For everyone who watched Sunday night's game it was tough not to be a little encouraged with their performance after seeing the Patriots battle to the end against a Falcons team that didn't make it easy on them.
New England showed quite a bit of poise on both sides of the football and managed to survive a late miscue thanks to a botched onside kick recovery, which helped launch a comeback bid by Atlanta. Fortunately Aqib Talib came up big in the closing minutes, including a huge 4th down stop in the endzone with under a minute to go that could have sent the game to overtime.
Here are some thoughts on last night's game:
1) It was a huge win, but it was costly - As if the Patriots injury situation wasn't bad enough, last night's game down in Atlanta has dealt New England another big blow. It came early in the game after defensive lineman Vince Wilfork was carted back to the locker room after an apparent foot injury. Shalise Manza Young later reported that Wilfork suffered a torn Achilles, which will likely mean he's gone for the season Wilfork is on defense what Brady is on offense, he's the key to their group up front and helps the rest of the unit function properly. New England now has quite a challenge ahead of them figuring out how to replace him, which leaves guys like Tommy Kelly, Chris Jones, and Joe Vellano with an opportunity to establish themselves as potential unsung heroes now that he's gone.
2) Patriots were dealt other injuries as well - Also banged up were receiver Aaron Dobson and running back Brandon Bolden, who are two key parts of the Patriots already depleted offense. Dobson took a shot in the end zone late in the contest that left him writhing around on the ground after the hit. He left the game with an apparent neck injury and didn't return, and was seen heading back to the locker room after the play. Meanwhile Bolden also went down with an apparent knee injury, however, he managed to return and had a late game carry. He's a player that has been a key component during Shane Vereen's absence, and if they lose him it definitely takes away a dynamic that they'll have a tough time replacing.
3) Offensive depth was a massive factor in last night's win - After pointing out who they've lost, it's hard not to appreciate the fact New England has one of the deepest rosters we've seen during the Bill Belichick era. Their stable of running backs is solid enough where each player has been able to step in and contribute, and despite the inexperience at the receiver position every guy they have has the speed and quickness to at least get open and move the chains. Up until last night Josh Boyce hadn't had much success catching the football, having seen limited snaps with Brady while failing to connect on three previous targets. However, last night he had his first catch of the year, which was a big 24 yard reception to put them in Falcons territory (he had a previous 4 yard grab, but that was nullified by a Falcons penalty). That lead to a field goal that put New England up 30-13 with 6:23 to go in the game. Should Dobson miss time, Boyce may get more of an opportunity to work his way into the line-up. For a group who seemed to be in trouble a couple of weeks ago, it's turning out to be a strong bunch.
Meanwhile, the running back position is incredibly deep, with LeGarrette Blount rounding out a group that behind Stevan Ridley has been remarkably productive. Despite losing Shane Vereen they haven't skipped a beat, with Blount and Bolden both picking up the slack carrying the ball as a change of pace. The biggest loss is the fact that Bolden has been the guy who has been able to catch the ball out of the backfield, which if he misses any further time leaves them with a void that they'll have to figure out how to deal with.
4) The Patriots offense was huge on third down last night - Bill Belichick talks all the time about dealing with being able to make plays in important situations, and New England came up big, especially on third down. Overall they finished 7-of-13, but more importantly they converted quite a few last night in long yardage situations. They converted 2-of-3 on 3rd-and-8, and 1-of-2 on 3rd and more than 10 yards. Being able to overcome those on the road is incredible, and it's hard not to appreciate a lot of the plays they made last night which helped them get the win.
SOME NUMBERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN:
1) The Patriots extended their turnover streak to 31 straight games having forced a turnover defensively thanks to a fourth quarter interception by Aqib Talib. It gave Talib his 4th pick of the season, tying him for the league lead with Tennessee's Alterraun Verner, and Buffalo linebacker Kiko Alonso.
2) Brady's touchdown streak is now at 52 straight games thanks to his one yard touchdown pass to Matthew Mulligan. That was Mulligan's second career touchdown, and he became the second player this season whose first catch of the year was a touchdown (Dobson was the other back in week two against the Jets).
3) Tom Brady had just 9 first half attempts last night, which were the lowest he's had all season. Here's a breakdown by week prior to last night: Week 1: 25 attempts, Week 2: 24 attempts, Week 3: 19 attempts.
4) Julian Edelman had his longest catch of the year last night with a 44-yard reception, which came on third down. He also was a perfect 3-of-3 catching the ball on 3rd down with two first downs, extending his perfect target/reception streak to 11-of-11 on the year with 7 first downs.
5) Last night's victory improved the Patriots to 4-0 against Atlanta under Belichick, and 3-0 in the Georgia Dome during that span.
6) Kenbrell Thompkins finished the night with seven catches for 127 yards and a touchdown, giving him his first career NFL game with over 100 yards receiving.
FORMER PATRIOTS QB'S COME UP BIG SUNDAY:
Sunday saw both former Patriot quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Cassel come up with big wins for their football team, with Cassel delivering a victory for the Vikings over in London over Pittsburgh, while Hoyer helped win the battle of Ohio by beating the Bengals.
Both players threw two touchdown passes, and both also didn't throw an interception. Hoyer finished the afternoon 25-of-38 for 269 yards along with his two scoring strikes, and after an even better performance Sunday he's suddenly given Cleveland some momentum after winning his second consecutive start. He currently has the Browns even at 2-2, with a hope of salvaging a season that had been seemingly lost after an 0-2 start. The confidence in the offense has also appeared to have jump-started their defense, which held the Bengals without a touchdown for the first time in two years. Hoyer said after the game that he's just trying to play within himself, and compliment the play of his defense.
“Last week, with the interceptions, I kind of had that in my mind (Sunday),” Hoyer said. “When you have a defense as good as ours, you just don’t want to screw it up. And getting the call to lead this offense is kind of like getting the keys to a Ferrari. You want to drive it fast, but you don’t want to crash it, either.”
Meanwhile Cassel is creating a bit of a quarterback controversy after stepping up in a big game against the Steelers and playing mistake-free football, leaving the Vikings with a tough decision after Cassel finished 16-of-25 for 248 yards and his two touchdown passes. Cassel's victory kept Minnesota from going 0-4, and should make for some interesting discussion as the team heads into their bye week. The Vikings clearly believe Christian Ponder, who missed this week's game with a rib injury, is the future of their franchise and Ponder got an endorsement from Vikings coach Leslie Frazier after the victory.
"If you're asking, our quarterback is Christian Ponder," Frazier said after the game via ESPN. "Now we'll discuss a lot of things when we come out of the bye, but ... we're going to enjoy this victory for a little while at least."
Frazier should probably think twice because even at 1-3, they're not out of it. The question will be whether or not he believes Cassel can dig them out of the hole that they're in, or if they'll sit him back down in favor of Ponder in two weeks against Carolina. After putting on a strong performance in London, hopefully Cassel gets another opportunity.
WOODHEAD COMES UP BIG IN SAN DIEGO:
Despite giving up 21 second quarter points, the Chargers came up with a big win against the Cowboys on Sunday and former Patriots running back Danny Woodhead was a big reason why San Diego improved to 2-2. He caught 5 passes for 54 yards as well as two touchdowns, including a critical third quarter 13-yard score from Philip Rivers that got the Chargers back in the game, pulling them to within just one point at 21-20. From there they shut Dallas out and added a fourth quarter field goal and touchdown to win 30-21 After this game Woodhead is now the second leading receiver in receptions for them, with 22 catches for 162 yards, three receptions behind Antonio Gates who has 25 grabs for 364 yards. Both players have two touchdowns. It's definitely good to see Woodhead enjoying success out there after most fans were obviously disappoited to see him leave New England.
ON TO TODAY'S LINKS MEDIA LINKS:
Borges: Steps in both directions for Patriots - Ron Borges - Borges writes that the Patriots progressed quite a ways last night at the Georgia Dome - in both directions.
Patriots pleased for Brian Hoyer's new start - Mark Daniels - Daniels has reactions from several of Hoyer's former teammates after they learned he won again in Cleveland on Sunday.
Aqib Talib keeps dangerous Falcons WRs in check - Len Pasquarelli - Pasquarelli looks at Talib's performance Sunday night, who he writes did a good job against Julio Jones.
The best and worst of Patriots vs. Falcons - Herald Staff - The Herald offers up their best and worst in different categories from last night's victory.
Early march sets tone for Patriots - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook, which leads off with the fact the Patriots ran ten straight times which lead to a touchdown Sunday night.
Potential rift between Patriots, Rob Gronkowski concerning - Adam Kaufman - Kaufman looks at the current situation surrounding Gronkowski and writes the fact there's a potential dispute between the tight end and the team in terms of his his return timeline is concerning.
Vince Wilfork has torn Achilles' tendon, source says - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young reports that veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork suffered a torn Achilles' during Sunday's game, and his season is likely over.
5 takeaways from the Patriots-Falcons game - Zuri Berry - Berry gives his reaction to last night's win with his five takeaways, including both the Patriots fantastic defense in the red zone.
Talib leads the way on defense again - Zuri Berry - Berry has an article on Talib, who he writes once again had a big game.
ON FOOTBALL: Patriots switched offensive strategy at half - Ben Volin - Volin has a good piece this morning breaking down Sunday night's performance, including how their offensive strategy changed in the second half against Atlanta.
Patriots' defense is the real thing - Christopher Gasper - Gasper has a column this morning on New England's defense, which he feels proved Sunday night that it's the real deal.
Patriots get contributions from unlikely sources - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer has an article on the fact the Patriots got contributions from guys like Matthew Mulligan, among others on the defensive side of the ball during the win in Atlanta last night.
Considering Wilfork replacements - Mike Reiss - Reiss looks at the loss of Wilfork and what it means for other players who will now need to step up in his absence.
Five thoughts on how Patriots might try to replace Vince Wilfork - Christopher Price - Price has his own five thoughts on how New England will go about replacing the veteran tackle.
Patriots show they're more than ready for prime time - Mike Petraglia - Petraglia has a good column this morning about the fact the Patriots put together an impressive performance Sunday night.
Aqib Talib’s Coverage, Rob Ninkovich’s Pass Rush Among Five Takeaways From Patriots-Falcons - Doug Kyed - Kyed looks at last night's game and has five his thoughts following the win.
Gronkowski return clearly being handled with care - Jim Donaldson - Donaldson has a column this morning on Gronkowski, and gives his take on the current situation with the veteran tight end.
Cris Collinsworth forgets Aaron Hernandez ever existed - Chris Strauss - Strauss writes that a comment by Collinsworth where he said last night during the broadcast that character issues "disappear" when players join the Patriots, which he disagrees with due to the Aaron Hernandez situation
Full Roster Grades for Pats Against the Falcons - James Christensen - Our friend from NEPatriotsDraft.com has a column on Bleacher Report and gives his roster grades on the team.
Despite reports that suggested Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski could have potentially been in the line-up Sunday night down in Atlanta, it appears neither one will be on the field against the Falcons.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, neither player made the trip with the team as New England headed down to Georgia on Saturday for Sunday night's game, which means they'll be watching this one the same way the fans will, on television.
Gronkowski had seemed ready to make his highly anticipated return, but according to several reports there seems to be some internal conflicts that have Gronkowski being extra cautious. The Boston Herald reported on Saturday that the team believes he's ready to return, but the veteran tight end's camp is wary about having him return too soon, especially after he broke his arm in November and then re-injured it when he returned for the postseason less than two months later.
He's had five surgeries in the past year, with four of them on his forearm alone and that's said to be where a lot of the concern lies. He underwent back surgery back in June, which all indications seem to point to him having successfully recovered from it.
The question now seems to be is he physically ready to play, or is it a psychological issue? It could be a situation where he's still feeling pain or discomfort in his forearm, which may have him wary of experiencing contact. The tough part is it's tough to speculate because there really haven't been any reports, other than the one last week from Ian Rapoport that suggested the issue is more to do with his arm than his back, to help makes sense of what he's really dealing with.
Either way it looks like for now he'll be out of the line-up this week, and we'll have to wait another week to see if he returns for next Sunday's road game against the Bengals, or if it will be the following week when the Patriots battle the Saints in Foxboro. If it's the latter, the team essentially wasted the opportunity for a PUP designation for him which would have allowed them an additional roster exemption.
The fact they didn't place him there to start the season shows they clearly felt he'd be ready to go sooner, and Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported that the team seemed to believe he'd be ready to return as soon as week two against the Jets. Obviously that didn't happen, and he'll now have missed two additional games continuing his rehabilitation.
Fortunately the team has gone 3-0 during his absence, so they've been able to overcome not having him on the field. Unfortunately now the competition and the schedule is starting to get a little tougher, and having him back would certainly make them better.
Ultimately it's his body and his own future he holds in his hands, and it's hard not to respect him for holding his ground if he truly feels he's not where he needs to be just yet. He's signed through 2018, so it's important when he comes back that he's healthy and can go back to being a reliable and productive player. Hopefully this extra rest helps him, so at least when he does return, it will be for the long-term.
It's been nearly 10 months since Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski played in a meaningful football game, and despite recent reports that he's been making progress and may have even been ready to go for Sunday night's game in Atlanta, it appears he'll be out for at least another week.
According to a report from ESPN's John Clayton, the veteran tight end isn't expected to play on Sunday down in Atlanta, although the reasons appear to be unclear.
It's been a while for Gronkowski, who suffered a broken forearm while blocking on an extra point back on November 18th, 2012 in a 59-24 victory over the Indianpolis Colts. The injury occurred during the fourth quarter with 3:59 left in the game, and led to all kinds of vitriol from fans and media who criticized the fact he was in the game at that stage of the contest.
Gronkowski did eventually return after missing the rest of the regular season, but lasted just four plays into New England's second offensive series after landing awkwardly on his surgically repaired arm during the Divisional round of the playoffs against the Texans. He reportedly suffered a second fracture on the play, which, ironically enough, occurred just below the plate that had been inserted to protect his arm
to begin with.
He underwent several surgeries over the offseason as well as dealing with multiple infections, and later ended up also having back surgery in June that caused him to miss training camp. He's been working his way back ever since. There haven't been any reports of a setback, and it may simply be a case of Gronkowski not being comfortable enough yet physically to put himself back on the field.
For now it appears he'll be out for at least another week, although several reports seem to say that his bag is packed for the trip down to the Georgia dome. If he does make the trip, if this report is correct, it looks like Gronkowski will be simply be a spectator Sunday night.
We've reached the end of the week as we get closer to the Patriots match-up against the Falcons Sunday night, and here are some quck thoughts heading into the weekend:
1) Rob Gronkowski's situation remains uncertain - We've seen Gronkowski make progress in recent weeks, but it appears things aren't quite as encouraging his we might have hoped. According to ProFootballTalk.com the veteran tight end's status for Sunday night's match-up isn't looking optimistic, which could mean the Patriots will be forced to battle the Falcons with the same group they've been playing with since week two. Obviously they're 3-0, and the flip side to the argument that Atlanta's the best team the Patriots defense has faced is the fact that New England's offense has bested teams with the 3rd (Jets) and 15th (Buccaneers) ranked defense in the NFL, and the Falcons pass defense is ranked 25th in the league. They've made it this far without him, but there's no question having him back in the line-up would certainly make a significant difference, especially down in the red zone. He'll likely head into this weekend with a status of "Questionable", and we'll have to wait until Saturday to find out whether or not he makes the trip, which will obviously be a telling sign about his status for Sunday night.
2) The status of Sebastian Vollmer will present a challenge - As versatile as Marcus Cannon has been so far this season, should Vollmer not be able to play this weekend, his absence could be something to watch. His status for this weekend remains in doubt and as it stands right now the Patriots may have to go up against the Falcons hoping Cannon can help keep Tom Brady upright. Atlanta is currently tied with New England with seven sacks and, like the Patriots, have shown flashes at times of being able to create pressure. That could potentially be a problem Sunday night, and hopefully Cannon is able to put a strong performance together. One thing to note regarding Vollmer, Field Yates pointed out on Thursday that the right tackle has additional reasons to work hard to get back in the line-up, as he reportedly has a $750,000 reason to battle through his foot injury, with that incentive tied to him playing in at least 90% of his snaps this season. He'll also get $1 million in the form of a roster bonus in 2014 if he plays at least 80% of them.
3) Big challenge ahead for the Patriots ground game - Atlanta's defense has been stingy against the run so far this season, ranking 5th overall in rushing yards per game allowed at 79.0, just ahead of the Jets who have allowed 79.7. Against New York Stevan Ridley struggled, carrying 16 times for just 40 yards at a 2.5 yards per carry average. Give New England credit, they stuck with it throughout, which opened up opportunities in the passing game that the Patriots were able to capitalize on. Fortunately with Brandon Bolden back in the line-up, he and Ridley should be able to keep the Falcons defense off balance for Tom Brady and his receivers to potentially put up some points.
4) Brady needs to be better on first down - The offense has had a tough time getting started this season, most notably on first down, which has been a weakness of Brady's so far through three games. He's just 22-of-45 (49%) this season, including three sacks. That's been part of the reason why New England has found themselves in 2nd and long and 3rd and long situations so frequently recently. Playing down in Atlanta in a dome could cause things to get loud should the Patriots struggle early, so hopefully they'll do a better job of keeping them out of those situations.
WILFORK REMAINS CONFIDENT: Vince Wilfork has received some criticism from not looking dominant so far this season against what some feel are lesser opponents down in the trenches. Overall the Patriots have done a decent job against the run, having not allowed a rush by an actual running back longer than 13 yards, which was given up back in week one against the Bills. Otherwise the two longest carries of the year are both by quarterbacks, with EJ Manuel (19yds), and Geno Smith (16yds) as the only two players to manage a rush longer. Wilfork told the Boston Globe that he's still "plugging away" and remains confident that he'll improve. “You always want to get better. I’m always trying to get better,” he told the newspaper. “That’s the name of the game. I don’t try to say, ‘I’ve been playing good. I’ve been playing bad.’ It’s just one of those things, you have to keep plugging away. “There’s some good plays that I’ve had and some bad plays I’ve had. That’s football. Everybody goes through that. There’s a lot of football left to play, so I’m not worried. I’m positive I will play better. I’m positive I’m going to have some more screwed-up plays. Trust me.”
FALCONS HAVE A RECORD AT STAKE SUNDAY NIGHT: Interesting note from the Worcester Telegram, which highlights the fact that Matt Ryan has a record at stake when the Patriots come to Atlanta Sunday night. They point out that Ryan has a 34-5 record at home, and with a win over the Patriots, he can tie the record (held by Brett Favre) for most wins at home by a quarterback in his first 40 games. The Patriots have had success under Belichick against them, and are 3-0 at this point including two victories (2001 and 2005) at the Georgia Dome. Hopefully it becomes 4-0 after this one as well.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Chatham: Contain Gonzo to ground Falcons - Matt Chatham - Former Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham files his report for this week and writes that handling Tony Gonzalez, among several other things, will be a high priority this weekend.
Notebook: Falcons can carry on even without Steven Jackson - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook for this morning, which leads off with the fact that the absence of Falcons running back Steven Jackson might be hurting the Falcons’ marketing department more than their football team.
Just for old Tom’s sake - Jim Lazar - Lazar has a weird column this morning that makes light of some of the recent fan criticism of Brady, although it's done using fake beer names.
Pats DBs under pressure - Jeff Howe - Howe has a good column this morning on the challenge facing New England's secondary Sunday night.
Patriots and Falcons matchup is important - Christopher Gasper - Gasper has a column this morning on this weekend's game, calling it "a prime time proving ground for the local team."
Ready to step in, Marcus Cannon? - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer has an article on Cannon, who he writes has been versatile and has been able to help fill in at multiple positions so far this season. T
hursday injury report - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer has Thursday's injury report, noting that Sebastian Vollmer and Matthew Slater being the only two not out there practicing.
Vince Wilfork feeling 'fine', excited about direction of Patriots' defense - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young files her notebook this morning which leads off with comments from Wilfork, who said he's looking forward to this weekend's match-up.
On offense, Patriots are running with it - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer has an article this morning on New England's ground game, and mentions some of the comments about the comparisons between each running back.
Highlighting Pats-Falcons connections - Field Yates - Yates looks at the connections between the two teams, leading off with Samuel as well as their front office connections.
Vollmer and playing-time incentives - Field Yates - Yates looks at Vollmer's contract and notes the tackle has a significant roster bonus at stake for the number of snaps he plays.
Ex-Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel ready to renew rivalry with Tom Brady - Christopher Price - Price has an article on Samuel, with comments from the former Pats CB who Brady admitted also had success picking him off in practice.
League-leading receivers to be on display when Patriots play Falcons - Glen Farley - Farley looks at the battle between Julian Edelman and Julio Jones, who are the two receivers of note in this game.
Matt Ryan, Falcons to test Patriots' defense - Jennifer Toland - Toland looks at Ryan, who should give the Patriots quite a challenge in their home stadium Sunday night.
Patriots' Aqib Talib must contain Falcons' Julio Jones - Jennifer Toland - Toland takes a look at the match-up between Talib and Jones, which should be one of the signature battles this weekend.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
Can Patriot defense keep up with Jones? - Mark Farinella - In this article Farinella wonders whether or not New England can keep up with Atlanta's high octane passing attack Sunday night.
NOTEBOOK: Cannon getting the job done - Mark Farinella - Farinella files his notebook this morning, which leads off with the fact that so far Marcus Cannon has done a good job filling in as needed in New England's offensive line.
Some quick thoughts on this Thursday as the Patriots continue preparing for the Falcons:
1) Injuries continue to mount, this time on defense - Injuries continue to be an issue, with several key names ending up on the list Wednesday on the defensive side of the football. Jerod Mayo (ankle), Vince Wilfork (foot), and Kyle Arrington (groin) were all listed, with both Mayo and Arrington being "limited" in practice. Wilfork was reportedly a full participant, which is a good sign but considering Mayo's value in terms of the overall function of New England's defense, his situation will certainly be something to keep an eye on heading into this weekend. The good news is according to Nick Underhill of MassLive, Arrington seemed relatively upbeat, which is a positive as he's not only a valuable component of New England's secondary, he's also part of a special teams unit that has already lost Matthew Slater to injury.
2) Amendola appears to be a no go, while Gronk seems to be a maybe - Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reported yesterday that Amendola is "not likely" to play this weekend, but may return next week against the Cincinnati Bengals. The veteran receiver told reporters Wednesday that he's getting closer to being 100%, which is encouraging after he's missed the last two games. Meanwhile Gronkowski was once again limited in practice, and it seems that he may finally have a shot to return this weekend. The veteran talked to reporters yesterday, which is always a good sign as guys who are hurt generally don't talk to the media. He told the Herald yesterday that he'll play 'when the time is right. "How will I know? Just when it clicks," Gronkowski said. "All I can ask for is to work hard every day and do what the coaches ask me to do, do what my teammates ask me to do, do what the training staff ask me to do. If I can do that full-speed with what I can do, that's all I'm really asking for. When the time is right, the time is right."
