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Bill Belichick: Dan Connolly ‘does a lot of things right’

09.24.14 at 1:41 pm ET
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Dan Connolly is focused on leading the Patriots offensive line to a better performance. (Mike Petraglia/

Dan Connolly is focused on leading the Patriots offensive line to a better performance. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO — If you’re looking for a bright spot on the much maligned Patriots offensive line, Bill Belichick would offer up the name Dan Connolly.

“Dan’€™s been good. He’€™s been good every year,” Belichick said of the 32-year-old veteran of nine NFL seasons who has moved between center and right guard this season.

“He’€™s been one of our most consistent, dependable players; smart. You can always count on him. He played left guard, he’€™s played center, he’€™s played right guard. He played tackle in college. He’€™s played all those positions along the line. He’€™s really kind of been pretty seamless when he’€™s had to move from one spot to another.”

Like Mankins, Connolly is 32. And like Mankins, Connolly was named a team captain this year as an offensive lineman. But unlike Mankins, the Patriots view Connolly as very affordable, playing in the third and final year of a contract that is paying him a total of $9.75 million.

With Bryan Stork starting at center a distinct possibility Monday night, Connolly would slot in as the starting right guard, a position Belichick knows the Southeast Missouri product can handle. And he’s clearly the leader of the line and somebody Tom Brady trusts.

“Well prepared guy, rarely makes mistakes, works hard, great offseason worker,” Belichick said. “He’€™s been like that for a number of years for us. I think one of the guys who [we] really count on. [He] goes about it quietly; he doesn’€™t have a big Matt Light personality or anything like that. He just does his job and does it dependably. He’€™s very well respected in that locker room and the coaching staff and in the entire organization. He does a lot of things right.”

Undrafted out of Southeast Missouri in 2005, Connolly was signed by the Jaguars as a free agent on April 24, 2005. He made the team’s 53-man roster and spent the rest of the season on it. He was placed on injured reserve by the Jaguars on Sept. 2, 2006. Connolly was waived by the Jaguars on Sept. 1, 2007. Twelve days later he signed with the Patriots and has been in New England ever since, with a brief two-day absence due to being waived in Oct. 2008.

Connolly made the 53-man roster in 2009 and started four games at right guard in place of an injured Stephen Neal. During the season, he received a contract extension through the 2011 season.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Dan Connolly, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots

Sealver Siliga (foot) only player missing from Patriots practice while Brandon Browner works out at Gillette

09.24.14 at 12:26 pm ET
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Brandon Browner

Brandon Browner

FOXBORO — Nose tackle Sealver Siliga was the only eligible player missing from Patriots practice on Wednesday as the team returned to the grass fields behind Gillette Stadium in full pads.

Siliga injured his foot in the first half of Sunday’s game against the Raiders and did not return.

Brandon Browner, who is in the process of serving his fourth and final game of an NFL-mandated drug suspension, was on the main stadium field working out on his own.

The NFL responded to inquiries Wednesday on the matter, indicating that is has been “standard procedure” for players violating substance abuse policies to be permitted to work out with their team. Players violating PED policy are banned from all team facilities. The league also revealed that this policy has been in place even before the new drug policy went into place last week.

Read More: Brandon Browner, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Sealver Siliga

Time machine: The how and why of Patriots’ offensive struggles

09.24.14 at 12:15 pm ET
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Tom Brady and the Patriots offense has struggled this season, being ranked 27th in the NFL in terms of overall passing. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and the Patriots offense has struggled this season, being ranked 27th in the NFL in terms of overall passing. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Through the first three games of the season, the Patriots offense has been nothing like anyone expected.

The offense is ranked 26th in the NFL and 27th when it comes to passing. Why?

Much has been made of Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski receiving the majority of the targets this season, as of Tom Brady‘€™s 115 targets, Edelman and Gronkowski have 51 of them (44 percent).

With the poor play of the offensive line, Brady hasn’€™t had much time to scan the field and look to his second, third and fourth options on most plays, so in turn he’€™s had to get rid of the ball quickly, going to his first read — usually Edelman or Gronkowski.

