taken a little bit of hit in the past year with the emergence of young running-backs Stevan Ridley, and Shane Vereen, so now he is used mostly as a third-down back, but he has proven that he can convert on third and long situations. Although he is not a necessity to the football team, the Patriots will probably bring Woodhead back if the price is right.

*Images found on http://www.nepatriotsdraft.com/2012/11/the-paradox-of-danny-woodhead.html, http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1316638-sebastian-vollmers-return-sigh-of-relief-for-patriots-and-more-afc-east-news*

Two a Day: Patriots Free Agency Preview 1/24

Now that the Patriots season has come to an unfortunate end, it’s time to look ahead to free agency, which starts on March 12th.

To begin, let’s take a look at the Patriots on the current roster who are set to become unrestricted free agents this year.

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Wes Welker: Although he seems to be the number one priority for the Patriots to deal with this year, Wes Welker’s contract situation with the New England remains unclear to an outsider’s perspective. After unsuccessful negotiations last off season, the Patriots and Welker will look to try to get a deal done before free agency gets under way. If they are unable to do that, I see the Patriots letting Welker test the market, and then trying to match an offer made by another team. It’s possible that the Patriots use the franchise tag on him, but that’s unlikely, and they will use the franchise tag elsewhere. New England feels that they can succeed without Welker, so they are not going to overpay to keep him, but I’m sure they will do their best get Wes Welker back in a Patriots uniform for next season given that he has been one of the most productive players in the league since he joined New England in 2007.

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Aqib Talib: Talib has had his fair share of off-field issues, but proved to the Patriots why he was Tampa Bay’s first round draft pick back in 2008. It seems as though Talib has molded to the “Patriot Way” and dealt with his off the field problems, and is focused on contributing to the New England secondary. He has had an immediate impact on the Patriots defense since debuting against the Colts, a game in which he returned an interception for a touchdown. Talib allows New England to move Devin McCourty from corner to safety, where he is better suited because of his great range and instincts. Talib’s man coverage abilities also allow the Patriots to use more variety in their defensive packages, given his solid one-on-one play. It is clear the impact that Aqib Talib has when he is on the field, and he is a must to resign for the Patriots, regardless of him being somewhat injury prone.

*Images from http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1414000-colts-vs-patriots-aqib-talib-could-bring-new-englands-secondary-together, http://gomadden.com/content/fantasy/fantasy-free-agent-wes-welker-2013/*

The Patriots Are Going to the Super Bowl!

ImageWow. The New England Patriots are headed to Indianapolis to play in the Super Bowl. It was most definitely not a pretty game. Tom Brady was not playing at his best, throwing two picks. This was a defensive game, and all though the Patriots defense gave up a lot of big plays, they came through with a few clutch plays at the end. I feel badly for the Ravens  kicker, Billy Cundiff, who missed the game tying field goal with 11 seconds left, but, it happens to all of us, and it sealed the Patriots victory. I can’t describe how happy I am right now. Tom Brady was right in his speech, he “sucked pretty bad”, but we still came out with the win.  I am confident that he will perform well in the Super Bowl. Like I said in my keys to the game, Vince Wilfork had a great game with six tackles and one sack. The most important play of the game was when Lee Evans caught a pass from Joe Flacco in the end zone, but Sterling Moore stripped him. Also Sterling more made a nice pass block a moment later. I am excited to see who the Patriots are playing next after the 49er’s-Giants game.

*Picture from http://www.espn.go.com/nfl*

Patriots Keys for Tomorrows Game vs. Ravens

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The New England Patriots are set to play the Baltimore Ravens tomorrow at 3pm ET. This is going to be an exciting matchup between the Patriots Record setting offense and the Ravens amazing defense. The last time these two teams matched up in the playoffs was in the wildcard round of the playoffs in 2009, when the Ravens stampeded the Patriots 33-14. Ray Rice was a huge difference maker in that matchup, and I expect him to be the Ravens key player on offense in Sunday. The Ravens key player on defense is predictably going to be Ed Reed. Reed hurt his ankle in last Sundays game against the Houston Texans, but he is expected to play tomorrow. He is one of the best safeties ever and if they Ravens won’t to try and stop Tom Brady, Ed Reed will be the key.

Now to the Patriots. Something important to watch will be the two tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, matched up against the Ravens physical line backers. Gronkowski and Hernandez are a nightmare to cover, given their sizeand speed, so we may even see Ed Reed covering them. I think the key to the Patriots offense will be Deion Branch. He quietly caush a 61 yard touchdown pass in last weeks game against the Denver Broncos. While the Ravens will be trying to cover tightly Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez, this may leave Deion Branch open make game changing plays. Although he has lost some speed with age, he is still capable of breaking off and making big plays with his feet. On defense I think the key will be Vince Wilfork. He didn’t have the best regular season of his career, but I think he can, and will, step up this post season. He will be vital to stopping the Ravens running attack, led by pro bowl running back Ray Rice. In the first play from scrimmage of the matchup against the Ravens in 2009, Ray Rice exploded for an 83 yard touchdown. We cannot afford to let up any big plays in this game. Wilfork will have to clog up the wholes and stop Ray Rice if the Patriots want to win on defense. This is going to be an exciting game and the winner will get to play in the biggest sporting event of the year. The Super Bowl.

Patriots to face Ravens in AFC Championship Game

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Ray Lewis and the Ravens stout defense, will try and take on Tom Brady and the Patriots potent offense, in the AFC Championship game.

After throttling the Broncos 45-10 at home last night, the New England Patriots will be playing the Baltimore Ravens, who won just minutes ago, in the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots have struggled against the Ravens recently in the playoffs, losing to them 33-14 at home. The Patriots will be at home again for this one, given that the Patriots are the number one seed, finishing with a 13-3 regular season record, and the Ravens are the number two seed, and finished the season 12-4.

This will be an exciting matchup, given the teams history and their strengths and weakness’. The Patriots have a potent number three rated offense which can keep putting points up on the board, and the Ravens have a stout third ranked defense. The Ravens also have an excellent running back in Ray Rice, but a sometimes inconsistent quarterback, Joe Flacco. He has shown flashes of being an elite quarterback in the NFL, but wouldn’t be considered elite until he shows more consistency. It may prove to be a challenge to Joe Flacco to score at the level of Tom Brady.

The Patriots offense scores an average of 32.1 points per game, and the Ravens defense allows 16.6 points per game. The Ravens offense scores 23.6 points per game, and the Patriots defense allows 21.4 points per game, according to Yahoo! Sports. The Patriots defense played extremely well against the Broncos in the divisional round, only allowing 10 points. They also showed that the can rush the passer effectively, sacking Tim Tebow five times. Hopefully the Patriots defense will continue the good play against the Ravens in Foxburough next week, on Sunday at 3:00 pm ET. The winner gets a ticket to the Super Bowl, the other, a ticket home.

*photo from http://assets.espn.go.com/sportscenter/images/RAY.jpg*