As many know, the preseason is not always the most entraining segment of the NFL year. The stars rarely play, the coaches experiment with different schemes, and by the second quarter you have the third string quarterback under throwing screen passes by five yards.
Most fans would rather just skip the preseason all together and get to the real action, but while it may seem monotonous, the preseason offers some much needed insight into certain players. More specifically the new acquisitions to the team. Not just the free agents, but the rookies as well.
So often we see new players and new rookies that simply do not work out. Whether be due to the product on the field, or the attitude in the locker room, some guys just cannot adjust to new environments.
New England has certainly had its’ fair share of these. Chad Ochocinco, Albert Haynesworth, Brandon Lloyd, you name it. We are not immune to bad decisions, and while it may seem like sacrilege, Bill doesn’t always get it right.
With that being said I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the high profile additions, and some potential sleepers, that the Patriots have brought on for the 2015 season.
With the loss of both Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, many thought that the Patriots were in desperate need of a corner. However, my consensus on this issue has been that the Patriots knew they were going to lose Revis in free agency. So rather than make a panic move to sign a slightly above average corner, such as Philly with Byron Maxwell, the Pats are simply going to change their defensive scheme from man to zone.
This also explains why both Browner and Arrington were released, as both are predominately man to man corners who do not quit fit the zone scheme. Instead of trying to replace these players at their respective position, the Patriots decided to go another route, and beef up the front seven to help cover for the weakness in the secondary.
The three additions that really stand out to me are, the former Cleveland Brown, Jabaal Sheard, first round draft selection Malcom Brown, and third round selection Geneo Grissom. All three players fit in well with Patriots system, and can all contribute in their own way.
Jabaal Sheard, who comes from Cleveland, is a young player who can produce right off the bat. He saw a relative amount of success with the Browns, but still has untapped potential that Patriots would be more than happy to exploit.
Sheard only had two sacks last year with Cleveland, however it was not his fault. He was not used correctly by Cleveland, as they tended to use him as an outside linebacker, while his true calling requires him to have his hand in the dirt.
With the Patriots, Sheard will be used as a situational pass rusher, much like former New Englander, Akeem Ayers. He will not be an every down player, but that is not what the Pats need him to be. They need for him to come in and play situational football, which means getting pressure on the quarterback and setting the edge when called upon.
Sheard, who has recently turned 26, still has a lot of room to grow, and it should be interesting to watch his development in the Patriots’ defense over the next few years.
Next player that I want to touch on is the rookie defensive tackle from Texas, Malcom Brown. What makes the Brown pick so important is that, as everybody knows, the Pats lost big Vince. Vince Wilfork was one of the centerpieces of the Pats defense for about a decade and his loss will almost certainly be felt.
During the 2014 Texas Longhorns’ season, Brown, who played in 13 games, had 6.5 sacks and 13 total tackles for losses. He was a constant pain for opposing offenses to deal with, and hopefully that disrupting play will translate to the NFL.
The plan is that Brown can help to lessen the blow of losing Wilfork and help patch the hole at the defensive tackle position. Unlike Sheard, Brown will almost certainly be a three down player. Brown has sensational power, and should be pushing the pocket on a consistent basis. He has a monstrous presence in the center of the defensive line, and he should make an immediate impact for the team.
Now one player who might need some time to develop is defensive lineman, Geneo Grissom. Grissom, however, is a guy that I am really excited about. He is a classic Bill Belichick player. He is listed as a defensive lineman, but can play at any position within the front seven. Grissom is an extremely athletic and has a great football IQ.
At Oklahoma, Grissom saw many positons, including defensive lineman, linebacker, and even tight end. He, like Sheard, will most likely be used as a situational player. He has the ability to set the edge and has a good jump off the snap. However, what intrigues me most about Grissom is his frame. He has very long arms and has been known to knock down passes. This is a quality that the Pats have lacked in recent years, and as JJ Watt has demonstrated, batting passes down is a great way to totally throw an offense off their game.
At this stage in his career, Grissom is still a very raw player, but luckily for him he was drafted by the Hoodie himself, and if Bill knows one thing it’s how to get the most out of young talent. Out of all the picks that the Patriots made in this year’s draft, Geneo Grissom might be the best fit. Both he and the organization work well with each other, and out of all the rookies in this draft class, I think Grissom will see the most success over the course of his career.
Now of course there are other players who deserve a mention as well. One of those being former Saints running back, Travaris Cadet. Cadet is currently the front runner to be the Shane Vereen replacement. He has great elusiveness and works well receiving out of the back field.
As coach Sean Payton stated to reporters, “He’s an exceptional as a receiver. His ability to run routes other than just from the running back route tree, he is someone that can jump in the receiver line and run out-routes and run comebacks and actually has experience doing that.”
It is due to unique qualities such as his route running that make him stand out from other receiving running backs in the league. Brady loves throwing that underneath pass to the running back so it will be fun watching him connect with Cadet over the course of the 2015 season.
While on the surface it may appear that the Patriots have lost a great deal, but I can assure that they did acquire some good, quality players. Players who will make immediate impacts on the field, and help to bring New England their fifth Lombardi Trophy. Oh and “Free Brady” by the way.
By Jake Cianci