Friday, June 30, 2017

Former BC, NC State head coach Tom O’Brien named Navy color analyst

By Zach Barnett

June 29, 2017

Tom O’Brien is about to do his third tour of duty with the Navy football program.

O’Brien was announced as the color analyst of the Midshipmen’s radio network on Thursday, replacing Omar Nelson, who is now Navy’s football recruiting coordinator.

“After a 25-year sabbatical from the Naval Academy I am thrilled to return to Annapolis and be a part of the radio team,” O’Brien said in a statement. “I am honored that Chet Gladchuk thought of me for this position when it came open. Kenny and his staff have done a remarkable job over the last nine years and I’m excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the program again.”

O’Brien graduated from Navy in 1971; he also played three years on the Middies’ football squad as a defensive end. He served nine years in the U.S. Marine Corps and then started his coaching career at his alma mater, coaching tackles and tight ends from 1975-81. He would go on to become the head coach at Boston College, where he compiled a school-record 75-45 record with eight straight bowl appearances from 1997-06. O’Brien left for N.C. State after the ’06 season, where he racked up a 40-35 mark from 2007-12.

O’Brien last coached as Virginia’s assistant head coach for offense and tight ends coach from 2013-14, where he was let go alongside Mike London.

O’Brien spent the past two seasons doing color commentary for ESPN3.

The Navy Radio Network is carried on 10 stations, mostly in the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia area, but also in Jacksonville, San Diego and Seattle, and also on SIRIUSXM satellite radio.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What makes Vince Marrow a good recruiter? Some of his signees give an answer

Kentucky tight ends coach Vince Marrow is the Wildcats' top recruiter, but what makes him so successful?

By Joe Mussatto
June 28, 2017

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Tight ends coach Vince Marrow was credited as the lead or co-recruiter for 10 of Kentucky’s 24 signees in the 2017 class. The four highest-ranked Kentucky signees — Lynn Bowden, Josh Paschal, JaVonte Richardson and Tyrell Ajian — were all recruited by Marrow.

Marrow was the only Kentucky coach inside 247Sports’ top-20 SEC recruiter rankings for 2017. Just before National Signing Day, Marrow was ranked the conference’s best recruiter by SEC Country.

Those are the accolades, but we wanted to find out why and how. What makes Marrow a good recruiter? That’s the question SEC Country asked Richardson, Ajian, Alex King and their parents and coaches on a recent trip through Ohio as part of our Next Generation series.


JaVonte Richardson: “I think that what makes Coach Marrow so good at what he does is that he keeps it real. He’s so down to earth. He don’t tell you what you want to hear, he tells you what he thinks you should hear. That was my biggest thing with him. He kept it real.”

Devlin Culliver (JaVonte’s high school coach): “He’s from the city of Youngstown just like I am. Grew up on the south side of Youngstown. He understands language of the inner city. At the same time, he also understands the language of the suburbs. He’s able to make that blend and make himself presentable to every type of kid, every type of family. And he’s honest. I know him outside of football. But when I’m sitting there listening to him talk to players I can see why they want to go to Kentucky.”


Tyrell Ajian: “I feel like Coach Marrow knows how to talk to kids and get along with them. It might sound funny, but the way that some people come off talking to you, like their sense of humor with things, it plays a big part. He definitely makes you feel comfortable.”

Nikki Ajian (Tyrell’s mom): “I ask a lot of questions, and he was able to answer all my questions. And if he wasn’t they were answered timely.”

Jamie Masi (Tyrell’s high school coach): “I don’t know. You’ve got to talk to some of the recruits that he’s getting. From where I’m sitting on this side of the desk, very similar to all the other coaches.”


Alex King: “He knows what he wants, I know what I want.”

Andrea King (Alex’s mom): “I feel like when I asked him questions I got a direct answer. I didn’t feel like he was telling me things I wanted to hear. He was truthful and that was another thing. I would ask some other organizations, ‘Why now? Why did you wait to recruit him?’ He’s been there and done that. He’s played in the game. He’s a successful coach, he’s got a successful history in what he does and that plays a part, too. It’s good to have examples of people who’ve been there and done that. He’s a family man and is supportive of his own children. That was good to see.”

Monday, June 19, 2017

One of the biggest NFL agents is based in Beachwood, Ohio

June 18, 2017
By Scott Pennyman


Due to movies like "Jerry Maguire" people may have a distorted view of what a pro football agent goes through on a daily basis. Cleveland 19 sat down with NFL "Super Agent" Neil Cornrich based in Beachwood, to get the inside story on what the daily grind is like for him as one of the top agents in sports today.

