Tag:Deion Branch
Posted on: July 5, 2011 9:44 am
Edited on: July 5, 2011 9:22 pm
 

Could Ochocinco end up with the Patriots?

Posted by Ryan Wilson

In recent years, Bill Belichick's approach to the NFL Draft seems to involve more trading than selecting -- either down or out of the current draft altogether -- but always with the goal of accumulating future considerations. It's not a particularly exciting personnel strategy, although it's difficult to argue with the results. The Patriots have won at least 10 games a year since 2003, three times going 14-2, including last season.

While New England may be relatively quiet on draft weekends, they're generally pretty active in free agency. That hasn't been the case this offseason because of the lockout, but that could change if the owners and players agree on a new collective bargaining agreement in the next 10 days or so.

In anticipation of that eventuality, the Boston Herald takes a look at the Patriots' needs and the soon-to-be free agents who could fill them. First up: wide receivers.

New England's current depth chart includes established veterans with injury histories (Deion Branch, Wes Welker) and unproven, high-upside young guys (Julian Edelman, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater, Brandon Tate). It's not quite the uninspiring group of wideouts that were on the team in 2006 (Reche Caldwell led the Patriots with 760 yards receiving that year), but it's not 2007, either (Tom Brady threw 50 touchdowns, 23 to Randy Moss).

Which is why the Herald lists Sidney Rice and Chad Ochocinco as possible free-agent targets. Rice, who had hip surgery last August, played in just six games with the Vikings in 2010. But in 2009, he was one of the league's most explosive players. He's also just 24.

Ochocinco's (mostly off-field) exploits are well documented. He's 33 and not technically a free agent. The Herald explains:
There’s still the popular debate on whether the Patriots need a speed receiver or not. That began when Randy Moss was traded last season and continued in the loss to the Jets. Well, this would certainly provide a solution. Rice has got the speed to stretch the field, and the skills to do a lot more. With the possible exception of Vincent Jackson, he’s the best guy out there. Brady isn’t getting any younger. Why not shoot for the moon? As for Ochocinco, he’s not actually a free agent. But if he’s treating himself like one, why shouldn’t we?
Conventional wisdom says that Ochocinco's best days are behind him, and a team in need of wideouts would be wise to look elsewhere. But this is New England, the place where over-the-hill malcontents go to revive their careers.

Take Corey Dillon and Randy Moss. Dillon rushed for 541 yards in 2003, his last season in Cincinnati. In 2004, he gained 1,635 yards for the Patriots, and he won a Super Bowl. In 2006, Moss had 42 receptions for 533 yards and three touchdowns with Oakland. The next season he caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns in New England. It's not unreasonable to think that Belichick and Brady couldn't keep Ochocinco focused, something Marvin Lewis never managed to do in Cincy.

As for Moss, whose name occasionally comes up as a possible option for the Patriots, his time in New England appears to have passed.

"It’s really hard to imagine [Moss returning to Foxboro], the Herald explains. "It’s one of those 'been there, done that, no sense doing it again' kind of stories. That’s not to say the Pats won’t be looking for a speed guy or another veteran receiver. Rice would help, if they could afford him. Ochocinco has one more year on his contract, but he’s made no secret he wants out of Cincinnati. It appears the Bengals want a divorce, too. With Bill Belichick’s affection for him, Ochocinco may, in fact, find a way to end up in Foxboro. If he behaves and still has some left in the tank, he could be the answer."

Even if the Patriots don't pursue a wide receiver during free agency, the 2011 group of pass catchers will still be plenty dangerous. Not so much because of the wide receivers, but because of the tight ends. As rookies last season, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski were third and fourth on the team in receptions (45 and 42), and they accounted for 33 percent of the team's passing yards. If nothing else, Belichick learned from the 2006 season; if you don't have wideouts, find some tight ends. Tom Brady doesn't much care who he's throwing the ball to just as long as they're open.

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Posted on: April 4, 2011 1:31 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 7:25 am
 

Offseason Checkup: New England Patriots

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

 

Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups .



The Patriots were probably the best team in football last season, compiling a 14-2 record before surprisingly losing to the Jets in the second round of the playoffs. Let’s see what New England had: Outstanding QB, check. Pretty good running game, check. A good enough offensive line and wide receiving corps, yes. A rock-solid defense, um, no.