3) Brady Broke Some News on Wednesday - Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has kept in touch with some of his former teammates, with the veteran accidentally breaking some news after saying that Matt Cassel may start for the Vikings this weekend ahead of the injured Christian Ponder. Ponder is battling a rib injury but said he hoped to play this weekend. "It's a little sore and it's going to be something I will have to work through, but I threw more than I thought I would be able to," Ponder said. "We'll wait to see how this week plays out, but my expectation and my hope is that I will be playing." However, reports out of Minnesota said that Cassel got the majority of the reps in practice on Wednesday.
4) Red Zone continues to be a struggle - New England may be ranked third in the NFL with 13 trips inside the red zone, but they've managed just four touchdowns, with a 30.8 success rate that ranks them last in the NFL. As mentioned yesterday in 2012 Tom Brady had a much higher completion percentage through three games in scoring territory, completing 9-of-14 of his passes (64%) for 56 yards along with 1 sack and threw three touchdowns. This season he's completed 8-of-19 (42%) for 55 yards, 1 sack, but has thrown 4 touchdowns. However, the interception he threw was big, and one that had him frustrated after it was over. Brady blames himself and says that "poor execution" has been "one of the main cluprits." Having Gronkowski back would help, as Gronk lead the team at this point last season with two touchdowns inside scoring territory, and he's been one of their most consistent guys down there with his long arms and his ability to give Brady a big target down there. "He's just a big target and he's got a great catch radius," said Brady of Gronkowski. "He really hasn't been out there this year. Hopefully at some point when he's back, he can play a role. When he's not out there, look, we have to count on the other guys to do it. I know we haven't been great in the red area this year, but it's no excuse."
BRADY HAPPY FOR HOYER:
Brady had some fond things to say about Brian Hoyer, who will reportedly get his second start for the Browns this weekend. Brady said the two text back and forth and he's glad that he's getting an opportunity to play. "Brian, we text back and forth and talk with him," said Brady on Wednesday. "It's great to see him and it's hard work really pays off and guys that stay at it and are mentally tough, always trying to do the right thing, like Brian has done, like Matt has done, like Ryan Mallett has done, it's great when they finally get an opportunity to play."
ARE THE FALCONS UP TO SOMETHING?
After a report last week regarding a personnel change that saw Atlanta make changes offensively at tackle during practice, the Falcons have shut down access to reporters in practice after 30 minutes, which is something that appears to be ruffling some feathers down there. Here in New England reporters have always had limited access during the Belichick era, but some of the buzz down there this week appears to center on the fact the Falcons may be adding a couple of wrinkles for this weekend's upcoming game against the Patriots that they don't want getting out. Clearly after last week, after being one of the few teams left that's been fairly open to the media, they no longer seem to trust them to keep it quiet.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Patriots vs. Falcons matchup breakdown: DE Chandler Jones vs. LT Lamar Holmes - Erik Frenz - Frenz has a good look a the match-up between these two players, including some great film between the two.
NOTEBOOK: Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez will provide huge test for Patriots - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer files his notebook this morning and looks at the match-up between these two teams.
Danny Amendola: 'I anticipate being 100 percent shortly' - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer has comments from Amendola from Wednesday where he revealed that he's getting closer to being healthy.
ON FOOTBALL: Next three games will challenge Patriots' defense - Ben Volin - Volin has a good read on the defense, with Rob Ninkovich telling reporters, "I dodn't want to hear it" when they asked him about some of the numbers they've put up so far.
Gronkowski and Amendola work toward returns - Shalise Manza Young - In this piece whether or not Amendola or Gronk will be ready is discussed, as well as the implications that getting them both back in the line-up will have on the offense.
Patriots ground game is a time share - Karen Guregian - Guregian has a look at the Patriots rushing attack, which last week was by committee against the Buccaneers.
Patriots' plan: Run silent, run deep - Jeff Howe - Howe has a good article this morning on the challenge facing the Patriots in playing in a hostile and loud road environment.
Notebook: With no regrets, Danny Amendola close to return - Jeff Howe - Howe has an article on Amendola, who is focused on getting better after his groin injury.
Rob Gronkowski remains matter of when - Tom Leyman - Leyman has an article on Rob Gronkowski, who at this point his status no longer is a matter of "if" he returns, but a matter of "when" and he told reporters yesterday that he'll know when things start to click and will play "when the time is right".
Following up on Danny Amendola - Mike Reiss - Reiss writes that whether or not Amendola travels with the team on Saturday will be a better indication of his availability for this weekend.
Five Things You Have to Know About the Falcons - Christopher Price - Price has some facts about the Atlanta Falcons, including the fact that Atlanta is among the best teams in yards after the catch.
Rob Gronkowski feels he's making improvement, but won't say if he'll be ready to play this week - Nick Underhill - Underhill has comments from Gronkowski, who wouldn't say whether or not he's playing this weekend.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
Amendola fighting injury, history - Mark Farinella - Farinella writes that the wide receiver is battling his own injury history as he tries to come back from this groin injury and hopefully stay healthy the rest of the way.
One for Safety: Patriots Secondary Shows New Wrinkle vs. Buccaneers in Week 3 - Oliver Thomas - Thomas has a good look at last week's win where the Patriots showed a one safety look against Tampa Bay.
Patriots' Danny Amendola has no regrets about playing with injury - Rich Garven - Garven has an article on Amendola, who doesn't regret going back during the Bills game in week one despite his injury.
Patriots having success with four-man rushing attack - Rich Garven - Garven has an article on the running back position, with each player having contributed so far.
Today's the big media day down in Foxboro as the Patriots officially get started on their preparations for Sunday night's match-up down in Atlanta, and as we mentioned yesterday it should be an interesting few days once the team hits the practice field and we start to get a feel for the availability surrounding Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola. Both should hopefully be out there, but Friday will likely be the big day when they're both given a designation for Sunday's game, so we'll have to see how it all plays out.
Needless to say it should be a fun few days once things get started, and here are a few thoughts.
1) All things considered, the fact this team is 3-0 is impressive: Looking back at how the first few games have unfolded for the Patriots, it's amazing that they've managed to start off with three straight wins considering how much things have changed before they even took the field three weeks ago in Buffalo. Back then they more or less knew they'd be without Gronkowski for a few weeks, but no one expected the injuries to Shane Vereen and Amendola, both of which drastically changed things offensively. Not to mention the fact Stevan Ridley ended up going from a player who was coming off of a 1200+ yard season but ended up being benched following a critical fumble early in the contest. It makes you wonder how many teams could handle such turmoil in terms of personnel issues and adjust so well. We take it for granted here because they've been so successful despite similar situations they've dealt with. Watching the way the season has started off with other teams, clearly it's not as easy as the Patriots continue to make it look.
2) Julian Edelman has been absolutely huge early on this season: Take Edelman out of the line up and it's tough to imagine that the Patriots could have sustained his loss during the transition for New England's rookie receivers. Edelman's been the glue that has helped keep things together for the offense and, aside from Tom Brady, he's arguably been the team's offensive MVP thus far. Looking back at the numbers through three games last season he's already ahead of Brandon Lloyd, who was the team's leading receiver in receptions at this time. Lloyd had been targeted 33 times with 22 receptions, while Edelman has been targeted a team leading 34 times with 27 catches so far this season. He's also the team leader in red zone receptions with 4 catches along with two touchdowns, and believe it or not he was tied for the lead in that category at this point last season and was also the most targeted out of anyone in that area. He lead the team with 4 targets with two catches (tied with Lloyd, Wes Welker, and Gronkowski) along with one touchdown. So far this year he's been just as valuable, and seems to be poised to put together quite a season.
3) With Brandon Bolden's return, the Patriots have a strong trio at running back right now: Bolden did a good job of taking over Shane Vereen's role in the Patriots offense on Sunday, giving them a threat out of the backfield after catching 5 passes for 49 yards. He also had the longest rush of the season for New England thanks to a 46 yard run in the 3rd quarter and finished the afternoon with 3 carries for 51 yards. Between his performance along with that of LeGarrette Blount (14 carries for 65 yards), New England has two additional running backs behind Ridley that should help give them a couple of players who can change things up as well as give them depth in case of injury. It's definitely a solid and deep group right now.
4) Patricia's got the defense pretty well grounded: Listening to defensive coordinator Matt Patricia's conference call on Tuesday, you'd never know the Patriots are off to one of the team's best ever starts defensively. Despite the fact they've allowed the lowest point totals through three games in franchise history, including having not allowed any fourth quarter points, he seems to be maintaining the same approach he has through the first three games and expects Sunday night to be a tough one for his players.
"Well I think for us, we approach every week just trying to get better and improve," said Patricia. "It's the very beginning of the season, and we don't pay attention to a lot of those things except for trying to win the ball game and putting our team in the best position to win every time we go out on the field. That's all we're really trying to do. We're trying to get better than we [were] last game, play better than we did last week, and obviously this week is a huge challenge for us with Atlanta and the different problems that they present."
"It's just a very big challenge and we're just trying to improve every week to get better."
5) Surprisingly, compared to last season Brady and the offense aren't as bad as everyone thinks they are: After going back in and pulling out the numbers during weeks one through three of last season, it was astounding to see how comparable Tom Brady's numbers are to where he was at this point last season. As a matter of fact, these numbers will probably surprise you.
Through the first three weeks Brady is currently a mere six completions short of where he was last season, having completed 73 passes thus far compared to 79. He actually has one more touchdown with five than he did at this time last season, although he has thrown one more interception.
Here's a full breakdown of his numbers:
2012 - 79-of-118 (67%) 887 yards 7 sacks 4 TD's 1 INT
2013 - 73-of-127 (57%) 698 yards 6 sacks 5 TD's 2 INT's
He has 8 completions in the red zone compared to 9 last year, but he's got four touchdowns, which is one more than the 3 he had at this point last year. However, his completion percentage is considerably lower, completing a mere 42% of his passes in scoring territory. He also had that ugly interception Sunday. Here's how it breaks down:
2012 - 9-of-14 (64%) 56 yards 1 sack, 3 TD's
2013 - 8-of-19 (42%) 55 yards 1 sack, 4 TD's 1 INT
Overall on the year Brady's completion percentage is way off from last year, a full 10 percentage points lower than it was last year at this time. He's completed a mere 57% of his attempts, and it was interesting going through and trying to figure out where the biggest issues are. Looking at it by down, you'll see the discrepancy:
2012 - 40-of-57 (70%) 489 yards 2 TD's 1 INT
2013 - 22-of-45 (49%) 236 yards 0 TD's
2012 - 28-of-37 (76%) 279 yards 2 TD's
2013 - 24-of-40 (60%) 163 yards 2 TD's, 1 INT
2012 - 11-of-24 (46%) 119 yards 0 TD's
2013 - 26-of-41 (63%) 293 yards 3 TD's 1 INT
As you can see their biggest weakness so far this year has been on first down, with Brady completing just 49% of his passes compared to 70% last season. However, the biggest surprise is the fact they've been considerably better on 3rd down in comparison to last season, which is definitely a little unexpected. Amendola currently has the most 3rd down conversions with 7 first downs, followed by Julian Edelman (5) and Aaron Dobson (4). Just for the record, that's more than any other Patriots receiver or tight end had through three games last year. Gronkowski had 3 third down conversions, followed by Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, who were both tied with 2.
Needless to say as bad as it may have appeared, they're not that far off from how they played last year, and that team ultimately finished with an appearance in the AFC Championship game. They've made progress over the first few games, and it should be fun to watch in the coming weeks just how much better they'll start to become.
MCDANIELS ON EDELMAN'S CONTRIBUTIONS SO FAR:
One question that came up during Tuesday's conference call with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is the fact that through three games, Edelman's 27 receptions are almost three times that of the next closest receivers (Dobson and Amendola are both tied with 10), which is obviously represents quite a work load for him thus far. However, according to McDaniels, Edelman has earned every snap he's been in there, having made the most from each chance he's gotten.
"Julian has earned the opportunity to be in there, and I think he's really made the most of the opportunities that he's had when the ball has come to him," said McDaniels. "He's doing a good job of creating separation and getting open and catching the football. He's been a consistent contributor for us now for three games in a row, and hopefully we can look forward to continuing with that as we go forward."
Head coach Bill Belichick also praised his performances in the kicking game, and recognized the fact that Edelman's inexperience in different roles since he joined this team hasn't stopped him from being successful at them.
"Yeah, it's huge," said Belichick, speaking on Edelman's value returning punts. "As we all know, nothing will turn a game around quicker than a turnover in the kicking game – blocked kicks or muffed kicks – because there's so much field position involved in those plays. Julian has done a good job, for a guy who never returned punts in college, came in and learned the skills of reading the flight of the ball and the spin. Of course we get challenging conditions here through the course of the year in terms of wind and weather. That's a big part of it.
"Certainly he had a good mentor in Kevin Faulk in terms of learning how to watch another guy who is very good at that do that. Our special teams coaches, Scott O'Brien and Joe Judge, do a good job and work hard with him on that every day. Then Julian works hard at it, he's really become good at it. He's become an experienced player at that, which wasn't the case when he started. His confidence and his experience and his consistency at it is huge. For a guy who has never played the positions that he's playing in the NFL, he's developed and become pretty good at them."
CONTINUITY ON DEFENSE HAS PATRIOTS GETTING CREATIVE:
The off day on Tuesday is great for any of you who are on Twitter and follow any of the local beat writers because many of them fire up the DVR and start taking much closer looks at what went down in the previous game. Nick Underhill of MassLive.com noticed that the Patriots were in some interesting alignments against the Buccaneers, including leaving Devin McCourty as the lone safety on downs where they needed an additional cornerback. He did a great job offering up some insight into some additional looks they gave, and without giving any more away you can actually read more in his entry. It's definitely a great read.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Next three opponents should test Patriots improved defense - Karen Guregian - Guregian writes that with the next stretch of games ahead, we'll hopefully learn more about how good the defense really is.
Notebook: Sebastian Vollmer catches break - Karen Guregian - Guregian files her notebook this morning with a note about Vollmer's foot injury, which fortunately isn't serious.
ON FOOTBALL: Tom Brady carried Patriots in win over Buccaneers - Ben Volin - Volin has a good column this morning breaking down Sunday's win, which was largely in part of Brady.
Injuries have led to sluggish start for Falcons - Ben Volin - Volin has an article on the injury situation in Atlanta, which is part of the reason the Falcons are just 1-2 at this point.
Patriots defense off to a great start this season - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer looks at the defense, which has been stellar so far through three games.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, QB Tom Brady congratulate Brandeis students in academic program named in honor of Myra Kraft - Matt Rocheleau - Rocheleau has an article on Brady and Kraft, with Brady making a surprise visit to Kraft's Brookline home Tuesday night to offer praise and congratulations to a group of Brandeis University students enrolled in a program named for the late Myra Kraft.
Catching up with former Patriots, Week 3 - Mike Reiss - Reiss has his weekly update on former Patriots players, with bits of information about each one in this morning's entry.
Source: Pats bring in trio for workouts - Field Yates - Yates writes that the Patriots brought in a couple of tight ends and a running back for a workout on Tuesday.
Patriots' Thompkins visits Raynham school to honor top readers - Steven Sanchez - Sanchez has an article on rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, who spent his day off visiting the Raynham Middle School on Tuesday and addressed 730 students - grades 5 through 8 - and talked to them about the importance of reading.
Patriots fans are spoiled - Barry Scanlon - Scanlon has seven random thoughts, the first leads off with the fact there were plenty of empty seats for the game against the Bucs.
Falcons will be trying to close it out against Patriots - Glen Farley - Farley has an article on the Falcons and writes that part of their problem is the fact they don't have a player who can help them close out games.
Matt Patricia's Conference Call Transcript - You can read the full transcript of what he had to say here.
Josh McDaniels Conference Call Transcript - You can also read the full transcript from him as well, as the team posted both yesterday.
Bill Belichick's Conference Call Transcript - The Patriots coach spoke to the media on Tuesday, but there were no notable confrontations with media members like there were on Monday.
OK, here we go.
These next few weeks are going to be quite a litmus test for the Patriots to see how they compete against tougher opponents, with their first one set for this Sunday night down in Atlanta against the Falcons. This game will also give their rookies a taste of what it's like to play in a huge Sunday night game on the road, and it will be a terrific opportunity for them to step up in what could potentially be a fight to the finish on a national stage as they try to improve to 4-0 on the year.
While Atlanta is just 1-2, they've lost by a mere total of 10 points, having lost a tough road game down in Miami this past Sunday. They saw a 35-yard field goal sail wide right in the fourth quarter that would have given them a 26-20 edge over the Dolphins and Miami capitalized, marching down to Atlanta's one yard line before delivering the knock out blow thanks to a touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to tight end Dion Sims to give Miami a 27-23 win.
That's almost one of the worst scenarios you can ask for, having to play a team that is coming off a difficult loss that dropped them below .500. Atlanta will likely be fired up for this one, which should be quite a test for a Patriots defense that is off to one of their best starts in franchise history and hasn't allowed a passing touchdown since week one, nor have they allowed any fourth quarter points.
For New England, this is a week that will be an important one for them as they may finally get one of their injured offensive guys back on the field. We saw last week that Danny Amendola was back in practice, which was a surprise given some of the reports surrounding his injury. That would lead you to believe that his availability might be a possibility for Sunday night's game, although given how he looked from the reports from practice last week, it wouldn't necessarily be a surprise if he didn't play this weekend.
Meanwhile, the more likely scenario would be the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has been making progress recently in practice after almost 10 months since his last game action. He may finally be ready to go and ideally this would be the week they could use him, as it would also improve an offense that saw improvement from their two rookie receivers during Sunday's 23-3 win over the Buccaneers.
But the biggest area that would help them would be down in the red zone, where Brady so far this season is just 8-of-19 (42% completion rate) with four touchdowns. Even after getting knocked out last November, Gronkowski still finished the season second on the team in red zone receptions with 10 and led the team with eight touchdowns in scoring territory in 2012. He was also second on the team in 3rd down conversions with 11 first downs. He's a game changer, and putting him back into the line-up instantly changes just how dangerous they can really be offensively.
Up to this point they've gotten next to no production from the tight end position, with Michael Hoomanawanui currently as the only tight end this season with a reception, having hauled in three passes on five targets with one first down. Matthew Mulligan hasn't caught a pass but did see some action against the Buccaneers, coming up with a good block during the eight snaps he was in on during Sunday's game. Unfortunately Zach Sudfeld hasn't seen the success he had during the preseason translate into the regular season after Brady has gone 0-for-3 targeting him including two interceptions.
Gronkowski is a key ingredient in an offense that each week keeps growing and becoming more dynamic. Add him back into the mix and he may be the missing piece that could finally kick this offense into gear, and it should be interesting to see whether or not this is finally the week that fans potentially get the opportunity to see the "Gronk Spike" as Brady looks to extend his touchdown pass streak to 52 straight regular season games.
There's certainly no better time than a huge game on a national television to put on a memorable performance, and getting him back would definitely help with that. Most reports seem to indicate that this may finally be his week, and all eyes will likely be watching to see if the time has finally arrived for #87 to officially return to action this weekend.
BELICHICK DOES A NUMBER ON SALK & HOLLEY
After dealing with Albert Breer of the NFL Network, who was relentless in trying to get information out of Bill Belichick regarding the injury situations of Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski on Monday afternoon, Belichick sat down with Mike Salk and Michael Holley of WEEI, and clearly wasn't in a jovial mood before his weekly appearance on the radio station.
The two are normally pretty good, but it ended up being one of those days where they were simply ill-prepared and asked some poorly conceived questions (given Belichick's mood) over the course of what ended up being the most uncomfortable 22 minutes of radio that I've heard in quite some time.
The worst part of the interview came when Holley decided to ask Belichick how he's able to play up their opponent each week, and it went, well...downhill from there.
Here's a transcription of how it went down:
MICHAEL HOLLEY: "I get the sense that if you, name the team, if it's the worst team in the NFL, no matter what the circumstances are, I get the sense that you would find a way to say something good about that team or to think what that team does well. Is it simply you're preparing for that team's best even if they haven't shown it?"
BILL BELICHICK: "Well, of course, you always prepare for your opponent's best. I mean, what else would you prepare for? Do you think they're going to come in here and turn the ball over eight times? I mean, you don't prepare for that. You prepare for a team to come in here and play their best football against you, and how are you going to play your best football against them? That's a competition every week. We can't control how they play, but we expect them to play well and we're going to prepare for them to play well. That's what our game plan is going to be based on is the things that they do well and what we've seen them do well."
MH: "You expect them to play well even...I'm not saying this is the case of the Bucs, but some teams haven't played well. But you still expect it when you play them?"
BB: "Of course. Why would you think they wouldn't?"
MH: "If they haven't done it..."
BB: "So what? That doesn't mean anything. They've done something...I mean, they've done something. Things that they've done well. Doesn't mean that this week they can't do a lot of things well if they've shown that they've done things in spurts or in one phase of the game or another. I mean I think it would be irresponsible to coach a team and tell them, 'Ok fellas, the team that's coming in here is not going to play well, so we should expect them to play a bad game so why don't we play one that's just a little bit better than their bad game? I think that would be totally irresponsible. I can't imagine any coach ever doing that. I mean, I couldn't imagine that, so I wouldn't know how to prepare a team the way you're talking about. I couldn't even fathom that."
MIKE SALK: "Is that a lesson you learned the hard way? Is that something that you learned early in your career, or from a coach, somebody that you worked under or is it just something you've always believed?"
BB: "Yeah, I couldn't see it any other way. I mean, how could you coach a team like that? I mean I don't even know...like, you explain to me, how do you coach a team like that? I mean, I don't know what you're talking about."
(Salk then tries to change the subject, but Belichick doesn't let him off the hook so easily)
MS: What do you think of Tom Brady...
BB: "Maybe you can help me out, I mean really. How do you coach them like that? You tell me."
MH: What? Coach a team to say, 'this team is going to fall apart?'
BB: "I don't know, you tell me what you're going to tell them. I mean..."
MH: If you're playing a bad team, I mean, it's tough to say, 'this team is capable of doing X, Y, Z, when the team is, let's say you're playing...
BB: "Yeah, like when we were 12-1 and went down to Miami and they were 1-12 or whatever it was? And they beat us Monday night in '04? Is that what you're talking about? Like it couldn't ever happen? Like what game are you...I mean, what game are we talking about here? I mean, I just don't understand it. I think it's...to me, that's just the most irresponsible thing I've ever heard of. I can't even fathom it."
Later on, Michael Holley asked him about his contract situation - which also went about as well as the above conversation did.
MH: There was a report out there, and we didn't talk to you about this last week - shame on us, a report that you extended your contract with the Patriots. Is that an accurate report?
BB: "I don't talk about my contract."
MH: Is it safe to say you're going to be here for a little bit?
BB: "I don't talk about my contract."
