New England Patriots: Benjamin Watson
When a team hits on two first-round picks in the same year, it can be a franchise-altering turn of events. The New England Patriots have had multiple first-round selections twice in Bill Belichick's tenure, with the combination of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and tight end Benjamin Watson in 2004, and the duo of defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont'a Hightower in 2012.
But it was a different Patriots "double dip" that registered on Tanier's top 10 list -- the 1977 duo of cornerback Raymond Clayborn and receiver Stanley Morgan.
"Morgan and Clayborn helped the Patriots shake the perennial doormat status they held from the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s and were veteran leaders on the 1985 AFC Championship team," Tanier writes in ranking them sixth. "Not bad for a pair of converted running backs."
Clayborn's candidacy for the Patriots Hall of Fame was a hot topic last week when the nomination committee met to narrow down this year's finalists, so Tanier's timing is impeccable with a fun read that also includes another Patriots twist.
The No. 8 all-time double dip -- the 49ers' tandem of linebacker Patrick Willis and left tackle Joe Staley -- came as a result of the Patriots trading their late first-rounder to San Francisco.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. A member of the Patriots staff as the linebackers coach during the team's first Super Bowl-winning season, Ryan has had notable performances against the Patriots in the past. Specifically, he guided a standout defensive effort with the Browns when the team was struggling during the 2010 season. Ryan's defense gave Tom Brady all kinds of fits, limiting him to 224 yards on 19-of-36 passing in a resounding 34-14 win for the Browns. A year after allowing more yards than any other defense in NFL history, the Saints are surrendering the 11th-fewest per game this season and are fourth in scoring defense, yielding just 14.6 points per game. Ryan has been a big part of the turnaround.
"Do you like wearing throwback uniforms?"
Watson chuckled at the "hard" question, as the Patriots will be wearing their red throwbacks Sunday in Miami. Had the game stayed at night, the Patriots would have been in their white throwbacks.
"I think it's fun to wear something different. It's always fun to put on a different costume and go out and play," he said.
Watson wore a white Patriots cap with the "Pat Patriot" logo in the locker room Thursday.
"I decided I'd throw it on and show a little throwback support," he chuckled.
That was the question posed to tight end Benjamin Watson, a Georgia alum, on Thursday.
It turns out Watson was on the winning end of a friendly game with Georgia Tech alums Gary Guyton (linebacker) and Darryl Richard (practice squad defensive lineman) after Georgia beat Georgia Tech, 30-24, on Nov. 28.
"Georgia pulled the win out, so they had to wear some Georgia apparel," Watson said. "A little bragging rights for the week."
"Nobody talks about their tight ends but they have two great tight ends. Ben Watsonand Chris Baker. You can't sleep on New England's tight ends. Ben Watson is one of the most underrated guys in the league, but of course he doesn't get the spotlight playing behind Moss and Welker."
Watson is having one of the best seasons of his six-year career in New England, with 20 receptions for 307 yards and four touchdowns.
WR Randy Moss – 76 of 83 snaps
WR Wes Welker – 64 of 83
TE Chris Baker – 57 of 83
TE Benjamin Watson – 56 of 83
RB Kevin Faulk – 39 of 83
RB Laurence Maroney – 37 of 83
WR Julian Edelman – 28 of 83
WR Isaiah Stanback – 23 of 83
RB/FB BenJarvus Green-Ellis – 20 of 83
FB Dan Connolly – 5 of 83
WR Matthew Slater – 5 of 83
TE Mark LeVoir – 3 of 83
(snaps include an offensive holding penalty, defensive holding penalty, offensive pass interference penalty and two delay of game penalties)
ANALYSIS: The 83 snaps tied a season-high for a game (vs. Falcons) and reflected the decisive time of possession advantage the Patriots had (39:54-20:06). … Maroney’s 37 snaps were a season-high. His 23 carries were the third highest total of his career (including playoffs) as his hard running – and the fact he seemed to be get stronger later in the game -- was a big part of the win. … Edelman’s playtime spiked from last week (5 snaps vs. Colts) as he was part of three- and four-receiver sets. … One of the interesting parts of the game was how Connolly started at right guard then moved to fullback on the start of the second series of the game before returning to guard. … Green-Ellis lined up as a lead-blocking fullback, running back, and in the shotgun in a two-back set. … Slater was the lone receiver in a power set with two tight ends and lead-blocking fullback.
In addition to Warren, receiver Sam Aiken also increased his workload. After not practicing Wednesday because of a hip injury, he took part in limited team drills Thursday.
Did Not Practice:
OLB Tully Banta-Cain (groin/rib)
DE Jarvis Green (knee)
G Stephen Neal (head)
LB Rob Ninkovich (knee)
RB Fred Taylor (ankle)
WR Sam Aiken (hip)
LB Eric Alexander (groin)
TE Chris Baker (shoulder)
NT Ron Brace (ankle)
WR Julian Edelman (forearm)
C Dan Koppen (knee)
LT Matt Light (knee)
RB Sammy Morris (knee)
DE Ty Warren (ankle)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)
CB Shawn Springs (knee)
TE Benjamin Watson (back)
LB Gary Guyton (illness) and WR Randy Moss (not injury related) were removed from the participation report.
On the Jets' side, LB Vernon Gholston (hamstring) and S Jim Leonhard (thumb) did not participate for the second day in a row, DE Shaun Ellis and WR Brad Smith (quad) were limited for the second straight day, and LB Bryan Thomas (toe) once again had full participation. Long snapper James Dearth (not injury related) was removed from the report.
FOXBOROUGH -- There shouldn't be too many surprises when the Patriots release their inactives shortly.
Five players have already been downgraded to out: wide receiver Julian Edelman (forearm), defensive end Jarvis Green (knee), offensive tackle Matt Light (knee), and running backs Sammy Morris (knee) and Fred Taylor (ankle).
Three players were listed as questionable on this week's injury report: defensive end Ty Warren (ankle), cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (illness), and tight end Benjamin Watson (back). That means each has a 50 percent chance of playing.
Watson was one of the first on the field for warmups this morning and didn't seem to have any issues as he went through his routine.
It should be interesting to see who the other three inactives are.
With the injuries on the defensive line, it would seem rookie Ron Brace, whose only appearance came in a Week 2 game loss to the Jets, would be a likely candidate to be active. First-year cornerback Kyle Arrington, activated from the practice squad this week, could get a look depending on the health of Wilhite and Terrence Wheatley, who was inactive for the Patriots' last game against the Buccaneers in London.