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News Blitz 2/24: Combine previews

With the NFL Scouting Combine kicking off today, that's predominantly what folks in the football world want to discuss.

ESPN offers a blog post suggesting that the Patriots should focus on offensive and defensive linemen over the next few days in Indianapolis, but also makes a case for wide receivers.

"You need a true wide receiver that can come in and give you something they haven't really had going back to Randy Moss [2007-2010]," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper opines. "Who could be there [late in the second round]? At that point, you could look at Leonte Carroo from Rutgers, a Tyler Boyd from Pitt. There's a chance Michael Thomas from Ohio State could slide down there far. There are going to be some interesting guys; we'll have to see where Braxton Miller from Ohio State ends up."

The Boston Globe provides a detailed breakdown of what really happens at the NFL Combine.

"Everyone knows that the prospects run the 40-yard dash and undergo psychological testing in the form of the Wonderlic test. But those two aspects are only a minor part of the overall combine experience," the writer explains. "It's really a four-day grind for the players, who get tugged and pulled on by several dozen doctors, get grilled in private interviews by team representatives, and have to perform on-field drills with thousands of eyes watching their every move."

Another Globe piece examines whether or not New England should get back the draft picks the NFL took away from the Patriots during the DeflateGate investigation.

Regardless of whether that happens, the Boston Herald asserts that the Patriots have lots of work to do this week in Indy, and points out five specific areas where the Belichick brain trust must concentrate. O-line is a priority, the Herald says.

"The problem won't be solved with the return of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia or a healthy Nate Solder at left tackle. As last year proved, if Solder or Sebastian Vollmer go down, Tom Brady turns into a human pinata. Opposing defensive ends nearly broke Brady in half, particularly late in the year and in the postseason."

Elsewhere, The Providence Journal maintains that getting contract extensions with some key defenders is paramount for the Patriots this offseason.

"Retaining [linebackers Dont'a] Hightower and [Jamie] Collins should be among the organization's primary goals in 2016. They have the potential to be stalwarts of the defense for years to come, in the mold of Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Willie McGinest. It will not be easy. Collins is going to command a lot of money, especially if he hits free agency, due to his rare blend of size, speed and athleticism. The same goes for Hightower. He's built like a defensive end and can impact a defense in many different ways."

Signing those players (and others) might be a little easier thanks to a windfall the Patriots might get in terms of salary cap relief, according to a *Wall Street Journal *article. A Mass Live blog post breaks things down further, explaining how much more money the Patriots might expect to recoup as a result.

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