Jake Ballard and 4 Best Offseason Acquisitions New England Patriots Have Made
After yet another heartbreaking Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants, Patriot Nation begged and pleaded for a solid offseason that would put their home team back in position to make another run at a championship title in 2012.
Ask and you shall receive.
The following slides will highlight some of New England's best offseason moves.
Claiming Jake Ballard
In the words of Bill Belichick, "You can never have too many good football players."
Much to the chagrin of Tom Coughlin, Belichick stayed true to his words when he claimed tight end Jake Ballard after he was waived by the New York Giants.
Signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2010, Ballard's second year in the league was a productive one. Registering a commendable 38 receptions for 604 yards and four touchdowns, there's no wonder why Belichick jumped at the chance to bring him on board.
Though still recovering from ACL surgery, Ballard could eventually be a nice insurance policy for the Patriots.
Towering at 6'6'' with the ability to both block and catch, Ballard would be a serviceable backup for Rob Gronkowski and perhaps a replacement for Aaron Hernandez should the Pats prove unable to pay him the big bucks down the road.
Signing Brandon Lloyd
Lloyd was brought in to provide a layer to New England's offense that has been missing since the departure of Randy Moss: a legitimate vertical threat.
Lacking elite speed, Lloyd makes up for it with his ability to make acrobatic catches over defenders.
He’s got great ball skills and great body control. If you get it near him, he’s going to catch it. It’s just a matter of sometimes it doesn’t look like he’s really open and then boom, he springs open on you.
If Lloyd can continue to develop a rapport with Brady on the field, the Patriots will be that much closer to being completely unstoppable on offense.
Signing Steve Gregory
Snagging Steve Gregory early in free agency was a sound move for the Patriots because it filled a glaring need at the safety position.
Per ESPNBoston, Gregory has already earned high praise from Patriots' starting safety Patrick Chung:
He's smart. He's a smart dude. He can make plays, he can see things. He's a veteran out there. I'm learning things from him too.
Overshadowed by Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle during his time in San Diego, Gregory is a solid player with above average pass-defending skills.
In a recent online chat, Mike Reiss of ESPNboston opined on Gregory's display of coverage skills during a Patriots minicamp practice:
Tom Brady was looking for Wes Welker on one of those quick passes toward the sideline and Gregory showed nice anticipation and broke toward the ball to bat it away. I think that coverage aspect could really help the Patriots at the safety spot.
Gregory should immediately upgrade the Patriots' secondary.
Re-Signing Dan Koppen
Bringing back long-time starting center Dan Koppen was a head-scratching move at first as the Patriots had just extended Dan Connolly, who emerged as the starting center last season after Koppen went down with a broken ankle in Week 1.
However, with starting left guard Logan Mankins still recovering from a torn ACL and starting right guard Brian Waters not reporting to mandatory minicamp, depth at the guard position has suddenly become rather thin.
In 2010 Connolly filled in at left guard and right guard for Mankins and Stephen Neal, respectively. If need be, the Patriots can return the starting center job to Koppen and move Connolly over to either of the guard positions.
The Patriots re-signing center Dan Koppen may not have been one of the most exciting moves this offseason but it may ultimately prove to be one of the smartest.
Using First-Round Picks on Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower
Throughout his career in New England, Bill Belichick has made an annual tradition of disappointing Patriot Nation by trading down or out of the first round of the NFL draft.
Belichick proved his unpredictability once again last April by not only electing to use both of his first-round draft picks, but also by trading up twice in doing so.
With the first-round selections of Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones and Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower, the Patriots immediately upgraded the athleticism of its defensive front seven while also satisfying Patriots fans across New England.