Over the last two games — according to our count — Brady has had 27 pass attempts where he’€™s taken less than two seconds from the time the ball is snapped until the ball is released from his hand. That’s compared to only 15 passes where he’€™s taken longer than 2.6 seconds. In Week 2 against the Vikings, he averaged 2.06 seconds over his 21 pass attempts, compared to 2.35 seconds in 37 attempts in Week 3 against Oakland.

“€œIt’€™s a chess match that goes back and forth,” Brady said of getting the ball out of his hands quickly against opposing defenses. “€œI’€™m sure it will be this week. [Kansas City has] a lot of good pass rushers. It’€™s not one of those games you want to sit back there and see how long you want to hold onto the ball because they are eventually going to get there.”

Brady is known for getting the ball out of his hands quickly — according to Pro Football Focus, in 2012 he led the NFL with the fastest average release time of 2.47 seconds. Last season, prior to the Denver game in Week 12, Brady was tied for sixth at 2.54.

It should be noted because of some of the plays the Patriots run, like the quick wide receiver screens — which they call a lot of — can throw off some of the release time numbers and bring the average down.

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Read More: Julian Edelman, Patriots offense, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady

Breaking down Patriots numbers over first three games

09.24.14 at 11:18 am ET
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Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Patriots through the first three games of the year over the last five seasons. (In an attempt to show the statistical ebbs and flows — and to give the numbers slightly more context — I’ve added a look at where those teams ended up statistically.) Since 2010, it’s interesting to see the overall dips in total points scored, as well as points allowed. In addition, the third-down offensive numbers have really decreased steadily over the last five years.

Average Time Of Possession
— 2010: 29:17 (ended regular season 29:24)
— 2011: 29:35 (28:47)
— 2012: 31:15 (30:56)
— 2013: 32:15 (30:21)
— 2014: 30:54

Total Points Scored
— 2010: 90, 30 per game (ended regular season with 518 points, 32.4 per game)
— 2011: 104, 34.6 per game (513, 32.1 per game)
— 2012: 82, 27.3 per game (557, 32.8 per game)
— 2013: 59, 19.7 per game (444, 27.8 per game)
— 2014: 66, 22 per game

Points Allowed
— 2010: 82, 27.3 per game (ended regular season allowing 313, 19.6 per game)
— 2011: 79, 26.3 per game (342, 21.4 per game)
— 2012: 64, 21.3 per game (331, 20.7 per game)
— 2013: 34, 11.3 per game (338, 21.1 per game)
— 2014: 49, 16.3 per game

Third-down defense (opponents conversion rate)
— 2010: 19-for-38, 50 percent (ended regular season 99-for-210, 47.1 percent)
— 2011: 16-for-37, 43.2 percent (87-for-202, 43.1 percent)
— 2012: 13-for-36, 36 percent (82-for-205, 40 percent)
— 2013: 15-for-45, 33 percent (98-for-232, 42.2 percent)
— 2014: 16-for-37, 43.2 percent

Third-down offense
— 2010: 21-for-36, 58.3 percent (ended regular season 95-for-197, 48.2 percent)
— 2011: 18-for-33, 54.5 percent (89-for-194, 45.9 percent)
— 2012: 18-for-42, 42.9 percent (110-for-226, 48.7 percent)
— 2013: 21-for-53, 39.6 percent (83-for-221, 37.6 percent)
— 2014: 19-for-49, 38.8 percent

Tom Brady on urgency for Patriots’ offense: ‘Some teams really flatten out at some point’

09.24.14 at 11:16 am ET
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Tom Brady and the Patriots offense has struggled this season, being ranked 27th in the NFL in terms of overall passing. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and the Patriots offense has struggled this season, being ranked 27th in the NFL in terms of overall passing. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — You can hear Tom Brady‘s concern in his words, and the warning as well.

After getting hit hard in the pocket during Sunday’s 16-9 escape over the Raiders, Tom Brady knows the offense as a whole needs to pick it up over the next two weeks with Kansas City on the road followed by a rested Cincinnati team six days later at Gillette.

“Some teams really flatten out at some point. You work on things, they never get better, they’€™re always a problem, and then you lose confidence in them, and it can go the other way pretty quickly,” Brady said.

