Going into the offseason the Patriots had some free agents that were on their priority list, and one of the players who they likely hoped to lock up was cornerback Aqib Talib, who's arrival via a midseason trade last season stabilized a pretty shaky secondary.
This offseason they were able to him back, although the veteran only ended up signing a 1-year contract, which is a positive for him if he can establish his value with a good follow-up season as he looks to earn a bigger payday. It's obviously a win-win for the Patriots because it also works out in their favor since they're going to get Talib's best as he tries to create a market for himself.
But money is only part of it. Talib, who was a troubled player when he was previously with the Buccaneers, appears to be a guy who has definitely turned things around. From what we've seen, he's certainly said all the right things since arriving. All indications have been that he's bought into New England's system with his words, but the good news is it seems he's also backing it up in the meeting rooms and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia has taken notice. He had some high praise for the veteran cornerback on Tuesday during his conference call, and it sounds like Talib has had a good preseason.
"Very, very happy with his work and his ethic that he comes in as far as this guy studies film, he really practices hard, he competes every day," said Patricia. "He's a good example on the field for those guys who are coming into the program to get in behind him and follow along."
Obviously this is his first training camp here in New England, and it's also his first full offseason in this system. He did a respectable job jumping into the fire midway through last season, so it's going to be interesting to see how much he grows in this defense this year. The Patriots were 29th in the league last year in passing yards allowed per game allowed, giving up an average of 271.4 per contest, but only 9th in points per game. As bad as the perception was with their secondary, they were better than people gave them credit for.
Talib had a good first year and is looking to have an even better year this season. (USA TODAY Images)
Talib clearly played a part in that and with another year under his belt, we'll see if he can help them improve even further toward becoming a more formidable pass defense. That in itself would be enough to help him earn the new long-term deal he's likely looking for.
For now Patricia is just happy with what he's seen from Talib and the rest of the defense. With guys like Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty, the Patriots have plenty of experience on the defensive side of the ball to round out what's finally turning out to be a pretty good group.
Needless to say Patricia's looking forward to the season getting underway, and he's hoping that guys come ready to play. He's got some rookies to work into the rotation and there's probably going to be a bit of a learning curve early in the season. However, Patricia feels that any player on defense can be a leader and it simply starts by going out and playing good football.
"Everybody that steps out onto the field is going to set an example for the rest of the defense and hopefully the team to follow," said Patricia. "We're excited to get going."
PATRIOTS WR DOBSON UNDER FIRE
It's amazing how much people read into preseason play, especially with a first year player who is still getting comfortable in this offense. That was the case with Aaron Dobson, who according to ProFootballFocus.com didn't exactly have a lot of success connecting with Patriots quarterbacks this preseason.
They pointed out that out of his 27 targets (it was actually 29 - which is the accurate number verified by the official league stat sheets) he caught just 11 passes and Patriots quarterbacks had a combined passer rating of 19.6 when throwing his way. That number would drop with the ommitted two targets, but either way it doesn't exactly tell the whole story. As a matter of fact, they're even actually a little skewed, because the majority of problems with Dobson stemmed from his inability to get on the same page with back-up quarterback Ryan Mallett and the recently departed Tim Tebow.
With Brady, Dobson caught 4 passes on 6 targets for 60 yards, all of which were first down converting receptions. For the most part the two seem to be on the same page and it's going to be interesting to see they perform together for real this weekend in Buffalo.
But with Mallett and Tebow, that definitely wasn't the case. With Mallett, Dobson was targeted 14 times with just 6 completions for a total of 85 yards and led all receivers in receiving yards with that total while the Patriots back-up QB was on the field. Another thing to note, 5 of Dobson's 6 catches with Mallett went for first downs.
With Tebow, Dobson was Tebow's highest targeted receiver having been targeted 9 times with just one reception, which went for 5 yards.
But overall with each of those two quarterbacks Dobson was a combined 7-of-23 for 90 yards. You can dismiss it as who was throwing him the football, but one thing that didn't go unnoticed was the fact that Dobson seemed to play down to the level of competition and seemed like a different player when Brady left the field. That's somewhat concerning, especially given the fact he's supposed to be a first team talent and just didn't play like one with the guys lower on the depth chart. Another thing to keep an eye on is the fact that in this league he's going to go up against some physical defensive backs and as NESN's Luke Hughes pointed out this afternoon Dobson has a tough time battling in coverage.