This was followed by nearly four seconds of complete silence, which you could tell was likely a stare down between Belichick and Holley before Salk jumped in and brought up the recent documentary about Lawrence Taylor that aired over the weekend, who as many people may know is one of Belichick's favorite topics and fortunately ate up five of the final seven minutes before they ended with a question submitted by a listener. However, Salk apparently knows that when things turn horribly wrong during a Belichick interview, bring up Lawrence Taylor. It was a nice save, but one of the more uncomfortable radio segments I've ever listened to. If the transcription didn't come off that way, feel free to listen to it and judge for yourself. Trust me - it was painful.
LOGAN RYAN RECEIVES PRAISE FROM BELICHICK
Rookie defensive back Logan Ryan was in on 20 defensive snaps on Sunday and seems to be making progress as he gets more comfortable in understanding New England's defense. On Monday Belichick said that Ryan played "competitively" and sounded pleased with what he's seen from him so far this season.
"He played competitively," said Belichick. "He played both inside and outside and also played in the kicking game. He's working hard. A lot of guys had an opportunity to play yesterday, some more snaps than others, but I thought overall as a team that the players were ready to play. Overall they played hard and played at a competitive level. Yeah, definitely put him in that category."
DOWLING STILL POUNDING THE PAVEMENT:
After being released prior to the start of training camp, former defensive back Ras-I Dowling is still out of a job and is out there looking for work. According to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post and Scout.com, Dowling recently tried out for the Kansas City Chiefs, although it's unclear if he was offered a contract. The former 33rd overall pick out of Virginia in 2011 by New England never could quite stay healthy as a member of the Patriots, and it was disappointing considering that he held so much promise. So far teams appear to be a little gun-shy on pulling the trigger, and as a result he's still unemployed.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
A quiet morning, but here are this morning's stories:
Zach Sudfeld keeps faith - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook this morning which leads off with a bit on rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld, who hasn't had much luck so far through three games catching a pass from Brady.
Rob Ninkovich takes deal as good sign - Mark Daniels - Daniels has a good article on Ninkovich, who lived out of a plastic bin out of the back of his car back when he was just a bubble player.
Aqib Talib's got it covered - Jeff Howe - Howe has an article this morning on Aqib Talib, who so far has done a solid job in New England's secondary.
Next Boston Athlete to get a statue? Tom Brady - Christopher Gasper - Gasper has a column this morning after noting several other athletes who have gotten their own statue in Boston and feels Brady is the next one deserving of the honor.
Persistence pays off for Patriots' Rob Ninkovich - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young also has a good read on Ninkovich, who is thankful for the opportunity he had to play here in New England.
TV: Michaels & Collinsworth on call - Mike Reiss - Reiss has a quick entry on the broadcasters for Sunday night, and a list of who has the call in several other match-ups.
Getting to know the Atlanta Falcons - Field Yates - Yates takes a closer look at New England's upcoming opponent.
Marcus Cannon fills in nicely for Sebastian Vollmer - Rich Garven - Garven has an article on Cannon, who has done a good job filling in at different positions on New England's offensive line.
Patriots putting pressure on opposing passers - Rich Garven - Garven has a good article on New England's pass rush, and writes that the team now has, "a bona fide pass rush capable of flushing out, knocking around and bringing down opposing quarterbacks on a consistent basis."
Five from Sunday: Brady, Pats right on time; RG3's throwing too much - Pat Kirwin - Kirwin has a national look at several topics, including the Patriots and how the first few games have worked out.
Gisele Bundchen Bodyguards Face Shooting Trial - This seems to be a story that won't go away, as her bodyguards reportedly are set to begin trial for the incident that took place back in 2009.
Back in January of 2004, the Patriots put on one of the most incredible defensive performances that fans have ever seen, shutting down a high powered Indianapolis Colts offense that had been averaging nearly 40 points per game during the regular season. In that game they completely stifled Peyton Manning and company, holding them to a measly 3 points in what to this day is one of the more memorable efforts fans in New England have ever witnessed.
It's been a long time since they've been that dominant, and while it's obviously a little early in the year to get overly excited considering their competition, New England's defense is starting to resemble some similarities to the groups of players that helped them win championships.
They've already made history, having allowed 34 points on the season which is the second best three-game start to a season in franchise history. The team posted a stat on Sunday which pointed out that the last time the team started off a season giving up so few points was back in 1979, when they gave up 33. You can make the argument that it's been against woeful teams like the Buffalo Bills, the New York Jets, and obviously the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the key point that can't be overlooked is the fact they did what they're supposed to do. Good teams beat up on bad teams, and after their struggles at times last season it's hard not to appreciate the fact they're getting it done so far this season.
So far they've allowed just two passing touchdowns, which came back in week one against the Bills. They haven't allowed one since, shutting down both the Jets' Geno Smith and yesterday Josh Freeman. For a secondary that couldn't seem to stop anyone last year, they've been much more cohesive so far and have started off much better than last season. They allowed plays of over 30 yards in four out of their first five games in 2012, but have only done so once this year (week two against the Jets) and didn't allow any yesterday. The more impressive part of that is the fact they faced their first quality receiver of the year in Vincent Jackson and Aqib Talib shadowed him all afternoon, holding him to just 3 catches for 34 yards.
They've also tightened up in the red zone since week one. Against the Bills E.J. Manuel was 2-of-2 with two touchdowns, but since then they've held opponents to 1-of-9 passing with no touchdowns.
Meanwhile, against the run, they've been just as tough. They've allowed just six runs of over 10 yards so far this season, with Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly having been pretty incredible inside so far this year. Looking at the numbers, it's tough not to appreciate how well they've performed through the first three weeks.
Here's quick look at the rushing stats by distance:
Runs of 1-5 yards: 59
Runs of 6-10 yards: 14
Runs of 10-20 yards: 6
The stat that clearly stands out is the fact they've held opponents to runs of 5 yards or less on 75% of the positive gains they've allowed. Yesterday they held Doug Martin to just one carry over 10 yards, with 14 of his 20 carries being of 5 or less yards.
Belichick said after the game he was pleased with what he saw, and hopes it continues next week in Atlanta.
“I thought we did an O.K. job today," said Belichick after the game. "We played good in the red area, that was big, keeping them out of the end zone. But next week we’ll have a new set of challenges so we’ll just have to do everything well against Atlanta."
We'll find out in the coming weeks as the competition gets better if this is an aberration or a trend, but if it's the latter there's reason to feel optimistic about their future. So far they're off to a great start, and it's going to be interesting to see as the season progresses if this team has finally started making progress toward becoming a group that may help this team get back to a championship level on that side of the football.
GRONK'S SETBACKS ARE ARM, NOT BACK RELATED:
A slightly alarming note from NFL Network analyst Ian Rapoport, who reported yesterday that the reason tight end Rob Gronkowki wasn't ready to play was an issue that was "more with his arm than his back." That's disturbing considering all the setbacks he's suffered have been due to the arm he broke last year against the Colts. At this point in the season the Patriots are heading into what will be one of the more difficult stretches they'll face this season, with games against Atlanta, Cincinnati, and New Orleans upcoming. So far this season they haven't seen much production at the tight end position, with Michael Hoomanawanui being the only one so far with a reception. Brady's had zero luck connecting with Zach Sudfeld so far this year, having targeted him three times without a completion and has ended up throwing an interception on two of them. Needless to say they need Gronkowski to get healthy, but it doesn't sound like he's quite there yet if his arm is still bothering him after all this time.
FORMER PATRIOTS QB HOYER HAS BIG OUTING SUNDAY VS MINNESOTA:
It's been a rough stretch for former Patriots back up quarterback Brian Hoyer, but the Cleveland native got a start on Sunday for the team he grew up rooting for and he made the most of it. Hoyer finished the afternoon 30-of-54 for 321 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-27 win over the Vikings. It wasn't perfect, as Hoyer did throw three picks, but it was a performance that should at least give Browns fans something to believe in. After all, Hoyer is one of them, and after getting an opportunity to start for the team he's loved for so long, the odds are pretty good he'll continue to work as hard as he can to help them put some more wins together before it's over.
NUMBERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN:
- Tom Brady Extended his touchdown streak on Sunday to 51 straight games, closing in on the record of 54 held by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
- So far this season when facing 3rd-and-more-than-10 yards, opponents are 0-for-10 converting against New England's secondary. To take it a step further, when facing 3rd-and-7 or more, opponents are just 3-of-21 converting against them.
- Julian Edelman extended his third down reception streak on Sunday, now having been targeted eight times with eight receptions. He's converted 5 of them, including two touchdowns. He currently leads the team with 27 catches for 201 yards.
- Aaron Dobson is now second on the team in receptions and is tied with Danny Amendola with 10 catches, 4 of which have come on third down and all of them were first down grabs.
- Kenbrell Thompkins has been the most targeted receiver in the red zone for the Patriots this season, having been targeted six times with three receptions including two touchdowns.
- Bill Belichick now has 208 wins, one away from tying Chuck Noll's record of 209.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
BOSTON HERALD: v Patriots rookie wideouts shine - Dan Ventura - Ventura writes that the "kids were all right" in the Patriots win over Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Extra prep time pays dividends as Patriots start to look familiar - Ron Borges - Borges writes that the Patriots overcame a slow start and the offense finally started to look what we're used to seeing during yesterday's win.
For Patriots, it all starts with stops - Karen Guregian - Guregian has a good article this morning on the defense, who she writes did a good job of holding on both third and fourth down on Sunday.
Best & Worst of Patriots-Buccaneers game - Mark Daniels - Daniels has his best and worst from Sunday, and writes that the first two drives were the worst impression of an improved secondary for the Patriots.
Tom Brady, offense look better as defense stifles TB - Jeff Howe - Howe writes that the team continues to measure their success by their weekly progress, and they're coming together just in time to face a tough stretch of games that begins on Sunday in Atlanta.
Rob Ninkovich earns 3-year, $15M deal - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook this morning which leads off with notes on the fact Ninkovich landed a new deal just hours before kickoff.
Golden one for Brandon Bolden - Mark Daniels - Daniels has an article on Bolden, who was excited to be back on the field on Sunday.
Once again, the Patriots defense rules the day - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer writes that yesterday's performance by the defense shows that this group is getting more and more confident by the week.
Patriots' Brandon Bolden impresses in first appearance - Seth Lakso - Lakso has an article on Brandon Bolden, who made his first appearance for the Patriots on Sunday but had a productive afternoon.
Patriots’ Rob Ninkovich given 3-year extension - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer has an article on linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who recently received a contract extension from the Patriots.
ON FOOTBALL: Tom Brady, young receivers start to connect - Ben Volin - Volin has a good column this morning and even has comments from Aaron Dobson's father in this piece, who talked about how he handled some of the comments his son received from Brady.
Patriots move to 3-0 with win over Buccaneers - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young writes that while it took a quarter for some boos to start raining down on the Patriots Sunday afternoon, the offense finally overcame their ineptitude to remain unbeaten.
Tougher tests to come for the Patriots - Christopher Gasper - Gasper has his column this morning and writes that we won't know for a few more weeks how good this team is, but it's mathematically impossible for them to be better than 3-0 at this point.
Talib helps Patriots' defensive plan pay off - Mike Reiss - Reiss writes that Talib's performance helped the Patriots defensive plan work as planned on Sunday.
Defensive snaps: Jamie Collins in sub - Mike Reiss - Reiss looks at yesterday's snap totals and gives some excellent analysis on what went down defensively.
Offensive snaps: Even split at RB - Mike Reiss - Reiss looks at the offensive snap totals and notes that running backs Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden saw even playing time Sunday.
Believe it or not, Record-Setting Patriots D Need Not Apologize - Mike Petraglia - Petraglia writes that if you didn't believe in the Patriots defense before, you should now.
What we learned: A false start or real step forward for rookie receivers? - Christopher Price - Price has his weekly, "What We Learned" column and writes that Kenbrell Thompkins had little to say about himself after Sunday's win and praised the entire effort of the team.
Darrelle Revis on Patriots Rookie Wide Receivers: 'They Are Improving' - Ryan Hannable - Hannable has an article with comments from Darrelle Revis, who said yesterday the Patriots got them with a few plays where Brady sold the play action "very well" and executed the play.
Time to see how good Pats 'D' really is - Bill Burt - Burt writes that the "gimmees are officially over" and we'll find out over these next few weeks how good this defense.
Rookies Thompkins, Dobson show playmaker promise - David Willis - Willis has an article on the receivers, and caught a glimpse of the two footballs in Kenbrell Thompkins' locker that had tape on them representing the two touchdowns he made on Sunday.
Patriots' young receivers show progress in win over Bucs - Jennifer Toland - Toland writes that Brady didn't hide his frustration with his rookies during last week's game against the Jets, and his anger hasn't been lost on his first year targets.
Patriots pitch complete game to beat Bucs - Rich Garven - Garven writes that Sunday's win wasn't a total effort, but it was a team one after the Patriots overcame a slow start to beat the Buccaneers.
Brandon Bolden a big hit in return to Patriots - Rich Garven - Garven has his take on Bolden's performance on Sunday, who he writes was eager to dole out some punishment on would-be tacklers.
Patriots' Aqib Talib clamps down on Vincent Jackson - Jennifer Toland - Toland looks at the performance of Talib, who she writes was "up for the challenge" against Jackson on Sunday.
Stephen Gostkowski boots 3 field goals for Patriots - Jennifer Toland - Toland has an article on Gostkowski, who got a little redemption by his performance on Sunday.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
Syncing feeling - Mark Farinella - Farinella writes that, "there probably should be a little perspective injected into the euphoria over the New England Patriots' 3-0 start."
PATS NOTEBOOK: Gostkowski quietly has good day - Peter Gobis - Gobis files his notebook this morning and writes that kicker Stephen Gostkowski was happy with his performance on Sunday.
Pats' solid D mostly smoke and mirrors - Andrew Tornetta - Tornetta writes that on the surface, the Patriots defense appears to have taken the proverbial next step, but this early season schedule has merely "put lipstick on a pig".
SENTINAL & ENTERPRISE:
After an easy start, Patriots' real test is still ahead - David Pevear - Pevear writes that Bill Belichick's team is 3-0 and there's no extra credit for big wins and that picky fans and media in New England need to embrace the victories instead of focusing on the negative.
Buccaneers vs Patriots: Takeaways from New England's 23-3 Win over Tampa Bay - Mike Dussault - Our good friend Mike Dussault has his takeaways from yesterday's game, including the fact the Patriots found their running game on Sunday.
When you take a look at what rookie receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson have done so far through two games, it's hard not to realize they've been able to do something that not even seasoned veterans like Joey Galloway and Chad Ochocinco Johnson were able to do in this offense.
They've been able to grasp it well enough to hold their own, and save for a couple of miscues seem to be making progress in understanding exactly what's expected of them.
Thompkins made some progress last Thursday coming off of his four reception opening day performance having been targeted 14 times, and instead was targeted seven times with two receptions and was inches away from easily netting out a couple more. He seems like he's starting to get there, which should hopefully see him finally have a productive day against the Buccaneers this weekend.
Meanwhile Dobson obviously missed the season opener in Buffalo and has only played in one game, but his first NFL reception started out the way a rookie could hope for, as he ended up with a 39 yard touchdown. From there he battled through a few drops that will hopefully be a reminder that he's a little more mortal than the player who dominated at Marshall.
Fans have been clamoring over the past week about the fact the team should bring in a veteran receiver and seem ready to abort the idea of keeping these two guys in the line-up, but it was interesting looking at an article from 2006 from FootballOutsiders.com looking at the rookie season of Jerry Rice, which started out as a disaster for the now Hall of Fame receiver.
From the article:
"The 49ers, fresh off a victory in Super Bowl XIX, were 6-5 and fighting for their playoff lives. Joe Montana's passing numbers were off. Rice, the team's top draft pick, had 26 receptions in 11 games, but he also dropped 10 balls, some of them at the worst possible times. He was coming off a game in which he dropped two passes, fumbled once, and caught just one pass. Niners fans booed the rookie; local columnists made him the butt of jokes."
Obviously the goal isn't to compare either player to Rice, but more to point out that even the best receiver ever to play the game had his share of issues in his first year, and both of these guys have played in just two games. The tough part for both of them is that the expectations here in New England are so high that there's not much patience when fans are accustomed to seeing this offense be one of the most prolific in the NFL. So far New England is ranked 23rd in the NFL with 663 total yards, about 300 yards behind the Green Bay Packers who are 3rd with 965. Both Philadelphia (1385) and Kansas City (1000) are ahead of all of them, but they've also played three games so it's not a fair comparison.
Brady explained recently that these guys aren't 10 year veterans so it's unfair to expect them to play that way, but fans are used to seeing guys simply step in and play well. The offensive line has been a great example, and Logan Mankins told the Boston Herald that it's not as easy as it looks. As a rookie being drafted out of Fresno State, he played right away and admitted it was tough to adjust to the differences between Pro and College.
“I was a young guy like them thrown into the fire as a rookie,” Mankins told the newspaper on Thursday. “There were things I didn’t understand going on, so I understand what they’re going through. You’re put on the field and expected to produce like you’ve been here a long time, but you haven’t been here a long time. It’s not easy.
"At Fresno, it was a lot easier. In college you pretty much just block the guy in front of you. You don’t have all these combinations in pass protection. In college you pretty much just slide the protection all one way or the other."
Mankins pointed out that one thing that's important to remember is as long as you can physically play and it's just a matter of mental adjustments, they'll be O.K.
“It’s better if the problems are mental than physical,” Mankins said. “If they’re physical maybe you can’t overcome them. If they’re mental you can.”
For now the rookies seem to be athletic enough and have already made several big plays, so they definitely seem to be getting there. As it stands right now both account for two of the longest pass plays the Patriots have thus far, so one would like to think they'll be more to come. Every week is a learning experience and one that will hopefully allow them to grow and improve. But as we've seen playing in the NFL isn't easy for even some of the best in the game at their position. Time will tell how good each of these players ultimately become, but either way they'll still need that time to figure it out.
VINCENT JACKSON SHOULD PRESENT QUITE A CHALLENGE:
Looking at match-ups this weekend it's hard not to realize just how potentially difficult Jackson will make things against the Patriots on Sunday. He didn't have a reception during their preseason match-up but he also played only eight snaps. During the joint practices he had his way against nearly every Patriots defensive back, and historically has been productive. The Tampa Bay Tribune points out Jackson has 15 catches for 306 yards and three touchdowns in his past two meetings against New England, which will leave the Patriots trying to make sure he doesn't have another big outing on Sunday.
PATRIOTS WORKING OUT RECEIVERS?
We've obviously talked a lot recently about the fact the Patriots should be patient with the receivers, but it sounds like they're at least remaining open minded about potentially bringing in someone else. Rookie Josh Boyce has been the one player who has struggled enough so far that his playing time has dropped off (14 snaps in week one, down to 2 last weekend) and it's going to be interesting to see how much time he sees this weekend. In the meantime according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, the Patriots recently worked out Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson, as well as receivers Jared Green and Terrence Toliver. Wilson also reports that the team recently worked out defensive backs Myron Lewis, Jalil Brown, DeQuan Menzie, and Peyton Thompson.
That's it for now. We'll be back tomorrow for a morning entry as well as full post game coverage.
Last week when the Patriots were coming off of a last second win over the Buffalo Bills, the team came out of that contest a little bit banged up with a short turnaround before Thursday night's visit by the Jets at Gillette Stadium. As a result, instead of normal practices they spent the days leading up to that match-up with a series of walk-throughs in preparation of the game.
Although they still had a tough time connecting on a lot of the throws between Tom Brady and his band of rookie receivers, this time they consisted of a lot more near misses instead of ones that were way off the mark, which seemed to be a much bigger problem in game one. Now after having over a week to get back on track, Brady said on Wednesday that they didn't really get a chance to work on many fundamentals last week, which is something they've worked on leading up to this weekend.
"Well last week we didn't get to work on many fundamentals or techniques in practice, so you go out and you execute in the first week like we did against Buffalo, but it was a quick turnaround playing on Thursday night," said Brady. "There are probably things we probably wish we would've practiced but didn't really have an opportunity to. Coach talks about improving and these weeks really being about improvement, trying to be a better football team, so we're trying to do that and we got off to a good start today."
Part of their problem early on has been their struggles on third down, which has seen them in some long-yardage situations and obviously explains how they're just 15-of-38 thus far, including 11 punts against New York last Thursday. Surprisingly week one was their best performance in terms of moving the chains after they converted 25 offensive first downs compared to just eight against the Jets. Against the Bills they were 11-of-20 (55%) on 3rd down, unlike last week when they were just 4-of-18, with eight of their attempts coming from seven or more yards while only converting one over that span. That will be something to keep an eye on against Tampa Bay this week as the Buccaneers' defense has held opponents this season to just 12-of-32 (37.5%) on 3rd down.
During the preseason Brady had some success against them, completing 11-of-12 for 107 yards, and converted 4-of-5 attempts on 3rd down. However, in that game neither Kenbrell Thompkins or Aaron Dobson had a pass thrown their way from him, with Danny Amendola accounting for 4 of those conversions. This time Amendola may be out again while Julian Edelman and the rookies will need to step up, and the challenge becomes a little tougher since Darrelle Revis should be out there this time around.
Brady said on Wednesday that they're going to have to be better this week than they've been so far through two games.
"I think a lot of this defense," said Brady. "So we've got to play a lot better than we played the first two weeks. We've got to go out there, and like I said we got off to a good start in practice today and hopefully we can carry this over into the game."
BELICHICK PLEASED WITH JONES:
Belichick had praise for Chandler Jones on Wednesday, and after moving him inside on several plays against New York, the Patriots coach said he was pleased with how Jones handled himself in those situations.
"He had some production in there," said Belichick. "We've done that. He's done that in training camp and in both games. He's a versatile player. We've seen him stand up, get down, play on a tight end, play on a tackle, play on a guard. He's a versatile player that is long, he's got good quickness and he uses his hands well."
Belichick said the fact Jones gained some strength over the offseason helped him to be able to play over the tackle.
"I mean, it certainly helps- the stronger the better, the faster the better, the quicker the better. Those things are all better but he worked hard in the offseason. He had a good offseason program. I think he did gain some playing strength. I think he's got good, natural strength."
"Guys like him that have real long arms are never going to win the bench press competition, but they play with good leverage and their strength is their length. That's different than strength being just weight room strength, he has great leverage strength. He uses that to his advantage and that helps him even though he gets out-weighed. His length helps him play against some of those bigger guys, whether they're guards or tackles. "
KYLE LOVE GETS A TRYOUT:
Former Patriots DL Kyle Love is still looking for a job after being released by the Patriots and most recently the Jacksonville Jaguars. According to Aaron Wilson of Scout.com Love recently had a tryout with the San Francisco 49ers, but wasn't immediately signed.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Notebook: Julian Edelman in Darrelle Revis' sights - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook this morning which leads off with the fact that Edelman will likely draw Revis on Sunday, which should present a challenge for the veteran receiver.
