brady-garoppolo

 

 

 

Tom Brady is the obvious choice to wrap the five most important Patriots heading into training camp series. The quarterback is entering this season amid something he has never dealt with before, a swirl of controversy. He is currently under a four game suspension and will sue the league in Federal Court to attempt to get the suspension wiped out. Even if he is exonerated in court and plays all 16 games, this story will not leave him anytime soon.

If he does have to serve any time. focus will switch to second year back-up and potential Brady heir Jimmy Garoppolo. If that situation occurs, Brady will have to help prepare Garoppolo while also coming to terms with the fact that he is guilty in the court and public’s eyes and will have to miss time. Brady is also cognizant of how he got his job in the first place, replacing a quarterback who could not play when Drew Bledsoe was injured in 2001.

Brady will have to deal with all this while also attempting to lead his team to a repeat as Super Bowl Champions. He also no longer has Shane Vereen or Stevan Ridley as well as a question mark at left guard. He is also one year older and not far removed from the September 2014 talk of his physical and performance decline. Of any quarterback in league history, Brady has done the most with less. However, 2015 will be his biggest test.

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Head coach Bill Belichick is always essential to the Patriots success, but the 2015 training camp will provide him with potential challenges that are beyond the norm. First, his team is fresh off a Super Bowl win in 2014 and will have to remain hungry and focused as the rest of the league is now working to take them off the top of the NFL mountain. Second, he still does not know which quarterback will start opening night and unlike other teams with that issue, this is not by design. Belichick has the best quarterback of all time on his roster, but as of now will not have him in September. He also has a defense with some major changes and an interior offensive line that is not quite figured out yet.

Belichick has always been a master as keeping his teams focused and turning any slight, real or perceived, into a mountain of motivation. The 2015 training camp will be a busy one for the hall of fame coach, as all the moving parts mentioned above will need to be squared away before the Thursday night opener against the Steelers. As of now, it looks like the NFL is going to uphold Tom Brady’s suspension (via ESPN), which will likely mean a court battle. This added distraction will be unlike a Belichick coached team has faced in a season. Although the Patriots fought through controversy in 2007 and 2013, they did not have their best player suing the league with a potential suspension hanging over his head.

If not handled properly, any one of the issues above could cost the Patriots games this season. There is little doubt that of all NFL coaches, Belichick is most likely to handle these situations well. The intriguing part of the 2015 training camp is that Belichick not only has coaching challenges (secondary, offensive guard), but major mental and off the field challenges as well.

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Troy Tulowitzki can leave that Colorado Rockies uniform behind after the Toronto Blue Jays landed him in advance of the 2015 MLB trade deadline. (NY Post)

Where to even start? I’d been awake for less than an hour when my phone told me that the Toronto Blue Jays had swung a trade for Troy Tulowitzki, sending Jose Reyes and a package of pitching prospects to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for the five-time All-Star shortstop.

Good morning, AL East, indeed! Continue reading So That’s Happening: Blue Jays Swap Reyes for Rockies’ Tulowitzki before Trade Deadline »

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Hanley Ramirez, Sox defense (Getty Images)

There is no denying that the Red Sox have been generally awful in 2015 and have fallen well short of expectations. The lackluster pitching staff has taken most of the blame, most of which it deserves. However, there is an interesting chicken-or-the-egg scenario that the Red Sox should ask themselves: is the pitching bad because of bad defense being played behind it, or are the defenders getting worse because of how bad the pitchers are? Either scenario shouldn’t be used to explain the failure of a certain area of the team, but it is interesting to consider if the defenders/pitchers could be making each other look worse.

Continue reading Could the Red Sox Use Some Defense? »

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Gronk

Superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski lands at number three on the list of most important Patriots heading into training camp. Number two on the list will be posting Tuesday, stay tuned…

 

Rob Gronkowski is one of if not the most dynamic weapons in the NFL. No list of important players heading in to camp would be complete without him. Gronkowski finally had a season and postseason in which injuries did not play a major role in 2014, the first time that had happened since 2010. The result was dominance as Gronkowski re-established himself as one of the NFL’s premier weapons. He had 82 catches in the regular season for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. In the Patriots postseason run, Gronkowski hauled in 16 passes for 204 and three touchdowns, including one in Super Bowl XLIX.

With some potential early season quarterback uncertainty as Tom Brady waits to hear word on his appeal, Gronkowski’s presence in the New England offense will take on a greater importance than usual. If Jimmy Garoppolo is forced to start any games for New England, he will look the way of number 87 often. A great target at tight end can be huge for a young and inexperienced quarterback, and Garoppolo would have the premier player at the position to look to. Even if Brady’s suspension is completely wiped away, Gronkowski will still have a large role in the offense, as always.

Gronkowski is looking to have back to back fully healthy seasons and postseasons for the first time in his career. The one time that almost happened (2010- the AFC Championship game in 2011), Gronkowski was unquestionably the best tight end in the NFL and one of the best red zone targets out there. There is no reason to doubt that if Gronkowski stays healthy, he will be a major factor for New England this season. Regardless of who is throwing him the football to start the season, Gronkowski remains an opponent’s nightmare.

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Joe Kelly (Associated Press)

Enough is enough. The madness needs to stop. It is pretty clear that the Red Sox have virtually no chance at all to play meaningful games for the rest of the 2015 season, and it is also clear that the pitching staff is the rough equivalent of a high school varsity squad (no offense to high school varsity teams). However, there is not a single logical reason to explain why Joe Kelly continually makes Major League starts for the Boston Red Sox. None. Zip. Nada. Despite the injury to Clay Buchholz (isn’t that a shocking statement), the Red Sox cannot seriously argue that Kelly is one of their five best starting pitching options at this point, and there is a case to be made that Kelly isn’t even good enough to be in the majors.

Continue reading Joe Kelly at the End of the Leash »

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Devin McCourty

Next up in the five part series of most important Patriots heading into training camp is freshly-extended free safety Devin McCourty.  Number three is likely to post on Sunday, stay tuned…

After signing a long term extension in March, Devin McCourty then saw Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Kyle Arrington all leave the secondary. Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, and Patrick Chung are back and rookie Darryl Roberts could be a sleeper to get some playing time. But there is no doubt that this is now McCourty’s secondary and he will have to lead both in play and character.

McCourty shouldn’t have much trouble doing either, he has established himself as an elite free safety and a great locker room guy. However, due to the reduction in talent around him McCourty will have more on his shoulders than ever. He had the luxury of Revis last season and could play a ranging, center field type safety. He will likely be forced into more coverage this year and even when he can play center field, he will have to more cautious than he would be if he had his former teammates with him. He will also have to compensate for when younger, less talented corners get beat deep and it’s a strong possibility McCourty’s pass break ups down the field will go up.

McCourty will have to be a stabilizing force for a Patriots secondary that could take half a season to figure out. Even at that point, that won’t necessarily mean they will be very good. If McCourty sees a dip in his play, it could prove disastrous for the Patriots defense. If he, however, can play up to his usual level, it will make the loss of Revis and Browner hurt less than it would on most teams.

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