The team had its problems on defense – which is talented but oh so young – but the wizardry of Brady who knows coach Bill Belichick’s system so well overcame most of those defensive hiccups. The Patriots haven’t had a losing season this century, so whatever constructive criticism that follows in this piece doesn’t suggest that the Patriots suddenly will struggle to win games. With Belichick, that simply doesn’t happen very often (unless, ahem, he’s donning the headset in Cleveland).




Recent unsuccessful playoff runs

A ridiculous statistic for you: the Patriots haven’t won a playoff game since the 2007 AFC championship game. That’s right, since that undefeated New England squad lost the Super Bowl to the Giants, the Ravens in the 2009 playoffs and the Jets in 2010 – all three of those were considered upsets, as well.

Doesn’t matter that New England has an annual chokehold on the AFC East (though New York is beginning to threaten that dominance), the Patriots can’t get anywhere in the playoffs. They haven’t won a Super Bowl in six years. So, what’s the problem?




1. Wide Receiver
Getting rid of Randy Moss probably was the right call for New England, but when the Patriots sent him away, they also lost their downfield threat. You might argue that Moss’ skills are in decline – and the Titans would DEFINITELY say that – but he’s still quite a long-ball receiver. Wes Welker is one of the best slot receivers in the game, Deion Branch had a nice comeback year and New England’s young tight ends are really solid. But a Moss-like receiver would be welcome.

2. More DL depth
Mike Wright and Ron Brace missed a combined nine regular-season games last season before injuries forced them to the Injured Reserve lists while Ty Warren missed the entire year, and a trio of rookies (two of whom were undrafted) were forced to step in and replace them. What the Patriots need in this year’s draft is a pass rusher off the edge, and since they have a plethora of draft picks, they could certainly try to trade up and find one. Wright, with 5.5 sacks, was the team leader, and following behind him were LBs Tully Banta-Cain and Rob Ninkovich. They need some help on the DL, though newly-signed Marcus Stroud could certainly ease some of that burden.

3. Better secondary play
Devin McCourtey had a strong rookie season, leading the team with seven interceptions and Leigh Bodden – who missed all of last year – will be a definite upgrade over Kyle Arrington. Pat Chung is solid at the SS spot, but FS Brandon Meriweather wasn’t very good last season (how he made the Pro Bowl is baffling). It would not be a surprise if New England tries to replace him.




The Patriots obviously have some corrections that need to be made. But this franchise has been the best – and most feared – in the NFL since Belichick took over (though Rex Ryan absolutely will NOT kiss his rings), and he doesn’t hesitate to get rid of loyal Patriots who he feels can’t help them anymore (I’m looking at you Richard Seymour, Adam Vinatieri, et al). The Patriots will continue to battle with the Jets for AFC East dominance, but like usual, New England will be a preseason favorite to win the Super Bowl.

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Posted on: January 20, 2011 11:22 am
Edited on: January 20, 2011 4:30 pm
 

Steelers vs. Jets: 7-Point Championship Preview

Posted by Josh Katzowitz



CBSSports.com's patented and award-winning 7-point preview gets you ready for each and every playoff game. As a bonus, enjoy our playoff podcast preview:



1. New York Jets (No. 6, AFC, 13-5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 2, AFC, 13-4)

For the second-straight season, the Jets somehow have risen from a Wild Card team to a squad that will play in the AFC championship game with a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Last year, they fell to the Colts. This year, though, they’re riding a big hot streak, having knocked off Indianapolis and then the formerly-invincible Patriots, and they’re looking for their first Super Bowl appearance since 1969.

The Steelers, meanwhile, are coming off a nice come-from-behind victory against the Ravens last week. Like the Jets beating the Patriots, Pittsburgh exerted a ton of energy, rallying to beat their biggest rival for the second time this season. There’s been some talk about emotional letdowns, especially on the Jets side, but this one is for a Super Bowl berth. An emotional letdown, like Jets coach Rex Ryan would say, is impossible.

2. PLAYOFFS?! Watchability Ranking



Both AFC games last week were great matchups and featured great results. It’ll be hard for this one to top those. Maybe I’m the one who is emotionally let down, but 3.5 Mora Faces is the max rating.

