So apparently Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com decided to make a list of his favorite “Under the Radar” players- you know, players with heart, and grit, and passion, and muddy helmets and all that good stuff.
As we all know, it’s the intangibles in a player that matter, not his stats. Michael Smith, also of ilovethepatriotslawl.com, has decided to write another article about each of the players in Pasquarelli’s article. No, you did not read that incorrectly. This would be analogous to, say, some dude working on some small segment on a show on, say Comedy Central, turning that small segment into his own show. Absurd.
Well, without further ado, on to the first installment of “Here’s my article about that other guy’s article”!
Koppen anchors one of the league’s best O-lines
Koppen, eh? Never heard of him. Well at least we know from “league’s best O-lines” that he’s either on Atlanta, San Diego, Denver, Jacksonville, Dallas (top 5 rush/game teams) or New Orleans, Tennessee, Chicago, Indianapolis, Washington (fewest sacks allowed).
Editor's note: Dan Koppen is the center on Len Pasquarelli's team of Under-the-Radar players.
Yes, I know.
The day after Dan Koppen signed a five-year contract extension a little more than a month ago, the Patriots center was in North Carolina.
Patriots center? As in, the New England Patriots? Ohhh. The New England Patriots of New England. I get it. The O-line that has given up the 11th fewest sacks. The O-Line that produces the 12th best yards/carry numbers. That New England. I swear, I can’t think of another team that flies under the radar as much as they do. When was the last time you even heard of them?
Isn’t it interesting how the scouting aspect of the inexact science known as the NFL draft often works?
Yeah, tell me about it.
For sure it's not just what you know but who you know and what they know.
So O'Brien, Magazu and Co. assured Belichick and Pioli that Koppen was intelligent, tough, dedicated and passionate about football -- in other words, he was the Patriots' kind of player.
Yes, the “Patriots’” kind of player. As we all know, the Patriots are the only team in the NFL that wants players who are “intelligent, tough, and dedicated.” Seriously, look at the Colts. Have you ever seen such an assortment of cold, efficient, heartless, gutless, unintelligent, clean helmeted, uncaring football playing machines? Who wants to be a gritless 9-1 team when you can be a gritty, caring, jeterian, ecksteinesque, antirodriguezish 7-3 team?
The Patriots didn't think other teams had Koppen rated as highly, so they gambled, and waited until the fifth round to select him.
Of course. All the other teams cared about was the stats. Too bad for them they didn’t see the heart inside. The passion. The dedication. The fervor to lead his team to be the 12th best rushing team in the National Football League.
"Dan didn't really need anybody to stand up and pound the table for him," said Magazu, now in his fourth season with the Panthers. "Dan sold himself.
Yeah, Magazu just can’t get it done. I mean his Panthers rank 13th in yards/carry. Dude doesn’t know how to win.
"I was beside myself that he didn't go until as late as he did. In this business, everybody tries to get something for nothing. The Patriots played their cards right, and that's a helluva pick. When you can steal a guy of Dan Koppen's caliber, that's what it's all about."
“12th best O-line! Damn straight! That’s what it’s all about!” quoth Magazu.
New England isn't getting the 6-foot-2, 296-pound Koppen, 27, on the cheap anymore,
Waiiiit a minute. Are you sure he’s not 4-foot-3, and 43 pounds?
Oh. My mistake. Must’ve gotten him mixed up with this other guy I… know.
signing him to a deal reportedly worth as much as $20 million and making Koppen the fifth-highest paid center in the game.
He’s flying under the radar, yo!
His salary is reflective of his standing among the game's elite offensive line anchors in the opinion of personnel people.
You are citing the $#!@% opinion of the #$%# personnel people that #$@%%$ hired him.
Reporter: “Hey Mr. Patriotsguywhosignedkoppen, Why’d you sign Koppen?”
Mr. Patriotsguywhosignedkoppen: “Oh, he’s among the game’s elite offensive line anchors. In my opinion.”
What the #$%$# else is he going to say?
"He's worth every nickel they're giving him," Magazu said.
Oh… so you do cite a guy who’s not part of the Patriots’ “personnel people.”
…Who just happens to be Mr. Koppen’s former high school coach. Journalism at its finest.
Solid, steady linemen such as Koppen tend to remain relatively anonymous -- until contract time, that is.
I’d say. 20 million dollars? That’s like… more than the entire payroll of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays… almost.
And while he may not be as well known outside of New England, Koppen embodies the team's blue-collar, lunch-pail approach
Blue collar… 20 million dollars.... riiiiiight.
as much as teammates Tom Brady, Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, or Mike Vrabel.
What do all those guys have in common? Wait for it.
Koppen's success, much like that of the franchise, is more about intangibles than measurables.
Intangibles! Super Bowl Rings! Grit! Heart! Determination! And most importantly: WINS!!!!
