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A New England Patriots Community Blog



Updated: 2017-05-22T15:22:25-04:00

 



Raymond Clayborn is the Patriots’ 2017 Hall of Fame inductee

2017-05-22T15:22:25-04:00

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The franchise great finally enters New England’s Hall of Fame.

Four years in a row, former New England Patriots cornerback Raymond Clayborn was a finalist for induction into the franchise’s Hall of Fame – and every single year he lost the public vote. In 2014, Ty Law beat him out. The following year, it was Willie McGinest before Kevin Faulk won in 2016.

Now, finally, it will be Clayborn’s turn: The Patriots announced earlier today, that he will become this year’s inductee into the Hall. Clayborn, who was with New England from 1977 until 1989 beat out fellow franchise greats Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour to earn his red jacket; the 26th given out since the inception of the Hall in 1991.

The Patriots drafted originally Clayborn in the first round of the 1977 draft. He instantly became one of the best cornerbacks and most dangerous kick returners in the NFL, as well as an integral member of New England's defense. The three-time All-Pro selection played a key role on the Patriots' first Super Bowl squad and helped the franchise to 10 winning seasons and four postseason berths.

His 36 interceptions with the team are a franchise record that still stands today (tied with Ty Law); as are his 161 consecutive games played. For his contributions to the team, Clayborn was voted a member of New England’s all-decade teams of both the 1970s and the 1980s while also joining the 35th anniversary team. Now, the 62-year old will receive one of the greatest individual honors handed out by the team: a membership in the Patriots Hall of Fame.



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Patriots cornerbacks Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, and Eric Rowe all rank top 5 in coverage stats from Pro Football Focus

2017-05-22T13:00:03-04:00

The Patriots secondary should be fine moving forward. The New England Patriots secondary is stacked with starting-caliber talent. Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Duron Harmon have to be one of the strongest safety trios in the league, while Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, and Eric Rowe should form one of the best cornerback trios- and that’s before 2016 second round CB Cyrus Jones even thinks about mounting a comeback. Pro Football Focus (PFF) is releasing factoids all offseason and a few include important mentions of the Patriots 2017 cornerbacks- and PFF seems to be big fans of the talent the Patriots have assembled. Malcolm Butler Butler was named to PFF’s All Pro First Team for his performance in 2016, where he ranked 5th in their overall cornerback ranking. Butler ranked as high as third in their rankings before his status fell a little during the postseason (which is a little unfair, in my opinion). The Patriots believe that Butler isn’t tall enough to be a top-dollar cornerback, but the team will find a way to use Butler to erase the shorter receivers on opposing rosters on a weekly basis- sometimes without safety help. Stephon Gilmore "What do you think, should we throw into Stephon Gilmore's coverage?""Nah, probably not." pic.twitter.com/woi2zAPbFt— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 21, 2017 It’s difficult to find ways to describe how Tom Brady has found a way to improve this late into his career, but there is certainly a strategic approach here. While I don’t have access to the same numbers as PFF (they remove spikes and throwaways from the equation), I can use the Pro Football Reference game play database to see how Brady’s yards per attempt (YPA) on third down has changed over the years. Over the past five years, Brady have improved from 7.3 YPA in 2012 (14th, minimum 50 attempts), to 6.2 YPA (32nd), 7.2 YPA (23rd), 7.5 YPA (13th), and 10.8 YPA in 2016 (1st). Part of this improvement comes from a development of receivers- 2013 was clearly an anomaly- but Brady had never been a big yardage quarterback on third down. From 2006 to 2015, Brady exceeded 7.5 YPA on third down just once: 2010, when he averaged 8.5 YPA. Brady only averaged 7.5 YPA on third down in 2007. So to see Brady skyrocket up to 10.8 YPA on third down, and to 11.4 YPA when you remove throwaways, there’s been a clear shift in strategy and it’s not rooted in any one individual player. WR Julian Edelman averaged 8.01 YPA on third down prior to 2016, before improving that figure to 9.84 YPA in 2016. TE Rob Gronkowski posted a ridiculous 16.50 YPA on third down in 2016, after averaging 8.41 YPA through 2015. Even RB James White got in on the action, averaging an impressive 7.28 YPA out of the backfield in 2016, when his predecessors Kevin Faulk, Shane Vereen, and Danny Woodhead averaged 5.84 YPA on third down. Back-up QB Jimmy Garoppolo proved that the change was institutional as he averaged 10.3 YPA on third down on 19 attempts. What is the cause of this shift in third down approach? It’s possible that teams are so used to the Patriots throwing at the sticks on third down that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels concocted a scheme that would take advantage of overeager defensive backs. Football Outsiders tracks an interesting stat called “ALEX” (hilariously named after Captain Checkdown and Chiefs QB Alex Smith) that tracks the depth of all third down passes to see if the quarterback is just checking the ball down short of the first down marker. In 2015, Brady threw the ball an average of 1.2 yards beyond the first down marker, which ranked 20th out of 37 quarterbacks with 50+ third down attempts. For reference, Alex Smith threw the ball an average of 3.4 yards short of the first down marker, the worst in the league. Averages can be skewed by a few deep passes, so Football Outsiders also tracked what percentage of passes were short of the first down marker. Brady ranked 30th of 37 quarterbacks with 47.2% of his passes short, an indicator that Brady would often check down and that[...]