He has a strong client list that includes heavy hitters like Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Ted Ginn Jr. Marshal Yanda and Brandon Scherff and top college coaches like Bob Stoops, Brett Bielema, and Kirk Ferentz.

WATCH: Neil Cornrich Interview

Daniels delighted with landing spot

In his final season for Iowa, LeShun Daniels Jr. rushed for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns.

By Jim McBride
June 17, 2017

As dust clouds billowed over Gillette Stadium during minicamp last week, it would have been easy to draw the conclusion that the Patriots were paying homage to Woody Hayes.

But Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels weren’t working on their grind-it-out, clock-killing, “3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust” offense, as contact is verboten during the sessions. No, these clouds were created by the crews setting up the Monster Jam truck show that invaded the turf for the weekend.

However, when the Patriots reconvene at the end of July for training camp, and collisions are not only allowed but encouraged, they might have the perfect vehicle in their stable to churn out those tough yards.

LeShun Daniels Jr. is the least-heralded member of a stacked running back group, but the undrafted rookie out of Iowa might just be the best-equipped of the group to fill the void left by LeGarrette Blount’s free agency departure.

“I’m the biggest of the bunch, so you think that I’d be a power back,’’ the chiseled, 6-foot, 225-pounder said after a recent practice. “But really, I’m just trying to improve on every part of my game so that if my number is called, I’m ready to go in and help the team in any way or fashion, whether that be running the ball, blocking, pass catching, any of that.’’

Sifting through Daniels’s highlights, particularly games from his senior season, it’s easy to see why the Patriots recruited him after the draft concluded.

Daniels capped his four-year Big Ten career (in which he amassed 1,895 yards) with a phenomenal senior campaign, when he rumbled for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns.

His signature moment came when he thrilled the home crowd in Iowa City one last time with a 158-yard, two-touchdown performance under the Friday night lights in a 40-10 upset win over Nebraska.

“It was senior day, so it was a pretty big deal. I came in very confident and it was our last game at Kinnick Stadium, so I wanted to go out with a bang,’’ said Daniels, who did just that, almost singlehandedly overpowering the Cornhuskers.

The performance shed some light on Daniels, who had been flying under the radar of a lot of teams.

“I think it helped,’’ said Daniels. “I think having great games always helps in some fashion. At the time, Nebraska was a ranked team and it was prime-time football on a Friday night, with nothing else going on so everybody was watching. So obviously on a big stage like that, you want to play well.’’

Despite his résumé, Daniels wasn’t extended an invitation to the NFL Combine. He didn’t sulk, however. Instead, he used it as motivation.

He dazzled at his Pro Day, registering a flat 4.5 in the 40, faster than more celebrated backs (and eventual draftees) Leonard Fournette (4.51), Kareem Hunt (4.63), and Samaje Perine (4.65).

His physicality, maturity, and leadership skills were all reasons the Patriots were attracted to Daniels.
Last week, he touched on why he was attracted to New England.

“Just knowing that they’re a good organization and that I could learn a number of different things football-wise that could help me be a better player and help me further my career if I don’t stick here,’’ he said.

Daniels showed speed and quickness during the offseason sessions open to media.

“Things are going well,’’ he said. “Still have a lot to learn.”

Daniels is likely to have more of an impact in training camp, when the intensity is turned up a notch. But Belichick said plenty can be gained from the early summer sessions.

“We have other guys at other positions that fall into a similar category, but again, we do what we can do,” said the coach. “Learning the plays, we work on ball-handling — we don’t have many running plays in team [drills]. But we work on the passing game, special teams, and try to get the footwork and the reads in the running game. But that will come during training camp with nine-on-sevens and half-line drills, and things like that.’’

Belichick and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz have a bond, and Daniels said he noticed similarities between the two pretty quickly.

“They’re both great coaches and they expect the best from each one of their players,’’ he said. “No matter what your role is, they expect you to come out here and give your all in every drill and every meeting, and they just want the best for each of their players, and both coaches aren’t going to settle for anything less than your best.’’

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Patriots Rookies Rivers, Wise Hang Back for Extra Work with Flowers

By Phil Perry

June 14, 2017

FOXBORO -- In two years with the Patriots, Trey Flowers has already established a reputation as one of the team's hardest workers. Judging by what happened at the end of Tuesday's practice, some of his extra effort has already rubbed off on a pair of rookies who play the same position.