3. Key Matchup to Watch: Jets secondary vs. Steelers WRs

Last week, the Jets shut down the Patriots WRs. New England couldn’t create separation, and at times, QB Tom Brady was stuck holding the ball for 5 … 6 … 7 … 8 seconds before having to scramble because his receivers simply could not get open.

The Steelers will have to do a better job than that. Assuming Jets CB Darrelle Revis – who has dominated Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne and New England’s Deion Branch so far in the playoffs – matches up against WR Hines Ward, don’t expect Ward to have much of an impact. In the Steelers Week 15 matchup against New York, Ward was targeted only three times and caught two passes for 34 yards.

That means the speedy Mike Wallace will have to be the game-changer for Pittsburgh. He’s had a big season, catching 60 passes for 1,257 yards and 10 TDs in the regular season. We assume Jets CB Antonio Cromartie, also a rather speedy fellow, will attend to him. Thing is with Cromartie: sometimes he’s great, like last week, and sometimes he’s very beatable, like with Colts WR Pierre Garcon two weeks ago.

Hell, Cromartie might be the biggest factor of all. Especially if Ben Roethlisberger tries to avoid Revis and, instead, targets Cromartie. Hey, at least Cromartie didn’t call Roethlisberger an a------.

4. Potentially Relevant Video

If Revis makes Ward somewhat irrelevant in the passing game, the Steelers WR still can be a nuisance on the field. Ask Bart Scott about that this video, featuring Ward’s greatest hits.



5. The Jets will win if ...

They can get big-time production from both running backs, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene. Tomlinson, after a swoon in the second half of the season, has run well the first two rounds of the playoffs, and Greene has rushed for 77 and 70 yards in the two games. If Greene can inch closer to the 100-yard mark and Tomlinson can average about 5 yards a carry, that would keep the ball out of the hands of Rashard Mendenhall and Roethlisberger for much of the game and bring the Jets a win.

6. The Steelers will win if ...

They can pound and pressure Mark Sanchez for much of the day. Yes, Sanchez threw three touchdown passes last week, but he still has struggled – for the past two weeks – with his accuracy. The Steelers have plenty of defenders (ahem, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley) who can harass Sanchez and make him have to release the ball too early. Which certainly won’t help his aim.

7. Prediction: Jets 20, Steelers 17
Posted on: January 17, 2011 4:04 pm
 

More trash talk fallout from Jets-Pats

Posted by Andy Benoit

With their season over, Bill Belichick’s “no talking” rules for Patriots players with the press are essentially on hold. Which is why Deion Branch had no problem ripping the Jets for their postgame celebration.
D. Branch (US Presswire)
"The embarrassing part came from a few classless guys [on the Jets] after the game," Branch said via the Boston Herald. "There were a lot of classless things that went on after the game ended."

Branch was selective in who he shook hands with after the game.

"I'm a champion," Branch said. "I'm always going to congratulate guys. They beat us today. The ones with class, I shook their hands. And the ones that didn’t, I didn’t [shake their hands]. You can tell they’re not used to being in this position."
But he wasn’t done.

“That’s their style. You have to expect that,” Branch said. “They’re going to do that from now until they’re gone. Half the guys on the field, it was shameful, the guys with no class, that stuff comes back to bite you.”

Bart Scott didn’t deny that some of the Jets enjoyed winning on the Patriots’ field. "We marked a little territory," Scott said. "Rivalries start when both team take something from the other team. This is probably the first time the Jets have taken something important away from the Patriots.

"Game on. They can hate us forever. The feeling is mutual."

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Posted on: January 16, 2011 9:27 pm
 

Jets make good on their trash-talking vs. Pats

C. Pace forces a fumble on T. Brady in New York's win (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Are the Jets classless? Maybe, depending on what part of the country you reside. Is Rex Ryan a buffoon who is little better than a carnival barker? Perhaps, though you can’t deny the guy is one hell of a coach as well. Was it possible for the Jets to beat the Patriots on two weeks of rest at Gillette Stadium? Absolutely not.

Until, of course, the Jets took the field this afternoon and confused New England’s offense while out-toughing the Patriots defense.

So, the final question is this? Are the Jets, for the second straight season, heading to the AFC championship game? The answer a resounding yes.

