Sports Centralby Cian Fahey
- We've moved to The Sports Central
- Avery Bradley's stuttering start to Boston Celtics career is no more
- New England Patriots - a case for keeping Brandon Lloyd
- Tom Brady's contract extension puts pressure on New England Patriots to perform in short-term
- Jeff Green's approach epitomizes Boston Celtics Post-Rajon Rondo
In every team sport in the world there is some form of hierarchy amongst the players on the field. Sometimes the division, or divisions, are clear such as in rugby where the captain is given the license to talk to officials, or in Cricket where the captain has multiple responsibilities such as designating his/her teammates positions on the field. Other sports don't have official titles with such notable responsibilities, but whenever a group of people is created, different levels of leadership take prominence.
The game of American Football somewhat blurs the line between official and natural leadership patterns. Certain players are expected to be greater leaders than others because of the position they play, but expectations are not always met.
The setting was different. The sport was different. The two teams won't be playing again. Yet, the similarities largely outnumbered the differences. One side felt joy. One side felt heartbreak. One team won. One team lost.
Six days before Navy and Notre Dame do battle in the Emerald Isle Classic, Cork and Donegal clashed in a completely different sport in Dublin. Instead of welcoming an international audience, Cork and Donegal celebrated Irish sport with the semi final of the All-Ireland Gaelic Football Championship. Despite the fact that neither sets of teams likely had any notion about the others' sports, there were unmissable aspects of the Irish sporting event that will be on show this weekend in the nation's capital.
Green was released after undergoing heart surgery entering last season. The 25-year-old's season was ended before it even began and the beginning of his career with the Celtics was stalled after only spending half a season with the team the year before.
As the most pivotal piece in the Celtics' trade of Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder, it was imperative for the team to bring him back.
If there is one overwhelmingly obvious strength of the Philadelphia Eagles' defense, it is their cluster of different pass rushing defensive linemen. If there is one overwhelmingly obvious weakness of the New England Patriots' offense, it is their confusion and uncertainty on the offensive line.
With the Eagles and Patriots clashing tonight, in a preseason game that should be of importance to both sides, there is a massive opportunity for the Patriots' offensive line to prove itself...or prove its doubters right.
While plenty of fascinating matchups exist across the field, such as Brandon Lloyd and Nnamdi Asomugha, Rob Gronkowski and Brian Rolle, Demetress Bell and Chandler Jones, it's nearly impossible not to zone in on the trenches tonight.
With Tom Brady at the helm, that should surprise roughly zero people.
While Brady is a superstar, there is a lot more to the Patriots offense that the casual fan doesn't see. Today's NFL may be a quarterback driven league, but it is far from tennis. Today's NFL is still very much a team sport that extends past the quarterback, into his other offensive teammates and counterparts on defense.
Lloyd joined the Patriots on a three year deal worth $12 million after finishing last season with the St. Louis Rams. At 31 years of age, Lloyd is a nine year veteran who has had five different teams throughout his career. Even though he has never started all 16 games in any of those seasons, Lloyd figures to do so with the Patriots this year.
While with the Denver Broncos in 2010, Lloyd had the best season of his career posting 77 receptions for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns. Significantly, Lloyd spent that season working under the then Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels. McDaniels was fired by the Broncos after that season before becoming the offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams.
Probably the most uplifting news for Patriots fans occurred yesterday though when news broke that Logan Mankins was to return to practice. Mankins' mysteriously tore his ACL during last season despite not missing any time on the field.
As a player who repeatedly abused his teammates for missing practice in the past, it was tough for Mankins this off-season "
Katie Taylor was looking at her father with the curiousity of a child. She didn't raise hers arms or egotistically announce herself the champion. Instead, she looked to her father, her leader and her coach who had a smile on his face and looked approvingly back at her.
Regardless of the result, she had made him proud.
In today's NFL, teams live and die by their quarterback. The signal-caller, ring leader, pocket passer or scrambler, what ever you want to call them, the quarterback's status in today's game is elevated to an unprecedented level. The teams with the Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Bradys of the world prize them more than anything else, while every other team is grasping at every single prospect trying to find their own cornerstone at the position.
Brady has largely been the reason for the Patriots success over the past decade. His limitations were often determined by the amount of talent that surrounded him. In 2007, Brady erased any remaining doubters when he Randy Moss, Wes Welker and a few others broke the single season touchdown record. However in other years, Brady had good, but not great, production with lesser receivers such as Jabarr Gaffney and Reche Caldwell in the lineup.