Bye Bye Li’l Sebastian Vollmer: The player that changed how Patriots fans view the draft

2017-05-22T05:00:00-04:00

The offensive tackle ushered in a new era of “In Belichick We Trust” Former New England Patriots OT Sebastian Vollmer announced his retirement with an intention to move into broadcasting and I’ve been fighting with myself on how to commemorate this moment. Vollmer was the Patriots fourth selection in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, 58th overall, after SS Patrick Chung (34th), DT Ron Brace (40th), and CB Darius Butler (41st). The selection was a surprise as Vollmer was not invited to the NFL Combine, an event for the top college prospects, but Vollmer impressed as a 25-year-old rookie before supplanting Nick Kaczur at right tackle in 2010. That sophomore season might have been the peak of Vollmer’s career as he started all 16 games and was named Second Team All Pro. He never started all 16 games again in his career, despite playing at a high level whenever he was healthy. Vollmer had back surgery in college and battled head injuries during his career. He suffered a couple back injuries in 2011, broke his leg in 2013, and missed the entire 2016 season due to shoulder and hip surgeries. Vollmer played 88 of a possible 128 games over the course of his career and will be replaced by Marcus Cannon, who is coming off a career year. Whenever a long-standing member of the Patriots retires (and eight years of Vollmer is a lifetime in football), I like to reflect on what that player brought to the team. I struggled to find exactly how Vollmer left his mark in New England. Vollmer was a great tackle for a span of time, but he was overshadowed by Matt Light, who started almost twice as many games over the course of his career. Vollmer was a great tackle in the greater context of the league, but his light burned for such a short time. I feel like the Vollmer’s lasting impact might not be enshrined in the Patriots Hall of Fame, but instead how Patriots fans view the franchise and how Bill Belichick builds his roster. The selection of Vollmer wasn’t the apex “In Bill We Trust” (going with Tom Brady over Drew Bledsoe will forever remain the gold standard), but Vollmer is everyone’s reference point when Belichick drafts a player that might not be as well known or as well regarded. The success of Vollmer coincided with the growing popularity of the NFL Draft and it served as an exclamation point that perhaps there is more than one way to approach the process. For every Jermaine Cunningham and Tavon Wilson that Belichick surprisingly drafts in the second round, there will always be the success of Sebastian Vollmer forcing Patriots fans to think “what if?” Vollmer was a part of three Super Bowl teams in his eight-year career (yes, I will count his 2016 season on the reserves) and six conference championships. He was a fixture on the offensive line and one of the best right tackles in a league that treated the position like an afterthought. He changed the way Patriots fans approached and understood the game, and for that Vollmer will always be remembered. Follow @PP_Rich_Hill Follow @PatsPulpit src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/like.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fpatspulpit%2F&width=450&layout=standard&action=like&show_faces=true&share=false&height=80&appId" width="450" height="80" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"> [...]