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Dashon Goldson wins his appeal, will play Sunday vs. Patriots

09.18.13 at 10:24 am ET
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FOXBORO — Hard-hitting safety Dashon Goldson won his appeal of a one-game suspension for his hit on New Orleans running back Darren Sproles last Sunday and will be eligible to play this weekend against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. With his victory, Goldson was spotted heading out to practice on Wednesday, getting ready for the Patriots this Sunday.

Simultaneous with the overturning of the suspension, the NFL announced it is fining Goldson $100,000 for hit on Sproles and upheld his $30,000 fine from Week 1 for a hit on Jets quarterback Geno Smith.

Goldson signed a five year, $41.25 million contract in March, including $22 million guaranteed with Tampa Bay. He joins newly arrived cornerback Darrelle Revis and 43rd overall draft pick Johnathan Banks in the secondary.

Goldson will join safeties Ahmad Black and Mark Barron in the Buccaneers secondary.

“Well, Black’s been their third safety. He’s been their third safety in sub situations when they move Barron down [to a linebacker position],” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “It’s no different than a player that’s kind of questionable for the game. If they’re there, they’re there. If they’re not, they’re not. We’ve got to prepare for them and we’ve got to prepare for whoever the next person is. We go through that every week. We prepare for everybody. The first play of the game, the guy who’s in there could be out and it could be the next guy [in]. We’ve got to be ready for everybody and whoever it is, that’s who we compete against. We’re preparing for everybody at this point.”

This will be Goldson’s second trip to Foxboro in nine months as he was on the 49ers secondary that helped San Francisco hold on to a 38-31 win over the Patriots last December in Sunday Night Football.

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Why Julian Edelman has been most valuable offensive option for Patriots this season

09.17.13 at 11:52 pm ET
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After missing the spring workouts and start of training camp this summer because of offseason foot surgery, wide receiver Julian Edelman mentioned to the media on Aug. 1 — shortly after he was removed from the physically unable to perform list — that all he was looking to do was trying to catch up to his teammates. ‘€œThe train is moving,’€ he said shortly after his first practice of the summer. ‘€œAnd I have to catch up.’€

Fast-forward two weeks into the regular season. When it comes to the New England passing game, Tom Brady may still be the conductor, but the train isn’€™t going anywhere without Edelman. While the Patriots are relying heavily on rookies for the first time in Brady’€™s career in large part due to injuries to Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen, they’€™ve also managed to squeeze as much as they could out of the former college quarterback.

Through two games, few receivers have been so integral to their offense as Edelman — the former college quarterback has caught 20 of his team’€™s 48 completed passes (all of them from Brady), or 42 percent of the total receptions. Percentage-wise, the only pass catcher in the league who has shouldered more of his team’€™s offensive workload through the first two games is Tampa Bay’€™s Vincent Jackson, who has accounted for 50 percent (12-for-24) of the completed passes from Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman. From a percentage standpoint, Philly’€™s DeSean Jackson matches up with Edelman, having accounted for 42 percent of the completions — 16 of 38 — from Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

(To give you an idea of the other end of the spectrum, there are four passing games who are led by receivers who have caught 20 percent of their team’€™s passes. However, three of those teams — Dallas, Baltimore and San Diego — have multiple players sharing the team lead in total receptions. Only one team — St. Louis — has one leading receiver who accounts for 20 percent of the team receptions, with the honor going to Tavon Austin, who has caught 12 of the 59 passes completed by Rams quarterback Sam Bradford.)

His value is also seen in the number of snaps he’€™s played through two games. Per Pro Football Focus, Edelman is second in the league in snaps at the wide receiver position, trailing only Baltimore’€™s Torrey Smith (148 to 146). He leads Patriots wide receivers in snaps with 148, two more than rookie Kenbrell Thompkins.

Part of the spike in his numbers is obvious: In a sea of new faces, Edelman is a familiar presence for Brady. He’€™s the only receiver currently on the roster who caught a pass from the quarterback in 2012, and has displayed a nice chemistry with him, one that has been lacking with some of his teammates. However, that doesn’€™t mean Edelman isn’€™t immune from Brady’€™s wrath. Cameras picked up the quarterback barking at Edelman on the sidelines of Thursday night’€™s win over the Jets, although after the game it was all good.

‘€œHe did a great job,’€ Brady said of Edelman. ‘€œHe caught the ball, caught it in traffic. He really did a great job of really being dependable out there.’€

Going back and comparing Edelman’€™s numbers over the course of the last decade, only Wes Welker (2008) and Randy Moss (2007) enjoyed anywhere near the same early season success. Over the first two games of the 2008 season, Welker caught 13 of the first 36 completed passes from Brady and Matt Cassel to account for 36 percent of the receptions. Meanwhile, Moss also hit 36 percent through the first two games of the 2007 season when he came away with 17 of the first 47 completed passes from Brady.