Aqib Talib's time to show 'em - Jeff Howe - Howe has an article on Aqib Talib, who is set to match-up against his former team in a regular season game for the first time since the Patriots traded with the Buccaneers for him last season.
Patriots back ex-coach Greg Schiano - Mark Daniels - Daniels has an article this morning with comments from the former Rutgers players who are now with the Patriots and had good things to say about their former coach.
Stats don't rate with Tom Brady - Karen Guregian - Guregian writes that right now Brady "sits among the NFL's commoners", after struggling out of the gate due to his slow start, but also writes that he's a fierce competitor and a perfectionist and that he's focused on getting better.
Hold expectations in check with Patriots rookie receivers - Ben Volin - Volin has a good article this morning on the fact the Patriots' rookie receivers aren't the only ones struggling early on this season, and has numbers for other guys who were selected this year as a comparison.
Patriots, Bucs familiar on personal level - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young writes that after working with eachother during training camp, both sides have more of a feel for one another heading into Sunday's game.
Penalty watch: Patriots vs. Buccaneers - Mike Reiss - Reiss has a breakdown of the penalties committed by both the Patriots and the Buccaneers, and it's not even close as the Bucs have more than three times the amount of accepted penalties with 23.
Belichick's Press Conference Transcript - Here's the complete transcript from yesterday's press conference with the New England media.
Belichick's Conference Call with Tampa Bay Media Transcript - Belichick spoke with the Tampa Bay media on Wednesday and the team has the full transcript.
Tom Brady Press Conference Transcript - Here's the complete transcript from Brady's media session.
Rob Gronkowski makes progress, status for Sunday unclear - Rich Garven - Garven has an article on Gronkowski, who told him, "I've progressed significantly since last week," on Wednesday.
Tom Brady fired up to pick up receivers - Rich Garven - Garven has comments from Brady on Wednesday, who talked about the fact he's trying to be more patient.
Socci: Fullback James Develin Looks To Help Any Way He Can - Bob Socci - Socci has a good read on James Develin, who he writes, 'has encountered more a fork than a crossroads in his career.'
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
Extra prep time welcomed by Brady - Mark Farinella - Farinella files his notebook this morning, which leads off with the fact Brady is happy to get back to working on fundamentals and techniques, which he said the team didn't get a chance to do last week.
So far, so good for defenders - David Pevear - Pevear has an article this morning wondering if the Patriots defense is capable of buying time for the offense to solve its issues -- and maybe even become more than that?
Football alum keeps focus on field - This newspaper out of Washington University in St. Louis has an article on former Washington University player Jonathan Howard, who is now a scouting assistant for the team and offers some insight of what it's like to work in that position.
It's been a long time since we've seen Rob Gronkowski play for longer than a few minutes in an NFL football game.
The last time we saw him for any length of time was back on November 18th of last season, coming up on nearly a year when he caught 7 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns in a 59-24 over Andrew Luck and the Colts at Gillette Stadium. After the game news emerged that the tight end had suffered a broken forearm while making a block on New England's final extra point, and little did we know how big of an impact that injury would ultimately have on him.
He came back briefly against the Houston Texans during the postseason but that was fairly short-lived, with Gronkowski lasting all of 7 snaps, the last of which happened on the Patriots' second offensive series of the game where he landed on his arm on a deep sideline pass that went incomplete. On the play he landed hard and re-broke his forearm, ending his season.
Since then he's battled through infections and also underwent offseason back surgery, and all of his rehabilitation now has him finally in position to make a return. He's been inching his way back each week and he reportedly practiced on Monday, which according to reporters who were at the stadium, he came into the locker room covered in sweat and was very upbeat, which would lead you to believe everything went well.
The reported timetable the last few weeks seemed to indicate that he'd be back in time for this week's battle at home against the Buccaneers, although recent reports seemed to indicate there's a 50/50 shot he would play this weekend. Michael Whitmer of the Boston Globe reported this morning that the team is leaning toward sitting him this Sunday against the Buccaneers, which would give him a little more time to recover and get himself back into football shape. However, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network believes he "will be playing in week four" against Atlanta.
One thing we do know is they can certainly use him, especially on third down. Overall this season the Patriots have converted just 15-of-38 3rd down attempts, which is an area that Gronkowski has been critical in recent years. Last season before getting hurt Gronkowski caught 11 passes on 3rd down, all of which were first downs. That was the highest total of any remaining Patriots receiver on this roster, with Wes Welker (21) and Aaron Hernandez (10) as the only other two players with double digit receptions. He also had 3 touchdowns, which was also the highest number out of any other player. In 2011 Gronkowski had the second highest 3rd down total with 17 receptions, second only to Welker who had 26. He also had six touchdowns.
That's a lot of critical production for an offense that is struggling to move the chains. New England punted the football a staggering 11 times Thursday night, with rookie Ryan Allen tying the franchise record with 514 punting yards during their win over the Jets. While Ryan may be happy to have gotten his name into the record books, Tom Brady likely wasn't pleased about it and having Gronkowski back in the line-up is something that will hopefully make this offense a little harder to stop.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on Tuesday that getting Gronkowski back would obviously help, and he talked about how his presence would impact their game plan.
"I think any time you have a player that can make the kind of impact that Rob has made in the past, if you have a player like that back, it has to affect your plan and hopefully only in a positive manner," said McDaniels during a conference call with the media. "I don't know if it would affect the group that we use or not use or whether we would use a certain tempo or not. I don't know that that would really be impacted, but I definitely think that you would like to have a guy like that on the field as much as you can if he is ready and able to contribute in the way that Rob has always been able to. "
Should he see action this weekend, it's going to be interesting to see how many snaps he'll play. After losing him twice in a season last year one would have to believe the Patriots will be extra cautious in their approach to make sure he doesn't suffer any setbacks. The broken forearm was one thing, but anytime a player undergoes back surgery it's always a concern, especially in Gronkowski's case because of the way he plays. McDaniels said yesterday that they're not approaching the game plan with any intent of changing what the veteran has done in the past, although they'll keep an eye on how comfortable he is once he's out there.
"I'm not going about it in that manner," said McDaniels. "Our game plan is going to be set up for the opponent and it's hopefully going to be set up in such a way that we can take advantage of some opportunities. The ones that are available at the tight end position would certainly have application for Rob if he happened to play, whenever that is.
"The more any player that is coming off of a few games away where he is healing or whatever the case may be, the more they play, the more comfortable they are and the more they are in the game, then the more you can start dictating some of the things you would do with him."
Now we'll just have to wait to see when exactly he'll finally be back in the line-up.
GROGAN STICKS UP FOR DANNY AMENDOLA:
For anyone who followed former Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan, he epitomized the word "toughness", battling through quite a bit of injuries during his career and earning the respect of both fans and teammates over the course of his tenure here in New England. In this week's "Grogan's Grade" (published this morning) Grogan talked about Danny Amendola, and he feels that it's a little early to start calling the newly acquired receiver "injury prone."
"I don't think that's fair," said Grogan when asked about the criticism being directed at Amendola. "I think anybody can pull a groin and he showed me a lot of courage by coming back in and playing in the second half of that Buffalo game after he'd already hurt himself in the first half and didn't look like he'd be coming back. It might have been a mistake for him to come back in the second half of the Buffalo game because he probably made it worse than it would have been if he'd have just sat out the rest of the game. I never, never fault a guy that will come back in a game and play hurt and help you win a game. You've got to win them one at a time, and that's what he did in Buffalo and it may cost him a few games here now."
KRAFT REACHES OUT TO FAN BATTLING CANCER:
As we know Patriots owner Robert Kraft lost his wife to cancer, and a note on Reddit pointed out that Kraft recently reached out to another fan who is battling pancreatic cancer, and also sent them his "sweethearts' "MHK" pin.
The letter read:
"It has been brought to my attention by your niece, Nancy, that you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That being said, I wanted to take the liberty of wishing you all the best for continued strength to keep your head high during this challenging time in your life. I hope this correspondence can relay some encouragement to you as well, especially since I have heard that you are an avid New England Patriots fan. Hopefully, we can reciprocate your long-time support of our organization through our thoughts and prayers. I have also enclosed my sweethearts’ “MHK” pin for you to wear in hopes that it will remind you that our organization is wishing you all the best as you fight this battle.
On behalf of myself and the New England Patriots football team, we wish you all the best for good health and happiness. We look forward to your continued dedication this upcoming season! Sincerely, Robert K. Kraft”
Hand written at the bottom '“We are all Patriots” Our prayers are with you.'
Very touching to say the least.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
NOTEBOOK: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots take it easy - Karen Guregian - Guregian files her notebook this morning which leads off with a note on Gronkowski and she writes a league source told the Herald the Patriots are opting for the "conservative" route with their Pro Bowl tight end.
No Surgery for Danny Amendola - Karen Guregian - Guregian reports that Amendola may be back sooner rather than later, and reports the Patriots have decided against surgery.
Vince Wilfork encourages Nathan Hale school kids to follow their dreams - Karen Guregian - Guregian has a good article on a recent stop by Wilfork at the Nathan Hale School in Roxbury.
Patriots defense getting there - Karen Guregian - Guregian writes that after two games, no one wants to overhype or oversell the Patriots defense, but they're making progress.
NOTEBOOK: Patriots leaning toward sitting Rob Gronkowski - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer reports that Gronkowski is healthy enough to play, but cites a league source who say the Patriots want more practice time for him before suiting him up for a game.
Patriots should give Terrell Owens at least a look - Gary Washburn - Washburn has a bizarre column this morning about the fact he believes the Patriots should at least give Owens a look. Interestingly enough he doesn't mention the fact that Brady already did, so needless to say it doesn't make any sense.
What we learned from Patriots coaches' calls - Mike Reiss - Reiss has notes from the two conference calls for both Josh McDaniels and Matt Partricia, pointing out things we learned from each one.
Patriots’ Receivers Aren’t Only Ones With Drop Problems, Ben Tate Is Better Than Arian Foster and Other NFL Thoughts - Luke Hughes - NESN's Hughes looks at some other players experiencing issues holding onto the football as well as some additional thoughts in this entry.
Why Julian Edelman Has Been the Most Valuable Offensive Option for the Patriots This Season - Christopher Price - Price points out in this article that so far Edelman has accounted for 20 of his team's 48 completed passes, or 42% of the team's overall receptions, among some other interesting numbers.
Pats don't have that dominant look - Jim Donaldson - Donaldson has a column this morning that leads off with a quote from former Patriots hard-hitting safety Rodney Harrison, who recently said, “The gap in the AFC East has closed. The Patriots don’t look like the dominant team we’re used to seeing.”
Oh brother, it's Josh vs. Ben McDaniels on Sunday - Rich Garven - Garven writes that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will face off against his younger brother Ben, who is in his first season as an offensive assistance with the Buccaneers.
MILFORD DAILY NEWS:
New England Patriot Devin McCourty speaks at Mendon school - Mike Gleason - Good stuff from Gleason who has an article on the visit by McCourty to the Henry Cough Elementary School on Tuesday which saw the veteran defensive back wearing a "milk mustache" while leading a parade of children around the building.
You more or less knew this would happen eventually.
The Patriots have ruled the AFC East now for nearly a decade, with every season more or less being a foregone conclusion that New England would add yet another hat and T-shirt to their collection as a precursor to a playoff run. As the starter Tom Brady has helped lead his team a Division title in every season with the exception of 2002, as well as double digit wins in every season over that same span. They've been the standard that everyone else measures themselves against as the team to beat, and it's been hard not to wonder how much longer they could sustain it.
This season as the Patriots start off in a transition year, the Dolphins appear to be on the move and no longer appear to be a team that can be penciled in as an easy win. Miami is 2-0, coming off of their opening day win over the Browns as well as their upset in Indianapolis on Sunday. Second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill looks like a completely different player, cracking the top 10 in completion percentage by completing 65.3% of his passes, up from finishing tied for 41st in the league at 58.3% during his rookie season. He threw just 12 touchdown passes as well as 13 intereceptions last year, but showed a lot of promise and now looks like he could be just the quarterback Miami's been in dire need of for a long time.
To help him out the Dolphins went out during the offseason and acquired former Steelers receiver Mike Wallace, who was a key addition to a group that already had Brian Hartline, and they also brought in Mike Gibson, along with tight end Dustin Keller. GM Jeff Ireland clearly knows his team is on the rise, and as the Patriots undergo an offensive overhaul of their own, the Dolphins have done the same but have a little more experience in their group.
It hasn't been a completely smooth transition after Wallace expressed some frustration following their opening day win against Cleveland where he was targeted just 5 times with one reception. On Sunday in Indianapolis they went back to him, with Tannehill targeting him 11 times with 9 completions along with 115 yards and a touchdown.
"He was important," Tannehill told the Florida Sun-Sentinel after the game. "We knew coming in we wanted to get him involved. He is a playmaker and when you have a playmaker like that, you want to give him the ball. Got him involved early and he took advantage of it and made big plays for us ... I think when you have that type of athleticism, that type of play-making ability, to get a good jump on it, sets the tone of the game."
The victory gave Miami their second consecutive road win, with three tough games now looming as they get set to take on the Falcons, Saints, and Ravens, all three of which New England will face in the coming weeks. This should be an interesting barometer to find out just how far Miami has come, and following a bye week as well as a home game against the Bills, they'll make the visit to Foxboro to see whether or not Tannehill can get his first win against a team that has swept his Dolphins over the last three seasons.
So far through two games they're playing well, and it's been a long time since there has been some serious competition within the division. It's a little early to get too excited about any team at this point in the season, but it's definitely starting to look like Miami may no longer be a team the Patriots will simply have their way with. We'll find out just over a month from now how much progress either team has made, and whether or not the Patriots can remain the team to beat in this division.
RIDLEY SPINNING HIS WHEELS SO FAR THROUGH ONE GAME:
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley has been a a guy who has been known for his quick slashing moves and his explosive running ability, but he's stumbled a little out of the gate so far this season. Out of his 25 carries he's been stopped for a loss five times this season and been held without a gain 3 times, which is unusual for a player who normally has been so effective. He admitted on Monday that this isn't the way he hoped to start off the season.
"I don't think anybody on this team is happy and where they want to be, starting with myself," Ridley told reporters via the Sun Chronicle. "I definitely didn't get off to the start that I wanted and I'll man up and say that. For me, I've got to do better for my team, and also, this team has got to work that much harder.
AMENDOLA RETURNS, SLATER OUT 4-6 WEEKS:
Despite reports over the weekend that said Danny Amendola has torn adductors as well as a possible sports hernia that may require surgery, Amendola was back out on the practice field Monday and was seen by reporters hobbling through drills. One would assume that if he's injured the only way he's going to heal is by getting rest, but on the flip-side the team obviously wouldn't have put him out there without a moderately good reason. According to reports Amendola wasn't spotted with the receiving group when the team returned to the locker room after practice, so it's tough to read much into any of it.
Meanwhile according to the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian, special teams standout Matthew Slater suffered a broke wrist against the Jets and will now be out anywhere from 4-6 weeks. Slater is one of New England's best coverage guys on kickoffs and will leave them needing someone else to step up and hopefully fill in at an area that goes largely unnoticed, primarily because of how well Slater has played in that role.
PATRIOTS RECENTLY WORKED OUT EIGHT PLAYERS:
Aaron Wilson of Scout.com reported on Monday that the Patriots recently worked out eight players, including a host of linebackers. Wilson reports they looked at DE Jeremy Beal, LB Jamar Chaney, LB Tavares Gooden, LB Josh Hull,LB Orie Lemon, DE Louis Nzegwu, LB Austin Spitler and LB Sean Progar.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
NOTEBOOK: Alfonzo Dennard terms same - Jeff Howe - Howe has an article on defensive back Alfonzo Dennard, who admitted during an appearance at Lancaster County Disctrict Court in Nebraska that he violated his probation after being arrested in Lincoln back in July and charged with suspicion of driving under the influence.
Gronk's return should help dormant 'O' - Jeff Howe - Howe writes that with Gronkowski getting closer and potentially available for Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, the Patriots finally have a reason to be optimistic about their offense.
Danny Amendola limps through practice - Jeff Howe - Howe writes that if yesterday is any indication, we probably won't see Amendola back any time soon.
Arrington tries to perfect trade - Adam Kurkjian - Kurkjian has a good article on Kyle Arrington, who so far is off to a great start this season.
Patriots' Stevan Ridley knows he has to improve - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young has a good read this morning on Ridley, who acknowledged he's not pleased with his performance so far this season.
NOTEBOOK: Patriots' Alfonzo Dennard admits to violating probation - Shalize Manza Young - Manza Young also has an article on Dennard's legal woes.
Week 3: Monday Practice peek -- Amendola present, Talib among absentees - Shalise Manza Young - This entry contains news and notes from yesterday's practice session.
Pondering Life Without Matthew Slater - Mike Reiss - Reiss has an entry this morning and gives some thoughts on what losing Slater would mean for the team after the special teams captain reportedly suffered a broken wrist on Thursday night.
Former New England Patriots WR Brandon Lloyd is starring in zombie movie with Daniel Baldwin - Nick Underhill - Underhill has an interesting entry this morning on Brandon Lloyd, who apparently is taking up acting after calling it a career in football.
Five Monday Evening Thoughts on the Patriots, Bucs, and Danny Amendola - Christopher Price - Price has his five thoughts, including "your semi-regular reminder that Tommy Kelly is awesome".
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
Ridley, offense yet to hit their strides - Mark Farinella - Farinells has some additional quotes from Ridley, who apparently had quite a bit to say to reporters yesterday.
When the Patriots signed wide receiver Danny Amendola this offseason New England took a gamble that his injury issues were a thing of the past and that he'd be a younger player who could help this offense for the long haul. As a result, they put their eggs in his basket and let Wes Welker head off to Denver.
Some called Amendola unlucky and that he was a victim of fluke injuries, the most recent of which was a broken collarbone last year in St. Louis that could have killed him. The amazing part of that injury is the fact he recovered in just five weeks and miraculously was back on the field for the Rams, catching 11 passes for 102 yards in a 24-24 tie (why are those still allowed again?) with the San Francisco 49ers.
Before that he dislocated his elbow and partially tore a triceps in training camp in 2011, before coming back in October only to tear the triceps again in practice. That ended his season.
Now here he is, one season later trying to shed the label that he's been saddled with due to what many had felt was just bad luck, and unfortunately he's been struck yet again. During the final two weeks of training camp here in New England he was battling what was thought to be a pulled groin, and after his gutsy week one second half performance, it now appears to be a "torn adductor" following a report yesterday from Fox Sports' Jay Glazer. There's also a possibility he's dealing with a sports hernia, which would likely require surgery and would keep him out a minimum of 3-4 weeks. And we're only two games in.
He's a tough guy and it's hard not to admire his courage. But it's also difficult not to realize that the time he'll now miss just increases the level of difficultly for a team already battling enough in the passing game.
Bill Belichick said back in March that they were aware of Amendola's situation but felt confident enough to sign him, pointing out that other guys have had injuries only later to go on to be injury free.
“There is no [exact] science to it," Belichick told Patriots.com back in March at the NFL Annual Meeting when asked if he was concerned about Amendola's injury history. "There are plenty of guys that come out of the draft that have had injuries and played relatively injury-free. There are other guys that have been injury free and have been injury prone at this level.
"I don’t have a great explanation for that. I don’t think anybody does unless it’s an ongoing situation and a guy has a recurring injury that he’s being treated for, then that is what it is. If it’s anything else, sometimes things happen, sometimes they don’t. When you get a player, you get everything that comes with that player. All the things the person is. It’s like that with every player."
For now he's got a player who is going to miss time for the foreseeable future, putting strain on a position group that already has enough stress as it is. The likely thought process was that with a group of rookies, there would at least be Amendola to shoulder some of the load early on along with Julian Edelman until these guys got up to speed, followed by a return of Rob Gronkowski to help spread things out. They also had Shane Vereen to catch the ball out of the backfield in game one, but now he's out after breaking his wrist in Buffalo, leaving all the focus on Edelman in the interim. The only breaks they seem to be catching are the ones they don't want.
That leaves Tom Brady in the tough position of having to make something out of nothing in the weeks ahead until Gronkowski at least gets back on the field. Hopefully Zach Sudfeld's hamstring injury is progressing and he'll be able to join him, which will hopefully begin to open some opportunities for the rookies to get into gear. But this was certainly not how the Patriots coaching staff likely envisioned the early part of the year unfolding.
For now Amendola has to be frustrated with the fact that, once again, his body has let him down. Some call it bad luck, while others call it a trend that ultimately defines a player. Unfortunately for the Patriots it's simply yet another problem that they really didn't need, and one that hopefully won't continue to plague them over the course of this season.
BRADY RELAXES, WATCHES FOOTBALL OVER THE WEEKEND:
Without a football game on his agenda for this weekend, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady spent his two days doing what any other football fan would. He enjoyed some family time, and also caught some football.
"There was a lot of good games on," said Brady during his weekly appearance on WEEI. "I watched the A&M Alabama game on Saturday, which was fun."
When asked if he uses those games as a scouting tool, Brady said that it's hard to pick up a lot from watching the normal broadcast, and that he mostly watched this weekend's games from a fan perspective.
"It's hard to tell with the TV copy a lot of the times as a scouting tool, so mostly as a fan and just kind of watching a lot of guys that probably I know or I've seen play over the years and guys that I really like watch playing," said Brady. "Yeah, it was a fun day. Like I said, there was a lot of games on. That Red Zone channel is pretty amazing."
Obviously a lot of the focus is on the troubles offensively, but Brady also said that the overall execution is part of the problem, including himself, not just the receivers.
"It's not the receiver position," said Brady. "It's every position, including the quarterback position. So it's the quarterback position, the running backs, tight ends, receivers, we all have to be on the same page and until we are, we're going to struggle.
"I'm really glad we've won these last two games. I think our defense has done such a great job of limiting points and scoring opportunities for our team, getting us great field position. We just haven't done much to take advantage of those things."
THIRD DOWN A PROBLEM SO FAR THIS SEASON:
Going through some numbers last night as I finish up launching this year's edition of our stats database (which should be available later today) and it's hard not to notice a glaring issue with this offense so far through two games. New England overall is just 15-of-38 on 3rd down this season (39.5%), over 10% lower than where they finished last season at 48.7%.
One thing hurting that percentage is the fact that they've already been in quite a few long-yardage situations. They've been in 3rd and 8 or more 14 times so far this season, converting just five times (36% conversion) which is dragging down their average.
Overall surprisingly Brady's not far off from where he finished last year in terms of his completion percentage. Last season he was 92-of-150 (61%) on third down with 73 passing first downs, 13 of which were touchdowns (the league counts a touchdown as a first down). So far this season he's 19-of-32 (59%) with 15 first downs and 3 touchdowns.
However, one glaring stat, they've faced 3rd and one three times this year, with 0 first downs. That's obviously a problem, especially after last season where they faced that situation 30 times and converted 24 of them. So that will be something to watch in the weeks ahead.
