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Talib, Pats secondary seek consistency, stability

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Talib, Pats secondary seek consistency, stability

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The Patriots' pass defense has been very consistent.

It's one of the worst in the NFL for the third straight year.

But now the secondary is striving to develop a different kind of consistency - a better kind. And, with the shuffling of starters apparently at its conclusion, it appears that the Patriots are headed that way.

``The more you play, the more you mesh,'' cornerback Aqib Talib said Tuesday. ``The more time you get together, it definitely helps.''

Talib is the newest, and possibly final, piece of a puzzle that finally seems to be fitting well after 10 games in which New England has allowed the third most yards passing in the NFL. That's an improvement over last season, when the Patriots gave up the second most. And in 2010, they permitted the third most.

Not that big a deal, safety Steve Gregory said.

It didn't keep the Patriots from reaching the Super Bowl last season, losing 21-17 to the New York Giants on a last-minute touchdown. And it hasn't stopped them this season from leading the AFC East by three games with a 7-3 record heading into Thursday night's visit to the New York Jets.

``Figures lie,'' Gregory said after the Patriots allowed 329 yards passing but routed the Indianapolis Colts 59-24 on Sunday.

``We don't pay attention to too many stats. We just focus in on playing good, hard-nosed football and winning football games. At the end of the day, when that clock strikes zero, if we're on the winning edge, we're happy.''

Against the Colts, they capitalized on two overthrown passes by Andrew Luck and returned both for touchdowns - 87 yards by rookie Alonzo Dennard and 59 yards by Talib.

``You talk about going out and trying to stop an offense and getting turnovers and all those good things,'' Devin McCourty said, ``but when you score points, that really lifts your team up.''

For the first four games, McCourty and Kyle Arrington started at cornerback with Gregory and Patrick Chung at safety. Rookie second-round pick Tavon Wilson started for the injured Gregory the next two games. Then, with Chung sidelined for the seventh game, McCourty moved to safety and Dennard started at cornerback.

Gregory returned for the ninth game when the Patriots had their fourth different starting secondary of the season. Then coach Bill Belichick acquired Talib from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and he made his Patriots debut last Sunday after completing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

``As if they need another great player,'' Jets coach Rex Ryan said. ``With Belichick, he does a lot of different things on defense to take advantage of players' talents. It's going to be really interesting to see what he does with Talib because, if his first game is any indication, that's not bad. You know, get an interception for a touchdown. I really thought (Belichick) should have waited until after we played to play this young man, though.''

Talib knows he made mistakes. He gave up two touchdown receptions by T.Y. Hilton, in fact.

On the second, ``I had my eyes in the wrong spot, eyes exactly where they shouldn't be,'' he said, ``on the quarterback. So I watched him throw a touchdown on me.''

But after sitting out more than a month with the suspension and trying to adjust to a new team, he expects to improve as he gets used to Belichick's system.

``Aqib did some good things in the game. There are other things that he'll work on,'' Belichick said. ``I think as our group plays together this week and the next game and so forth, hopefully our overall execution as a (defensive) unit can improve. Obviously, we haven't had a chance to do that with him other than a couple days last week.''

Gregory expects the secondary to get better as Talib gets more experience in it.

``It was good to get out there with him, get the communication things going on with him, understand how he plays in a game atmosphere,'' Gregory said. ``Practice is one thing, but when you get out there in live action you kind of get a feel for each other. So that was a great experience for us.''

The Patriots have allowed 47 completions of more than 20 yards this season, nearly five a game. Seventeen came in their three losses And they lost to Baltimore 31-30 on Justin Tucker's 27-yard field goal on the last play after a 27-yard pass interference call against McCourty gave the Ravens new life.

But two weeks ago, McCourty made the big play in the final minute. He intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick's pass in the end zone with 23 seconds left when receiver T.J. Graham ran to the wrong spot, allowing the Patriots to hang on for a 37-31 win over Buffalo.

``If the offense doesn't score,'' McCourty said, ``and the (opponent) comes back out and they're trying to punch another one in, that's the time when someone really has to step up.''

A week later, Talib did that with his interception for a touchdown. That gave the Patriots the lead for good, 21-14, and they outscored the Colts 38-10 the rest of the way.

It was the start of something big on defense.

In that game and, perhaps, for the rest of the season.

``There's a lot of, hopefully, room for growth and more consistency and better execution on all levels,'' Belichick said. ``When you add a new player in there, hopefully that will get better.''

