Tim Tebow Mania runs unabated throughout New England, and the crowds are making their plans to invade Foxboro, MA to catch a glimpse of the newest, shiny toy in offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ toy box. That said, there is still plenty of happenings around the New England Patriots between the end of the OTAs and prior to training camp kicking off in July.
1. News broke this afternoon that Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (first reported by SportsIllustrated.CNN.com) was questioned by police regarding a possible homicide in Attleborough, MA, a quick ride up route 95 from Foxboro, MA. According to the article, there is a rental car associated with Hernandez involved in the investigation and he was questioned by State Police on Monday. Hernandez is not believed to be a murder suspect in the death of the the 27 year old Boston man found in North Attleborough, MA. Hernandez’s role and relationship with the parties is not known at this time.
Speculation is likely to run rampant these next few days as more news trickles in. At this time, the news is so new that there is little to report, but soon there will be plenty of speculation and gossip. Hernandez is a supremely talented athlete, who fell to the 4th round due to the dreaded “character concerns”. In this case, it may be another example of bad judgement, poor choice of associates, or wrong place at the wrong time. Only one truth is certain in regards to this story: there will be plenty of comments of “Time to move Tim Tebow to tight end” in the comments sections of the news articles online.
2. Off-season nonsense is starting to overrun the team news as the Patriots are in the dead zone between OTAs, mini-camps, off-season workouts, and prior to training camp. Stories making the rounds include the owner Bob Kraft-Russian President Vladimir Putin Super Bowl Ring “theft”, the former Patriots wide receiver Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson courtroom rump slap and subsequent jailing and visit by mercurial former wide receiver Terrell “T.O.” Owens.
This just shows that training camp cannot get here soon enough for real news and reports from the practice fields.
The big Patriots news this week (not involving Tim Tebow) is tight end Rob Gronkowski’s back surgery on Tuesday. Back specialist Robert Watkins was the surgeon (no news reported if Dr. Watkins “Gronk Spiked” the surgical equipment after finishing the surgery). This back surgery follows four left forearm surgeries during this season and off-season. With issues with Hernandez already with his own off-season surgery and neither starting tight end a lock to start the season healthy, tight end is a position that will be in the spotlight this training camp and pre-season.
4. A recent article at ProFootballCentral.com by Steve Balestrieri highlighted the Patriots signing of safety Adrian Wilson and his role and fit in the secondary to date. He does a good job in the piece of emphasizing the fit of Wilson in the Patriots secondary and how his size and athleticism allows him to cover tight ends in man coverage and assist in the box with run support. In addition, he provides a big hitting physical support over the middle, an enforcer that has been missing. With Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory to fill the free safety role, it leaves Adrian Wilson and young Tavon Wilson as the strong safeties (no matter how much Bill Belichick insists that the safeties are interchangeable, they need the diverse strengths in the defensive backfield.
What was amazing this off-season was that a player as valuable as Wilson was available for such a low price, as he signed for 3 years at $5 million with a $1 million signing bonus. Compare that to non-physical presence at safety and free agent Ed Reed–who recently had surgery for a torn hip labrum–signed in Houston for 3 years at $15 million and $6 million in the first year alone which is more than the entire 3 years paid out for Wilson by New England. Wilson, with McCourty expected to start at the other (free) safety position–which is a better fit for his cornerback skills–is a much better fit than Reed for the New England secondary. Not only a great fit, but fantastic value for the Patriots.
One last note on Tim Tebow, his contract in New England is two years and $1.3 million, with no guaranteed money. The Jets still are paying Denver $1.5 million this season as part of their trade last season with Denver for Tebow. So if Tebow makes the roster in New England and plays both seasons, the Patriots will pay him less money than the Jets paid Denver in a trade for a player that Denver would have released (keeping Tebow behind Peyton Manning? No way John Elway was having that happen) and the Jets could have signed for free.
6. Speaking of the Jets, their coach Rex Ryan has stated that he is taking back control of the Jets defense (defensive coordinator Mike Pettine “voluntarily left” to become defensive coordinator of division rival Buffalo) and wants to get back to their big blitzing and aggressive style from 2009/2010. Did the Jets front office not inform Rex Ryan that Darrelle Revis was traded? Rex wants to send mad blitzes at Patriots quarterback Tom Brady without Revis in the secondary to lock down the passing game? Antonio Cromartie had a decent season while Revis was out, but no one expects Cromartie to dominate like Revis. Also, with Cromartie replacing Revis, does that mean rookie Dee Milliner or disappointing 2010 1st round draft pick Kyle Wilson is expected to cover one-on-one in blitz packages? Brady is no doubt drooling at the prospect of attacking the Revis-less Jets defense twice in 2013.