SOME INTERESTING NUMBERS:
The guys at Cold Hard Football Facts pointed out some interesting numbers in a good article that ran yesterday regarding the fact the Patriots are getting back to their roots in terms of "winning ugly". They reminded us that the victory Thursday night by the Patriots marked the first time since 2004 that Brady's team won a game scoring 13 point or less. The team accomplished a similar feat in 2008, but that was with Matt Cassel at QB in a 13-0 win over Buffalo.
They also pointed out that the 2003 Patriots notably won 17 games and a Super Bowl while scoring just 348 regular-season points, 209 points fewer than the 2012 Patriots. Something to keep in mind should the team keep winning these close games.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Tom Brady on the offense: 'Obviously, what we're doing isn't good enough' - Jeff Howe - Howe has some notes from Brady's weekly appearance on WEEI where the receiver talks about the fact that he's just as much to blame as his receivers.
Opinions split on Amendola injury - Karen Guregian - Guregian spoke to a couple of different doctors who had varying opinions on the timetable for Amendola's return.
A how-to on earning Tom Brady's trust - Mark Daniels - Daniels has an article this morning with quotes from former Patriots receivers who talked about playing for Brady and what it took to earn his trust.
Patriots’ Kenbrell Thompkins overcame troubled past - Shira Springer - Springer has a good read this morning on Thompkins with another good feature that exposes some additional facts that past ones didn't in this article.
Rare bad reviews for Patriots’ Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork - Ben Volin - Volin has a great read this morning with his "On Football" column, which gives some great insight into what happened Thursday night.
Dont’a Hightower, Rob Ninkovich Shined as Unsung Heroes in Patriots-Jets Game Based on Film Review - Doug Kyed - Kyed has a good article pointing out some key points from the game and writes that Hightower had one of the best overall games of any Patriots player Thursday night.
Patriots Get Back to Work Today - Mike Reiss - Reiss writes that the Patriots will get back to work today and that since they figure to be in full pads at some point, Rob Gronkowski is a player who will benefit the most since they'll be able to gauge whether or not he's ready to go.
Tom Brady Confidence Index, Week 2: Julian Edelman on the Rise - Christopher Price - Price has his week 2 edition of Brady's "Confidence Index", and writes that Edelman is becoming a reliable target after two solid weeks.
Michael Buchanan making an impact for Patriots - Jennifer Toland - Toland has a good read on Michael Buchanan, who made the Patriots' first sack of the season Thursday night.
Diversified Fronts: Patriots Defense Shows Array of Personnel in Week 2 Win vs. Jets - Oliver Thomas - Our friends at NEPatriotsDraft.com havea good article this morning breaking down the multiple defensive fronts that the Patriots showed throughout Thursday' night's game.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL POST:
What Tom Brady’s body language is saying about the Patriots receivers - Scott Stenson - Stenson writes that Brady "hates his new receivers" and that Brady, "hates them with the power of a thousand suns, as evidenced by the fact that he spent much of Thursday night in a seething rage and caused no shortage of elderly lip readers to flutter their hands over their hearts at the cuss words he was uttering."
Changing it up a little on this Saturday morning and following yesterday's format a bit for another abbreviated edition before we resume the normal format on Monday. So here a few thoughts following the over reactions that happened Friday after New England's win over the Jets:
1) There certainly is quite a bit of panic over the receiver position: For the past several seasons, Wes Welker and the tight ends aside, the receiver position has been one that has been lacking in speed and talent in recent years. As a result that's one of the main reasons why the team opted to address it during the offseason when they selected Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce in the draft, as well as bringing in Kenbrell Thompkins as an undrafted free agent. Each went through the preseason and showed enough to make the active roster, and now it's just a matter of trying to get them acclimated through real life game situations. It hasn't exactly been perfect, but it's amazing how many people can't see the forest through the trees and have missed the fact that these guys have been so close on a lot of plays early on already through two games. Thompkins has had his moments and was close on a couple of plays Thursday night, including a diving touchdown catch that was called back because the rookie missed getting his hands under the football by mere inches as he went to the ground on what would have been a tremendous play. This is a game that relies on those inches for success, and it's hard not to realize that they're already making progress. Once those plays start connecting, this offense is going to be exciting to watch.
2) Aaron Dobson struggled in his first NFL game, but what we saw is not who he is: Things started off with a bang for Dobson after his first NFL reception was a touchdown thanks to a play-action pass that fooled absolutely everyone on the Jets defense and allowed the rookie to head off to the races for a 39 yard touchdown. From there he struggled a bit, doing something he didn't do in his final season at Marshall by experiencing a few drops, one of which was on a deep pass play that he did a fantastic job getting to but couldn't quite haul in as he went to the ground. It was a very uncharacteristic night for a guy who was selected because of how sure-handed he was, and for anyone who watched him play in college, they know that's not the case. Instead, it's amazing how many people - fans and media included - who think they're being clever by calling him "Drop-son" and it's just ridiculous, especially if you've seen this play. This is a guy who is known for his ability to catch the football and actually has an interesting parallel with former Patriot Troy Brown after Dobson finished his collegiate career with 24 touchdown receptions, tying the former Marshall standout and Patriots receiver for fourth in the school's all-time records. He's going to be a contributor in this offense, but for those who are criticizing him already, they need to understand that one game should definitely not define him as a player and that he's going to get better.
3) This transition was done due to a plan that looks significantly different now than it did in April: When the Patriots drafted Dobson and Boyce, the idea behind it was to infuse two talented players in with an offense that would have had Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez, which are three dynamic players who on their own would have been able to carry the load for Tom Brady. Had Belichick known that Gronkowski was going to need back surgery and that Hernandez would be in jail, it's probably safe to say they would have handled the initial free agency period a little differently. Amendola's current situation "is what it is" primarily because of the gutsy performance he put in during week one. His need to tough out the second half to help them win the game exacerbated an injury that probably wouldn't have been as bad as it now is had he been able to sit out the second half after re-aggravating it. Instead he's now going to miss some time, which further thrusts this younger trio into the forefront.
4) For the benefit of their long-term success, the Patriots need to stick to their current plan, not bring in another veteran receiver: For anyone who has watched this team closely over the past several seasons, the thing that has killed this offense come playoff time has been the lack of an explosive presence on the perimeter to compliment all the talent they have on the inside offensively. They've spent the past several seasons relying on old veterans who were able to carry them during the season, but the moment they lost one of their key players, those guys no longer had the ability to get open. It's a plan that hasn't worked, and that's one of the primary reasons why Belichick and his staff obviously decided to move in another direction. Part of the thing that's hinging on this to be successful is going to be the level of commitment they put forth in sticking to it and allowing these guys to grow in this offense. They can't learn from film or from being on the sideline, and it has to come from being on the field and getting reps. Schedule-wise they're matched up against the right teams to be able to make it through this transition. They just need to hang in there and stick with it.
BOYCE SEES A REDUCED ROLE IN GAME TWO:
Looking at the Patriots win Thursday night and it was tough not to notice that Josh Boyce appeared to be a little scarce, and looking at the stat sheet he definitely was. The rookie played on just two plays all night, down from his total last week against the Bills where he was in on 14 of them. Belichick said yesterday when asked if it was part of the game plan or just the way it unfolded, Belichick said that, "I'd say that's definitely the way it unfolded." It appears Boyce still has some work to do to earn additional time on the field in their offense.
STEVAN RIDLEY'S RETURN A TOUGH ONE:
Ridley had a rough night against the Jets defense, which did an incredibly good job of getting penetration and keeping the Patriots running back in check for most of the night, especially on first down and that put them in longer yardage situations for most of the evening. Looking at the numbers of Ridley's 16 carries, 10 of them were on first down which saw him gain just 18 yards (1.8 avg). Overall they also stopped him for a loss four times Thursday night, the highest total for Ridley since week one against the Titans last season when he was also stopped for a loss the same number of times.
CONTRARY TO REPORTS, THE PATRIOTS HAVEN'T DIRECTLY CONTACTED BRANDON LLOYD:
Interesting tidbit from Greg Bedard's notes column on MMQB.com yesterday. According to Bedard, the Patriots didn't inquire about former receiver Brandon Lloyd. Bedard writes that, "If anything, they called him to set up their emergency list like they do at every position to see who might be available should the worst happen." He believes 'the ship has sailed on Lloyd and the Patriots', although he points out that "desperation makes people do all sorts of things," but that, "the Patriots aren't that desperate yet."
No links this morning, we'll resume those on Monday but for now can find the latest news on our Patriots News page.
Well, at least it's progress.
Thursday night's win over the Jets wasn't pretty by any means, but it's yet another step in the development of New England's young receiving core. Both Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson played in last night's 13-10 victory over New York, and while it wasn't perfect, there were some good moments for both players. Dobson's first NFL reception was a 39 yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady on a perfect play-action play that pretty much every Jets defender bit on, and Dobson was all alone to take off for the score that put New England up 7-0 on their opening drive. From there it became a battle, and fortunately it was the Patriots who fought through the adversity and the weather and came away with the win.
Looking back, here are five thoughts from last night's victory:
1) Stevan Ridley rebounded fairly well - It was far from perfect for running back Stevan Ridley, but he made it through the entire night without any issues turning the football over. Overall he finished the night carrying the ball 16 times for 40 yards which wasn't his best performance, but with the Patriots passing game largely held in check, especially when the weather turned ugly, the Jets defense plugged most of the holes as the game went on and prevented Ridley from breaking off any big gains. They stopped him for no gain or a loss on six of his carries, which is unusual for him. Although as much as it's tough to give New York credit, they played pretty good defense last night.
2) Brady needs to find a happy medium with his temper - Brady acknowledged after last night's game that he's probably going to have to get a hold of himself a little better heading into the rest of the season. There were moments last night where you could see him screaming at his receivers, including a brief tirade shortly when they left the field after settling for a field goal late in the second quarter. On that drive they worked their way down to the Jets 12 yard line but couldn't score, and he was clearly pretty angry. Prior to that someone clearly ran a route that Brady wasn't expecting, and as the ball fell incomplete the veins were sticking out of Brady's neck as he screamed at the offending receiver. The veteran quarterback said after the game that he needs to work on that. “I think I have to do a better job with my body language and I definitely can improve that," said Brady when asked about that after the game. "I wouldn’t say it’s a real strong point of mine right now, so we’ll just try to keep doing better. That’s what we’ve got to do.” He has to know that what's going on now is an investment for his future and a lot of the mistakes that are happening will probably not be occurring by the time we start heading into the second half of the season.
Bill Belichick was all smiles before last night's game. (USA TODAY Images)
3) This is definitely one of the most athletic groups Brady has ever played with - There's no denying the potential that this group of receivers have, especially when it comes to deep pass plays. There were a lot of close calls last night and plays that we'll likely start to see connected as the season progresses, but one thing that stood out was the closing speed that both Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson have when it comes to when Brady throws the deep ball. In past years they would have been balls that were overthrown, but both players have that additional burst that once they start connecting are going to be a dynamic that's tough to deal with. Thompkins finished with 2 catches for 47 yards and nearly had a touchdown after making a tremendous diving catch that the officials ruled he didn't control all the way to the ground, but it was still a great effort. The big thing killing that progress right now are the lack of their normal additional weapons in Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola all being on the field at the same time with them. That's preventing them from getting as many one-on-one match-ups as they might normally see, and as they gain experience that will be something that they'll hopefully be able to exploit.
4) The defense looks terrific so far through two games - After the last few seasons of not having a real cohesive unit, the Patriots are finally getting to the point where they have a fairly solid group of players in each group defensively. Tommy Kelly has really solidified the defensive line and had a sack last night, while Chandler Jones (2 sacks) and Michael Buchanan (1 sack) also were in on quite a few plays. Rob Ninkovich and Jerod Mayo are playing about as well as we've ever seen them play, and the secondary for the most part also played well last night and came up with three critical interceptions. They're making plays and forcing turnovers, and it's been a long time since we've seen them be the difference in the game like they were last night. Hopefully this is just the start of a breakout year for them.
5) If he stays healthy, Julian Edelman is poised for quite a season - Edelman caught a career high 13 passes last night for 78 yards and already has 20 receptions through two games, one shy of his entire total last season. He's also been one of Brady's go to guys on third down, catching all four passes he was targeted on last night, two of which he converted. Last week he caught all three third down targets that were thrown his way, converting two of them - which were touchdowns (the league counts a touchdown as a first down). That makes Brady 7-of-7 targeting him in those situations, so the two clearly are on the same page. With Amendola out, and reports last night said he could be out 2-6 weeks with his current groin injury, the odds are pretty good he'll see a lot of balls thrown his way in the coming weeks.
It's been an interesting start so far, and now they'll have a nice long break to try and work out some of the additional kinks before they take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers one week from Sunday.
SOME NUMBERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN:
Here are a few quick facts from last night that you may not have been aware of:
1) The Patriots defense extended their current streak of forcing a turnover to 29 straight games. Did some digging yesterday and I'm trying to find out what the NFL record is and haven't come up with it yet, so hopefully I'll have that soon. But that's a pretty impressive number to say the least, and it's one that can't be taken for granted considering how well they're playing right now.
2) Brady also extended his streak to 50 straight regular season games in which he's has thrown a TD pass, second only in NFL history to Drew Bees (54). As it stands right now, he's got a shot at tying it against - you guessed it - the Saints in week six.
3) Field Yates of ESPN pointed out last night via Twitter that had the play in which Edelman appeared to fumble the football stood, it would have been his first career fumble in 50 games played. The play was overturned, so his streak now continues.
4) Tom Brady passed quarterback Drew Bledsoe for career completions last night and currently has 3,846 career completions, passing former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe for 7th in NFL history.
KENBRELL THOMPKINS SIGNS ON WITH NIKE
Kenbrell Thompkins Nike endorsement - Nothing official from Nike yet, but this tweet from the Patriots receiver would lead you to believe he's reached an endorsement deal with them. Not bad for an undrafted free agent that had to battle his way onto an NFL roster. Hopefully he and Brady continue to their progress and get better about connecting on the field.
PUNTER RYAN ALLEN HAS QUITE A NIGHT:
Chalk this up to one of those stats that you can appreciate but hope you don't see a repeat of. Rookie punter Ryan Allen punted 11 times last night for a franchise record 514 yards. He did a good job in the field position battle and preventing the Jets from getting good starts on their drives, but there's no question the offense needs to be better about keeping Ryan off the field and putting more points on the board. Still, in those conditions, Ryan did a great job for a rookie and so far seems to be handling his full time role relatively well.
We'll have more in a bit.
What you see transpire on the field tonight is going to tell you quite a bit about your 2013 New England Patriots.
When the Jets invade Foxboro later this evening, we're going to witness what may be one of the most intriguing games of the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era, because it's really tough to predict how this one is going to go. On one hand you've got the fact that judging by the reports from New York, Rex Ryan's bunch - even if they don't want to admit it - clearly smell blood in the water and know that this is as vulnerable a Patriots team as they're ever going to get.
By now most fans know Danny Amendola is sitting out with a groin injury, and there's not even a guarantee he'll be back against the Buccaneers one week from Sunday. They also know that Shane Vereen is sidelined and on injured reserve with a designation to return, which hopefully means we'll see him come back by week eleven. Both were heroes in Buffalo, and both will be spectators tonight.
At the tight end position, Rob Gronkowski is still out and hopefully this will be the last game he misses. Zach Sudfeld has a hamstring injury and will join him on the sideline. We may see recently reacquired Matthew Mulligan for the first time tonight, along with Michael Hoomanawanui, and it's tough to know what to expect from either player.
So many questions, and the only way we're going to really get the answer is to see how it all plays out tonight on the field.
Let's face it, you don't know which rookie is going to step up. You know - or at least one would think - Julian Edelman is probably going to be targeted heavily by Brady in this one, but you don't know if the Jets are going to shut him down or if he's going to go out and catch 14+ passes and have a big game. It could honestly go either way. You don't know if Kenbrell Thompkins will have a better performance this time around, or if he'll struggle the way he did in Buffalo a few days ago. You don't know if Josh Boyce will break through, or if he'll spend yet another game in obscurity. Should Aaron Dobson play you don't know what to expect there either because the last time you saw him on the field was during the exhibition season.
But one thing to remember is each of the newcomers are the future of this football team. Right now they're young and inexperienced, but they were selected because they're in the long-term blueprint. Having them play was obviously in the plan, although the Patriots were probably just hoping to have a little more experience around them. Right now injuries have changed everything and now they're all facing a massive opportunity to go out and prove themselves in a key division game in front of the fans that will be cheering for them in the years to come.
That's probably the reason Brady doesn't see a depleted roster. He instead likely sees a lot of potential.
"When people are injured, that's why you have a deep roster," that's what Tom Brady said on Tuesday. "We have a lot of good running backs, we have a lot of good receivers, we're trying to do the best we can this week to go out and win a very challenging game against a very good team."
Lost in all of this is the Patriots defense, which will probably be the key part of tonight's equation. If they can get to rookie quarterback Geno Smith and force some turnovers, that will certainly be a difference maker against a Jets team that lost a fumble and threw an interception on Sunday. New England currently has a streak of 28 straight games with a turnover, and extending that streak will certainly improve their chances of coming away with a victory. Save for a couple of miscues, they played well in the secondary against the Bills, having not allowed any pass plays from beyond 20 yards. Against the run, they were nearly as effective and held C.J. Spiller to a 2.4 yards per carry average, with 9 of his 17 carries being of just 1-5 yards, while 3 more went for no gain and he had two for negative yardage. That's a pretty impressive performance against one of the better running backs in the AFC.
Another area to watch will be New England's ground game, which puts running back Stevan Ridley back in the forefront of the Patriots offense. Ridley had a rough outing in the opener, but the odds are pretty good he's learned his lesson and will be playing with a lot to prove. He looked good early on before being benched on Sunday, and one would have to believe he'll be ready to play. The last time these two teams faced off Ridley rushed for 97 yards on 21 carries (4.6 avg) including a touchdown. Overall the Patriots rushed for 152 yards against the Jets' defense, and with the uncertainty in the passing game it's tough not to think they'll try and establish something early on in the running game this time around as well.
Win or lose tonight, this game will be one that will help make this team a better one for the latter part of the year because it's going to put the younger players through a battle that's going to be intense. First off, they're playing at home on a Thursday night and fans aren't going to be sitting down the way we're used to seeing. They'll be up on their feet as long as this one remains close, and when you factor in the rivalry behind it you've got a perfect storm that will probably make this a pivotal game in the learning process.
Tonight's showdown will give them the experience of playing a meaningful game while learning how to deal with adversity. Hopefully each of these players can learn from it and it will be just a small step in their overall development, while for others, maybe it will be their defining moment should they emerge in their role. However, it will likely be one of the most exciting lessons any of these new guys ever learn, and if all goes well it will also be the first chapter for a team that is need of a younger group to develop and help Brady finish off his storybook career.
DE CHANDLER JONES KNOWS GENO SMITH WELL
As mentioned above the key success of the Patriots tonight is going to getting to Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith, and it appears they have one player who has some experience in that field. The Boston Herald's Mark Daniels pointed out that Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones finished his collegiate career with 10 sacks, four of which were on Smith. Tonight would certainly be a great time for him to add to that total, so that will definitely be something to watch heading into this evening's game. One other thing worth mentioning, Bill Belichick has never faced rookie QB's in back-to-back weeks, but he's not exactly alone in that regard. According to ESPN's Rich Eisen, the last team to face two rookie QB's to start a season was the Redskins in 1950. Overall Belichick's teams are 10-4 in his career against rookie quarterbacks.
THURSDAY NIGHT MARKS THE START OF A NEW ERA IN THIS RIVALRY:
With Mark Sanchez's future with the Jets hanging by a thread, it appears tonight may mark the start of a new era in this rivalry. Sanchez is reportedly dealing with a torn labrum that has him on the brink of surgery and being placed on injured reserve, which will almost certainly spell the end of his future in New York if Smith continues to play well. Tonight's game will be the first time someone other than Sanchez lined up under center for New York since Brett Favre beat Bill Belichick's team back on November 13th, 2008. However it was last November's Thanksgiving day debacle that will forever be in the minds of Patriots fans when they think of Mark Sanchez, and it will be interesting to see where he ends up after this season.
BIG PLAYS A KEY IN LAST YEAR'S WIN:
Last season the Patriots had a total of 5 passing plays of over 50 yards, and 2 of those came in their final meeting against the Jets, with Julian Edelman (56yd touchdown) and Shane Vereen (83yd touchdown) on the receiving end of each of those two plays. Unfortunately only one of those two will be active tonight. On the other hand the Jets held the Patriots ground game to just one carry over 10 yards in that one, with 19 of their carries having gained 1-5 yards, while 13 of them were from 6-10 yards. Hopefully they'll have a little more success there tonight.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Patriots' keys to a win vs. Jets - Jim McBride - McBride has his keys to tonight's game, and believes Stevan Ridley will be an important factor in tonight's game.
NOTEBOOK: Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski doubtful - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young files her notebook this morning, including a note from Kyle Arrington who was impressed by the poise that Geno Smith showed on film.
Versatile Julian Edelman ready for his biggest role? - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer has a good article this morning on Edelman, who he writes transformed himself from a college quarterback into something totally different here in New England.
Game 2 preview: Jets at Patriots - Zuri Berry - Berry has his preview for tonight's game, including some notes from this season along with projected starting line-ups for both sides.
Rex Ryan again set to take on Bill Belichick - The Globe has a graphic this morning with summaries of how the Jets and Patriots have fared since Rex Ryan's arrival in 2009.
Patriots must hand Stevan Ridley the ball against Jets - Adam Kaufman - Kaufman focuses on the importance of Ridley in tonight's showdown against New York.
Five keys to a Patriots victory - Jeff Howe - Howe has his 5 things for tonight, and feels keeping the pedal to the medal is going to be one of the more important parts of this one.
Chatham: Tape, not stats, key to game - Matt Chatham - Chatham files his "Chatham Report" this morning took a look at the game tape and has some interesting insight on this match-up in his report.
Notebook: Healthy, veteran unit can help banged-up 'O' - Jeff Howe - Howe Files his notebook this morning and writes that with the defense being the healthier of the two units, the onus is on them tonight to help make sure the Patriots beat the Jets.
Pats, Jets have plenty to prove - Karen Guregian - Guregian has a good column this morning on this game and writes rivalries lose a bit of their luster and spark when one team is struggling and can't carry its weight. But the Jets will be coming in swinging tonight as they try and rebound from last year's 6-10 season.
Projecting the Patriots' inactives - Mike Reiss - Reiss takes a look at who he expects to miss tonight's game, and there any surprises with the exception of maybe Brandon Bolden, who will Vereen out one would have thought he would have seen some time. However, Reiss writes Bolden missed Sunday's game with a knee injury and may still need some additional recovery time.
No sacks, no problem: Look for Pats' defense to practice policy of containment again - Christopher Price - Price writes that while everybody loves sacks, when you're facing a mobile quarterback they're not nearly as important as containing him.