After most Patriots players headed for the locker room when their post-practice conditioning runs were finished, Flowers stayed back with rookie defensive ends Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise and a few other defensive linemen. They slowly trickled back inside until Flowers, Rivers and Wise were the last ones off.

Following a minicamp practice last week, Flowers was the last player off the field because he wanted to get some extra work in refining his pass-rush moves. It seemed as though his younger teammates wanted to see what those after-practice sessions were all about.

“His technique, he’s one of the best,” Rivers said. “I just watch him on film and he’s awesome. An awesome dude, nice guy, definitely somebody I can go to and ask questions."

Rivers added: "I watch everything, how he defends the run, just how precise his hands are, how accurate they are in the pass rush, how he gets his hips around -- every little thing that helps you get to the QB or make plays."

Flowers is less than a year older than both Rivers and Wise, but he seems to have adopted somewhat of a leadership role with this year's draft picks on the defensive side of the ball
-- whether he wants to admit it or not.

"A lot of guys can be a leader," he said. "I'm just one of the guys that works hard. If I can help out here and there, I can help out. But a lot of guys in that [defensive line] group, in that room, are definitely leaders. I've been in the scheme a little bit longer so if they have questions, I can help out."

Monday, June 12, 2017

Flowers continues in quest of perfection: "I just want to be the best"

By Phil Perry

June 11, 2017

FOXBORO -- Trey Flowers grabbed at the neck of his practice jersey and pulled it toward his face to get whatever beads of sweat he could.

After a minicamp practice last week, the third-year defensive end was the last player on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, under the sun, punching and swiping at blocking dummies until his navy blue No. 98 had turned an even darker shade.

"It’s not about being the last one off the field," Flowers said. "It’s just about perfecting my craft. If I see something wrong with it, just continue to work on it."

After two years in the NFL -- one in which was spent primarily on injured reserve and another during which he established himself as one of the best young interior pass-rushers in football -- Flowers is still tinkering with his form. Last season, his teammates dubbed him "Technique" in part for his willingness to chip away at the imperfections in his game.

Following the Patriots practice on the Thursday before Super Bowl LI, cameras caught Flowers working on his pass-rush moves at the University of Houston after his teammates and coaches headed inside.

"Just preparing myself," he told NFL Films for "3 Games to Glory" immediately following his 2.5-sack performance against the Falcons.

"Preparing my body and my mind to go out here and be great . . . You might not like it. You might not feel good while you're doing it, but you know it's always going to pay off."

Watch: Trey Flowers video

During his most recent post-practice session, Flowers explained, he was working on his counter moves. Not the basics -- bob-swat, bob-swat-rip, bull-snatch -- which served him well last season as he recorded seven regular-season sacks from Week 8 on. No, the moves he was focused on had no real name.

They had to do more with feel, Flowers insisted. The feel, for instance, of an offensive lineman's hands attacking a certain way, countering that, then countering the blocker's counter.

"I watch film," Flowers said, "and see something I need to work on or see something maybe the offensive line picked up on. Some of my tendencies. I can kind of change them up or have a counter off of it.”

Because pads aren't allowed during spring workouts, these complicated hand-fighting dances are what trench players like Flowers are limited to in terms of contact.

Instead of lamenting the fact that he hasn't been able to bull-rush a center or put his shoulder into the chest of a running back, Flowers drove himself to near-exhaustion on the dummies last week, trying to squeeze every last bit out of his time on the field.

With just one full season under his belt that included a memorable 45-snap performance in Super Bowl LI from start (a sack of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to end Atlanta's first drive) to finish (a fourth-quarter sack that helped put the Patriots in position to tie), Flowers isn't settling for a repeat performance.

"I just want to be the best," Flowers said. "That’s the thing that motivates me the most – wanting to be the best person I can be, the best player I can be. I want to give my team the opportunity to win games and be productive. That’s all the motivation I need."

Friday, June 09, 2017

Anamosa football: Giving back

Former Anamosa standout and current Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl offensive lineman Marshal Yanda points while a camper makes a cut during a drill Wednesday, May 31, as Yanda hosted his second football camp in Anamosa.

June 8, 2017
By Daryl Schepanski

ANAMOSA — It didn’t take the kids who attended the Marshal Yanda youth football camp Wednesday, May 31, very long to figure out why the former Raider superstar is considered the best at his position in the NFL today.

