New LeGarrette Blount Conspiracy surrounds Patriots

legarrette-blount-conspiracyAlthough Deflate-gate is far from a dead matter, it appears that the fallout from this scandal won’t affect the New England Patriots’ spot in Super Bowl XLIX. Regardless, it seems that the Patriots just can’t avoid the conspiracy theories as they head towards their matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. And the latest potential scandal surrounding the team involves their running back, LeGarrette Blount.

For the first 11 games of the season, Blount played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and backed up Le’Veon Bell. He got 65 carries and totaled 266 yards and two rushing TD’s, before heading to the bus early during a game and later getting cut. At the time, it seemed like a career-destroying move and nobody would want to touch the 250-pound power runner this year. However, New England scooped Blount up and had him carrying the ball the following weekend.

Was it just coincidence that the Patriots needed a reliable first-string back at the same time that Blount wanted out of an unfavorable situation? Or is there more to the quick timing of New England’s late-season signing?

These were the type of questions that Blount was dodging during Tuesday’s media day in Arizona. In particular, here’s what he was asked and his responses (or lack thereof):

“Did you know you had a job with New England before you left Pittsburgh?”

Blount: Smiles without answering

“Why would you leave if you didn’t know in the back of your mind that they were waiting to call you?”

Blount: Smiles, laughs and says, “I don’t know nothing.”

legarrette-blount-patriots-2014If the Patriots organization, or someone around it, had contact with Blount prior to the signing, he’s obviously not telling anybody. But it’s clear that he’s happy going from Bell’s backup on a solid playoff team to one of the stars on New England’s Super Bowl squad.

There’s little doubt that Blount at least stayed in contact with his former Patriots teammates, including one-time starter Stevan Ridley, whose mid-October injury put him out of commission.

“I stayed close with a lot of guys,” Blount explained. “I stayed close with Ridley. I stayed close with Shane [Vereen]. I stayed close with all of my running backs. I stayed close with Devin [McCourty]. I stayed close with a lot of guys. Like I said, it’s a close-knit team. It’s really like a brotherhood. They supported me through everything that I’ve been through.”

However, Blount ultimately landed back in New England and it’s pretty clear that he’ll be a huge part of the gameplan next Monday night. And if you’re going to do some Super Bowl 49 betting, then you’ll definitely want to consider Blount’s involvement and how he balances out an attack that includes Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski in the passing game. Will this, combined with Bill Belichick’s gameplan, be enough to topple the defending champion Seattle Seahawks? We’ll have to see when Super Bowl XLIX plays out in less than a week.

Aaron Hernandez released from Patriots – Who’s Left for Brady to throw to?

aaron-hernandez-patriots

EDIT: At the time of our original article, no official charges were filed against Hernandez. Now he’s been charged with murder.

The New England Patriots released Aaron Hernandez after the tight end was arrested this morning in connection with a murder case. The body of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd was found near Hernandez’s home nine days ago.

Once the death was ruled a homicide, the investigation led police to Hernandez’s North Attleborough, MA. home. Lloyd’s family says he was with Hernandez the night that he died. After questioning the former University of Florida standout, police found that his house had been scrubbed down and security equipment was broken.

At this point, it’s unclear why Hernandez was arrested since no formal charges were filed. All that’s known is he’s no longer a member of the Patriots and could be in major trouble. The Patriots released the following statement after letting the 23-year-old go:

A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss. Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation. We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.

rob-gronkowski-patriotsIn light of this tragedy, New England now has to worry about whom Tom Brady is going to throw the ball to. Last year, the Patriots opened with two outstanding tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Hernandez. Seeing as how Gronkowski probably won’t be ready for Week 1 after undergoing back surgery, Hernandez was expected to be a huge part of the offense.

However, those plans are out the window and the Patriots will be looking for other players to step up. Obviously Danny Amendola is going to be a big target since New England signed him to a 5-year, $31 million deal this past offseason. The thinking is that Amendola can help replace Wes Welker’s 118 catches from the slot last season. He had a nice 2012 campaign after catching 63 passes for 666 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, there are major injury concerns with Amendola since he’s played just 12 games in the past two seasons.

Former Minnesota Vikings wideout Michael Jenkins has looked good in OTA’s. The 10-year veteran caught a modest 40 passes for 449 yards and two touchdowns last year, but could be in line for a much bigger season if he starts in the Patriots high-powered offense.

danny-amendolaJulian Edelman may have a larger role too after being resigned in the offseason. He only caught 21 balls for 235 yards and three TD’s in 2012, but was really coming on strong before getting injured. Second round draft pick Aaron Dobson is one more guy to watch. The Marshall product recorded a 4.37 forty-yard dash, which at 6’3″ is quite impressive. But he’ll have to be a little more consistent than what he showed in OTA’s to get quality playing time.