His teammates and coaches rave about Koppen's ability to recognize defensive fronts and effectively communicate blocking assignments to his fellow linemen even in the most chaotic environment.
Read: His teammates and coaches are all amazed that Koppen passed out of high school English.
Left tackle Matt Light says Koppen is just cool under pressure. Simply put, in the Patriots' protection scheme, Brady identifies the "Mike," or middle linebacker, and Koppen pretty much takes it from there.
Why, thank you Michael Smith for letting us know that the middle linebacker is referred to as the “Mike.” We’re all pretty impressed with your inside football skills now.
It helps that Koppen is probably as studious and instinctive a center as Brady is a quarterback.
Oh gosh. The obligatory Tom Brady reference. ESPN, I dare you, don’t mention Tom Brady in a non-Tom Brady article (approximately 43x10235 are churned out hourly) for a week. I’ll buy a Mike Vrabel jersey.
"I can tell you what he's going to do before he does it, and he can probably tell you what I'm going to do before I do it," Koppen said of his quarterback.
Yes, in case you haven’t heard there’s this really cool new invention. It’s called the “huddle.”
Koppen was asked early on to anchor New England's line; he was forced into the starting lineup in Week 2 of his rookie season because of an injury to then-starter Damien Woody. No biggie, mainly because of the intangibles.
… Okay. Wow. That’s like a sentence I would write as sarcastic commentary. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
The mental and physical demands of the position didn't overwhelm him. Like a good linemen, you never knew he was there.
Yeah, neither did opposing defenses.
Koppen would start 46 consecutive games, including playoffs, until tearing a rotator cuff in the ninth game last season. But Koppen was, of course, diligent in his offseason rehabilitation and he's stepped right back in and started every game this season.
Best way to measure a player’s worth: how many games he’s played in a row. Everybody knows that. I mean, come on.
His speedy recovery is a source of pride for Koppen.
… I’m… amazed… ? Happy for him?
"The worst thing for an offensive lineman is to get pushed back, and that rarely ever happens with him."
Finally, let’s see, this must be a quote about Koppen from (1) a guy who’s not on his own team, and (2) a guy who was not his former high school coach. It must be. I can feel it.
-Bill Belichick on Dan Koppen
Koppen can't boast about his combine times,
I was there. It was not pretty.
but rather it's how little time it takes him to process information that makes him so effective.
Process information? I love that. Process information… wow. It’s as if you’re taking up an entire line of your article just to reassure us that he has a brain.
And he's savvy. He knows how to get good position on opponents, be they larger or quicker.
Larger? You could probably fit 15 Jerome Bettis’ in this guy.
"He's strong enough to handle the big guys, and little guys have a tough time getting around him," Belichick said.
Little guys… haha. For some (odd) reason, this conjures up an image of Koppen blocking David Eckstein. Oh man.
"My smarts," Koppen answered when asked to name his best quality as a center.
“Mr. Koppen, why have you been so successful?”
“Umm, excuse me?”
*Personnel person whispers something in his ear
“My smarts. Also,
"I'm not the biggest guy, but I know what's going on. I know when and where to be to get things done.
“I’m only 296 pounds, but my intangibles add to my weight. Tommy boy here tells me what to do, and where I need to go. He’s so awesome. I don’t know what I’d do without him. <3.”
“Okay, thank you Mr. Koppen.”
Koppen gets the most out of what he has, but don't be fooled: He may not be the most athletic but he gets it done from the neck down, too. He has a quick first few steps. He's agile enough to snap and then pull, which isn't easy to do but something the Patriots like to do with Koppen. His excellent playing strength and use of leverage and technique allows him to get movement off the line of scrimmage far more often than he is moved in the run game. He finishes his blocks well. As far as protection, Brady's one of the best at stepping up in the pocket to avoid the rush, and Koppen has a lot to do with that.
Ooookayy. Anything else?
"The worst thing for an offensive lineman is to get pushed back, and that rarely ever happens with him," Belichick said.
Is it just me, or does that quote sound awfully familiar?
When it comes to linemen, of course, it's more about the group than the individuals. What's not likely to happen anytime soon is the breakup of the Patriots' O-line -- their starters are all signed through at least 2009. And New England has one of the best offensive line coaches in the game in Dante Scarnecchia.
Here’s Michael Smith’s not-so-subtle hint to his co-journalists as to what their next articles should be about.
The anchor, Koppen, has worked himself into being as good as just about anybody at the position.
Arguably only the 12th best, but yeah. He has those intangibles.
"Dan's a great guy to have in your locker room and on your team," Belichick said.
His locker room leadership numbers are through the roof. When the coach of your own team praises you, you’re doing something right.
Said Magazu: "I believe he's going to play a long time."
When your former high school coach praises you? Now, that’s the stuff of legend.
Michael Smith is a senior writer at ESPNlawlpatriots<333.com>and has a crush on Tom Brady.