“You could really tell he loves what he does,” said Anamosa eighth grader Nathan Keating, son of Pat and Becky Keating who posted the winning bid at the Anamosa School Foundation auction bringing Yanda’s services to the football field for their son and several of his lucky friends.

“I knew it was going to be fun to meet Marshal Yanda, but it turned out to be even better than I thought it would be. Doing all the drills he set up for us and the message he gave us at the end telling us how important school is and to take advantage of opportunities, because we may not get a second chance. This was something I’ll never forget.”

For Yanda, the school foundation football camp was a chance for him to once again give a little something back to his school and his former community.

“I love coming back home and getting to know the next athletes in Anamosa,” said Yanda, who will be entering his 11th season with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens this fall.

“Any chance I can get to give back to my school, I want to do it. This football camp is fun for me, too. Hopefully, it’s something I can do for a few more years yet.”

Yanda, who 11 years into his career, said he’s in better shape now than he was as an Iowa Hawkeye, and much better than he was as an Anamosa Blue Raider.

“It’s all about the work ethic,” Yanda told the 10 Anamosa youth who attended the camp during a very poignant meeting just before the camp came to an end.

“The reason I’m in the NFL and have had the career I have is because of my work ethic. There is nothing given at the big-time college level, and especially the NFL. There are guys out there busting their butts to take your job in the NFL every day. It’s a high stakes game. If you take a day off, or even a play off, you could lose your job. I want to make sure I’m keeping what I have and that means out-working everyone else on my team and everyone else I’m playing against every single day.”

Yanda also made sure the youth campers knew the importance of school, and the role education plays in sports.

“School was something I didn’t take too seriously when I was in Anamosa,” he said. “I don’t want you guys to make the same mistakes I did.

“Because I didn’t take school seriously, I didn’t have a lot of options when it came to playing football at the college level. D-I schools wouldn’t touch me because of my grades, but I got a second chance by going to junior college, and I figured a lot of things out and started making better choices.”

Yanda also wanted the kids to know, dreams can indeed come true.

“I did it, so can you,” he said. “But it’s going to be up to you. Listen to your teachers. Listen to your coaches, and take advantage of that opportunity when it comes, because if you miss it, unlike me, you may not get a second chance.”

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Patriots’ Trey Flowers continues to work, and work, and work, at his craft

By Jim McBride
JUNE 7, 2017

FOXBOROUGH — Long after his teammates had run the hills and retreated down the back steps toward the locker room, Trey Flowers was still punching the clock Wednesday afternoon.

Or, more specifically, punching the blocking dummies that were set up between the practice fields at Gillette Stadium on Day 2 of minicamp for the Patriots. As a welcoming sun beat down, Flowers shuffled his way between the bags, swatting them away as he perfected his footwork and handwork.

“Just working on my craft, trying to stay sharp,’’ said Flowers, the third-year defensive end. “Working on some techniques I’m going to need.’’

Although contact is not allowed at minicamp, Flowers, who thrives on contact, said there are plenty of things he can work on.

“Right now, we don’t have pads on, so a lot of it is hand blocks,’’ said Flowers. “You can’t power or push the tackles around, so you just use your hand blocks and work on your techniques [and] try to work on [your] speed around the edge.’’

Flowers is fresh off a breakout season in which he collected seven sacks, causing havoc on the inside and off the edge. He capped his year by recording 2½ sacks in the Super Bowl LI win over the Falcons.

The 6-foot-2-inch, 265-pounder said he enjoys putting in the extra work now, because he knows it pays dividends down the road.

“Oh yeah, definitely. Just trying to perfect my craft each and every day,’’ said Flowers. “I watch film and if I see something I need to work on or if I think the offensive line has picked up on some of my tendencies, I can kind of change them up or have a counter off of it and just try to get better.’’

Working on countermoves is essential, according to Flowers. Not only are his teammates studying up on how to neutralize him in practice, but opponents, particularly those in the AFC East that see him twice a season, are watching film on him and learning his technique nuances. Staying one step ahead is a key to success.

Flowers said being the last player off the field has nothing to do with trying to impress anyone. It’s all about getting better.

“You can never be satisfied,’’ he said. “That’s one of the things I take pride in. I count myself as a humble guy, not get too high on myself. I’m just a hard worker.’’

Flowers, one of the team’s veterans along the line with the free agent departures of Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard, said he expects teams to focus on him now. He won’t be sneaking up on anyone this season.