Patriots renew acquaintances with Jets - Jim Fenton - Fenton has an article this morning on tonight's game and which leads off with some thoughts from Kyle Arrington, who noted the difference in the feeling this week due to their rivaly with New York.
Patriots vs Jets: Five Things to Watch - Andrew Tornetta - Tornetta has his "5 Things" for tonight, and wonders if Stevan Ridley can regain his confidence against the Jets.
If ever there was a nightmare scenario facing the Patriots on Thursday night, the one they're currently in has to be pretty close to one of the worst they could have ever imagined.
They're already without Shane Vereen, who was placed on injured reserve yesterday with the designation to return, which means the earliest fans will see him back is now week 11 against the Carolina Panthers. Danny Amendola also appears to be a scratch after Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network revealed yesterday that after missing the walkthrough it appears the veteran wideout "is almost certain" to miss the Jets game, which is another huge blow. Rookie Aaron Dobson's status for Thursday night is still unknown, and Zach Sudfeld's hamstring injury may also sideline him as well.
Needless to say when Bill Belichick decided to revamp the offense and move in a different direction, it's doubtful that he had any idea that the vast majority of his receiving core would all be injured by week two of the regular season.
They survived last week in Buffalo, having eked out a last second win on the backs of both Vereen and Amendola, who will be out tomorrow night. That leaves them with Julian Edelman, Josh Boyce, and Kenbrell Thompkins as the only sure bets at receiver, with Michael Hoomanawanui at tight end and Matthew Mulligan, who had previously been with the team before being released and was brought back yesterday.
If that ends up being the case, they'll have just one experienced receiver in the offense, and of their two tight ends, only one of has ever caught an NFL pass from Tom Brady. From an outside perspective, it looks like an area of concern due to the lack of experience that will be on the field for Brady to target. However, the veteran quarterback told the media Tuesday that despite the injuries, he sees plenty of depth and didn't seem too concerned.
"We've got a lot of good players in the locker room," said Brady on Tuesday. "When people are injured, that's why you have a deep roster. Guys that you have confidence in, that you've gained trust in, and I certainly have that at the skill position. We have a lot of good running backs, we have a lot of good receivers, we're trying to do the best we can this week to go out and win a very challenging game against a very good team. "
Hoomanawanui had one reception for 5 yards in Sunday's win, and caught just five passes in all for 109 yards last year on seven targets. With Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski on the field, Hoomanawanui wasn't Brady's "go to" guy by any stretch, having been targeted just once last year on 3rd down, although he hauled in a 14-yard pass that moved the chains.
Edelman had a strong outing Sunday and now has a national stage to show that he's a top flight NFL receiver, having been re-signed this offseason to a one year deal. This is a perfect opportunity to raise his asking price after the season, and to take on a larger role in an offense that had seen him as more of a situational player in past seasons. So far through one game Edelman was targeted nine times for 7 receptions, but he was crucial on 3rd down after catching all three passes that were thrown his way, including two touchdowns. He was also effective on 3rd down last season, catching eight of the eleven passes thrown his way, including seven first downs.
From there, there are plenty of unknowns. The Patriots have always been a "next man up" kind of football team, so the most intriguing part about tomorrow night's game is going to be, who is the player who comes up big? There's no better stage than a nationally televised home game for a player to make a name for himself, and New England will hopefully see one of the rookies come up with a big performance.
It's hard not to be a little concerned given all the issues they're dealing with, but despite what anyone else might think, Brady couldn't care less about the noise and feels they're in better position than 16 other teams through week one.
"I think the guys that can control what we think in the locker room are the guys that we have. Coach talks about ignoring the noise, and I'm not really sure what's out there. I mean, we're 1-0. There are 16 teams that are 0-1. We're in as good a position as any other team, so. We have a lot of football left. There is a lot of football between now and the end of the year, so we'll see how it all plays itself out."
RIDLEY GETS "THE TALK" FROM BELICHICK:
Running back Stevan Ridley obviously had a game he'd probably rather forget on Sunday, and after being benched by Belichick and seeing Vereen go out and rush for over 100 yards, there was certainly some question about whether or not he'd get an opportunity to earn his job back. Fortunately for him Vereen suffered a broken bone in his wrist that will keep him sidelined for at least the next nine weeks, which puts him back at the forefront of the Patriots running game. Belichick admitted on Tuesday that he's talked to Ridley, and that his job remains the same as everyone else's - be ready to play.
"I've talked to Stevan," said Belichick. "Look, every player has the same responsibility every week: to be ready to play, to be ready to go. That's their job. They can't control coaches' decisions, coaches' decisions are coaches' decisions. They can control their preparation; they control their performance when they're in the game. That's what a player's job is. It's all the same for everybody."
Brady was also supportive of his teammate on Tuesday, saying his performance wasn't perfect either and that Ridley is a mentally tough kid, and that he loves giving him the ball.
"We're all pretty positive with one another," said Brady. "I mean, we never like to see each other make mistakes, but they happen. We fumbled the snap on the goal line, I threw an interception. You've got to be able to bounce back from those things.
"Football's not necessarily a game of perfect, it's just you try to limit what your bad plays are so they're just not really bad plays or really critical plays in the game. I think the mental toughness from all of us to try to bounce back, I know Stevan is a very mentally tough kid, and I love having him back there. I love giving the ball to him, watching him run. He's done a great job with that since he's got here. "
STEVE GROGAN SAYS ALL THE TWEAKING HAS HURT TIM TEBOW:
Good stuff from former Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan, who was with us for this week's opening edition of "Grogan's Grade" (now available here). In the piece Grogan talked about Tim Tebow and one thing he believes has been his problem is the fact he's had so many people working with him on his throwing motion. With so many changes he believes that Tebow's gotten the point now where he's thinking too much. The former Patriot points out that in college Tebow was a fairly accurate passer (66.4% career on 995 attempts) but obviously all of the mechanical changes he's trying to make has affected that.
"I like Tim Tebow," said Grogan. "I like the way he plays the game. In my opinion, I think he's trying too hard to become a pocket passer, which is not his game at this point in life. He needs to run around and use his running ability more than he is. I also think he's probably, over the past three or four years, had so many different coaches trying to change his throwing motion that he's thinking too much when he throws the ball and that's why he's so inaccurate. He wasn't that inaccurate in college, but he had a throwing motion that people said wouldn't work in the NFL so he's been trying to change it and when you start thinking about how you're throwing the ball, then you don't justWha let it go and that's what I'm seeing from him."
Grogan agrees with most people who feel some time in the CFL or Arena League would benefit him, and said that if his dream of playing in the NFL is still at quarterback, that's his best route.
"Well, I've read that he has still this dream of being an NFL quarterback. But I really think it would do him some good if he maybe went to Canada and played a year or two, even Arena Football where you have to throw the ball 60-70 times in a game and be extremely accurate. I think he'd be better off doing that for a couple years and then trying to get back into the NFL once he's got everything figured out and has got his throwing motion where it needs to be and maybe figures out what it's like to play quarterback at the professional level and be the starter for a couple of full seasons. I don't think he's going to do that from what I've read, but that would be my advice."
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Patriots vs. Jets matchup breakdown: WR Julian Edelman vs. CB Antonio Cromartie - Erik Frenz - Frenz has an interesting read on the potential match-up of Patriots receiver Julian Edelman against Jets cornerback Antonio cromartie, including some footage to go along with it.
Tom Brady is relishing Patriots' opportunity vs Jets - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young has an article on Brady, and writes that with all the hype heading into this game, insists he has no idea what's being said about his Patriots, positive or negative.
ON FOOTBALL: Patriots uneven but successful in win over Bills - Ben Volin - Volin takes an in-depth look at Sunday's win and breaks down each situation, including "When the Patriots had the ball vs When the Bills had the ball," etc.
Hold on: Stevan Ridley's back - Steve Buckley - Buckley writes that Thursday night's performance might be one of the most important in Ridley's career.
Amid injuries, Tom Brady needs others to step up - Jeff Howe - How writes that if Tom Brady is throwing passes and no one on the Patriots is healthy enough to catch them, can they beat the New York Jets?
Callahan: Belichick must upgrade Patriots offense now - Gerry Callahan - Callahan wonders why if the Patriots offense was relatively good, why Belichick felt the need to try and fix it this offseason.
Kellen Winslow looks fondly on time with Patriots - Dan Duggan - Duggan has an article on former Patriots receiver Kellen Winslow, who is now with the Jets but enjoyed the experience of playing in New England.
Julian Edelman a clone fill-in again - Adam Kurkjian - Kurkjian writes that last year Edelman was considered to be a Welker "clone", and yesterday Rex Ryan Joked about Edelman also being an Amendola "clone".
Chandler Jones familiar with rookie QB - Mark Daniels - Daniels has quotes from Chandler Jones, who spoke to the media yesterday and talked about his familiarity with Geno Smith, having faced the former West Virginia quarterback when Jones was playing at Syracuse.
Catching up with former Patriots, Week 1 - Mike Reiss - Reiss looks at some former Patriots and how they performed during week one of the NFL season.
Patriots practice squad reset - Mike Reiss - After a couple of transactions yesterday, Reiss updates the current practice squad.
Shane Vereen can return Week 11 - ESPN Boston - After placing Vereen on IR with a designation to return, Vereen is now out until at least week 11 against the Carolina Panthers.
Pump the brakes on panic regarding Stevan Ridley and ball security - Christopher Price - Price has a good article on Stevan Ridley, and notes that his ball security numbers aren't any where near as bad as people think.
Julian Edelman proves his value in Patriots' win - Rich Garven - Garven has an article this morning on wide receiver Julian Edelman, who he writes after watching his sure handed slot skills Sunday, the Patriots look shrewd for re-signing the free agent during the offseason.
Patriots may need Edelman to bring his 'A game' against Jets - Glen Farley - Farley writes that with all the injuries the Patriots will need a solid outing from Julian Edelman Thursday night.
PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK: Ridley's been spoken to - Glen Farley - Farley writes that after benching him on Sunday, Bill Belichick and Stevan Ridley have talked things over.
ESPN NEW YORK:
Green Day: Will Rex punch Belichick? - Rich Cimini - Cimini has a quote from former Jet LaDainian Tomlinson, who recalled a quote from Rex Ryan where Ryan said he was going to, "meet Belichick in the center of the field," and that he was going to 'punch him in the face'. Just one more reason to hope he's looking for work after this season.
He may have been the hero on Sunday, but it appears the Patriots may have to battle the Jets without wide receiver Danny Amendola.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Amendola's status for Thursday night appears to be uncertain, and he reports that the receiver will likely be sitting this one out:
The news comes following an earlier Boston Globe report, which said the veteran missed the walk through portion of today's practice session.
That leaves them severely shorthanded against the Jets. Tight end Zach Sudfeld reportedly suffered a hamstring injury during the win over the Bills and his injury status is unknown at that point. So in the event Aaron Dobson isn't back from his own injury, that could leave them with relying on Julian Edelman, Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Matthew Slater at the receiver position, and just Michael Hoomanawanui at tight end - barring a roster move.
The Patriots brought back a former player on Monday, although it doesn't look like he'll be coming back any time soon.
According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald former defensive end Andre Carter was in Foxboro for a work out and a physical, but according to Howe the two sides didn't discuss a contract.
Carter last played in 2011 and had 10 sacks in 14 games, but a quad injury derailed his season and he wasn't re-signed by the team during the offseason.
The Patriots got some tough news following Sunday's win over the Buffalo Bills, and it's hard not to wonder how it's going to affect them in the coming weeks.
Shane Vereen reportedly broke a bone in his wrist on his first play of the game in the Patriots opening day victory and now has to undergo surgery, which will keep him out a few weeks at the very least. It's a tough blow, and it certainly couldn't have come at a worse time for New England's offense. The Patriots struggled moving the ball consistently on Sunday, and Vereen was obviously a huge factor in the victory, joining newcomer Danny Amendola along with Julian Edelman as the players who carried the majority of the offensive load for New England, especially in the second half.
Of his 14 carries where he finished with 101 yards on the afternoon, 11 of them came in the final two quarters where he rushed for 70 yards on 11 carries (6.4 avg) including a crucial 15 yard pick up on their final drive to set up Stephen Gostkowski's game winning field goal that put the nail in any shot at a comeback for Buffalo.
He was also a dual threat out of the backfield, having been targeted 10 times (second most on the afternoon behind Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins, who each had 14) for 7 catches and four first downs. Factor in that he also had four first downs rushing on the afternoon, and he accounted for 8 of their 25 total offensive first downs (they had 26 total on the day, with one coming off of a Bills penalty).
Overall his seven catches were just one shy of his entire reception total from last season were he was targeted just 13 times for 8 receptions and 149 yards. Last season Danny Woodhead was their multi-purpose back, having caught 40 passes for 446 yards and 22 first downs along with three touchdowns. Of those 40 receptions, 13 of them came on third down and he converted 8 first downs
He's a weapon they really couldn't afford to lose. They didn't re-sign Woodhead, likely feeling that this season would be Vereen's to take by the reigns and take on more of a role in the offense. Vereen came in after Stevan Ridley lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, and he stepped up in a big way considering how well he carried the football. He seemed poised to potentially leave them with a difficult situation in terms of potentially challenging Ridley for carries, but that's now out the window at this point and it gives Ridley more of an opportunity to battle his way back into the line-up.
Belichick talked about the fact that at 5'10" 205 pounds Vereen is a little bigger than Woodhead and former Patriot Kevin Faulk, and felt that using him more in the offense wasn't something he was against.
"I think they're all kind of in the same ballpark," said Belichick when asked how Vereen compared to those players. "It depends on what you're doing. Certainly he can play on all three downs; he showed that in college and we saw some of that yesterday. Whether that's his best role or whether it's a complementary role, it might change from game to game, it might change during the course of the season, it might change from season to season based on the rest of your roster and what type of plays you're running offensively. He has good versatility to play really on all four downs."
Unfortunately it looks like it will be a little while until he's back on the field.
TIGHT END SITUATION REMAINS UNCLEAR, GRONKOWSKI UNEXPECTED FOR THURSDAY:
The Patriots still have question marks at the tight end position and they didn't get any better on Monday after Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reported that Zach Sudfeld suffered a hamstring injury, which leaves them now with just Michael Hoomanawanui until Rob Gronkowski is ready to return. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported this morning that Gronkowski is making progress but still isn't ready, which leaves them extremely thin at that position. The Patriots let go of Daniel Fells before the start of the season and some had speculated that the news of Sudfeld could prompt a potential return to New England. But according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Fells is currently on the other side of the country and is set to visit the Seahawks. During the preseason he was targeted by Patriots quarterbacks 5 times with 5 receptions for 41 yards and converted 3 first downs. However, he reportedly suffered a concussion so his current health situation isn't clear. Either way between the loss of Vereen and Sudfeld's injury, it's been a tough first week for the Patriots to say the least.
STEVIE JOHNSON SILENCED AFTER PATRIOTS WIN:
After spending the week proclaiming there was no one on the Patriots who could guard him, Stevie Johnson was targeted six times but finished with just three receptions and also had a key fourth quarter drop on a 3rd and 1. Following the loss Johnson reportedly bolted from the locker room, but then explained himself with the Buffalo News and just explained that he's tired of coming up on the wrong end of games like this.
"It was just something personal against that team, I guess," Johnson told the newspaper. "It ended in the same way. That was my frustration. Nothing with anybody, nothing with any play.
"We know that you can't have a great game every week," Johnson continued. "Every play isn't going to be perfect. The game, it can go either way, and I felt like we've been to this point with this team too many times."
ANOTHER GUARANTEE BY THE JETS FOR THIS WEEK:
It never gets old, but it appears another Jets player feels the need to add some fuel to the fire this week by guaranteeing a Jets victory against the Patriots on Thursday night. According to third-year defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson the Jets are going to become 2-0 after Thursday night. "We're going to go to Foxboro and get this win," Wilkerson said, via CBS New York. "We're going to be 2-0."
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
NOTEBOOK: Rob Gronkowski close, but not expected for Jets - Jeff Howe - Howe writes that Gronkowski is getting closer, but isn't expected to play Thursday night against the Jets.
Ron Borges' Patriots Report Card - Ron Borges - Borges has this week's report card, and gives Tom Brady a "B-" for his performance on Sunday.
Bad break for Shane Vereen - Mark Daniels - Daniels has an article on Vereen's injury, which he writes will now force others to produce.
Rob Gronkowski close, but not expected for Jets - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook for this morning which leads off on the status of Rob Gronkowski, who isn't expected to return Thursday night.
Patriots-Bills: Five takeaways from the game - Jeff Howe - Howe has his five takeaways, one of which he notes that Stephen Gostkowski's critics should likely be silenced after his performance Sunday.
Passing attack headed for high-speed lane - Jeff Howe - Howe writes that despite struggles in week one that the Patriots offense won't be stuck in place the whole season.
Patriots Take 2: How can the offense cure self-inflicted wounds? - Erik Frenz - Frenz takes a closer look at Sunday's win and the problems the Patriots faced in different situations.
NOTEBOOK: Short week presents challenges for Patriots - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer writes that the Patriots have a tough challenge now preparing for the Jets on a short week.
Patriots takeaway points from "weak" one - Alice Cooper - Cooper has her points from week one, and writes that Tom Brady got it done against the Bills with crazy glue and chicken wire.
Patriots waste no time getting started on next test - Rich Garven - Garven has an article this morning on the fact the Patriots are already switching gears and preparing for the Jets.
Shane Vereen injured, Patriots turn to Stevan Ridley - Rich Garven Garven looks at the situation facing the Patriots now that Vereen will be out for a while, which puts Ridley back in the lead back role.
Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2013 - Christopher Price - Price looks at the penalties committed by the Patriots in week one.
After fumbling against the Bills, should Stevan Ridley remain the New England Patriots' lead running back? - Nick Underhill - Underhill looks at the situation with Ridley and whether or not he should remain the lead back.
Patriots know what is up next - Tom King - King writes that when it comes to battling the Jets, sometimes there is no substitute for experience.
After Further Review: Patriots-Bills, 1st Half Defense - Erik Scalavino - Scalavino takes a look back at Sunday's game and does a quarter-by-quarter film review and points out some of the bright spots.
After Further Review: Patriots-Bills, 2nd Half Defense - Erik Scalavino - Part two, as Scalavino once again takes a look back at Sunday's game and does a quarter-by-quarter film review of the final half of the contest.
Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript - Belichick spoke to the media Monday, and here's the transcript from the press
Matt Patricia Conference Call - Matt Patricia spoke the media Monday, and Patriots.com has the transcript.
Josh McDaniels Conference Call - Josh McDaniels held a conference call with the media Monday, and here's the transcript from that session.
Patriots running back Shane Vereen came up big on Sunday during New England's win over the Bills, but it appears it may be a while before we see him again.
According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, the veteran suffered a broken bone in his wrist, which now reportedly requires surgery and will keep him out at least a few weeks.
What's probably the most impressive about the news is that Vereen reportedly suffered the injury on the first play he was in the game, which was a nine yard reception he caught for a first down on New England's third offensive series. He managed to stay in the game and still rushed for 101 yards on 14 carries, including a crucial 15 yard gain at the end of regulation that helped set up Stephen Gostkowski's game winning kick. He also caught seven passes for 58 yards.
Glazer reports that Vereen experienced numbness after the game as the bone reportedly sits on a nerve.
Needless to say it's one reason to appreciate the effort Vereen put out there yesterday, but unfortunately it looks like he'll be out for the foreseeable future.
Sunday's game had its ups and downs and after looking back there's one word that really seems to fit what will likely be the theme of this 2013 season.
Patriots fans watched New England's normally prolific offense struggle on Sunday, with quarterback Tom Brady battling to try and get on the same page as his rookie receivers. As we saw yesterday the Bills came after Brady all afternoon and the veteran quarterback slid left and right, stepped up, and then made a lot of throws that didn't quite hit their mark, especially when throwing to rookie Kenbrell Thompkins. Brady looked his way 14 times on Sunday and connected on just four, which means the two clearly still have some work to do. The odd part of that situation was the fact that out of everyone, he and Thompkins were the two players who were the most in sync during the preseason, having only failed to connect twice on 10-of-12 passes.
Joining Thompkins was rookie Josh Boyce who only saw two passes thrown his way, neither of which were receptions and tight end Zach Sudfeld didn't fare any better. The one attempt Brady sent in his direction went off his hands and ended up being picked off. That left Brady to rely on getting the ball to Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman, who both were big in Sunday's win. Amendola had 10 catches on the afternoon, 9 of which went for a first down and 7 of those converted 3rd down plays and kept the chains moving. Edelman was targeted 9 times with 7 receptions, and was a perfect 3-of-3 on third down including two touchdowns. Shane Vereen also was big out of the backfield, finishing with 7 receptions for 58 yards.
It's going to be a long season as the Patriots work out the kinks in their offense.
(USA TODAY Images)|
It's never a good sign when it takes over 50 throws to barely squeak out a game like the one we saw Sunday, but there's probably going to be quite a few of these early in the year. Anytime you make the type of significant transition that the Patriots are in, unfortunately there's no substitute for experience and the only way they're going to get it is to go through games like these so that they can go back and look at film and start working out whatever the issues are.
"This is our first opportunity so things are a lot different on the game field," said Brady after yesterday's game. "Things are very unpredictable on the game field, there's nothing you can talk about, you're just trying to react. So you've got to build confidence in each other and then go out there and make the plays if you can. It was a good experience, a good learning experience, all these games are going to be tough."
One other big problem the Patriots experienced yesterday was the early fumble trouble from running back Stevan Ridley, who lost a second quarter fumble that Buffalo returned 74 yards for a touchdown. That turnover cost Ridley any chance of getting back on the field, with head coach Bill Belichick benching him for the rest of the game. In Ridley's absence Vereen stepped up and carried the ball 14 times for 101 yards, and also had a critical 15 yard run at the end of the game that helped set up Stephen Gostkowski's game winning field goal.
However, in Ridley's case it's a situation where you basically need to look at it as having something like this occur in the opening game is better now than later in the year. In all likelihood this was an unfortunate lesson for Ridley that will probably help him for the rest of the season. He had played very well before he left, having carried 9 times for 46 yards (5.1 avg) including two runs of over 10 yards. His 1200+ yard season last year wasn't a fluke, and as well as Vereen played it's tough to ask him to do absolutely everything when they have someone who spent all of last season being a strong asset for them.
"I never get too high, never get too low," Ridley told the Boston Globe. "This was the first game of the 2013 season, and what happened last year just goes to show you that things can change day to day. Coming in and having two turnovers, I can't blame anybody but myself. I have to man up and come back to work. I'm just going to put my nose in the dirt and keep grinding, man, that's all I can do."
It all comes down to showing patience and not making rash decisions over results from just one game. It's a long year, and there's still fifteen games left. As we saw last year where they were as a team in week one was light years from where they finished. Needless to say fans are going to need to show a lot of patience and restraint this season, because by the time the year is over we'll all probably be feeling much better about where they're headed after all is said and done.
