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Dominique Easley headed to season-ending injured reserve

12.17.14 at 12:11 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots will place rookie defensive lineman Dominique Easley on season-ending injured reserve, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

UPDATE 2:30 p.m.: The Patriots officially placed Easley on injured reserve Wednesday afternoon.

Easley, who was a first-round pick of New England thus past spring, was limited over the course of the spring and summer because of knee issues. The 22-year-old — who was taken 29th overall out of Florida — had nine tackles and a sack in eight games with the Patriots this season.

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Rex Ryan insists ‘our record is the only thing that stinks’ heading into Patriots showdown

12.17.14 at 11:25 am ET
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Rex Ryan. (Getty Images)

Rex Ryan. (Getty Images)

Rex Ryan knows his team is 3-11 on the season. He also knows his team is a heavy underdog this Sunday in what could be his final game as Jets coach before the New York faithful.

But for all that has been written and said about the discord and dysfunction around the Jets in another season to forget, the Jets coach insisted Wednesday in a conference call with the Patriots’ media that he loves his team and their effort.

“Anything that is swirling around inside our team, I’m proud of this team,” Ryan said. “We’ve got nothing [in terms of controversy]. Some guys’ reports are probably as far off as any I’ve ever seen. This team is tight. Our record is the only thing that stinks. We’ve got a great group of guys that care, that prepare, practice hard and it’s just obviously unfortunate that our record is what it is but it has nothing to do with the type of character in this room.”

Asked what he thinks of his place in the Patriots-Jets rivalry, should this indeed be his last game coaching the Jets, Ryan begged off, preferring instead to focus on the game at hand.

“I have no idea. We all know what’s getting ready to happen in this game. We know that both teams give their maximum effort against each other,” Ryan said. “I don’t think each team particularly likes each other but it’s on. Regardless of what the record is, we could be playing for first place, or whatever, but it’s the same effort always. It’s usually a close game and it’s usually a physical game.

“I never have to worry about them, regardless of who we play. We’re professionals and we get a chance to play a game, and it’s a game we love and we’re going to play it to the best of our abilities.”

Another subject was the effect Ryan’s former star pupil Darrelle Revis has had in transforming the Patriots’ defense into a championship caliber unit.

“Well, I think their whole defense has changed quite a bit since the last time we played them,” Ryan added. “They’ve brought in a couple of big guys. Chandler Jones [hurt against Jets], a tremendous player. But the coverages and recognizing a lot of different coverages that haven’t really played in the past that they’re playing now.

“There’s a couple of different ways to play man coverage but they’re starting to do some different things in the man. It’s kind of hard to explain but we recognize it. They’re doing a good job of it, obviously.”

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Bill Belichick isn’t taking the 3-11 Jets lightly: ‘They’re a very competitive football team’

12.17.14 at 11:05 am ET
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Needing a blocked field goal from Chris Jones late in their last meeting, Bill Belichick notes the Patriots will need to be better than they have been, (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Needing a blocked field goal from Chris Jones late in their last meeting, Bill Belichick notes the Patriots will need to be better than they have been Sunday against the Jets. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Even though the Jets are 3-11, and losers of three of their last four games with their coach likely to be fired, don’t tell that to Bill Belichick, as he notes they have been in a number of close games and playing competitively.

“It seems like quite a while since we played the Jets,” said Belichick. “The Jets are playing well. They’€™re a very competitive football team. They’€™re in every game. They’€™ve been in a lot of tight games, it seems like every game comes down to the last possession, kind of like it did with us, like a lot of our games with them have in the last, four of the last five times we’€™ve played them.”

Three of the last four games the Jets have played have been decided by seven points or less, and when it comes to games against the Patriots, the last three games have been decided by three points or less, including Oct. 16’s game in New England where the Patriots snuck past the Jets, 27-25 on Thursday night football.

Even further, four of the last five Patriots-Jets games have been decided by three points or less, with two of those games going to overtime.

With the last meeting between the two teams occurring almost two months ago, Belichick notes a lot has changed between the two teams. It’s worth noting the game was on a Thursday night and the Patriots were coming off losing running back Stevan Ridley and linebacker Jerod Mayo for the season just three days prior against the Bills.