“That’s just part of football,’’ he said. “Anytime you have success, guys are going to continue to key in on you to try to manipulate you or double team you or things like that. I know we got a lot of great guys along our front, so [opponents] can’t key on too many of us. The defense is set up so that we’re put in a position to be successful, so you expect things like that, and that’s why you’ve got to continue to work.’’

For Flowers, motivation comes easily.

“I just want to be the best. That’s what motivates me the most — wanting to just be the best person I can be, the best player I can be.’’

He said he feels no outside pressure to perform better than he did last season because he maintains a constant inner drive.

“Expectations are always high for myself,’’ Flowers said. “I’m a firm believer that no one should have higher expectations for you than yourself because I’m my own worst critic.’'

Flowers was asked about Tom Brady’s reputation for always being one of the last guys to leave the practice field (as was the case Wednesday) and how his teammates often follow the Super Bowl MVP’s queues.

“Oh yeah. It’s just showing what hard work equals and how to be successful – ‘I worked hard, I put in the time, I put in the extra work,’ ’’ said Flowers. “He’s a great example to us. He’s definitely a product of hard work . . . You see him out here every day working hard. You think about it, he’s out here every day for the last 18 years.’’

Trey Flowers was the last one off the field at New England Patriots minicamp

June 7, 2017

FOXBOROUGH -- Long after practice ended and even after most of the players were done with their autographs and interviews, Trey Flowers was still going.

The field was empty, but Flowers lined up against a dummy, practicing move after move for several extra minutes on what turned out to be a relatively hot day in the sun. Why did Flowers stay so late?

"Just trying to perfect my craft each and every day," Flowers said. "I watch film and see something I need to work on or see something that -- maybe the offensive line picked up on some of my tendencies, so I can kind of change 'em up or have a counter offer and just try to get better.

"It's not about being the last one on the field, it's just about perfecting my craft. If I see something wrong with it, I just continue to work."

Flowers only has so many opportunities to improve during minicamp, when there are no pads and limited contact. Still, there are ways for defensive linemen to improve during this week.

"A lot of just hand blocks," Flowers said. "You can't really power through the tackles and push them around, so you just use your hand blocks, try to work on your technique, try to work on speed around the edge, getting on the edge and work on the rush."

With Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long gone, Flowers is likely the Patriots' top pass rusher heading into the 2017 season. But while expectations are high for him regardless, no one expects more out of him than himself.

"I'm a firm believer that no one should have higher expectations for you than yourself because I'm my own worst critic and I'm going to critique myself and want the best out of myself," Flowers said. "It (doesn't) matter if it's high for everyone else, it's definitely high for me."

Rex Burkhead's pass-catching ability stands out at New England Patriots minicamp

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels instructs running back Rex Burkhead (34) during an NFL football team practice Wednesday, June 7, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)(Elise Amendola)

June 7, 2017

FOXBOROUGH -- Attempting to predict the distribution of touches in the Patriots backfield is akin to filling out your March Madness bracket.

You think you have a good grasp on everything...

...and it turns out you know embarrassingly little.

So keep that in mind when reading about this deep and talented group of Patriots backs in 2017.

And with that caveat, I'll note this: I believe the Patriots really like Rex Burkhead, who signed a one-year, $3.15 million deal after an impressive finish to the 2016 season.

In Cincinnati, Burkhead had long been relegated to third string behind Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. Late in the year, as the Bengals fell out of playoff contention, Bernard tore his ACL and Hill suffered a knee injury. Burkhead seized the opportunity, rushing for 119 yards and two touchdowns in the season finale. He also averaged 58.5 yards from scrimmage in the four games preceding his breakout Week 17.

Burkhead's film showcases his between-the-tackles ability. He runs harder than his 5-foot-10, 210-pound frame would indicate.

A small snapshot of Burkhead at Patriots minicamp has shed light on another important skill: His pass-catching ability.

Yes, the Patriots are merely wearing shorts and T-Shirts at minicamp. But Burkhead's ability as a receiver has stuck out. He runs routes fluidly. He attacks the ball with his hands. During Wednesday's practice, he made a contested catch on a 10-yard out route along the sidelines on the first play of 11-on-11s.

It's reasonable to envision the Patriots moving Burkhead around, allowing him to run routes from in the slot and out wide as well as from the backfield.

As effective as James White has been as a receiver, he does the bulk of his damage on screen passes. Burkhead could give the Patriots a different look. Remember, before Dion Lewis' injury in 2015, the Pats were using Lewis on slants and even on go routes from out wide.