Some people will point to the fact New England hasn’t won a playoff game since the 2007 AFC championship and will proclaim that the Patriots are a team full of chokers. But that’s simply not accurate.

After a week of trash-talking, the Jets backed up their woofing and came through with the 28-21 win. It was the Jets playing extraordinarily well and forcing the Patriots into a game of unease and inconsistency. It was the Jets and not New England

You might not like Ryan or the Jets. But you have to admit that their showing today was one of the best clutch performances of the season by anybody.

“Everybody else never believed in us; we believed,” Ryan told reporters at his postgame news conference. “We worked too hard to get back here. We felt we were the better team. Clearly, that Monday night game (when the Patriots won 45-3), we weren’t, but I knew if we played the way we were capable of playing, we could beat them.”

The Jets defense today completely confused Tom Brady, who was unsure of himself throughout the game and finished 29 of 45 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and the first INT in his last 360 attempts. Honestly, those stats make him look better than he played, because he had a tough time.

The New York defensive backs were dominant against the Patriots receivers, and the Jets defensive line blasted through the New England front five for five sacks. The Patriots, simply put, never got in sync. Which Brady admitted afterward.

“They spun the dial pretty good on their pressures and coverages,” he said. “We felt like we were fighting hard to gain yards.”

Said Ryan: “We felt we had a good plan. But the plans are useless without great plays from your players. Our guys bought in. They did a great job. It was total effort there on defense, from the pass rush to the second level to the deep guys.”

While Jets QB Mark Sanchez was still a little underwhelming – his inaccuracy in the first half, much like the opening two quarters of the Colts game last week, was stunning – he managed the game well enough (he's also led his team to the AFC championship twice in his only two seaons, so bully for him). And he got help with a wonderful fourth-quarter TD catch from Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone (one knee equals two feet!), and the running game with Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson was more than solid.

After the game, Patriots WR Deion Branch told reporters that some of the Jets were classless, and yeah, Jets WR Braylon Edwards didn’t come off so well when he told the NFL Network, “Nobody gave us a chance. Everybody who was on the Patriots’ jock, take that.”

But after the game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Ryan shared a long hug at the middle of the field. On this day at least, Ryan didn’t have to kiss Belichick’s rings. On this day, his was the better team.

“We talk because we believe in ourselves,” Ryan said. “That’s where the talk comes from. There’s a huge amount of respect we have for New England. That’s a great franchise. But we’re not afraid of anybody. Maybe people take it the wrong way, but we don’t try to bad-mouth an opponent. But we don’t fear anybody. We came here on a mission. We’re trying to win a Super Bowl.”



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Posted on: January 13, 2011 1:24 am
Edited on: January 13, 2011 12:29 pm
 

Patriots vs. Jets: 7-Point Divisional Preview

Posted by Andy Benoit



CBSSports.com's patented and award-winning 7-point preview gets you ready for each and every playoff game. As an added bonus, check out our playoff podcast preview:



1. New York Jets (No. 6, AFC, 12-5) @ New England Patriots (No. 1, AFC, 14-2)

The regular season’s undisputed champion begins the final chapter for a fourth Lombardi Trophy by hosting the preseason’s self-proclaimed undisputed champion. The Jets are responsible for one of the Patriots’ two losses on the season (Week 2 at the New Meadowlands), though revenge was already administered by the Pats in that 45-3 November Monday night thumping.

Still, you can bet the Patriots will come out focused and hungry (or with something to prove or with a chip on their shoulder or whatever hollow cliché you prefer). These AFC East foes both know their opponent and, after the Jets stifled the Colt offense by refusing to blitz Peyton Manning, are capable of debuting a freshly-minted, never-before-seen gameplan for this decisive rubber match.

2. PLAYOFFS?! Watchability Ranking



On the field, the Patriots are the most interesting team in football once again. Off the field, the Jets are, so it's a near-miss Five Mora Face ranking.

3. Key Matchup to Watch: Jets run offense vs. Patriots run defense

In that Monday night thrashing, Tom Brady carved up the Jets by exploiting their iffy nickel and dime backs (Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery). Confident and fond of his defense as he may be, Rex Ryan knows that the best way to slow Brady this time will be to keep him off the field (just like the Jets did during the second half against Manning).

