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“We made it a point to grind it out a little bit,” an Eagles offensive coach told me. “We wanted to run the ball early and often to wear them down and to keep their offense on the sidelines. They are so explosive that you want to limit their opportunities on offense.”
With that in mind, the Patriots should prominently feature their power-based running game. As New England’s designated RB1 in one- or two-back formations, LeGarrette Blount should shoulder the bulk of the workload on a host of powers and counters directed between the tackles. Although uprooting Falcons DT Grady Jarrett in the middle certainly will be a challenge, the Pats could use double-teams to spring Blount into the second level, where his combination of size and strength could overwhelm the Falcons’ linebackers. Remember this run from Championship Sunday?
The Patriots acquired five players since the end of last season via trade, more than any other NFL team. Guard Jonathan Cooper, part of the Chandler Jones trade with Arizona, was released in October, but three of those players — tight end Martellus Bennett, cornerback Eric Rowe and underrated linebacker Kyle Van Noy — played key roles in Belichick’s seventh AFC championship. This isn’t a new trend: He acquired four players via trade during the team’s 2014 title run, too.
Belichick’s unique role as coach and head personnel evaluator sets him apart as a team builder. Not every deal works out, but Belichick has the flexibility to take low-cost, high-reward chances because he’s confident he can coach up a player’s best attributes. Over the last year, Belichick addressed clear weaknesses on his roster without giving up much.
He was barred from this year’s NFL Scouting Combine under a conduct policy, but has made the rounds since then, meeting with the Broncos, Raiders and Chargers, among other clubs. Lions GM Bob Quinn said at the combine that Mixon was on Detroit’s draft board.
Per the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft declined to address Mixon specifically this week, but said his policy on domestic violence goes back to 1996, when he demanded a Patriots draft pick, Christian Peter, be released days after the draft when he learned of domestic-violence allegations against Peter.
In what would be considered his breakout year in 2016, Gillislee rushed for 577 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and eight total touchdowns. He was only targeted 11 times in the passing game but caught nine of those balls for 50 yards and another score. A former member of the Miami Dolphins, Gillislee was picked 164th overall by the Dolphins in 2013.
Gillislee, who is a strong north-and-south runner, defies some expectations. Though he is not on the heavier side for running backs, he packs a strong punch and is relentless in the red zone. He would not be a one-for-one replacement for someone like LeGarrette Blount if Blount’s contractual stalemate with the Patriots continues.
Asked about the potential pitfalls facing young players in Las Vegas due to the Raiders’ future relocation, Goodell pointed to the league’s Personal Conduct Policy.
“I think we have an obligation to do that with all 32 teams,” Goodell said. “My experience is that 21-year-olds can find trouble in a lot of different places, by the way. That’s one of the reasons we have focused so much on our personal conduct policy. It’s educating, helping players make better judgments, giving them better information so they avoid problems. These are the types of things that have been very effective.”