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Planting playoff seeds: How have Patriots done in Bill Belichick era when it comes to postseason placement?

12.17.14 at 10:43 am ET
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With the Patriots in the chase for the No. 1 seed in the AFC — they can clinch the top seed if they beat the Jets and the Bengals beat the Broncos in Cincinnati this week — here’s a look at how they’ve fared when it comes to playoff seeding in the Bill Belichick era, and what’s happened that postseason.

2000: No playoffs.
2001: No. 2 seed, win Super Bowl XXXVI.
2002: No playoffs.
2003: No. 1 seed, win Super Bowl XXXVIII.
2004: No. 2 seed, win Super Bowl XXXIX.
2005: No. 4 seed, lose divisional playoff in Denver.
2006: No. 4 seed, lost AFC title game in Indy.
2007: No. 1 seed, lose Super Bowl XLII.
2008: No playoffs.
2009: No. 3 seed, lose wild card game at home against Baltimore.
2010: No. 1 seed, lose divisional playoff at home against New York.
2011: No. 1 seed, lose Super Bowl XLIV.
2012: No. 2 seed, lose AFC title game at home against Baltimore.
2013: No. 2 seed, lose AFC title game in Denver.

Overall, the Patriots have had the No. 1 seed on four occasions — they’ve won the Super Bowl once, lost a divisional playoff and come up just short in two Super Bowls. They’ve also had the No. 2 seed four times, and have won two Super Bowls (2001, 2004) and lost two AFC title games (2012, 2013).

Damien Woody on D&C: Rex Ryan ‘knows how to rally the troops’

12.17.14 at 9:10 am ET
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Damien Woody

Damien Woody

ESPN NFL analyst Damien Woody joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday to discuss the Patriots’ upcoming game with the rival Jets. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

With the Jets sitting in the basement of the AFC East and near the bottom of the entire NFL standings, some expect Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium to be a blowout. Woody, though, said New York will come to play.

“They’re going to bust their butts for Rex [Ryan],” Woody said of the Jets. “Just my time playing under Rex Ryan, the one great quality that Rex has is that he knows how to rally the troops. He just has an uncanny ability to know the pulse of the team and guys rally around that. Rex makes himself feel like he’s just one of the guys, he doesn’t make himself feel like, ‘Well, I’m the head coach and you’re the player.’ He kind of takes himself to the player’s level, and the players really respect that. People [have] got to expect the Jets to really bring it into the tank in this game.”

It has been reported throughout the season that Ryan will be fired after the season. His next potential job, however, has been up for debate. Another head coaching job and television gigs have been on the list of things Ryan could do if he is indeed axed by the Jets front office.

Said Woody: “I think the worst thing he can do is go somewhere and be a defensive coordinator because isn’t that feeding in to what everybody already perceives him to be? In my opinion, if Rex were to get fired, he’d be better to just go on TV, kind of put that big personality out there on TV for everybody to see, and then if I were him, I would go around all across the country, especially in the college game and study offense. … He’ll get another shot again, but if he can improve in that aspect of his repertoire, Rex can be a heck of a coach.”

In Ryan’s first two years with the Jets, New York reached the AFC championship game both times. Yet after those seasons, the Jets have failed to make the playoffs each season.

“I think the talent eroded around Rex and the team,” Woody said. “When the Jets went to back-to-back AFC championship games, we arguably had the best offensive line in football. You had great, stable running backs. Mark Sanchez was a young guy but he wasn’t asked to do much. We had Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards. And the defense was top notch. When you have all of those things working for you, you can do some things. But as the years went on, the talent level just steadily eroded. When you don’t have the talent to go with the schemes, it’s not going to work.”

