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Option play: Bill Belichick, Patriots ready for Miami’s new-look offense

09.02.14 at 2:40 pm ET
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The Patriots will be facing a new offensive coordinator on Sunday, as Bill Lazor is in his first season as OC with the Dolphins. Lazor, who served as the quarterbacks coach in Philly last season, figures to bring a slice of the uptempo style that Chip Kelly and the Eagles delivered last season.

So how do you prepare for a new OC when there’s little meaningful film of his schemes as a coordinator at the NFL level? Bill Belichick said Tuesday that the Patriots have already tried to get a sense of the new-look Miami offense by taking a look back at the uptempo Philly offense last year.

“I would say that they look very similar to the way the Eagles look offensively; different than what Miami looked like last year,” Belichick said of the Dolphins. “I’€™d say it’€™s quite substantial.”

Substantial might be an understatement. Measured situation-neutral offensive pace –€” a formula from the site Football Outsiders that eliminates things like two-minute drills and late-game clock-killing situations to get a truer idea of the offense’€™€™s intentions when it comes to offensive pace –€” the 2012 Dolphins were ninth overall at one play every 29.23 seconds, and last year, on average, they ran one play every 30.08 seconds, 14th quickest in the NFL.

That contrasts with the speed of Philly’s offense: under Kelly last year, the Eagles were the fastest team in the league, getting off a play once every 23.88 seconds.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill Lazor, Chip Kelly, Ryan Tannehill

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels ‘really impressed’ by TE Tim Wright

09.02.14 at 2:01 pm ET
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One player who certainly opened some eyes in the preseason finale was newly-acquired tight end Tim Wright. Acquired two days before the fourth preseason game against the Giants as part of the Logan Mankins trade, he was thrown out there without much seasoning and didn’t look overwhelmed while playing more than 40 snaps with his new team.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday that he was “really impressed” with the work of Wright in his preseason debut with New England, which ended with Wright registering four catches for 43 yards.

“We just got him, and he was able to come in here and learn enough to be able to go out there and play for us in a preseason game for fortysomething some snaps or whatever it was,” McDaniels said of Wright, a Rutgers product who caught 54 passes last season with the Bucs.

“He’€™s working hard [and] certainly a bright kid, and has some talent that hopefully we can utilize,” McDaniels added. “He just seems to fit in good and has a good attitude and work ethic. I’€™m just excited about seeing what we can do going forward. It’€™s very early, and we’€™ve only really had one practice. Hopefully we can build on his start and try to add a little here and there to what he knows of our offensive system and get our guys comfortable working together.”

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Rodney Harrison: Tom Brady ‘should be able to play for another 10 or 15 years because of the rule changes’

09.02.14 at 1:46 pm ET
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NBC Sports analyst Rodney Harrison joined Middays with MFB on Tuesday and said he believes Tom Brady can indeed play another 10 years due in part to the more stringent NFL rules. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Brady has stated in the past that he wants to play as long as possible — well into his 40s — and he maintained that approach during his appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning. Harrison, Brady’s former teammate, doesn’t doubt the quarterback.

“Tom Brady is probably talking about him playing until he’s 45, 50 years old because of the rule changes,” Harrison said. “The cornerbacks and the safeties, they can’t hit you when you come across the middle, they can’t jam you at the line of scrimmage. So he should be able to play for another 10 or 15 years because of the rule changes.”

Continued Harrison: “If you watch the preseason, you saw how these officials, if you’re breathing on a guy heavy, they’re throwing a flag. They don’t even give you the benefit of the doubt. They don’t even give you consideration. If you’re close to a guy, if you just stare at him too long, they’re throwing flags all over the place.

“Now, this league was changing because of all the additions of Russell Wilson and [Robert Griffin III] and all these mobile quarterbacks like Andrew Luck. Statues that are in the pocket like Brady and [Peyton] Manning and Joe Flacco, why wouldn’t they play — if they have a good offensive line to protect them, why wouldn’t they play another 10 years? Because once you grab a guy it’s a penalty. So I don’t see why they can’t be productive for another 8-10 years, especially the way Tom takes care of his body.”

