Patriots Insider and TFY Draft Preview have kept tabs on draft eligible players and the team's scouting department as the countdown to the 2006 NFL Draft continues. For the majority of what has been confirmed, the Patriots have met with and/or spoken to mostly offensive and defensive linemen. The team appears to have also put out some feelers to one top rated defensive back, Miami's Kelly Jennings.
Jennings was a member on the Miami team that played against the Ohio State Buckeyes for the national championship just a few short years ago. He has drawn interest from a number of teams, including the New York Giants according to this TFY Draft Preview story. (Senior Bowl: More Team Interests)
|Wide receiver Chris Davis #5 of the Florida State Seminoles has a pass knocked away by defensive back Kelly Jennings #22 of the Miami Hurricanes at Doak Campbell Stadium September 5, 2005 in Tallahassee, Florida. FSU beat Miami 10-7. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)|
Jennings, is a top-ten rated corner with decent size and speed. There are concerns that question whether he is physical enough to support the run. For the Patriots, their concern is his pass coverage skills. New England was ranked an abysmal 31st in the league against the pass, with many of the yards coming in big chunks against the Patriots' replacement backs.
Due to a rash of injuries that sidelined their starters for the second season in a row, the Patriots were forced to find talent any place they could, even starting their rookies, street free agents and wide receiver Troy Brown.
The Patriots drafted Ellis Hobbs in the third round of last years' Draft, and he turned out to be a pleasant surprise down the stretch. Unfortunately for New England, they had to find out how Hobbs was as a player after their first three corners went down with injuries.
2005 saw the Patriots lose six defensive backs. They were without cornerbacks Tyrone Poole, Randall Gay, Chad Scott and Duane Starks and safeties Rodney Harrison and Guss Scott. All six finished the season on injured reserve.
The Patriots signed Michael Stone, Artrell Hawkins, Hank Poteat and Antuan Edwards, none of whom are the types of talent the team needs if it wants to see improvement for 2006. Stone, Poteat, Hawkins and Chad Scott are all free agents. Edwards was released during the season, and the return of Harrison is still up in the air.
The need for additional help in the Patriots' secondary is a given. Will Jennings be one of the players they add? At 5-foot-11, 180-pounds, he has something close to the height the Patriots are looking for (the other DBs are 5-9). Whether he has the rest of the physical attributes necessary to wind up in New England will be determined once he completes the tests ahead of him at the NFL Combine just two weeks away.
Scout.com's observer notes on Jennings from the Senior Bowl:
Monday Practice Notes: Puts himself in good position to make a play on the ball. Does not take the right angles when closing that gap. Does a good job of forcing the action to where his help is.
Tuesday Practice Notes: Good technician - very fluid in his change of direction. Stops on a dime and shows good recovery skills. Will bite on double moves with his aggressive mentality. Rolled his ankle late in the session.
Wednesday Practice Notes: Knowledge of his position and the coverages is evident. Plays to his responsibility and reads the receivers feet well. Had trouble with lateral movement today, perhaps due to the ankle he rolled on Tuesday.
Thursday Practice Notes: Looked good, displaying a nice break to the ball and willingness to mix it up. Had trouble going up against the bigger wide outs.
Analysis: Bounces in his backpedal and does not keep it consistent. Fluid when changing direction, good positioning and understands his responsibilities and where his help is. Lateral movement was hindered by an ankle injury early in the week. Overall, upped his status.