ARRINGTON COMES UP BIG SUNDAY
While the focus will be on the offense following Sunday's game, it's tough not to appreciate what the Patriots defense was able to accomplish, and Kyle Arrington was a player who definitely stood out. The veteran defensive back forced two fumbles, the second of which they were able to turn into a touchdown. Overall their pass defense was terrific, with the most important number that stood out being that they didn't allow any big plays, having not given up a single pass of over 20 yards on Sunday. This is definitely a game they continue to build on, and it should be interesting to see how they follow up this one against the Jets on Thursday.
"We made just enough plays," Arrington told the Boston Globe. "We're definitely more focused this year on there being other ways to cause turnovers at our position besides intercepting the ball. When you see an opportunity to cause a fumble, seize it."
PATRIOTS RUN DEFENSE WAS SOLID:
Looking back at yesterday's game, another thing worth mentioning after looking at the numbers was how impressive the Patriots run defense was against the Bills. They held Buffalo to 19 rushes of five yards or less, and just two over 10 yards. CJ Spiller was held in check, with 9 of his 12 rushes being held to 5 or less yards. It's a tall order to slow down someone of his caliber, so it's hard not to appreciate just how well New England's defensive line played yesterday.
SOME FACTS THAT YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN:
Brady extended his streak of games with a touchdown pass to 49 straight games during yesterday's win, which is five short of the NFL record. Meanwhile the defense extended an impressive streak of their own, forcing a turnover in their 28th straight game. The latter fact I wasn't aware of, but it was pointed out by the team's official Twitter feed yesterday. The streak was extended on the Spiller fumble to start the game. Also, when the team took the field yesterday, not one player who caught a first down for Tom Brady last season was on the field on Sunday. Last year they finished the game with 33, with the running backs rushing for 19 first downs, while the receivers accounted for 13 of their own - none of which were there this time around. Last season it was Wes Welker (5), Rob Gronkowski (3), Brandon Lloyd (2), Danny Woodhead (1), Daniel Fells (1) and Brandon Bolden (1) who moved the chains for them.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Patriots start season with shaky win - Shalise Manza Young - Young writes that in case you forgot, Brady still knows how to orchestrate a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.
ON FOOTBALL: Patriots offense could struggle for awhile - Ben Volin - Volin writes that it's time to be realistic about the Patriots offense this season.
Tom Brady saved the day for Patriots - Christopher Gasper - Gasper writes that it was Tom Brady who was able to mask every deficiency the Patriots had on Sunday.
Shane Vereen steps up with Stevan Ridley benched - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer has an article on Vereen, who was glad he was able to make plays for his team on Sunday.
NOTEBOOK: Kyle Arrington comes up big twice for Patriots - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer files his notebook this morning, which leads off with the play of Kyle Arrington on Sunday.
Stevan Ridley, after two fumbles, focused on earning his job back - Zuri Berry - Berry has an article on Stevan Ridley, who after losing the football and his place on the field is now focused on earning his role back.
Julian Edelman capitalizes on familiarity with Tom Brady in Patriots win - Erik Frenz - Frenz has an article focused on Edelman and the fact his experience with Brady helped the team win on Sunday.
Way to kick off the Patriots' season - Mike Farrell - Farrell has an article on Stephen Gostkowksi, who nailed the game winner on Sunday and helped get the Patriots off to a 1-0 start.
Patriots win ugly... and they'll take it - Jeff Howe - Howe writes that despite a massive offseason overhaul, there are enough veterans in the Patriots locker room to understand what happened yesterday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Borges: Healthy return by Danny Amendola good sign - Ron Borges - Borges writes that when Amendola limped off the field Sunday early in the first half, you knew what was happening from Portland to Providence. A lot of pillows were being thrown at television screens.
Best & Worst of Patriots-Bills game - Ron Borges - Borges has his best and worst from yesterday in this entry.
Tom Brady on D&C: Danny Amendola 'Just Awesome' in Second Half vs Bills - Jerry Spar - Spar has comments from Tom Brady during his weekly appearance where he talked about a variety of topics, including his praise for the performance Amendola had on Sunday.
Tom Brady Confidence Index Week 1: Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola Up, Stevan Ridley Down - Christopher Price - Price has this week's edition of this new feature, and it's an interesting read.
With help of Shane Vereen, Tom Brady again great eraser - Mike Petraglia - Petraglia writes that thanks to the play of Shane Vereen, Brady was able to over come the sloppiness and lack of execution.
Who has guaranteed contracts? - Field Yates - Yates has a list of players with at least four years of experience on their roster who are entitled to their guaranteed salaries.
Bills' report card vs. Patriots - Mike Rodak - Rodak files his report card after Sunday's game, although this one focuses primarily on the Bills since he now covers them full time for ESPN.
Stevan Ridley Says He Will Have to Fight to Get Patriots' Starting Running Back Job Back From Shane Vereen - Doug Kyed - Kyed has an article on Ridley, who obviously had a rough day on Sunday.
Patriots' Defense Was Impressive Containing EJ Manuel, But Rookie Quarterback Showed Poise in NFL Debut - Doug Kyed - Kyed has a good read on the defense, which did a good job in keeping EJ Manuel from having a huge day.
Yes, a good way to start the season for Patriots - Bill Burt - Burt has a column this morning on yesterday's game and writes that the drama we saw yesterday is what happens in football games.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
FARINELLA: A win is a win for the Patriots - Farinella writes that Sunday's game was a win, and Patriots fans should probably revel in it.
Still Brady or bust for these New England Patriots - Tom King - King writes that the Patriots will always have one big advantage as long as he's still playing: Tom Brady.
Jim Donaldson: Patriots' Amendola, filling big shoes, hangs tough in opener - Jim Donaldson - Donaldson writes that for a little guy, Wes Welker left some huge shoes to fill and Amendola did a good job Sunday.
Analysis: Patriots-Bills - Erik Scalavino - Scalavino has his take on yesterday's game in this entry.
Lost in the discussion of the all the fuss being made over the the Patriots offense is the fact that their defense is quietly one of the more interesting aspects of this football team heading into Sunday's opener in Buffalo.
The problems they dealt with last season are well documented. They averaged 271.4 passing yards per game allowed, but clamped down when it came to keeping teams out of the endzone after finishing tied with the Texans for the 9th spot for points per game given up. Surprisingly they even finished tied for 5th in interceptions, which after hearing people constantly complain about how bad that unit was last year seems hard to believe.
Looking at what transpired early on last season, one of the biggest problems they had were giving up the big play in the passing game. Through the first eight games they gave up 14 pass plays of over 30 yards, including five for over 40 and two of over 50.
The second half of last year they allowed a total of seven, which was obviously a big improvement and it's one of the reasons why they found themselves, once again, in the AFC Championship game. You can obviously point to the acquisition of Aqib Talib, but it's fair to say that it was also a product of guys finally settling into their roles and getting better with their overall execution.
Getting pressure on the quarterback is also something that has seemingly been an issue, but looking a little closer while they were ranked 15th in the league with 37 sacks last season, they were actually tied with the Super Bowl Champion Ravens with that total and just one behind the Ravens' opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, who finished the year with 38. This preseason New England has looked fairly decent in that area, with Brandon Spikes (2 sacks), Rob Ninkovich (1.5 sacks), Tommy Kelly, (1.5 sacks) and Chandler Jones (1 sack) each having some early success. Hopefully that will carry over as they get ready to begin the regular season.
As we know, those two areas obviously directly affect each other. So if they can prevent those early on this year, they'll hopefully avoid dropping a couple of early games the way they did last season. In two of their first three losses in 2012 they gave up 3 plays of over 40 yards in each one, both of which were on the road to the Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks. Playing on the road is tough enough, but giving up plays like that just makes it that much more difficult.
They're in better condition this time around. Talib has a full season under his belt and having come back on just a one-year deal he's in a contract year, so he should be at the top of his game. His acquisition stabilized the secondary last season and his presence seemed to take some of the pressure off of safeties McCourty and Steve Gregory. For McCourty, after struggling early on at corner last season he moved over to safety and essentially played Patrick Chung right out of a job. Now he's quietly become one of the better safeties in the league and it will be interesting to see how he grows as a player this year.
From there we'll see how well Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington handle the additional defensive back spots, although Dennard's future is a little murky at this point due to his current legal woes. Rookie Logan Ryan had a good preseason and finished leading the team in tackles with 14, and also had four passes defensed, including an interception he returned for a touchdown. So he'll probably also factor into the mix.
In the end it would be great if they could just shut everyone down, but that's obviously being a little unrealistic. According to head coach Bill Belichick, he'll just be happy keeping points off the board.
"The most important thing on a defense in my opinion is points," said Belichick this week. "So, we’ll do the best we can to keep the points down. That’s the number one thing. All the other things that come off of that may be important but they’re less important than points. We’ll start with points and then try to do everything we can to give up as few as possible."
EJ MANUAL TRYING TO FOLLOW WHO BEAT BELICHICK
Obviously the Patriots are trying to avoid losing their opener against Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. Only four rookies have been able to do that during Belichick's tenure, although it's happened in three out of the last four years with Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald pointing out yesterday that Ben Roethlisberger (2004), Mark Sanchez (2009), Colt McCoy (2010) and Russell Wilson (2012) are among the players who were able to accomplish that. We talked about the Patriots giving up the big play and Wilson is a name that comes to mind, as he beat them with a 46 yard throw with just over a minute to go in week six last season. Hopefully the Patriots have better luck against Manuel and keep his name out of this mix this week.
BRONCOS FOLLOWING PATRIOTS PACE
Denver went to a fast paced no-huddle offense in the first half of their meeting against the Rams this season, and it seems they'll be doing more of that this sesason. With Wes Welker in the mix it's probably safe to say he shared some of the elements that New England used to make them so efficient and effective, and it appears they plan on using the higher altitude to their advantage, which makes it even tougher for teams to keep up. Head coach John Fox said that after their loss to the Patriots last season that they 'kind of stole it' from them.
"You want change of pace," Fox said. "Just like a pitcher -- you don't throw all fastballs. The good ones throw different speeds. They throw curves and sliders and changeups. That's the trend. Call it the 'Chip Kelly Effect'. We fell victim to it a year ago in New England. We kind of stole it from them, really."
PATRIOTS AMONG THE TOPS IN UNDRAFTED ROOKIES:
Every year the Patriots rely on finding diamonds in the rough in undrafted players, and are among the top of the list in total number of players. They started the year with seven, trailing just the Cleveland Browns, who have nine. From there it's the St. Louis Rams (5), Atlanta Falcons (4) and the Houston Texans (4).
TURNOVERS THE KEY TO PATRIOTS SUCCESS
This is stating the obvious, but the big key to the Patriots success is clearly going to be making sure Tom Brady is as efficient in not turning the ball over as he's been in year's past, although it's going to be a little tougher with all the inexperience at the receiver position. We saw one interception this preseason that happened after being unable to come out of a pattern, and that's something they'll clearly need to avoid. A stat from the Herald yesterday morning pointed out a interesting stat, and that was the fact that in Brady's 14 years in the NFL he's played in 84 turnover free games. The Patriots are 78-6 in those games. He threw just 8 interceptions during the regular season last year, so it will be interesting to see if this new group can help him maintain the same success.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Player to Watch: Chandler Jones - Steve Balestrieri - Balestrieri spotlight's Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones for this week's game.
Two Way Street: How the Patriots Can Win or Lose Sunday - Derek Havens - Havens has a good piece this morning on how the Patriots could win or lose their opener in Buffalo this Sunday.
Five Things to Look For: Patriots vs Bills - Russell Goldman - Goldman has his things to look for, and wonders if the Patriots can stop Bills tight end Scott Chandler.
PODCAST: Patriots at Bills - The guys got together on Wednesday for this week's edition of our podcast, so be sure and take a listen.
Pats 'D' has a complex - Jeff Howe
EJ Manuel faces tough 1st test in Bill Belichick - Ron Borges
Notebook: Aaron Dobson not in dark on film work - Jeff Howe
Three areas of focus for opener - Matt Chatham
Now batting, the 2013 New England Patriots - Adam Kaufman
NOTEBOOK: Aqib Talib praises Bills' Stevie Johnson - Michael Whitmer
Words With Frenz mailbag: Examining Shane Vereen's potential impact in Week 1 - Erik Frenz
Earning Tom Brady's trust is no easy feat - Shalise Manza Young
Why the Patriots offense is so dominant - Ben Volin
Patriots’ popularity unharmed by rocky offseason - Callum Borchers
Can Aaron Dobson be the one for Patriots? - Shalise Manza Young
Examining Patriots-Bills connections - Field Yates
Sharing some NFL opening thoughts - Mike Reiss
Notre Dame finds offseason ally in Bill Belichick - Dan Wetzel
It's time for Patriots defense to show its mettle - Paul Kenyon
PORTLAND PRESS HERALD:
Just like that, Mulligan's cut - Mike Lowe
PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK: Kelly realizes he's a long way from Oakland - Glen Farley
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
DT Kelly looking on the bright side - Mark Farinella
Not a long wait for Cole - Mark Farinella
GO LOCAL WORCESTER:
What to Watch For: Patriots at Bills
Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson were two names who stood out on the injury report when it came out Wednesday after being listed as "limited", and not much changed on Thursday.
The two players were once again listed the same way on the team's injury report, joining Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm), safeties Duron Harmon (hamstring) and Nate Ebner (ankle), and Brandon Bolden (knee) with that designation.
Patriots offensive lineman Will Svitek (knee) remained the only player who didn't participate.
For Dobson and Amendola most reports seem to believe they'll be out there this weekend, and Amendola even told ESPN Boston he's "sick of talking about his injury" and he's "excited" about getting out there.
According to reports from practice Amendola didn't appear to be ailing in any way, while Dobson did appear to be favoring his left side a bit during the media portion of practice.
It will remain a situation to monitor over the next few days, as Tom Brady and the Patriots offense could certainly use as many players as possible healthy when they face the Bills on Sunday.
Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson were two names who stood out on the injury report when it came out yesterday after being listed as "limited", and not much changed on Thursday.
The two players were once again listed the same way on the team's injury report, joining Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm), safeties Duron Harmon (hamstring) and Nate Ebner (ankle), and Brandon Bolden (knee) on that list.
Patriots offensive lineman Will Svitek (knee) remained the only player who didn't participate.
As for Dobson and Amendola most reports seem to believe they'll be out there this weekend, and Amendola even told ESPN Boston he's "sick of talking about his injury" and he's "excited" about getting out there.
According to reports from practice Amendola didn't appear to be ailing in any way, while Dobson did appear to be favoring his left side ever so slightly on his way back to the huddle.
It will remain a situation to monitor over the next few days, as Tom Brady and the Patriots offense could certainly use all the help they can get as they look to get off to a good start on Sunday.
Go back one year ago and it's doubtful that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady would have ever expected to see himself in this position.
Back then he was getting set to head down to Tennessee for the season opener against the Titans, and in the meeting room that week were guys like Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd. Three out of the four were established players in this system, as well as guys who had faced the fire and intensity of the high expectations that are placed on this football team. Meanwhile, Lloyd was a veteran who was new but at least had NFL experience to fall back on during his own learning curve, as well as some familiarity having worked with Josh McDaniels. So the atmosphere last year was likely similar to previous years for the 14 year veteran.
Fast forward to a year later and things are, well, a little different.
Welker is now a member of the Broncos, Hernandez is in jail, and Gronkowski is still here but he won't be an active participant in this offense for at least a few weeks as he continues working his way back following offseason surgeries. As for Lloyd, the Patriots made the decision not to re-sign him and reports later surfaced citing odd behavioral issues that fans never had a clue were even a problem until well after the season ended and he was subsequently released. Apparently whatever it is/was has scared away everybody else because he still remains a free agent.
Now Brady is surrounded by guys who haven't yet battled the rigors of what he's gone through over his NFL career. Some people say football is football, but things are different here in New England. The expectations are higher. The intensity is greater. Players who have come and gone have discussed it when they arrived and then talked about how much they missed it once they were no longer a part of it.
What they're doing here is special, and if they each do their jobs correctly those players know there's a chance they could end up playing for a Lombardi trophy because that's how things work here. The one constant has been Brady, and he's never been a part of a losing season. They've had double digit wins every year he's been the starting quarterback with the exception of 2002, and they've won their regular season opener nine straight years. He's the catalyst in this offense and he's used to things being done the right way.
Patriots QB Tom Brady finds himself dealing with one of his biggest challenges yet this season.
(USA TODAY Images)
This time around in the meeting room he's now sitting with three rookies who haven't played a regular season game with him yet, and the same can be said for veterans Danny Amendola and newcomer Matthew Mulligan. For Amendola the learning curve is probably a little easier since he's familiar with Josh McDaniels due to his time in St. Louis, while Mulligan has at least been in the league for the past four seasons. But for guys like Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins, as well as rookie Zach Sudfeld, things are definitely a little different. They've each got the challenge of starting off their NFL careers on the road in what will likely be a pretty intense environment, but it's not the fans they'll need to worry about. They'll need to worry more about the guy in the huddle who will be all over them if they don't execute at the level he expects, and Brady admitted on Wednesday that his patience is definitely being tested as he tries to let these guys settle in.
"Yeah. I’m not the most patient guy to begin with, so that’s something that I’m working on," Brady admitted during his press conference. "But you understand that there’s a learning curve, and there’s things that are going to come up that, you know, look, some guys haven’t experienced the things that I’ve experienced.
"So you try to talk about, ‘OK, this is possibly going to happen, if it happens then I want you to make this adjustment.’ Well it happens and then the adjustment’s not made and I say ‘Well I told you…” But sometimes that’s what I do with my three-year-old too and he doesn’t listen either."
While Brady was smiling as he made that comparison, there's no doubt in anyone's mind who has seen him over the years that he'll have no problem voicing any displeasure he has on the sideline if a play isn't run correctly or an adjustment isn't made. To this point Brady says he's enjoyed being around each of them, and he's hopeful that they'll each do what they need this weekend.
"They’re all a little bit different in terms of their skill set and I think they’re all fun to be around," said Brady. "They’re all excitable players, guys that are really willing to work hard by doing the right thing, by listening to the coaching they’re getting. But look, everyone feels really great about how far they’ve come, because they’ve really worked hard and they deserve the opportunity that they have. So hopefully they all play a big role in the upcoming regular season."
It's always important to get off to a good start, especially against a division opponent like Buffalo. The Patriots are a team that obviously has a target on their back every season, so every team they face is always elevating their game because they treat it as a barometer to find out if they're playing at a championship level. Obviously for New England it will be up to Brady to keep the offense as competitive as we're accustomed to seeing, and the chances of each of the newcomers doing everything perfectly is probably asking a lot. Needless to say you can probably expect to see quite a bit of 'on the job training' this season.
Change is part of the NFL but this has certainly been one of the bigger overhauls we've seen. Training camp is in the rear view mirror and they've been through the practices going all the way back to minicamps and OTA's and everything that's gotten them to this point. Now Brady says we'll find out for real if this group can get it done when it counts this weekend.
"There are always challenges to determine really what kind of team you are going to be," Brady told the Buffalo media during his conference call Wednesday. "Like I said, the mental toughness, the work ethic, the core principles and fundamentals of the game have not been tested under game conditions. They’ve been tested in preseason, in practice and workouts, but nothing is like the games. Especially when there are 70,000 people in the stands, they’re televised and there are millions of people watching on TV. That’s where you see the best of the best.
"That’s what it is all about. We all are excited to see where we are at."
BILLS FOCUSED ON AMENDOLA, SUDFELD IN PRACTICE WEDNESDAY
NFL Network analyst Albert Breer was in Buffalo on Wednesday and apparently caught a glimpse of Bills practice, and he reported that Buffalo had two scout team shirts with numbers 80 (Amendola) and 44 (Sudfeld). They likely expect Amendola to play similar roles to what Welker did during his time here, but it seemed a little curious they decided to include Sudfeld in that mix. Just goes to show the type of respect they have for the rookie, who will be looking to improve on some of the good moments he had during the preseason.
POSITIVE SIGNS ON GRONKOWSKI
The reports of him being an active participant are becoming old news, but Rob Gronkowski at least finally addressed the media on Wednesday as he discussed his rehab and his recent return to practice.
Gronkowski told the media that he didn't really have a percentage for where his body is at in terms of his progress at this point. But one big key that stood out during his Q&A session was the fact he said there weren't any movements he's wary of performing at this point of his rehab and that he hasn't suffered any setbacks, which is encouraging. For the most part he seems to be getting back into his routine and he's continuing to work hard toward his eventual return. However, he says he needs to get his whole body strong before he'll be comfortable getting back out there.
“I’ve got to get the whole body strong, keep on grinding, work on all aspects of the body in order to get back out there,” Gronkowski told the Boston Herald. “It’s not just the forearm and back, obviously. You take off (time) like that, you’ve got to get conditioned again. You’ve got to get stronger throughout your whole body, your legs, your upper body, your arms. That’s all at play, too.
“You can’t just jump out there because your arm is ready. You’ve got to get your whole body ready. That’s what it takes with the hard work, the dedication, the conditioning and everything to get back out there. That all plays a factor.”
BELICHICK HAS PRAISE FOR GREGORY
Belichick was asked about his thoughts on safety Steve Gregory on Wednesday and he had some praise for the veteran, and feels that having a year of experience in this system should help him improve on what he did here last seaon.
"Steve has been a pretty solid guy for us," said Belichick. "All the way through on defense and in the kicking game. Smart, very well-prepared, instinctive player. I think the biggest thing for him is it’s another year in the system, another year of working with his teammates – linebackers, communication, with the safeties, that communication, corners.
"I think he understands everything we do and he has a great handle on it. A lot of things he’s done before in his career. I think it’s just the communication, the timing, the execution, disguises, reads, all those things with his teammates. I think the improvement is more with the group. I think individually he has a good handle on things. "
MARRONE REFLECTS ON CHANDLER JONES
Bills head coach Doug Marrone knows Patriots defensive Chandler Jones fairly well having coached him during their time together at Syracuse, and told the New England media he's proud of how much Jones has progressed.
"He was outstanding," Marrone said of Jones during his conference call Wednesday. "I had Arthur (Jones), Chandler’s older brother, when I first came there and was fortunate to have Chandler and meet his family. They’re outstanding people and it’s easy to see why the three boys are who they are in the way they grew up. Obviously we were very proud of Chandler at Syracuse and I’m very proud of him now.
"I’ve seen him get better and better. I’ve seen him really step it up and really be a good professional. He’s one heck of a football player and we’re going to have our hands full with him."