“Like I said after the game, there are a lot of things we have to ramp up. It’€™s not just one thing on our offense, and we’€™re trying to identify the things that we need to do better, and then certainly go out there in practice and try to do a better job with them. It’€™s not really one area; it’€™s all areas. That’€™s what is going to make us hopefully the most effective team we can be in November, December, just by working hard, continuing to correct our mistakes, and then see if we can get better and make the improvements so they don’€™t show up week to week.”

It’s only Week 4 but already Brady can sense that if the Patriots don’t make improvements soon in critical areas like pass protection, red zone and third down, it may not get better.

Brady has not very often had the time to make full reads throughout the defense, trying to get rid of the ball based on a pre-snap read as opposed to making post-snap progressions.

“I think there are different parts of the game where you do that as a quarterback,” Brady said. “Typically, the longer you have to throw, the better decision you’€™ll be able to make. I’€™ve said the best teams are typically the ones that can rush the fewest amount of people and still get the same amount of pressure because then they can help in coverage. If a team has to pressure to get pressure, they’€™ve got to bring a fifth rusher to get pressure, then they’€™re lighter in coverage.

“If a team can rush four or three and still get great pressure, then it’€™s a great advantage for the defense. It’€™s just a chess match that goes back and forth, and I’€™m sure it’€™ll be that [way] this week. These guys have some real good pass rushers. It’€™s not one of those games you want to stand back there and see how long you can hold the ball because eventually they’€™re going to get there. They’€™ve got two of the best guys in the league on the edge that can rush quarterbacks, strip-sack. Coach gave a great stat today. In 11 wins, they had 41 or 46 sacks, and in their five losses they only had five sacks. Those guys are real big playmakers for them ‘€“ [Justin] Houston and Tamba Hali. They’€™ve got some good scheme stuff, inside blitzes. They’€™ve got a good defense. They’€™ve got a great team. They’€™ve got good offense, good defense, good special teams. It’€™s a tough team.”

What can Brady do at this point?

“Just be the best quarterback I could be,” Brady said. “I think that’€™s what my job is, and my responsibility as a player is to do whatever the coaches ask me and do it the best way I can. That’€™s trying to do everything well on a consistent basis ‘€“ be a good leader, obviously make the plays when they’€™re there, have great command and understanding of what we’€™re doing, try to put our team in the best position possible to win.”

Brady appeared in a winter cap and appeared to be a little under the weather in a brief six-minute press conference Wednesday.

“No, I’€™m good. I’€™m doing good, ready to go,” Brady insisted. “It’€™s going to be a fun week, great environment for football. It’€™s a big challenge playing on the road. They’€™ve got a good team. They were one of the best teams in the league last year, and it’€™s going to be a tough game. We got a lot of work in yesterday, a lot of work in today, so excited for the week.”

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Read More: Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,

Bill Belichick on Chandler Jones and Patriots: ‘There are a lot of things that we’re doing better’

09.23.14 at 9:39 pm ET
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Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones

An evolution is taking place in the Patriots defense. And it’s an evolution Patriots fans have seen before.

Chandler Jones was drafted in 2012 as an edge-rushing defensive end out of Syracuse. Bill Belichick saw more than just a pass rushing specialist. He saw someone who had the potential, with the right guidance, who could learn how to drop back in coverage as an outside linebacker.

Now, in his third season, Jones is growing into the hybrid edge position.

“He’s done well,” Belichick said Tuesday of the hybrid position. “Chandler’€™s got good physical skills, does a good job. He’€™s long, he has good playing strength, he’€™s able to use his length to his advantage. He’€™s certainly gotten better at that each year since he’€™s been here.

“He’€™s been durable, tough, been out there, played a lot of plays and has good durability and stamina. He has the ability scheme-wise ‘€“ he’€™s a smart player ‘€“ he has the ability to do multiple tings for us defensively in terms of playing on the tackle, playing on the tight end, playing on space, playing in coverage. He’€™s been a versatile player. He’€™s done a real good job.”