The New England Patriots Robert Gallery retired today before every playing a down for his new team. It is currently unknown why the eight-year veteran has retired at only 32 years of age, but it clearly adds to the Patriots' already numerous issues on the offensive line.
With Nate Solder entering his first season as a starting left tackle in only his second year, Logan Mankins' status for the season unclear after tearing his ACL, Dan Koppen coming off a season which finished on IR, Brian Waters being in the twilight of his career and Sebastien Vollmer coming off an injury hit season, the Patriots' most reliable offensive lineman appears to be Dan Connolly.
McCourty is entering his third season after a disappointing follow up to his impressive start as a rookie. McCourty's inconsistencies threatened to cost him his starting position at cornerback for this year but he enters camp with as good a chance as anyone to be a starter.
Arrington may be seeing his role with the team change this year depending on how the other players at his position pan out in training camp. Arrington would be an excellent nickel cornerback for the Patriots if two outside cornerbacks can step up to afford him that opportunity. Arrington's starting position will need to be stripped from him if he is to be relegated at all. His role as the nickel cornerback will most likely just be in situational defenses.
Dowling had an impressive start to his rookie season, however that start only lasted for one game before he landed on IR. Dowling needs to prove both his health and ability in this camp to try and earn a starting spot in the Patriots' secondary. As a big physical cornerback, he offers the team's defense something that they didn't have last year.
After a strong finish to his rookie year, Sterling Moore will be hoping to kick on and earn a greater role with the team this season. He is still developing as an all around football player but has the talent to make a mark in training camp. He and Dowling will most likely be competing for the third spot on the depth chart at cornerback.
Alfonzo Dennard enters his first training camp as a late round draft pick who fell in the draft because of off-the-field issues. If Dennard can show up on the field, and keep his nose clean off of it, Bill Belichick will have no hesitation in playing him. However, Dennard needs to prove he was worth the risk before he can even consider stepping inside the gridiron.
Gregory is a veteran who was signed from the San Diego Chargers this off-season. He is a reliable veteran but not a game changer on the back-end. He should help the Patriots defense as a whole but not massively. He enters training camp as the starter at safety with Patrick Chung.
Chung has quickly become one of the more experienced players on the Patriots' defense. He needs to stay healthy and develop an understanding with Gregory ahead of this season if he is to fully reach his potential.
The Patriots' surprise second round pick will have to force his way into the starting safety spot ahead of Steve Gregory. Wilson may not even feature in sub packages as rookie if he is unable to beat out veteran James Ihedigbo.
Bill Belichick's era in New England as head coach of the Patriots will always be remembered for the quality of linebacker he brought to Boston. While Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and the late Junior Seau are all gone, Belichick is attempting to bring in a new group capable of continuing the legacy.
Mayo is the veteran of this group now despite being only 26 years of age. He showed his versatility last year moving to strong side linebacker in a 4-3 opposed to playing inside in a 3-4. Mayo will likely be asked to play both positions again this season as Donta Hightower and Bobby Carpenter are better suited to play strongside in a 4-3.
Spikes instincts and ability to knock out defenders have quickly seen him stand out in his career so far. The greatest issue with Spikes is his durability. He hasn't played a full 16 game season so far in his very short career. While it is too early to call him injury prone, he needs to be on the field this year if the Patriots defense is going to improve.
It was no surprise that the Patriots signed Carpenter as a free agent this off-season. While Carpenter has never lived up to his hype coming out of college, he is a player who has played adequately in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses. Bill Belichick is obviously hoping that Carpenter will provide the team with some veteran stability without forcing Donta Hightower into action straight away.
Everyone will expect Hightower to start from day one, but he will need to earn his spot for the Patriots. The most likely outcome is Hightower will start at strong-side linebacker, because of the question marks over his coverage skills, with Spikes playing inside and Mayo lining up across from him. Hightower is very intelligent and physically gifted, but nothing is handed to anyone in New England.
Fletcher is entering camp a lot leaner this season compared to last. Last year he was a bit part player in the regular season but had an impressive training camp and pre-season. Fletcher needs to focus on continuing his development while being ready to fill in if required for Spikes.
At this point in his career, Tracy White will just be hoping to land a roster spot. White has never been a starter in his nine year career and that doesn't figure to change this year.
Much like White, Koutouvides is another player on the Patriots roster who will settle for a job for the year. Koutouvides has started three games in his eight year career.
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