You control the ball by running. The Jets stayed on the ground 38 times for 169 yards at Indianapolis. Of course, there is a considerable difference between running against the undersized Colts front seven and running against the oversized unit of the Patriots. Normally, the Patriots prefer to align Vince Wilfork in the opponent’s favorite run gap. Against the Jets, that would mean putting the “325-pounder” at left defensive end. Of course, the Jets may be less inclined to follow their usual “run to the right” formula now that tackle Damien Woody is on IR.

For matchup purposes, Bill Belichick may be tempted to put Wilfork outside so as to capitalize on the mismatch against Woody’s replacement, Wayne Hunter. Hunter is a superb athlete but he hasn’t always shown consistent raw power. However, Mike Wright and Ron Brace’s trips to injured reserve depleted New England’s depth up front. Veteran end Gerard Warren has been a decent starter alongside rotating rookies Brandon Deaderick (seventh-round pick), Kyle Love (undrafted) and Landon Cohen (undrafted), but with these men starting, the Patriots have been less variegated with their front-three looks.

If Wilfork remains at nose tackle, expect the Jets to run away from him – i.e. outside. Because tight end Dustin Keller is a glorified slot receiver (not unlike New England’s Aaron Hernandez), Brian Schottenheimer may be inclined to bring Robert Turner off the bench for more six-man offensive line formations. Even if the Jets can win in the trenches, their running backs still must make plays against the athletic Patriot linebackers. Usually Nick Mangold is at the second level to help pave a path, but Wilfork will give him more to deal with than most nose tackles.

Beating New England’s linebackers is a tall order for the Jets runners. LaDainian Tomlinson is coming off his best career playoff game, but neither he nor Shonn Greene has the quickness and elusiveness to make a beast like Jerod Mayo miss.

4. Potentially Relevant Video

For all the denigration of the Jets after the Sal Alosi episode, you might want to take a look at this seven-year old video of Bill Belichick’s crafty sideline ploy against Marvin Harrison.



5. The Jets will win if ...

Mark Sanchez (the franchise’s all-time winningest postseason quarterback, believe it or not) is more accurate than he was last week. That’s not all, of course (not even close). New York must bog down in the red zone (figure they won’t be able to prevent Brady and company from racking up yards between the 20s) and shift field position at least twice (via special teams or a forced turnover).

6. The Patriots will win if ...

Brady gets in his usual rhythm working out of the shotgun spread (a formation that naturally limits the presnap disguises that Ryan’s defense is built around).

7. Prediction: Patriots 31, Jets 20



Posted on: January 2, 2011 11:38 am
Edited on: January 2, 2011 11:48 am
 

Week 17 AFC Inactives

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

First, those who ARE active: Browns RB Peyton Hillis, Steelers S Troy Polamalu, Ravens TE Todd Heap

And those who are INACTIVE:

A whole mess of Jets starters, including CB Darrelle Revis, CB Antonio Cromartie, RB LaDainian Tomlinson and RB Shonn Greene.

A whole mess of Patriots starters, including LB Tully Banta-Cain, WR Deion Branch, TE Aaron Hernandez and WR Wes Welker.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills: He missed three practice this week with a bad knee.

Dan Connolly, G, Patriots: Hasn't been seen since his amazing near-TD kickoff return with a head injury.

Chad Ochocinco, WR, Bengals: For a guy who might be playing his last game with Cincinnati, this is a quiet way to go out.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .
Posted on: December 6, 2010 5:20 pm
 

Pats vs. Jets: Monday night Podcast Preview

Posted by Will Brinson

You've waited all day for it, and it's finally here. No, not the freaking Monday night matchup between the Pats and the Jets. I mean the podcast previewing the Monday night matchup between the Pats and the Jets. Guh.

Andy and I break down all the X's and O's of the matchup, including (and especially) what the Jets will do with Darrelle Revis now that Randy Moss is gone from New England. Will he cover Wes Welker? Or will it be Deion Branch stuck on Revis Island? Or will he simply sit all over Aaron Hernandez? We also wonder what the Pats will do from an offensive standpoint, in order to counter the Jets first move of Revis placement.

All in all, it's basically the best 11 minutes of your day -- just hit the play button below and don't forget to Subscribe via iTunes.

If you can't view the podcast, click here to download .
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com