(All this, and we haven’€™t even covered his special teams value to this point — through two games, he’€™s fielded nine punts and averaged 11.6 yards per return, good for ninth in the AFC. In addition, earlier this year, he set the mark for all-time punt return average — for a minimum of 75 returns — at 13 yards per return.)

Of course, Edelman started strong last season — remember, he was the one who picked up extra snaps at the start of the year in the wake of the whole Welker kerfuffle — but still only had six catches for 59 yards and a touchdown through the first two games. This year, he’€™s tied with Houston’€™s Andre Johnson for the league lead in receptions with 20. He’€™s also second in the league in targets with 27 (trailing only Johnson), and while he’€™s well behind the league leaders when it comes to total receiving yardage and yards after the catch, his two touchdowns are tied for eighth among the league leaders.

In the end, it’€™s unlikely he’€™ll be able to keep up the breakneck pace over the course of the 2013 season (he’€™s on pace for 160 catches), but it’€™s looking more and more like the one-year, $765,000 deal the Patriots signed him to in April was the best money they spent all offseason. It’€™s important to remember that the passing game will continue to grow and evolve and change and Edelman’€™s chances will likely drop, particularly when the Gronkowski-Amendola-Vereen trio is back at full strength and if/when the rookies emerge as a consistent threat. But while that transition takes place, someone has to be the guy to keep the train on the tracks, and Edelman has certainly exceeded every expectation in that regard.

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Report: No surgery for Danny Amendola

09.17.13 at 5:46 pm ET
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Danny Amendola will not have sports hernia surgery, according to the Boston Herald, and the timetable for his return to action will be another few weeks. The receiver, who suffered the injury in a Week 1 win over the Bills, is now expected to be ready to return in the next few weeks. In his first season with the Patriots, Amendola has 10 catches for 104 yards.

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Why Patriots like what they’ve seen so far from Michael Buchanan

09.17.13 at 3:56 pm ET
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Rookie defensive end Michael Buchanan played just 15 of 71 snaps in his second NFL game last Thursday night for the Patriots. But those 15 snaps were not insignificant.

He came in as a sub-rusher on passing situations and several times got through to apply pressure in the face of Geno Smith. Twice, he and Chandler Jones met at the quarterback, putting a big-time hurt on the Jets quarterback. In those 15 snaps, Buchanan, a seventh-round pick this year out of Illinois, finished with one tackle, one sack, one tackle for a loss and two quarterback hits.

His impact was so significant that it allowed the Patriots to stunt along the defensive line and move Jones to an interior line position, giving the Patriots more athleticism on their defensive front.

“I think it’€™s like everybody that comes in day one in the spring,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said during a conference call Tuesday. “No matter how they arrive here, it’€™s obviously just trying to go out and prove that they can earn a position on the roster and contribute somehow to the defense, and certainly Michael’€™s done a good job since he’€™s been here of improving and trying to the learn the game and trying to get better.

“Certainly with everybody that is on the roster, we prepare each week to play and to get ready to go out and do our job that weekend. He’€™s been able to handle that in his capacity and, like I said, do a real good job to improve from his fundamental techniques to everything that we’€™re asking him to do as a defensive end and just try to get better. So, [he’€™s] certainly someone that came in and showed us different things throughout the spring and training camp that we thought, ‘€˜He’€™d be able to help us win.’€™”

Buchanan, considered a solid pass rusher and tackler, stands 6-feet-6 but he slipped because he is a bit undersized at 240 pounds coming out of college. But the Patriots loved what they saw in the potential from this speed rusher, especially his long arms and reach.

“I’€™d say every player obviously has his own physical traits that help him compete in different levels,” Patricia said. “Certainly Michael is a very long guy, he has good leverage with his arms and his length. Like I said, if he can keep working to improve to be able to use that, then he’€™ll certainly get better. But I think it’€™s across the board.”

Buchanan played at Illinois with Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus.

“Everyone’€™s trying to take their skill sets that they have and try to work them and fine-tune their craft and just try to improve with the fundamentals. That’€™s really where we get to start is with the fundamentals and just trying to get better at the basic techniques we’€™re asking him to do. But certainly Mike is a long guy, obviously, which helps you when you’€™re out there on the edge against those offensive tackles that are also usually pretty long, long-armed guys, tall guys.”

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Josh McDaniels talks about possible return of Rob Gronkowski, impact on offense

09.17.13 at 3:37 pm ET
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With Rob Gronkowski reportedly nearing a return to the field, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday that having the big tight end back would have a major affect on the way the New England offense operates.

“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,” McDaniels said on a conference call with reporters. “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.”

However, McDaniels sounded a note of caution when it comes to trying to figure out how much he’d be able to play if he was available.

“I’€™m not going about it in that manner,” he said. “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.”

Here are some more highlights of his Q&A with the media on Tuesday.

The conventional wisdom in the NFL is that it is hard for rookie receivers to contribute immediately. Why do you think that is, and how do you think your young receivers are doing relative to that notion?

