Friday, May 09, 2014

Dominique Easley: Approve or Disapprove?

I don't know if fans will approve of the Patriots drafting Dominique Easley, or disapprove. On the one hand the Patriots didn't trade down, and people seem to hate when they do that. They also drafted defense, which many fans wanted them to do.

On the other hand, Dominique Easley has injury problems. He might even be "injury prone." And he also went to school at the same place that some other unsuccessful Patriots draftees played (Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Spikes, Chad Jackson, and I'm sure people will include no-lose acquisitions like Tim Tebow and Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps).

I'll address the Florida Gator concern first. Do you really want the Patriots to avoid drafting players from one of the top programs in the top college football conference in the country? Just because their previous choices from that school haven't worked out? Do you really want Belichick and the Patriots personnel people to say "We like this guy... but he's a Gator... next?"

If Dominique Easley doesn't work out, it won't be because of where he went to school.

But he might not work out because of injury and his potential proneness to said injury. He's torn each of his ACLs. You tear one ACL and that's just football (see: Tom Brady, Wes Welker). You tear two and everyone takes a step back. You get that "injury prone" label. You fall from the top 10 to 29th, and projected by some to go even later.

I'm not a doctor. Most Patriots fans aren't doctors. I will say that ACL tears don't worry me as much as back issues. ACLs tear all the time in football, and it happening twice might be injury proneness, it might be horrible luck. Logan Mankins tore his ACL in college and he's played 14.4 games per season in the NFL. He even tore an ACL in 2012 and kept playing because he didn't realize it. Which is astounding. Mankins has torn an ACL twice, yet he isn't considered "injury prone."

Easley tore an ACL in November 2011. By September 2012 he was playing for Florida again. I'd be more concerned if he were one of those guys who came back from injury slowly (like Gronkowski). He evidently recovers at the expected rate. He played 13 games in 2012 and into 2013, then his other ACL tore. I'd be more concerned if the same ACL tore, because that would be another sign of possible recovery issues.

Despite the two tears, he managed to play 29 games for Florida.

He's still an unknown variable, just like any draft pick. Taking into consideration the "if healthy" tag does make him more of an unknown. What I like about this pick is that if he's good (and healthy), the Patriots can definitely use him. If he's not good, they don't depend on him. They can take a chance with a defensive lineman because they have some decent ones already. Signing Will Smith complements this pick very well.

The Patriots don't need Dominique Easley to be healthy to have a good defensive line. But if he is healthy, he can make that line significantly better, and younger. Wilfork, Kelly, Smith, Chandler Jones, Ninkovich, and then add Easley. Not too shabby. Then at linebacker you have Jerod Mayo back, Jamie Collins showed exciting sparks last year. Then the improved secondary with Revis and Browner...

It's not a bad defense. Easley can make it better. If he's injured or fails, the defense will still be good.

Matt Fraser Wins Game 4 in Overtime

On May 3rd Matt Fraser played for the Providence Bruins of the AHL, as they beat the Springfield Falcons 6-3 to advance in the Calder Cup Playoffs. 4,427 people were there. The next game Fraser found himself in, he scored a game-winning overtime goal to push the Boston Bruins over the Montreal Canadiens, in front of 21,273 Habs fans. What a difference a week makes.

Fraser scored the goal to end the game, but it was Tuukka Rask's play that won the game. In the 2nd he stopped Brian Gionta on a breakaway after David Krejci was stripped of possession. In the 3rd Rask stopped Gionta again on a point blank shot. He made all the big saves, he kept his team in the game when they were struggling to score at the other end. He stopped all 33 shots the Canadiens took at him. You can't ask anything more from a goalie.

If not for Rask's play, Matt Fraser would never have gotten the chance to be the playoff hero.

The Bruins played this game much more solidly than Game 3. There were fewer glaring mistakes. At the same time, there wasn't much pressure put on the Canadiens or on Price. The Krejci line is still a nonfactor. Krejci himself did win more faceoffs than he lost (10 for 18), and Iginla leveled a nice hit on Max Pacioretty, but Krejci only had 1 shot on goal, Iginla had none. Lucic managed 4, but most were token shots at the logo on Price's sweater.

Carl Soderberg's line produced the best chances. Soderberg hit a crossbar late in the 1st, and Fraser was skating with the Soderberg line in overtime when he knocked in a rebound to win the game.

Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk were the Bruins best defensemen and their best skaters. Chara broke up a 2-on-1 in the 1st (PK Subban soon thereafter broke up a Bruins' 2-on-1 at the other end of the ice). Boychuk made a big block late in the 3rd period, one of his 4 blocks in the game.

This was a classic, defensive Bruins victory. The Bruins were patient and poised, and they leave Canada on a victorious note.

It's such a massive difference to come back to Boston tied 2-2 as opposed to being down 3-1.

Game 5 Saturday night in Boston.