"I like everything I saw (from Burkhead)," Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears said in late May. "He runs well, looks like he has good vision, can be a tough guy, caught the ball very easily on film. There were a lot of things he did very well that sort of attracted you to him. Plus he plays special teams. He's a guy that's going to fit great in our kind of system, where you have to do a little of everything."

Burkhead won't have an easy path to touches. The Patriots and Tom Brady love White. Lewis should be 100 percent healthy heading into training camp, and the Pats know what he can do when he is healthy. Mike Gillislee has averaged 5.7 yards per carry over the past two seasons.

So we'll have to see how this competition shakes out in August and beyond. But here in early June, Burkhead looks like he could be an exciting weapon in Josh McDaniels' offense.

Patriots notebook: Versatile Rex Burkhead unstoppable in minicamp

By Mark Daniels and Rich Garven

June 7, 2017

FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots defense played the spoiler role on Wednesday during the second day of minicamp. Between the secondary and defensive line, 10 passes were batted down during practice. There was, however, one player the defense couldn’t stop — Rex Burkhead.

The 26-year-old running back caught six passes to lead all targets. Burkhead received a heavy load with the Patriots starting offense and it paid dividends.

Burkhead, the former Cincinnati Bengals running back who signed a one-year, $3.15-million deal in the offseason, only has one career start but he hasn’t missed a game the last two seasons. He is coming off a year in which he averaged 4.6 yards a carry and made 17 receptions, both career highs.

How the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Burkhead will be utilized in New England remains to be seen.

“Whatever role they want to put me in, I’m up for,” he said Wednesday. “Whatever gives us the best chance to win.”

Considering the players aren’t in pads and contact isn’t allowed, it’s best not to make too much out of what occurs on the field during organized team activities.

“Just making sure I was on my assignments,” he said. “I still have a lot of room to get better, a lot of room to improve upon. I’m just getting comfortable and making sure I know what I’m doing when I’m out there.”

Tom Brady started the day going 11-for-14 in 7-on-7s. When it came time for 11-on-11 drills, Burkhead’s presence immediately stood out. Brady went 13-for-18 in full-team drills. Five of those receptions went to Burkhead.

Rex Burkhead making a strong impression at Patriots minicamp

HOPING TO CATCH ON: New Patriots running back Rex Burkhead looks in a pass during yesterday’s workout at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Nancy Lane

By Carl Brooks

June 8, 2017

FOXBORO — Rex Burkhead is still new to the Patriots roster. But the running back was easily one of the best offensive players on the field yesterday during the second day of minicamp.

Signed as a free agent away from Cincinnati, Burkhead established a strong connection with Tom Brady, catching all five passes from the quarterback during 11-on-11 drills.

And while he may be new, he seems to know the way to answer questions in typical, understated Patriots style.

So to what did he attribute his success with Brady?

“Just making sure I was on my assignments. I still have a lot of room to get better and improve my game,” he said. “I still have room to get comfortable and make sure I know what I’m doing.”

Burkhead saw plenty of first-team reps, catching passes from both Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo. He pulled in passes while working from all over the field, coming out of the backfield, shifting out to the slot and lining up outside. He was even spotted on the punt coverage team, communicating well when asked to do so.

With a loaded depth chart at the running back position, Burkhead will have to continue to showcase his versatility as he jostles for playing time.

“Whatever role they want to put me in, I’m up for,” he said plainly when asked about the difference in how he was used with the Bengals with how the Patriots have used him so far. “Whatever way or role gives us the best chance to win.”

Burkhead is in the midst of a huge transition, going from being a seldom-used target in the Bengals offense to being asked to be a do-it-all option in this offense. With all due respect to Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis, there is a different level of talent on the Patriots with Brady and Bill Belichick.

So Burkhead knows how important these practices are, even in June, as he seeks to earn Brady’s trust.

“It’s huge,” he said. “Learning the system, making sure I know what to do when I’m out there . . . learning from the mistakes you make the day before and knowing (your job) day in and day out.”

When pushed further on the difference in culture between Cincinnati and the Pats, Burkhead gave a telling answer, one that focused on the improvement in weather from Tuesday to Wednesday. It seems that he’s already fallen in line and has learned to give generic media answers when in a tough spot.