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Ravens Mock Draft Roundup: Looks like Baltimore's getting a new wide receiver

Ravens Mock Draft Roundup: Looks like Baltimore's getting a new wide receiver

This is it. It’s finally the week of the 2017 NFL Draft, signaling the end to all of the mock drafts and educated guesses about which move your favorite team will make in the first round.

As for the Baltimore Ravens, there are a number of different directions they could go — add some youth to their receivers, buff up their defensive line or pull a move that could surprise everyone.

With the countdown to the NFL Draft now down to days, here’s a look at which players draft experts and analysts think the Ravens will take with their No. 16 first-round pick.

 

Corey Davis, WR from Western Michigan

Ben Standig, CSN Mid-Atlantic: He argues the Ravens need to prioritize their receiving unit to give Joe Flacco more consistent opens.

“The 6-foot-3 Davis wasn't just a receiver in 2016. We're talking playmaking monster after catching 97 passes for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns.”

But he also offers up the idea of an edge rusher for the Ravens too.

See Ben Standig's complete 2017 NFL Mock Draft 10.0

Chris Wormley, DE from Michigan

Cameron DaSilva, FOX Sports: Although he asserts Wormley deserves to be a first-round pick somewhere, the Raven’s No. 16 pick could be a bit too high but thinking he’ll still be around by the team’s second-round pick at 47 is “risky.”

“Often overshadowed by other playmakers on Michigan’s defense (Taco Charlton, Jabrill Peppers), Wormley is a great player in his own right, and fits perfectly as a 3-4 defensive end. He can eat up blocks on the edge for Terrell Suggs and Baltimore’s other dynamic pass rushers, while also generating pressure himself.”

Mike Williams, WR from Clemson

Rob Rang, CBS Sports: With the losses of Steve Smith, Sr. and Kamar Aiken, he’s not the only one to point out the Ravens need someone Flacco can rely on, and Williams might be it.

“The Ravens need help at edge rusher and offensive tackle, as well, but general manager Ozzie Newsome may have a hard time letting a prototypical split end like the 6-4, 218-pound Williams slip any further. His ability to box out defenders and win contested passes could make him a quick favorite for Joe Flacco…”

Corey Davis, WR form Western Michigan

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: His argument is quite simple.

“At some point, they have to get Joe Flacco more help outside. This is a player who will end up being the best receiver in this class.”

Cam Robinson, OT from Alabama

Chad Reuter, NFL.com: No matter what’s left by the time the Ravens’ pick rolls around, he argues Baltimore will find someone for the O-Line.

“If Buffalo takes this physically dominant tackle from Alabama at 10, then Ozzie Newsome will find another bargain here.”

 O.J. Howard, TE from Alabama 

Evan Silva, Yahoo Sports: In a year of stand-out tight ends, he asserts this might be the right move for the Ravens.

"Tight ends ordinarily do not make first-year impacts, and the depth of the class could work against the top-end talents. At No. 16, however, I think Howard would be too appealing for GM Ozzie Newsome to pass. 2015 second-round pick Maxx Williams has been a colossal disappointment, and Dennis Pitta is on his last legs. Howard is the pro-readiest tight end in this class." 

John Ross, WR from Washington

Mike Tanier, Bleacher Report: His point is to basically have the Ravens strengthen their offense so it’s reliable and they can leave it alone while working to improve other areas.

“So fast. So record-shatteringly fast. Can also run routes and catch and stuff.”

MORE NFL DRAFT: 15 first-round NFL Draft busts

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2017 NFL Mock Draft 10.0: Plenty of questions ahead of draft day

2017 NFL Mock Draft 10.0: Plenty of questions ahead of draft day

The 2017 NFL Draft takes place this Thursday, April 27th.

With just a few days until draft day, we are doing some last-minute edits to our mock draft. 

CLICK HERE FOR LATEST NFL MOCK DRAFT

While the top picks remain all but guaranteed — DEs Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas — The meat of the first round is where the intrigue is.

Just how high will Texas Tech QB Pat Mahomes go?

Will Christian McCaffrey still be on the board when the Redskins draft at No. 18?

Will Reuben Foster plummet out of the first round?

There are a bevy of questions that need to be answered.

Mock Draft 10.0 answers those questions.

CLICK HERE FOR LATEST NFL MOCK DRAFT