ON TO THIS MORNING'S MEDIA LINKS:
A little crunched for time this morning after a technical issue, but here's a rundown of today's links:
Patriots grow from winning roots - Jeff Howe -
Borges: Tom Brady walks tightrope - Ron Borges
Whole body of work key to Rob Gronkowski return - Jeff Howe
Patriots coverage still remains big question - Karen Guregian
Turbulence becomes motivation again - Karen Guregian
Notebook: Patriots strike gold with green QBs - Jeff Howe
None Better in AFC East - Jeff Howe
Buckley: All eyes on Tom Brady - Steve Buckley
Borges: Defense must get stingy to help Tom Brady, ‘O’ -Ron Borges
No end to Chandler Jones’ ability - Jeff Howe
New targets draw high marks - Mark Daniels
Tight end picture cloudy - Adam Kurkjian
Stevan Ridley & Co. to carry larger load - Mark Daniels
Links to past glory - Karen Guregian
Defense needs throwback stars - Karen Guregian
NOTEBOOK: Tom Brady learning from rookies too - Shalise Manza Young -
Rob Gronkowski mum on when he'll play - Boston Globe
Patriots' Rob Gronkowski improving, hopeful for quick return - Rich Garven
PORTLAND PRESS HERALD:
'Relentless' tight end from Maine signs with Patriots - Mike Lowe
NATIONAL FOOTBALL POST:
Source: Running back Leon Washington visits Jets - Aaron Wilson
Patriots tweak back end of roster - Field Yates - Yates has a report with a couple of roster transactions, noting that the team released offensive lineman Chris McDonald from the injured reserve list, making him a free agent. Yates also reported that the practice squad contract of Jordan Devey was disapproved.
Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report - Field Yates - Yates has the complete practice reports for both the Bills and Patriots in this entry.
Picked-up pieces around the Patriots - Mike Reiss - Mike paints the picture of what the scene was like yesterday at Gillette Stadium, and offers up some interesting notes in this entry.
Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript - Here's what head coach Bill Belichick had to say to the media Wednesday at Gillette Stadium.
Tom Brady Press Conference Transcript - Here's the transcript from Brady's as well.
Bill Belichick Conference Call With the Buffalo Media Transcript - Wondering what Belichick had to say to the Buffalo media? Fortunately Patriots.com has the transcript - because the Bills site doesn't for some odd reason.
Tom Brady Conference Call With the Buffalo Media Transcript - Brady also spoke to the Bills media and also had some interesting comments, as it was a different take from what he obviously discussed with the local media.
Bills: Doug Marrone Conference Call Transcript - Marrone spoke to the New England media on Wednesday, and here's the transcript from that discussion.
Bills: EJ Manuel Conference Call Transcript - Bills QB EJ Manuel also spoke to the New England media, and here's a transcript of what he had to say during that as well.
Expectations for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady are obviously going to be high this season, especially since it will be mostly up to him to acclimate a lot of the new guys who will start trying to become effective parts of this complex offensive system.
He knows that the vast majority of the responsibility during this process will fall on him, but he doesn't sound too worried. In fact, Brady spoke to the Buffalo media on Wednesday afternoon and he told them that he relishes this part of his job and any pressure that there may be this season, he's ready for it.
"There is always an onus on the quarterback," said Brady. "The pressure of professional football and the pressure to do things right, I’m sure that’s in every job. Certainly in football, a lot of times it does fall on the quarterback. From my standpoint, that’s kind of where I want it. I want guys to look to me for communication, to do the right thing and to hold me accountable, and I expect the same things of them.
"It always changes from year to year. Players come and go, coaches come and go, and to be able to adjust and adapt is a big part of the NFL. It’s a big part of the success of franchises and organizations. You have to be able to adapt, you have to be able to adapt within a game scenario. Things rarely go as you anticipate them, and we have to be prepared to make adjustments this weekend."
If things don't go their way at any point in the game Brady says one of the key parts in learning about his team is seeing how they react to adversity and how quickly they're able to adapt during the game, even if it means changing after the opening series.
"We have to be prepared to make adjustments on the opening series. That’s a big step in our growth as a team: to be able to put forth a game plan and then implement the game plan and if it doesn’t work, be able to adjust. That’s as much about football as anything."
Playing in Buffalo is an environment that is a tough one, but he's had plenty of success against this team overall having compiled a record of 20-2 against them over his career. The Patriots also have a streak to maintain considering they've won their last nine regular season opening games, including their last two against the Bills.
With this Sunday fast approaching, Brady's excited to get started.
"There’s no better place to play than Buffalo, with how challenging it is. It’s a great crowd, a great atmosphere for football. We’ve had a few opening days there, and it’s just a great environment for football, so I’m really excited."
Going into the offseason the Patriots had some free agents that were on their priority list, and one of the players who they likely hoped to lock up was cornerback Aqib Talib, who's arrival via a midseason trade last season stabilized a pretty shaky secondary.
This offseason they were able to him back, although the veteran only ended up signing a 1-year contract, which is a positive for him if he can establish his value with a good follow-up season as he looks to earn a bigger payday. It's obviously a win-win for the Patriots because it also works out in their favor since they're going to get Talib's best as he tries to create a market for himself.
But money is only part of it. Talib, who was a troubled player when he was previously with the Buccaneers, appears to be a guy who has definitely turned things around. From what we've seen, he's certainly said all the right things since arriving. All indications have been that he's bought into New England's system with his words, but the good news is it seems he's also backing it up in the meeting rooms and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia has taken notice. He had some high praise for the veteran cornerback on Tuesday during his conference call, and it sounds like Talib has had a good preseason.
"Very, very happy with his work and his ethic that he comes in as far as this guy studies film, he really practices hard, he competes every day," said Patricia. "He's a good example on the field for those guys who are coming into the program to get in behind him and follow along."
Obviously this is his first training camp here in New England, and it's also his first full offseason in this system. He did a respectable job jumping into the fire midway through last season, so it's going to be interesting to see how much he grows in this defense this year. The Patriots were 29th in the league last year in passing yards allowed per game allowed, giving up an average of 271.4 per contest, but only 9th in points per game. As bad as the perception was with their secondary, they were better than people gave them credit for.
Talib had a good first year and is looking to have an even better year this season. (USA TODAY Images)
Talib clearly played a part in that and with another year under his belt, we'll see if he can help them improve even further toward becoming a more formidable pass defense. That in itself would be enough to help him earn the new long-term deal he's likely looking for.
For now Patricia is just happy with what he's seen from Talib and the rest of the defense. With guys like Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty, the Patriots have plenty of experience on the defensive side of the ball to round out what's finally turning out to be a pretty good group.
Needless to say Patricia's looking forward to the season getting underway, and he's hoping that guys come ready to play. He's got some rookies to work into the rotation and there's probably going to be a bit of a learning curve early in the season. However, Patricia feels that any player on defense can be a leader and it simply starts by going out and playing good football.
"Everybody that steps out onto the field is going to set an example for the rest of the defense and hopefully the team to follow," said Patricia. "We're excited to get going."
PATRIOTS WR DOBSON UNDER FIRE
It's amazing how much people read into preseason play, especially with a first year player who is still getting comfortable in this offense. That was the case with Aaron Dobson, who according to ProFootballFocus.com didn't exactly have a lot of success connecting with Patriots quarterbacks this preseason.
They pointed out that out of his 27 targets (it was actually 29 - which is the accurate number verified by the official league stat sheets) he caught just 11 passes and Patriots quarterbacks had a combined passer rating of 19.6 when throwing his way. That number would drop with the ommitted two targets, but either way it doesn't exactly tell the whole story. As a matter of fact, they're even actually a little skewed, because the majority of problems with Dobson stemmed from his inability to get on the same page with back-up quarterback Ryan Mallett and the recently departed Tim Tebow.
With Brady, Dobson caught 4 passes on 6 targets for 60 yards, all of which were first down converting receptions. For the most part the two seem to be on the same page and it's going to be interesting to see they perform together for real this weekend in Buffalo.
But with Mallett and Tebow, that definitely wasn't the case. With Mallett, Dobson was targeted 14 times with just 6 completions for a total of 85 yards and led all receivers in receiving yards with that total while the Patriots back-up QB was on the field. Another thing to note, 5 of Dobson's 6 catches with Mallett went for first downs.
With Tebow, Dobson was Tebow's highest targeted receiver having been targeted 9 times with just one reception, which went for 5 yards.
But overall with each of those two quarterbacks Dobson was a combined 7-of-23 for 90 yards. You can dismiss it as who was throwing him the football, but one thing that didn't go unnoticed was the fact that Dobson seemed to play down to the level of competition and seemed like a different player when Brady left the field. That's somewhat concerning, especially given the fact he's supposed to be a first team talent and just didn't play like one with the guys lower on the depth chart. Another thing to keep an eye on is the fact that in this league he's going to go up against some physical defensive backs and as NESN's Luke Hughes pointed out this afternoon Dobson has a tough time battling in coverage.
All things considered the rookie had a solid preseason and looks poised to hopefully carry it forward. But it's interesting how numbers can misconstrue things, and fortunately for Dobson those same numbers at least have shown that he'll hopefully have success with Brady this year.
CHANDLER JONES A UNIQUE TALENT
Jones' rookie season started off strong but injuries slowed him during his first year. However, now that he's back, it's safe to say he looks healthy and he had a strong preseason. Matt Patricia told the media Tuesday that the coaching staff is hoping Jones will do things even better this year and build on the foundation he's already put in place.
"I think with Chandler, he's gone a good job coming out and trying to improve his overall playing style and just all aspects of the game, as far as the run game, the pass game and trying to be a better football player every year and that's really what we're looking for," said Patricia. "I think we're just looking for him to improve on the things that he does and hopefully do them a little bit better."
One thing that can't be argued is the fact that the build Jones has is one that he definitely needs to be used to his advantage. His long arms are one thing that were talked about in the scouting reports when he was drafted and seeing him in action shows the potential is there.
"I don't think you can argue Chandler is a long guy – he has long arms, long legs," said Patricia "Hopefully, that's something he can use to his advantage like guys that have played before that are long like him. There's different leverage that comes with that length than maybe a guy with different size numbers. Certainly playing with that length the right way can help him."
Hopefully he'll get off to a strong start this weekend when the Patriots kickoff the year in Buffalo.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Stevan Ridley not about stats - Jeff Howe - Howe has a good article on Stevan Ridley this morning and writes that Ridley's primary goals are based on principles, not numbers.
NOTEBOOK: Aqib Talib fitting into system - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook this morning which leads off with some comments from Matt Patricia, as well as some thoughts on how Tim Tebow actually did help this team during camp.
NOTEBOOK: Patriots now face a Mike Pettine defense in Buffalo - Anthony Gulizia - Gulizia files his notebook this morning that leads off wondering what the Patriots will see from the Bills offense under the new coaching staff lead by Doug Marrone.
Catching up with former Patriots - Mike Reiss - Reiss takes a look at what's going on with some former Patriots, and has a note about each one.
LaDainian Tomlinson 'Regrets' Calling Bill Belichick 'Classless' - Mike Petraglia - Petraglia has comments from former NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who admitted during the season premiere of 'A Football Life' on the NFL Network that he regrets his comments toward Belichick.
A Night Spent With the New England Patriots - Alyssa Silva - Great story from Silva, who is battling Spinal Muscular Atrophy, about her recent visit to Gillette Stadium. It ended up being a special one thanks to Patriots PR Director Stacey James, and it's a great read.
Matt Patricia's Conference Call Transcript - If you're wondering what the Patriots defensive coordinator had to say on Tuesday, the team has the complete transcript.
Josh McDaniels Conference Call Transcript - Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels spoke to the media on Tuesday and talked about a variety of topics, which you can read via this link.
Patriots take a Mulligan, finalize roster - Rich Garven - Garven files his notes column this morning which includes the signing of Mulligan, a bit on Talib, and some comments from Tom Brady and Robert Kraft on Tim Tebow.
Patriots' new hands on deck are eager to sail - Rich Garven - Garven has an article on the team's receiving core, whom he writes there are four new faces among the six players currently on the 53 man roster.
2013 Predictions and Preview Spectacular - Peter King - King has his predictions for tihs season, and writes, "If I’m right, and the Patriots win the AFC’s top seed, this will be Brady’s shining moment, getting the Pats to the top of a tough conference with virtually entirely new skill players."
THE PATRIOT LEDGER:
Many of the Patriots' 2nd-round picks have been third-rate - Glen Farley - After the team's release of Jermaine Cunningham, Farley looks at the team's recent history of players taken in the second round.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
Bills fast approaching, Pats get serious - Mark Farinella - Farinella writes, "A sense of calm enveloped Gillette Stadium Tuesday as it appeared that the Patriots finally moved fully from the chaos of the end of the preseason into the sharper focus of the regular season."
When the Patriots hit the field Sunday against the Bills, they'll be doing it with three receivers who have never played in an NFL game.
Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, and Josh Boyce will likely see time with Tom Brady and the offense this weekend, and it will be their first taste of meaningful professional football.
Some may worry about their inexperience, but one thing that can't be overlooked is the fact you've got three talented players who are eager and hungry as they try to establish themselves as players in this league. That's an asset that should make them fun to watch this season, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels feels it's one big thing they bring to the table.
"Youth," explained McDaniels during his conference call with the media Tuesday when asked what he felt those guys bring to the team. "They're all anxious to get started. They've got an enthusiasm about them. They're all three capable of playing in our offense. We've already moved them and played multiple roles, multiple positions with them, which in our system is a really big plus for us to have some flexibility with those guys.
"They've shown that they will study and work at the mental side of the game to be able to be flexible and play at multiple spots that we need them to. They are all competitive and they've all been productive in different roles throughout the course of the spring and the preseason."
McDaniels also pointed out that this isn't their first time bringing younger players into this system and said they'll do their best to put them in position to hopefully be productive.
"This won't be our first time going out there with a young player, or more than one young player that will play for us," said McDaniels. "I think it is our job to put them in positions that give them an opportunity to be successful, and that applies to everybody on our offense. I think as long as we can do that, each guy that has earned the opportunity to play on Sunday will go out there and give his best effort to do the things that we have already seen him do to contribute."
Brady has had success working with them so far. He's a combined 15-of-19 for 181 yards, including 8 first downs throwing each of them the football, with Thompkins accounting for the majority of those numbers (he's 10-of-12 for 116 yards and 4 first downs). So it's clear their work this offseason and during training camp is paying dividends.
In the end McDaniels knows it's going to be a tough game, but it's his job to make sure the offense is able to take advantage of each of their skillsets.
"It's going to be a great challenge, like we said, for our offense, and it's going to be a team situation in terms of how we play the game, how we call it on offense and what we try to do with each one of our players and certainly try to make the best decisions we can to allow them to make an impact."
(This is a new daily piece where we'll catch you up on recent happenings, as well as provide you with all the same links to all of your favorite media sources. It's a work-in-progress, so your feedback in the comment section is appreciated)
It's been a long hard road for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, and while his recent appearance in practice is definitely a positive in his rehab, it's pretty obvious the Patriots are being cautious about his return.
Gronkowski practiced in pads for the second straight day Monday, and was reportedly seen during the media portion of practice going through warmups and getting in work as he continues rehabbing from back surgery. All indications seem to lean toward a possible week three return against the Buccaneers, but during his press conference Bill Belichick wasn't willing to put a timetable on it.
"We take it day to day," Belichick told the media Monday when asked about Gronkowski. "Evaluate tomorrow based on how today goes, see how it goes. See how tomorrow goes and deal with whatever that day is, Wednesday or Thursday or whatever the day is. We’ll take it day to day. It’s the same way we do with everybody."
Does he think the last two days were a significant step for his star tight end?
"No, just the next step," said Belichick when asked that very qeustion.
Fair enough. But fortunately, barring any setbacks, it's still a step toward seeing him back on the field in the coming weeks and that should have every Patriots fan feeling rather optimistic about their chances this season.
ANOTHER TIGHT END BROUGHT IN:
Fullback James Develin didn't have much time to enjoy his spot on the roster, with the Patriots releasing him on Monday in favor of tight end Matthew Mulligan, who according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald is set to be signed by the team. Mulligan played in nine games last season with St. Louis but spent this year's camp in Green Bay before being released. The addition of Mulligan obviously points to the fact the Patriots aren't comfortable with their current tandem of Zach Sudfeld and Michael Hoomanawanui during Gronk's absence.
MESKO LANDS IN PITTSBURGH:
To no one's surprise, former Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko didn't stay unemployed for very long after being released during Saturday's cuts. However, the bigger surprise is where he ended up.
Mesko has reportedly landed with the Steelers after the team announced his addition on Monday. Mesko was obviously a charismatic guy here in New England and the decision to keep the younger - and less expensive - Ryan Allen ended up being a business decision as the move saved New England $900,000 in cap space, as well as the fact Mesko would have been a free agent after this season.
Mesko's big leg was great at giving his team a key advantage in changing the field position part of the game, which emphasized how important having a good punter really is. Fans have seen what a difference maker he was here in New England, and hopefully he doesn't end up coming back to haunt them should the two potentially meet in the playoffs.
BELICHICK SAYS OFFENSE EVOLVES EVERY YEAR:
Obviously this season will feature one of the youngest, and newest groups of receivers in this Patriots system that this team has put forth during the Belichick/Brady era. They'll be relying on rookies and newcomer Danny Amendola to carry this offense, and as deep as this playbook has been in years past it's tough not to wonder how much tweaking will be done early on before they get up to speed. Belichck told the media Monday that change happens every year, and their plans simply focus week-to-week on who they're facing.
"I think we’ve installed the 2013 offense, which is different from 2012, which is different from ’11," said Belichick. "It changes and evolves every year. I think whatever we choose to do on a game-by-game basis will be determined by that game, those matchups, our personnel, their personnel, their schemes and so forth. I can’t really tell you how that’s going to go.
"I think that we have the ability to draw or work in the same areas generally that we’ve worked in in the past but there are some specific things that we’re probably better at now and not as good at relative to other years. I’m sure that’s true. We’ll just take it game by game and see how the game plans unfold.
"I don’t think there are too many things that if we want to do and we haven’t practiced them, we wouldn’t know how to do them. Which ones we select to do will be dependent on that individual game. "
PRAISE FOR RUTGERS DB HARMON:
Rookie Duron Harmon has flown under the radar for much of the preseason, but according to head coach Bill Belichick, the former standout from Rutgers appears to be in good standing with his coach.
"Good. He’s had a good preseason," Belichick said Monday. "All the rookies that made our roster, obviously we feel good enough to have them on there. Duron has done a good job."
MOVING ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
NOTEBOOK: Blount may retrurn kickoffs - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook this morning which leads off with a good look at the kick return situation between Josh Boyce and LeGarrette Blount. Boyce led the preseason with three returns for 73 yards, but Blount added one of his own for 27 - and Howe has comments from both players about their potential role in the return game.
Rookie Harmon ready to get in on the action - Adam Kurkjian - Kurkjian has some great comments from rookie safety Duran Harmon, who has respect for Devin McCourty and his fellow teammates as he gets ready for his first NFL game.
‘Chung’ can’t help Pats halt Johnson - Jeff Howe - Howe has some good notes on Buffalo's Stevie Johnson, who claims he knows former Patriots safety Patrick Chung but apparently didn't get the memo that he signed with Philadelphia this offseason.
Looks good for starters: Depth will be a factor for Patriots - Jeff Howe - Howe has a good piece this morning looking at the overall depth this team has, and it's a great look at the entire team.
Different results from same faces? - Field Yates - Yates has a good read this morning on the Patriots defense, who despite the offensive transition returns the core of their defensive group this season.
Getting to know the Bills - Field Yates - Yates has a good look at the Bills this morning and provides some information on three players to know on both offense and defense.
Patriots Youthful turn includes NFL high 14 rookies - Ben Volin - Volin writes that the Patriots’ roster definitely has "a baby-faced feel to it this year", as the team has gone decidedly younger.
Tracking Opportunities in Patriots Preseason Passing Game - Christopher Price - Price breaks down the number of targets and receptions for all of the receivers.
Blount does not look the part of kick-returner - Paul Kenyon - Kenyon looks at the possibility of Blount returning kicks and writes that the 6'1", 250 pound running back definitely doesn't look the part of a kick returner.
BANGOR DAILY NEWS
Patriots to sign Enfield native Matt Mulligan - The Bangor Daily News has a local take on the signing of tight end Matt Mulligan, who is a former Husson University in Bangor alumni and also played three seasons at the University of Maine.
Bill Belichick's Monday Press Conference Transcript - If you missed what Belichick had to say on Monday, here's the entire transcript.
Patriots Profit on Tebow's Solid Souvenir Stats - Kyle Stock - Stock writes that since joining the Patriots in June, the online retailer Fanatics.com sold more Tebow gear than all but 10 other NFL players.
Just one day after being released, the Patriots brought back cornerback Marquice Cole, re-adding depth to what had been a somewhat depleted position following his release.
To make room the Patriots released rookie free agent offensive lineman Josh Kline, proving once again that the roster is fluid at this point in the year and changes can happen any time. Unfortunately for Kline, he's the odd man out this time around.
Belichick made it sound like things still may change during his press conference on Monday.
"Obviously, there has been a lot of movement the last few days," said Belichick. "I’m sure there will be some more as we go forward, just to finish things off with our practice squad and other various personnel transactions. This part of the season, it’s pretty common. I’m sure there will be more of those. We’ll just take them as they come."
The team is currently preparing for their season opener this Sunday in Buffalo.
It was another interesting day on Sunday as the Patriots grabbed a couple of players off waivers and also released a couple of players who initially survived yesterday's roster cuts.
The team announced they claimed rookie offensive linemen Braxston Cave off waivers from the Cleveland Browns, as well as Chris Barker (offensive guard). They also grabbed a couple of defensive players after claiming linebacker Chris White and defensive tackle A.J. Francis.
To make room they released cornerback Marquice Cole and running back Leon Washington, and also added five players to the practice squad.
In addition, the Patriots re-signed linebacker Ja'Gared Davis, safety Kanorris Davis, defensive back Justin Green, defensive lineman Marcus Forston and linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, each of which are now on the team's practice squad. All five of those players were released by the team yesterday.
Fans may remember wide receiver Quentin Sims, who accounted for both of Tim Tebow's preseason touchdowns Thursday night. He was cut yesterday, but according to the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe he is also set to join the team's practice squad.
Those final moves offically has the team at 53 players, with preparations now set to begin for next Sunday's game against the Bills.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski missed the preseason as he's continued rehabbing from his back surgery and has spent his time on the physcially unable to perform list, but it appears he won't start the regular season on it.
According to published reports the veteran tight end is off the PUP list and practiced in pads on Sunday for the first time, although his status for this week is uncertain.
The last time fans saw Gronkowski in an actual game was during his return against the Houston Texans during the postseason, when he came back after suffering a fractured forearm weeks earlier. Unfortunately he broke it yet again during that contest and that ended his comeback, and he suffered setbacks due to infections this offseason.
It's unlikely we'd see him this weekend considering this is first padded practice, but the fact he's back in practice is a big step in the right direction. Previous reports had estimated we may see him by week three agaisnt the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so today's news is certainly encouraging.
Needless to say it's a situation that we'll continue to watch, but hopefully fans will see #87 back on the field in the coming weeks.
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