“The rain is good for us. We’re probably going to play in a rain game sometime during the year. Rain, snow, whatever, so (yesterday) was good for us. Especially with catching the ball, ball handling, anything like that. Helps us stay in top of our game.”

With only 121 career touches (87 rushing attempts, 74 of which came last season, and 34 receptions) in his four seasons, Burkhead is still somewhat of an unknown commodity who has shown flashes when given the opportunity.

Yesterday could qualify as one of those flashes, and one area that stood out was in the red zone. Burkhead looked fluid in his footwork inside the 20-yard line and had many reps in that spot.

Knowing the importance of those plays to the Patriots offense, he’ll make himself indispensable if he continues to thrive in that position.

Former Vikings star RB Robert Smith says Dalvin Cook has ‘got it all’

June 7, 2017

Robert Smith didn’t rush for 1,000 yards until his fifth Vikings season. He figures Dalvin Cook might get off to much quicker NFL start than that.

Smith, the second-leading rusher in Minnesota history, chatted with Cook, a Vikings rookie running back, after a Wednesday morning organized team activities session. Then Smith played in the annual Vikings charity golf tournament at The Meadows at Mystic Lake in Prior Lake.

“I think he’s going to be a contributor from Day 1,’’ Smith said of Cook. “I think he has incredible potential. I really think it’s a coup the Vikings getting him in the second round. He’s got everything.

“He’s a guy that hits home runs, he’s got great vision at the line, he’s got really good patience. He knows what kind of angles to take, and he’s got that explosive speed. So he’s got it all.’’

Smith, entering his second year as a college football analyst at Fox Sports after having that role at ESPN, followed Cook’s career closely at Florida State. Cook was selected with the No. 41 pick in the second round after gaining 1,765 yards last season.

In meeting with Cook on Wednesday, Smith brought up a 2015 game in which he rushed for 222 yards and three touchdowns in the Seminoles’ 29-14 win over Miami after missing practice time during the week with a strained hamstring.

“I just complimented him on being an explosive player and kind of being a guy that can play through injuries,’’ Smith said. “I referenced the game a couple of years ago against Miami when he had a (72-yard) run.

“He broke into the clear after he came into the game with a bad hamstring and we didn’t even know he was going to play. You could see him reaching for (the hamstring) during the run, but he continued the run, so you know he’s a guy that can play a little bit dinged.’’

Smith played for the Vikings from 1993-2000, rushing for 1,000 or more yards in each of his final four seasons before retiring at 28. He left as Minnesota’s leading career rusher with 6,818 yards before Adrian Peterson broke the mark in 2012.

After rushing for 11,747 yards in 10 seasons, Peterson was not brought back by the Vikings as a free agent and signed with New Orleans in April. Smith believes Peterson, 32, still can be effective but has no issues with Minnesota not bringing him back.

“It was time,’’ Smith said. “I think he’s the rare kind of elite back that can play into his late 30s, but at the same time, you get a guy like Dalvin, who’s young and who has a lot of potential down the road.’’

Monday, June 05, 2017

Trey Flowers not resting on laurels after breakout Super Bowl campaign

New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers reacts after a sack against the Denver Broncos during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Denver on Sunday, December 18, 2016. Staff Photo by Nancy Lane

By Jeff Howe

June 4, 2017

There’s no chilling Trey Flowers’ desire.

With 2.5 sacks in Super Bowl LI, including a monumental takedown of Matt Ryan when the Patriots dug in their heels to prevent a clinching Falcons field goal, Flowers was the most disruptive defensive player in the game.

The performance punctuated Flowers’ ascension to prominence in 2016,
but he has been too hard on himself to care. Flowers has a mountain to climb, and he doesn’t believe he is anywhere near the peak because of one strong season or a few big plays on the NFL’s greatest stage.

“I don’t look too highly on it because last year was last year,” Flowers said. “The last game was the last game. I could look at that game, and there’s a lot of plays that I missed, a lot of opportunities that I missed that I should have had. That’s just all about staying hungry. Having the Super Bowl that I had in the biggest game of my career, understand while watching the film, ‘You did all right, but you could have done better.’

“I’ve got that mentality coming into the season. Any opportunity I’ve got, I want to improve on being more productive. This will be my first time coming in and being able to produce at a high level. Being able to understand my role; I know my role now. Being able to live in that role, I’m looking forward to it. I’m going to stay hungry.”

If Flowers becomes a household name in 2017, his attitude will be a major reason for it. The Patriots defensive lineman is tirelessly driven to be great to the point that he got restless this offseason when he was simply trying to rest.

