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Poor play of Pats’ defense bigger surprise than Sam Bradford

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches his team play against the St. Louis Rams in the fourth quarter of their NFL preseason football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts August 26, 2010.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

I haven’t done a Google search yet, but I can only imagine how many, “Should Sam Bradford start Week 1?” topics are floating around the web after the rookie’s performance in the Rams’ 36-35 win over the Patriots in Foxboro last night.

The third preseason game is when starters usually play an entire half and maybe even some of the third quarter. So for Bradford to look as poised and as comfortable as he did completing 15 of 22 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns against New England’s starting defense was impressive. Whether or not he gets the opportunity to start as a rookie is a hot topic right now – as it should be.

But the biggest takeaway for me last night wasn’t the play of Bradford, but how poor the Patriots’ first-team defense looked.

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Vince Wilfork preparing for contract battle

One name to keep an eye on this offseason in the NFL is Patriots’ defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this spring. Wilfork has already stated that he either wants a long-term deal or to be set free.

The problem is that the Patriots have no desire to let him walk. If they can’t reach a long-term deal, they would apply the franchise tag on him, which Wilfork has referred to as being a “slap in the face.”

The Patriots are facing quite a dilemma because they’re not a franchise known for giving players huge contracts when they become free agents, but they also know that Wilfork is a unique athlete. Anyone they would get to replace him would be a downgrade, whether it’s Ron Brace or a rookie like Alabama’s Shaun Cody. So they’ll either have to step up and meet Wilfork’s demands or risk alienating him with a franchise tag.

It might be time for the Patriots to finally step up and pay.


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65 Observations about the 2009 NFL Draft

I’m going to channel my inner Peter King and dole out a crap load of quick-hit thoughts on last weekend’s NFL draft, which by the way, was one of the more unpredictable drafts I have ever witnessed.

Below are 65 observations from the 2009 NFL Draft. Why 65? I don’t know – don’t worry about it. Originally I came up with 62, but I know that some people freak out when things aren’t in round numbers, so I added three more. But the number 65 means nothing, so don’t waste time searching for its meaning.

Obviously these are all my opinions and feel free to debate them. But before you do, I already know that it supposedly takes three seasons to fully grade a draft and that no prospect is a sure thing. Again, I’m projecting here – so lighten up and let’s strike up some good debates.

1. Outside of the fact that he’s now a millionaire and could buy a small country, I kind of feel bad for Matthew Stafford. You know some halfwit fan or media member can’t wait to utter the comment, “For $72 million, he should have made that pass.” I hate the fact that money plays such a huge role in sports because when you get down to it, completing a pass, making a catch or kicking a field goal has nothing to do with how many zeros are on your paycheck.

2. I know I’m not saying anything new here, but the rookie salary structure is a joke. When teams don’t even want a top 5 pick anymore because of the financial burden that comes with it, there’s a huge problem.

3. The kid could turn out to be the next Ryan Leaf on the field, but Lion fans have to at least take comfort in the fact that Matthew Stafford is saying all the right things at this point. He did an interview with the NFL Network on Sunday and he talked about how he wants to be a starter right away, but also wants to learn and be patient in his development. From all accounts, he looks like he has a great head on his shoulders.

4. If Tyson Jackson turns out to be the next Richard Seymour like Chiefs’ GM Scott Pioli believes, then nobody is going to remember (or care) that he was taken with the third overall pick in a weak draft class.

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NFL Draft: 5 Day 1 Winners

It’s absolutely ridiculous to claim that a team “won” on draft day when none of the players have even played one down in the NFL yet. But it is fair to debate which teams made quality decisions on draft day (i.e. trades, overall maneuvering, etc.), and below are five franchises that I thought made out well after the first two rounds.

1. Cleveland Browns
Alex Mack, C (21); Brian Robiskie, WR (36); Mohamed Massaquoi, WR (50); David Veikune, DE (52)
The Browns became one of the day one draft winners the moment they were able to trade out of the No. 5 pick, because there wasn’t a prospect at that spot that Cleveland loved and they saved a ton of money getting out of the top 5. So they were able to make a deal with the Jets and landed the 17th and 52nd picks, as well as three players (Kenyon Coleman, Brett Ratliff and Abram Elam) that used to play for Eric Mangini in New York. The underrated Elam is the best of the group and should start at strong safety after the team decided to not re-sign Sean Jones. After the deal with the Jets, the Browns made yet another move, trading the 17th overall pick to Tampa Bay for the 19th and 191st selections. Still not satisfied, the Browns again traded back, this time dealing the 19th pick to Philadelphia for the 21st and 195th selections. When they finally did select a player at No. 21, they got the best center prospect in the draft in Mack, who joins a solid offensive line that already features Eric Steinbach and Joe Thomas. Although I was surprised that they passed on OLB Everrette Brown early in the second, they got a polished receiver in Brian Robiskie and then eventually filled their linebacker need with Veikune, who is raw but has good upside. Massaquoi was a bit of a surprise, especially considering the Robiskie selection earlier in the round, but it’s hard to criticize what Mangini and new GM George Kokinis did on the first day. It also must be noted how well the Browns played everything before the draft, keeping things close to the vest and not tipping their hand. Obviously that trade with the Jets for the No. 5 pick had to be in the works for a while given the players involved.

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Official 2009 NFL Draft Post & Rumor Mill

As the NFL draft rolls on over the next two days, I’ll post picks, thoughts and stay on top of any rumors that I hear and post them here. Enjoy.

2:55PM ET: Mike Mayock of the NFL Network claims that his “cell phone is blowing up” with reports that the Jets are trying to trade up to No. 2 for USC quarterback Mark Sanchez.

3:19PM ET: According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Dolphins will select Connecticut cornerback Darius Butler at No. 25.

3:22PM ET: The Rams could trade back into the first round for middle linebacker Rey Maualuga according to NFL Network’s Steve Wyche.

3:38PM ET: I’m shocked the Chiefs passed on Aaron Curry, but all the pre-draft rumors that said Tyson Jackson would be their pick were obviously dead on. Jackson is the best 3-4 end in the draft and obvious was a commodity.

3:40PM ET: The Browns got exactly what they wanted with this trade. They weren’t in love with anyone at No.5 and managed to trade out. Great move – I wonder what kind of ransom the Browns got.

3:42PM ET: Mike Mayock just made a great point about the Jets trading up to No. 5. What team did they want to get ahead of to go all the way up to No. 5?

3:45PM ET: DE Kenyon Coleman, QB Brett Ratliff, S Abram Elam No. 17 and No. 57. A sleeper in this deal is Elam, who is one of the more promising safeties in the draft.

3:52PM ET: The Bengals select OT Andre Smith – another low character guy for their low-character roster. He is a tremendous talent, but he comes with a ton of baggage.

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