As for the currently vacated tight end position, Jake Ballard and rookie Zach Sudfeld should get plenty of chances until Gronk is healthy. Sudfeld, who stands 6’7″ and weighs 255 pounds, had an excellent senior year at Nevada (45 catches, 598 yards, 8 touchdowns). But like many other Patriots receiving options, he has injury issues. As for Ballard, he spent most of 2012 on the PUP list, but had a strong 2011 campaign after catching 38 passes for 604 yards and four touchdowns.

Most of the receiving options for Brady look pretty solid, although they come with question marks. Of course we know that somebody is going to catch the ball for New England and Brady should have another strong year. Last season saw him throw for 4,827 yards, 34 TD’s and just 8 INT’s. However, New England lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship – a defeat that Brady will no doubt be hoping to avenge.

What will the New England Patriots do with Tim Tebow?

tim-tebowJust last month, reports surfaced that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick “hates” Tim Tebow as a player. Given all of the unwarranted animosity towards Tebow by the rest of the NFL, it didn’t seem like a far-fetched story.

But just days ago, Belichick came out and said that the reports of him hating Tebow’s game were completely false. “I wouldn’t get into the probability of us pursuing any free agent. Every single player has strengths and weaknesses but regardless of that, for anyone to have represented that is the way I feel about Tim Tebow is completely untrue, baseless and irresponsible,” Belichick told ESPN. “It is unfortunate that something so inaccurate was reported.”

Perhaps this statement foreshadowed what was later to come as Belichick and the Patriots signed Tebow to a deal. This is a very interesting move, given that some people wondered if any NFL teams would even want the former New York Jets backup quarterback.

tim-tebow-1The Patriots current offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, probably had a lot to do with convincing the New England organization to sign Tebow. After all, McDaniels got Denver to draft the Florida product in the first round. And now that the Patriots have Tebow, the question is what they’ll do with him.

Last year, the Jets claimed that they were going to use number 15 quite a bit in Wildcat packages. But in reality, he rarely saw the field and generated just 75 passing yards and 102 rushing yards throughout 2012. Given what happened in New York, the Patriots aren’t making any guarantees about Tebow’s playing time or role with the team.

Belichick said, “Tim is a talented player, is smart and works hard. We’ll see how it goes.” When asked about what position he’ll play, Belichick added, “We will see.”

One thing that has been revealed about Tebow is how he’s been signed as a quarterback. He’ll compete with Ryan Mallett and any free agent(s) the Patriots bring in for the two backup spots behind Tom Brady. New England cut third-string QB Mike Kafka on Monday, thus giving Tim a better opportunity to make the roster.

Divisional Playoffs - Denver Broncos v New England PatriotsAssuming he makes it, Tebow won’t have to worry about the pressure of fans calling for him to start like in New York. Brady is arguably the NFL’s best quarterback and is completely solid in his role. This is a different story from the Jets’ Mark Sanchez, whose shaky play caused a controversy when some fans thought that Tebow should start.

Since he obviously won’t be starting, some people think that the former Broncos and Jets QB was brought in to handle short yardage duties. However, it’s worth mentioning that Brady has the best QB sneak percentage on both third-and-short and fourth-and-short situations since 2006. He’s converted 97.8% of his attempts, which is far higher than second place David Garrard (91.7%), who retired this offseason.

Another thought is that, given the Patriots’ injuries to the tight end position last year, they could use Tebow here. Sure he has nothing on Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski because they’re two of the NFL’s top tight ends, But if they were to miss significant time again, some believe that Tebow could step in and provide help.

Belichick isn’t entirely above doing this since he’s used wide receivers Troy Brown, Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater as defensive backs. But making the switch from backup quarterback to tight end is a little more of a leap, and Tebow may not be quite as good as somebody who’s trained for this position their whole life.

In the end, signing Tebow seems like more of a development move than anything. Belichick and McDaniels are great at taking projects and shaping them into usable on-field talent. Tim Tebow is still young enough to where he could be groomed and take over for Brady – or at least be trade bait – if his throwing mechanics significantly improve. And if this doesn’t work out, well then, the Patriots can simply cut their losses like they did with Chad Johnson and Albert Haynsworth.