Senior Bowl Buzz: Patriots Getting Defensive

Despite the title of the article and the occasional abrasiveness of some Patriots coaches and executives in the past, everyone on the team has been on their best behavior in Mobile, Alabama. While being kind and courteous, the Pats have been looking for defensive help.

Pats Defensive at Senior Bowl

With a mostly aging linebacking corps aside from last year’s stud first-round pick Jerod Mayo, the Patriots are seemingly looking to get younger at the position. This years Senior Bowl is the perfect place to window-shop a linebacker, as there are plenty in this particular class to choose from.

The Patriots have seemingly taken quite an interest in a pair of USC guys in the ultra-recognizable Rey Maualuga and the hard-working Clay Matthews. The Patriots met with both players last night, and apparently came away very impressed with both.

After a bad first practice Monday, Maualuga showed on Tuesday why he is considered among the very best in his position in the nation as he moved much more fluidly and showed great instincts in drills. He looks to be one of those players who gets much, much better when the pads are on.

Nobody appreciates the value of hard work more than the hardest working man in the football business, and that guy very well may be Bill Belichick. A football player after his mold may be Clay Matthews, Jr. Matthews isn’t the typical son of an NFL player as he wasn’t a blue-chip prospect coming out of high school and had to earn a job as a walk-on at USC.

Clay Matthews, (Paul Pinner Photo)

“It’s been a lot of ups and downs,” Matthews said as he spoke of his journey. “To walk on to a program like USC is a tough job and I’ve really had to work for everything. Most walk-ons are satisfied with the high end of their career making special teams. Obviously, I was aiming for much more and I got a little recognition out of high school because I wasn’t the best player because I was underdeveloped, but through a lot of perseverance and hard work in the meeting room, gym, practice fields, I’ve been able to work my way up to be a playmaker on the number one defense in college this year.”

Patriots czar Bill Belichick is familiar with the Matthews family as he coached Clay’s dad, Clay Sr. when they were in Cleveland in the early 90’s. Clay feels that he has an advantage over several players by having his father close by.

“As far as mental preparation, I have him to call every day to get advice,” Matthews said. “And as far as today, he told me what I did good and what I need to get better at. He’s been very instrumental to my development to this point in my career.”

There is some extra competition between the USC players, being that there are six of them on the South team roster. Especially with the linebackers, as each player thinks he’s the best of the group.

“They bring their intensity each and every day and it’s a battle with them at linebacker to see who’s going to be the most productive, the most tackles, the most sacks,” Matthews said. “Rey kept saying that he was going to run the best at the combine. Me and Cush (Brian Cushing) didn’t take that too lightly and we’re going to do like Coach Del Rio said which was compete.”

A few other defensive players that the Pats have taken a keen interest in are Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers, Oklahoma safety/linebacker Nic Harris, and Virginia Tech cornerback Victor “Macho” Harris.

NFL Draft Scout has Mauluga rated as a first round pick, has him listed as a 5-star prospect (8th overall). Matthews is rated as a second round pick at NDS, Scout has him as a 4-star prospect and 57th overall.Ayers holds a 2-3rd round grade by NDS ans a 3-star rating (109th overall) at scout. More Draft grades at Scout can be found here: Link

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

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