John Tomase of the Boston Herald offers a story on Patriots first round pick Laurence Maroney. Much has been made of Laurence Maroney's physical ability and big-play potential. But Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema warns those charged with defending the Patriots' top draft pick against underestimating his intelligence. As an example, Bielema points to the 93-yard touchdown run that serves as the centerpiece of every Maroney highlight reel. It came last Oct. 15 during Maroney's career-best 258-yard afternoon in Minnesota's 38-34 loss to the Badgers. Minnesota employs a rigid zone blocking scheme, instructing its ball carriers to move north-south and take the certain four yards over the possible 40. The 5-foot-11, 211-pound Maroney noticed Bielema's defense overpursuing and waited for his moment. "Laurence is smart," said Minnesota offensive coordinator Mitch Browning. "There are certain times to look for those plays in the NFL and there are other times you're going to get tackled in the backfield. That's something he'll learn the longer he's in the league."
*USA Today's * "Inside Slant" writes that Corey Dillon is coming off a miserable season and will turn 32 in October, so the Patriots presented offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels with his potential successor in first-round pick Laurence Maroney of Minnesota. Receiver David Givens flew the coop in free agency, so in comes second-round wideout Chad Jackson of Florida. And with No. 3 tight end Christian Fauria now a Redskin and Dan Graham's contract expiring after this season, the Patriots fortified the position with third-rounder David Thomas of Texas.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal reports that New England announced the signing of 15 undrafted free agents on Monday. The Pats have hit on undrafted players in the past, most recently with corner Randall Gay in 2004 and nose tackle Mike Wright in 2005. The Pats tabbed nose tackle Remi Ayodele (6-foot-2, 300 pounds, Oklahoma), center Brian Barthelmes (6-6, 288, Virginia), quarterback Corey Bramlett (6-4, 219, Wyoming), corner Vernell Brown (5-8, 165, Florida), wide receiver Erik Davis (6-2, 192, Vanderbilt), defensive end Kader Drame (6-5, 290, Syracuse), tackle Randy Hand (6-6, 305, Florida), safety Jarvis Herring (5-11, 205, Florida), safety Keon Jackson (5-11, 206, Toledo), linebacker Corey Mays (6-1, 234, Notre Dame, linebacker Freddie Roach (6-2, 248, Alabama), wide receiver Matt Shelton (6-0, 172, Notre Dame), safety Sam Smith (6-0, 200, Delaware St.), corner Gemara Williams (5-8, 180, Buffalo) and linebacker Pierre Woods (6-5, 249, Michigan).
Eric McHugh of the *Patriot Ledger * reports that the Patriots signed veteran inside linebackers Barry Gardner and Jeremy Loyd on Monday. Not counting this year's crop of rookie free agents, the signings give the Patriots 12 linebackers, including rookie Jeremy Mincey, a sixth-round pick out of Florida who will convert from defensive end. The team has to fill Willie McGinest's spot in the starting lineup, but neither Gardner (6-1, 245 pounds) nor Loyd (6-2, 235) should be considered the favorite to assume that role. Loyd, 25, has appeared in only 14 games in his first two seasons (both with the St. Louis Rams) and has yet to record a defensive stat. A former rookie free agent with the Cleveland Browns, he missed the entire 2004 season with a shoulder injury. Gardner, 29, has played in 110 career games for the Philadelphia Eagles (1999-2002), Browns (2003-04) and New York Jets (2005). He was the 35th overall pick in the 1999 draft - a rags-to-riches story for the former walk-on at Northwestern - but he has started only six games since 2000. Five of those starts came at the tail end of the 2004 season with Cleveland, when he subbed for an injured Andra Davis at middle linebacker and caught the eye of Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Eric McHugh of the Patriot Ledger also offers a capsule look at the Patriots 15 undrafted rookie free agents.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.