All things considered the rookie had a solid preseason and looks poised to hopefully carry it forward. But it's interesting how numbers can misconstrue things, and fortunately for Dobson those same numbers at least have shown that he'll hopefully have success with Brady this year.
CHANDLER JONES A UNIQUE TALENT
Jones' rookie season started off strong but injuries slowed him during his first year. However, now that he's back, it's safe to say he looks healthy and he had a strong preseason. Matt Patricia told the media Tuesday that the coaching staff is hoping Jones will do things even better this year and build on the foundation he's already put in place.
"I think with Chandler, he's gone a good job coming out and trying to improve his overall playing style and just all aspects of the game, as far as the run game, the pass game and trying to be a better football player every year and that's really what we're looking for," said Patricia. "I think we're just looking for him to improve on the things that he does and hopefully do them a little bit better."
One thing that can't be argued is the fact that the build Jones has is one that he definitely needs to be used to his advantage. His long arms are one thing that were talked about in the scouting reports when he was drafted and seeing him in action shows the potential is there.
"I don't think you can argue Chandler is a long guy – he has long arms, long legs," said Patricia "Hopefully, that's something he can use to his advantage like guys that have played before that are long like him. There's different leverage that comes with that length than maybe a guy with different size numbers. Certainly playing with that length the right way can help him."
Hopefully he'll get off to a strong start this weekend when the Patriots kickoff the year in Buffalo.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Stevan Ridley not about stats - Jeff Howe - Howe has a good article on Stevan Ridley this morning and writes that Ridley's primary goals are based on principles, not numbers.
NOTEBOOK: Aqib Talib fitting into system - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook this morning which leads off with some comments from Matt Patricia, as well as some thoughts on how Tim Tebow actually did help this team during camp.
NOTEBOOK: Patriots now face a Mike Pettine defense in Buffalo - Anthony Gulizia - Gulizia files his notebook this morning that leads off wondering what the Patriots will see from the Bills offense under the new coaching staff lead by Doug Marrone.
Catching up with former Patriots - Mike Reiss - Reiss takes a look at what's going on with some former Patriots, and has a note about each one.
LaDainian Tomlinson 'Regrets' Calling Bill Belichick 'Classless' - Mike Petraglia - Petraglia has comments from former NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who admitted during the season premiere of 'A Football Life' on the NFL Network that he regrets his comments toward Belichick.
A Night Spent With the New England Patriots - Alyssa Silva - Great story from Silva, who is battling Spinal Muscular Atrophy, about her recent visit to Gillette Stadium. It ended up being a special one thanks to Patriots PR Director Stacey James, and it's a great read.
Matt Patricia's Conference Call Transcript - If you're wondering what the Patriots defensive coordinator had to say on Tuesday, the team has the complete transcript.
Josh McDaniels Conference Call Transcript - Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels spoke to the media on Tuesday and talked about a variety of topics, which you can read via this link.
Patriots take a Mulligan, finalize roster - Rich Garven - Garven files his notes column this morning which includes the signing of Mulligan, a bit on Talib, and some comments from Tom Brady and Robert Kraft on Tim Tebow.
Patriots' new hands on deck are eager to sail - Rich Garven - Garven has an article on the team's receiving core, whom he writes there are four new faces among the six players currently on the 53 man roster.
2013 Predictions and Preview Spectacular - Peter King - King has his predictions for tihs season, and writes, "If I’m right, and the Patriots win the AFC’s top seed, this will be Brady’s shining moment, getting the Pats to the top of a tough conference with virtually entirely new skill players."
THE PATRIOT LEDGER:
Many of the Patriots' 2nd-round picks have been third-rate - Glen Farley - After the team's release of Jermaine Cunningham, Farley looks at the team's recent history of players taken in the second round.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
Bills fast approaching, Pats get serious - Mark Farinella - Farinella writes, "A sense of calm enveloped Gillette Stadium Tuesday as it appeared that the Patriots finally moved fully from the chaos of the end of the preseason into the sharper focus of the regular season."