Patriots Draft: Targeting a "Burner"

In a methodical manner, the New England Patriots continue to work their way through free agency, losing a player here, losing another there. They're not just losing players, they're losing icons, they're losing their identity and they're losing valuable depth. They still have a host of veteran talent, but what are they doing to find new bodies? One answer is they're having individual workouts with draft prospects they think can help them in 2006. See who the latest "burner" is on their radar.

Now that Tim Dwight has moved on and the team has signed Reche Caldwell to fill his roster spot, the Patriots still need defenders and they still need a solid kick returner - a fast one. What they may have found is a player who can do both.

While attending the Stanford Pro Day, the Patriots -- along with a few other teams -- were intrigued by a blazingly fast defensive back not on their original radar screen. They liked him enough to arrange a private workout with the former Cardinal cornerback / kick returner T.J. Rushing.

Rushing has already held a workout with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Tuesday he joined Stanford's outside linebacker and good friend Jon Alston in working out for the Dallas Cowboys. The 5-11, 180-pound Oklahoma native has other scheduled workouts coming up, including the New England Patriots on March 30 and the St. Louis Rams on April 3.

T.J. Rushing helped Stanford with a number of memorable performances on The Farm, but the senior put forth a showing that helped himself last week at Stanford's Pro Day. An afterthought for many analysts and scouts for the upcoming NFL Draft, Rushing performed impressively, in front of representatives from most of the league.

T.J. Rushing, DB/KR Stanford

Rushing turned in the fastest 40 of the day among Stanford's seniors, with a 4.34 despite rainy conditions that made for slick grass and a number of slow times. He also recorded a 40" vertical jump and - most impressive of all - put up 20 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press.

"Everybody had me billed as a guy not strong enough and not fast enough," Rushing commented. "Any questions about speed and strength were answered [at Pro Day], even though the surface conditions were not what I wanted and I didn't run as fast as I wanted."

Not invited to the NFL Combines in Indianapolis (Ind.), Rushing had his first real opportunity to test and perform drills in front of an audience of NFL scouts last Wednesday. Believe it or not, he had been listed with "4.55" speed in the publications and data that circulates among scouts and general managers. Rushing rewrote that notion at Pro Day and now has scouts talking about his speed.

The other issue for Rushing has been his size, not among the biggest of cornerbacks at 5'9". But he says that he is not far from the size of many at his position in the NFL. Moreover, his leaping ability helps erase further concerns where size could be an issue.

"We've looked, and the average corner throughout the league is 5'9.75"," Rushing states. "And I think I answered that with my vertical. Some people were wondering if at my size I would get beat on the deep ball. If I can go up and bat it down, then there is no issue."


Scouting report:
TJ Rushing School: Stanford

Ht: 5-10.5 Wt: 175 40: 4.50 Year: 4Sr

Bio: Moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore and awarded All-Conference honors the past two seasons as a return specialist. Defensive numbers last year included 48/2/4 when he averaged 26.7 yards on 22 kick returns, with two scores. Averaged 28.4 yards on 23 kick returns as a junior, bringing one back 99-yards for a score.

Pos: Explosive track sprinter who translates his speed onto the football field. Quick-closing on the play, stays with opponents out from their breaks or easily runs downfield with receivers. Willing run defender who plays with an aggressive style. Breaks games open returning kicks.

Neg: Lacks instincts on defense and does not show a good sense of timing. Under-sized and loses out in battles at cornerback.

Analysis: A terrific athlete yet raw football player, Rushing's game-changing skills on special teams are his ticket to the NFL.


Related: Rushing Profile || Stanford Pro Day || Top Ranked CBs || More Draft Coverage

Mike Eubanks is a contributor for the Stanford Cardinals affiliate on the network

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