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Read More: Damien Woody, Darrelle Revis, Rex Ryan,

In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

12.16.14 at 9:27 pm ET
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Jonas Gray

Jonas Gray

Every week, we list the Patriots’€™ “offensive touches,”€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Here’€™s a breakdown of the 2014 New England offense after 14 games:

RB Shane Vereen: 136 (88 carries, 48 catches) 3 negative catches, 7 negative runs
WR Julian Edelman: 102 (10 carries, 92 catches)
RB Stevan Ridley: 98 (94 carries, 4 catches), 8 negative runs
RB Jonas Gray: 85 (84 carries, 1 catch), 1 negative run
TE Rob Gronkowski: 76 (76 catches), 1 negative catch
WR Brandon LaFell: 63 (63 catches)
RB LeGarrette Blount: 54 (50 carries, 4 catches), 7 negative runs
QB Tom Brady: 27 (27 carries), 16 sacks, 11 kneeldowns
TE Tim Wright: 25 (1 carry, 24 catches), 6 negative rush
RB Brandon Bolden: 20 (19 carries, 1 catch), 3 negative runs
WR Danny Amendola: 15 (15 catches), 1 negative pass
RB James White: 12 (9 carries, 3 catches)
FB James Develin: 7 (1 carry, 6 catches)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 (6 catches)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 6 (6 carries) 2 sacks, 6 kneeldowns
WR Aaron Dobson: 3 (3 catches)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 3 (3 catches)
WR Brian Tyms: 1 (1 catch)

Notes: Not including one kneeldown from Brady, the Patriots had three negative plays from scrimmage on Sunday against the Dolphins –€” one negative run each from Vereen, Blount and Gray. … On the season, New England has run 948 plays from scrimmage, and 51 of them have gone for negative yardage (5 percent), not including kneeldowns. … Against the Dolphins, the Patriots ran 64 plays, with 31 of them in shotgun with 41 of them coming in shotgun (48 percent). … In addition, the game-book lists them as having run five plays in no huddle (8 percent). … On the season, the Patriots have run 72 of their 948 plays out of no-huddle (8 percent) and 358 snaps in shotgun (38 percent). … By way of comparison, over the course of the 2013 regular season, the Patriots were in shotgun for 42 percent of their offensive snaps and they ran no-huddle on 11 percent of their snaps. … We’ve been following Vereen’s quest for 50 catches and 50 carries, and at this point, he’s only one of six backs with at least 85 carries and 45 catches. If he gets to the 50-50 mark, he’d be the first New England running back to do it since Kevin Faulk had 83 carries and 58 catches in 2008. … One other note: Edelman has 10 rushing attempts on the season, and is nearing a franchise record — the franchise mark for most carries by a wide receiver in a single season is Troy Brown, who had 11 in 2001.

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Bill Belichick isn’t giving Brandon Browner (or his team) an excuse for all the penalties

12.16.14 at 5:57 pm ET
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Brandon Browner has helped spark the Patriots secondary to new heights with a physical style of play. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Brandon Browner has helped spark the Patriots secondary to new heights with a physical style of play. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

When the new emphasis on defensive holding and hands to the face was announced at the start of training camp, there was the understanding that certain players would struggle more than others adjusting.

It appears no one on the Patriots has had a harder time than Brandon Browner. As Chris Price points out, Browner has been flagged for 13 penalties (4 defensive holding, illegal contact, encroachment, 4 defensive pass interference, illegal use of hands, facemask, unnecessary roughness) 118 yards. Those 13 penalties are six more than the next closest perpetrator (Brandon LaFell, Logan Ryan six apiece).

On Tuesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked if he cuts Browner some slack for his team lead in the dubious category because of the physical style he brings to the secondary.

“Penalties have been an issue for us all year as a team,” Belichick said. “We’€™ve had a lot of penalties, more than we want, €“ way more than we want. We’€™re trying to decrease that number and the frequency. [We’€™re] certainly not there yet, but we continue to make it a priority and address it and work to reduce them. I think there’€™s definitely been some progress, but we’€™re not there yet. That goes for everybody.”

By not singling out Browner publicly, Belichick made it clear that he’s expecting cleaner play across the board.

“It’€™s everybody’€™s responsibility to play penalty free in their area, whether it’€™s the coaches on play-calling and substitution and things like that, or whether it’€™s the individual players based on their techniques and whatever the situation is that they’€™re in: offense, defense, special teams. Whatever it happens to be, it’€™s to play penalty free,” Belichick said. “That always has been an emphasis point for us, and it will continue to be one for everybody.”
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Browner, Devin McCourty, matt patricia
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