After three weeks of frequent flags, the Patriots’ final preseason game was not a foul-fest. However, Harrison said he doesn’t believe that’s a sign that the officials will let up once the regular season gets underway.

“The officials came out and the point of emphasis was the illegal contact and the grabbing and holding of the players. I think they’re going to enforce it,” Harrison said. “I think the first half of the season, I think that’s going to be a point of emphasis. I think they’re going to stick with it. The NFL has already come out and said, ‘Hey, we’re not going to back down. We expect the officials, we’re going to hold them accountable to do the same thing. If it’s a grab, we don’t care how many penalties it is in the first quarter, in the first half, call it.’ So I expect a renewed focus on this and I think it’s something that’s going to continue.”

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Read More: Peyton Manning, Rob Gronkowski, Rodney Harrison, Tom Brady

Bill Belichick on Rob Gronkowski’s playing status: ‘We’ll have to make decision that’s best for team’

09.02.14 at 1:02 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski pronounced himself ready to play on Monday, but in a conference call with the media Tuesday afternoon, Patriots coach Bill Belichick sounded hesitant when it came to giving a thumbs up on the playing status of the tight end.

“I’m glad that Rob’s optimistic about his situation,” Belichick said. “We’ll go through the week of practice and take a look at everything, everybody, and see where everybody’s at and try to do what we feel like is best for the team.

“With all due respect to Rob — I’m glad he feels the way he does — but, in the end, we’ll have to make the decision we feel like is best for the team and we’ll do that as we go through the week.”

Gronkowski said he was “super excited” Monday, and proclaimed himself “good to go.”

“€œJust seeing my teammates grind all week,” he added. “Go back out there with them, get in the huddle, break the huddle with them. It’€™s going to be an honor to be out there with my teammates. Super pumped, super excited and just preparing for the game.

“€œI feel mentally and physically ready, for sure. No doubt about it.”

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels also commented on Gronkowski’s status Tuesday, saying the tight end has been a part of practices all along.

“Rob has been practicing, and we’€™ve been doing some different things, building our offensive system and packages as we go throughout the course of the year. He’€™s been a part of that,” McDaniels said of Gronkowski. “Whatever we can or are available to use him to do — however big, small, whatever the decision is at the end of the week — and he’€™ll be ready to do it. Going in there, we’€™re going to do what we think is the right thing to do to win the game this week and worry about going forward next week.”

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Chandler Jones on MFB: Dolphins OL Branden Albert ‘will be a very good test’ in opener

09.02.14 at 12:10 pm ET
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Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones

Defensive end Chandler Jones checked in with the Middays with MFB show on Tuesday, as the Patriots start planning for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Dolphins won the teams’ last meeting, a 24-20 decision in Miami last Dec. 15. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill passed for 312 yards and three touchdowns in that game.

Jones, who led the Patriots with 11 1/2 sacks last season, is wary of Tannehill’s ability to improvise and pick up yards on scrambles.

“Ryan Tannehill — very, very athletic quarterback,” Jones said. “He’s a guy that can beat you with his arm or can beat you on the ground with his legs. It’s our job — well, it’s my job as a defensive lineman, me and Rob [Ninkovich] as well, just to contain him. He’s very versatile, he can make big plays, and it’s our job to contain him. He can definitely get out of the pocket. He definitely can.”

Jones should see plenty of new Dolphins offensive lineman Branden Albert, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason after six years with the Chiefs.

‘”Branden Albert is a great player,” Jones said of the 6-foot-5, 316-pounder who was a Pro Bowler last season. “This is his first year there over in Miami. He’s a very big individual. The thing that really impresses me is his footwork for his size, for his height, he’s a big guy, he’s even taller than me. And I’m tall myself. But his footwork is very, very good. He’s very trained to not bite on certain moves and certain things of that nature. It will be a very good test and I’m excited to go against him. I really am.”

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Read More: Branden Albert, chandler jones, Ryan Tannehill, Tom Brady

Julian Edelman on MFB: ‘We’re thinking about Miami, the team that we have now’

09.02.14 at 11:24 am ET
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Patriots receiver Julian Edelman stopped by for a visit with the Middays with MFB crew on Tuesday to preview Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Dolphins in Miami. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Patriots made two big moves since Thursday’s final preseason game, trading offensive lineman Logan Mankins and backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, leaving rookie Jimmy Garoppolo to serve as Tom Brady‘s backup.