“Well, I think for any rookie there is always an adjustment period. Whether it is at receiver or any other position, I don’€™t know that there is a position in the NFL where you can say that rookies come in and it is a simple transition for them to be major contributors on a consistent basis. I wouldn’€™t say that is just applicable to the receiver position or whatever number you are referring to. But, I think that there is always adjustment, there is always a learning process that goes on and continues to happen from one week to the next during the course of the first year. Our guys are going through that process. They’€™re working extremely hard to improve, and they have made some plays for us. Certainly we are going to count on them to continue to do that.”

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Bill Belichick on Darrelle Revis: ‘Definitely looks like he’s back and playing well’

09.17.13 at 3:13 pm ET
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Bill Belichick has seen enough of shutdown corner Darrelle Revis over the years to know what kind of impact he can have on a team’s secondary. In the case of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s a significant improvement.

Revis’ presence figures to be particularly important this week as the Buccaneers may or may not have star safety Dashon Goldson, who is appealing his one-game suspension for a hit on Saints back Darren Sproles.

Revis is coming back from a torn ACL in his left knee he suffered with the Jets in Sept. 2012. The Buccaneers took a chance that he would be close to 100 percent when the ’13 season rolled around. Last week against the Saints, Revis played 70 of 73 snaps on defense, a sign that he is close to full strength after playing just 53 of 75 snaps in Week 1 against his former team.
Is that a sign that Revis is ready to reclaim Revis Island?

“Yeah, he’€™s good,” Belichick said Tuesday in a conference call. “I thought he played well against the Jets with some limited playing time ‘€“ not limited, but I’€™d say he played about two-thirds of the game, something like that. Then of course this past week, he played almost every snap against New Orleans. It definitely looks like he’€™s back and playing well.”

Last week, the Bucs lost the game as the Saints drove for a game-winning field goal as time expired. But they did intercept Drew Brees twice, including an 85-yard return by Mason Foster that gave Tampa Bay a fourth-quarter lead. Brees completed 26-of-46 passes for 322 yards but only a touchdown and 67.5 quarterback rating.

In the six seasons with the Jets, Revis was a cornerstone of the Jets’ secondary, with his reputation for man-to-man shutdown defense, creating the “Revis Island” legend. He is 3-6 in nine career games against the Patriots, including 2-5 against Tom Brady with two interceptions. Now, the Bucs are mixing it up, throwing in some zone and blitz schemes.

“They mix it up,” Belichick said. “They play plenty of man. They blitz, they play man, they play zone ‘€“ they play everything. They do a good job mixing it up; you see it all back there.”

“When they’€™re in nickel, after they got Revis back, then it was Revis and [Leonard] Johnson and they bring [Johnthan] Banks in and Johnson goes inside and plays at the inside spot. When they go to six defensive backs, then they bring [Mark] Barron down and put [Ahmad] Black in at safety. Then Barron kind of plays like a linebacker when they go to dime but in their nickel package, it’€™s almost always three corners, not three safeties. But when they go to their dime stuff, then it’€™s three safeties with Barron playing at linebacker level and three corners, the same three corners.”

Belichick also detailed how Tampa Bay’s secondary looks when they go with six defensive backs or the so-called dime package.

“When the Saints went to their three wide receiver, one tight end package, they brought [Mark] Barron down a decent amount,” Belichick said of the safety who plays a lot like a linebacker. “They were in dime a decent amount, it was like 40 plays or something like that, it was a pretty good number of plays, maybe it’€™s in the 30s. But anyway, they brought Barron down and matched him up a number of times on [Jimmy] Graham. But [Lavonte] David does a good job too when they’€™re in nickel. David is a good cover linebacker and [Mason] Foster and Jonathan [Casillas]. They’€™ve got good depth at linebacker and good depth in the secondary; good depth on the defensive line too for that matter. This is a good defensive football team; probably as good as any we’€™ve seen or will see. They’€™re good in the secondary, they’€™re good at linebacker and they’€™re good up front. They’€™re well coached and have a good scheme. They’€™re very good defensively, no question.”

Belichick was asked if he laughs at the schedule-makers who scheduled a Patriots match-up with Revis just three weeks into the season, just like the divisional games with the Jets.

“Well, at least we only have to play against him once, hopefully,” Belichick said. “Well, hopefully we’€™ll play against him twice but no, I mean we’€™re seeing him once.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Darrelle Revis, Darren Sproles, Dashon Goldson

Report: Rob Gronkowski 50-50 for Sunday’s game vs. Bucs

09.17.13 at 12:14 pm ET
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The Patriots are “increasingly optimistic” that Rob Gronkowski will be back on the field sooner rather than later. According to Ed Werder of ESPN, there’s a 50-50 chance he makes his return to the lineup Sunday against Tampa Bay.

The tight end, who has yet to play this season because of a variety of offseason surgeries to his back and forearm, would certainly provide a jolt to the New England passing, which has struggled without several familiar faces in the lineup.

In addition, several outlets are reporting that special teams captain Matthew Slater will miss upcoming games because of a hand or wrist injury. Slater apparently suffered the injury in last Thursday’s win over the Jets.

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