He instead opted to do yoga, core work, conditioning or anything else to remain in a routine. And that was during his downtime.

“The thing about me, I don’t feel too comfortable when I’m not working out,” Flowers said with an obsessive smirk last week, shortly after he was one of the final players to leave the field for the Patriots’ voluntary workout at Gillette Stadium.

Flowers didn’t get caught up in the Super Bowl LI afterglow. He instead opted to strengthen certain muscles that didn’t meet his standards. He also pored through his game film to assess his assortment of moves and counters, as well as the ways offensive linemen were blocking him.

For instance, if Flowers lined up a certain way, did it telegraph his ensuing move? If so, he plans to use that to his advantage in 2017 because he is working on a series of counter moves to attack offenses. Flowers led the Patriots last season with seven sacks, all of which came in the final nine games, so he is smart enough to recognize the likelihood that teams will game plan for him in 2017.

“Coming off of last year, I know a lot of guys are going to start looking at me now,” Flowers said. “A year ago, they probably weren’t paying much attention to me. They’re going to start studying me, game-planning me, and I watch film trying to see how I can counter off a move that they might be expecting. You’ve got to deal with it if they’re going to game plan for you, if they’re going to double team you. You’ve still got to remain productive, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m hard on myself.”

To avoid complacency, even if it’s subconscious, Flowers is comparing his work ethic to last offseason. The way he looks at it, if he can compete against himself, he won’t get caught in the trap of being happy that he’s a Super Bowl champion coming off his best season.

Plus, Flowers knows his workouts should be more intense this offseason. A year ago, he was recovering from his December 2015 shoulder surgery, which still slightly impacted his effectiveness in 2016 because he couldn’t max out his upper-body strength. He said his shoulder is as strong right now as it’s been in years.

Flowers’ breakout season was impressive beyond the sack total, too. He led the Patriots in quarterback hits through Week 7 before he ever registered a sack, so he knew he was close. Flowers decided to switch up his pregame routine to get his feet “fired up” in time for kickoff. And he stayed even later after practice, which had already been his reputation anyway.

“I definitely saw improvement, and it was assessed to hard work and having the opportunity,” Flowers said.

Just think, Flowers was dominant through stretches in 2016, and he now feels stronger, smarter, more polished and self-aware of his tendencies. He hinted that he might have surpassed his own expectations last season, but his goals far exceed one good campaign, if that wasn’t already obvious.

“I had confidence in myself coming in,” said the 2015 fourth-round draft pick. “I knew I was going to be able to produce, maybe not as much as I did as early as I did. But I knew it was just a matter of time because it’s one of those things you work hard for, you push for. If you’ve got the faith and you believe in your work, you believe in your craft, you invest all the time and work into it, eventually you’re going to see the fruits of your labor. I was definitely expecting to be known, but that was last year.

“I had a decent season last year, but that’s not the mark, not the only thing I want to be remembered as. You always want to improve. You can never stay the same. A lot of guys in this league are out there working either coming for your spot or trying to stop you, so you’ve definitely got to improve because once you stay the same, somebody else will pass you.”

Friday, June 02, 2017

Vince Wilfork proclaims ex-Patriots teammate Mike Vrabel as coaching’s rising star

Vince Wilfork says watch out for Mike Vrabel as the next big thing in coaching.

By Hector Longo

June 2, 2017

In 13 National Football League seasons, including 11 with Bill Belichick in New England, Vince Wilfork plowed through a slew of quality coaches — and some bad ones — along the way.

He knows coaches. His thoughts on the game’s next rising star?

“[Mike Vrabel] is going to be a head coach soon,” said the Patriots legend of the former New England linebacker, currently the defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans. Wilfork was speaking on the Barstool Sports podcast, “Pardon My Take.”

“Even when I played with Vrabel, I looked at him almost as a coach. He was so smart, hands down the smartest defensive player I ever played with. I’ve always learned stuff from him. And he’s very good at teaching. We’ve always seen things through the same set of eyes.

Wilfork said that he sees a lot of another coach in Vrabel, one Bill Belichick.

“Bill smiled all the time, so down to earth, such a good dude,” Vince said. “That’s why players love playing for him. There’s a reason he’s the greatest of all time. He knows how to treat his players.”

Wilfork notes that he is still not retired, but if he was ready to, he will make the an announcement on his terms.

Ravens G Marshal Yanda: Believe it or not

Popular Posts