“With the whole Mankins situation that happened last week, like I said last week, I love the guy as a teammate, but as Tom said, we’re moving on,” Edelman said. “We’re thinking about Miami, the team that we have now. It is a business. A lot of these kind of crazy things go down.

“As far as Jimmy Garoppolo, his job is to back up Tom Brady. He has to worry about what he has to do, I have to worry about what I have to do, because if that if that situation were ever to come … you prepare for what you have to do as an individual to make everything comfortable for anyone who comes in. That’s along with a tackle, another receiver, the kicker, whatever. Injuries are a part of the game. Whenever something like that goes down, you’ve just got to be prepared to kind of do your job.”

Rob Gronkowski also made news when he announced Monday that he’s ready to play Sunday.

“That’s Gronk being Gronk, maybe. That’s his situation,” Edelman said. “I didn’t even see the clippings or anything. … He’s been in there practicing, working hard. But like we keep on preaching around here, you kind of worry about what you have to do. If he plays, that’s awesome, because that’s a huge weapon, probably the best tight end in the National Football League, in my opinion. But if he doesn’t, you have to worry about what you have to do, and go out and do your job.”

The Dolphins made a move to improve their defensive backfield in the offseason, signing controversial veteran Cortland Finnegan, someone Edelman expects to see a lot of on Sunday. Edelman called the oft-fined Finnegan “a feisty, instinctive vet player who’s played a lot of games in this league.”

“He’s a competitor,” Edelman said. “He’s played a lot of games, like I said. He’s been known to maybe get in there and compete in the full length of the play, but we all do here.”

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Read More: Cortland Finnegan, Jimmy Garoppolo, Julian Edelman, Logan Mankins

Tom Brady on D&C: ‘I dealt with whatever feelings I had last week, but I’ve moved on’ regarding trade of Logan Mankins

09.02.14 at 7:45 am ET
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Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning as the Patriots prepare for Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Dolphins in Miami. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots finished a 2-2 preseason with Thursday’s 16-13 loss to the Giants. Since then, the team traded stalwart offensive lineman Logan Mankins and backup quarterback Ryan Mallett. According to a report, Brady was very upset upon learning that Mankins was sent to the Buccaneers for tight end Tim Wright and a 2015 draft pick.

“I haven’t really spoken to anybody about it,” Brady said. “I have my own personal feelings that obviously are very personal to me. Whatever those are, I just want our team to be the best it can be for this year. I love Logan, Logan was a great friend of mine. Nobody stood for Patriot football more than him. But he’s moved on. I hope he’s happy. We’ll keep in touch.

“We’ve got a game to win. I can’t really think too much about what happened in the past. Like I said, yeah, I dealt with whatever feelings I had last week, but I’ve moved on. I’ve got to move on, because that’s what this team expects me to do. With Miami coming in, the only thought on my mind is how I can be the best quarterback against them and how I can can try to go out there and lead my teammates and be a great example and be a great motivator and bring the enthusiasm and energy for the team. Because without that then we have less opportunity to win. And you guys know me, I like winning.”

Brady has been through this before, losing close friends in the final days and weeks before the season begins, but he said the business aspect of football is no easier to handle as a seasoned veteran.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I’m a very person-to-person type of person. I am a very emotional person. I don’t think those things have ever gotten easier for me. And I don’t think they ever will. But you’ve got to come to grips with it also, and learn to deal with things in a mature way.

“We as players, the business side of things, we’re there to play, we aren’t there to run businesses. We’re there to enjoy the camaraderie with our teammates, enjoy the playing experience with our teammates. We play for one another, and you deal with whatever comes up and then you move forward. I think that’s part of the sport. Being that it’s happened, I know it’s going to happen next year, too, I know it’s going to happen the year after that, the year after that — for as long as you continue playing here you’re going to be dealing with this.

“But now we’ve got a chance to move forward, to move forward with the start of the year. And you’ve got to bring the best attitude you can when it matters to the most, which is now.”

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Read More: Logan Mankins, Ryan Mallett, Tim Wright, Tom Brady
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