The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Jones has had breakout games from the moment he broke into the NFL in Sept. 2012 in Tennessee, with a strip-sack and a dominant game in his career debut. This year, he had another one of those games in Minnesota with eight tackles, two sacks and his blocked field goal attempt return for a touchdown.

Patriots fans will, of course, recall another player – Willie McGinest – who played a very similar role with a very similar body type (6-foot-5, 270 pounds) on the dominant Patriots defenses of the early 2000s.

“There’€™s an awful lot of people in the NFL that do those things, obviously some better than others,” Belichick said. “Some players are better going forward than going backward in coverage. Some guys are probably better in coverage than they are going forward rushing the passer and playing the run.”

Why has Belichick shown confidence this season in switching Jones back and forth between an edge rusher and an outside linebacker? Part of it has to do with disguising 3-4 and 4-3 fronts and some of it has to do with Jones’ ability to transition well.

“Some guys are pretty good at both and I would put Chandler in that category,” Belichick said. “We’€™re seeing two good guys this week from Kansas City, same type players that can set the edge, that are strong run players, athletic, can play in coverage, great pass rushers. It will be several of those guys on the field this week.”

After being asked about Jones, Belichick was asked point blank if he is seeing significant improvement over the first three weeks.

“As a team yeah, definitely,” Belichick said. “I don’€™t think there’€™s any question about it. Yup, there are a lot of things that we’€™re doing better. I think each week the competition gets better too. There are teams that are where they were in September and where they are now at the end of the month and heading into October, they’€™ve improved, too.

“We just have to keep grinding it out but I think we are doing things a lot better than we did them a month ago. Hopefully we’€™ll continue on that same trend. But I think we’€™re seeing the same thing from our opponents around the league too. Everybody around the league is getting better.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, chandler jones, New England Patriots,

Bill Belichick on O-line coach Dave DeGuglielmo: ‘I think he’s done a good job’

09.23.14 at 6:18 pm ET
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Dave DeGuglielmo

Dave DeGuglielmo

Bill Belichick is offering a vote of confidence to new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo.

In his first season replacing Dante Scarnecchia, DeGuglielmo has watched as his starting left guard Logan Mankins was traded away to Tampa Bay and the starting center from last year Ryan Wendell battles a knee injury.

The patchwork offensive line has been one of the foremost areas of concern and criticism as Tom Brady has been hit hard and often throughout the first three games. Rodney Harrison went as far as to tell WEEI’s MFB show Tuesday that Brady “doesn’t trust” his offensive line right now.

On Tuesday, though, Belichick offered some perspective on DeGuglielmo’s background as an NFL offensive line coach who has worked for the Giants, Dolphins and Jets.

“Well, first of all, Dave is a pretty experienced coach,” Belichick said. “He’€™s been in a number of different systems, including with Coach [Brian] Daboll down in Miami, which is a very similar system [to] the Giants, which there is a lot of carryover from Coach [Tom] Coughlin going all the way back to Charlie [Weis] and the offense that we really established when we came here in 2000.”

Belichick also acknowledged Tuesday that while DeGuglielmo may be new to the system Scarnecchia left in New England, he is far from overwhelmed by it.

“So, I think it’€™s true that he did come into an established offensive system but one that he has worked in in different forms throughout the course of his career,” Belichick said. “So, I don’€™t think the transition or the adjustment in the offseason when we were going through all of our protections and schemes and plays and adjustments and so forth, that it was like trying to learn a whole new foreign language or anything like that. But it was kind of fine tuning some things that we did relative to similar things that he’€™s done in the past.

“That’€™s just been a continuation for our entire staff, no different than on the defensive side of the ball with Coach [Brendan] Daly coming in, working with Matt [Patricia] and Pat Graham and Brian [Flores] and Josh [Boyer]. It’€™s the same type of thing. It’€™s just the whole staff getting on the same page as to how we’€™re coaching certain plays, what the techniques are, how it fits together, what the adjustments are and that coach working with the individual players at his position. It’€™s pretty common really in the NFL to have some type of coaching changes every year. There aren’€™t too many staffs that don’€™t have that.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Dave DeGuglielmo, New England Patriots, offensive line
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