|09.23.11 at 10:43 am ET|
FOXBORO — In their defensive fronts over the first two games, the Patriots have flashed an awful lot of combinations: three- and four-man looks, complete with several different personnel packages.
However, the four-man front that people have been angling to see — Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter at defensive end and Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth at defensive tackle — hasn’t been on the field all that much as a package. Courtesy of our friends at Pro Football Focus, the Patriots have played 149 defensive snaps this season — Carter has played 91, Haynesworth has played 53, Wilfork has played 119 and Ellis has played 87.
(Kyle Love has actually played more snaps this year than Haynesworth — 57 to 53. Among the rest of the defensive linemen, Mark Anderson has played 48 snaps, Myron Pryor — before he went on IR this week — played 37 snaps, while Mike Wright has played 15 snaps.)
With the understanding that schemes and personnel vary from series to series, the combo of Carter, Haynesworth, Wilfork and Ellis simply hasn’t had that much time together to blend as a unit. The four do have some familiarity — Haynesworth and Ellis were college teammates for a brief stretch, while Carter and Haynesworth spent time together with the Redskins — but as a collective, they are still in the early stages of their professional working relationship.
Part of that is because of what happened in camp and in the preseason — Haynesworth practiced sparingly over the summer, while Ellis was on the PUP list working through a hip injury — it’s no surprise that they are still coming together as a group. But the bottom line remains that it takes time for defensive linemen to learn how to play together.
‘You have to get a feel for how each guy rushes and where they’re going to be and how Vince and Albert, how they (operate),’ Ellis said. ‘It’s all about getting a feel for it. I put it in terms of a jump shooter, who goes out and shoots a whole bunch of jumpers all day long. He’s just getting that feel for when he gets in the game and it just comes naturally.’
Ellis acknowledges the defensive front isn’t where it should be at this time of the year, but says they shouldn’t be judged on their body of work to this point. Instead, he says take a look at the big picture — how it appears at the end of the season.
‘Just see where we’re at at the end of the year,’ Ellis said. ‘We have guys that can get it done. We just have to become more consistent throughout the year. The only way you can really pinpoint that is at the end of the year.’
|09.23.11 at 10:15 am ET|
FOXBORO — Say this for Vince Wilfork, he is one passionate football player, on and off the field.
And when it comes to a cause near and dear to his heart, the Pro Bowl nose tackle pursues it just as hard as he does an oncoming blocker or runner through the line of scrimmage.
Vince Wilfork’s foundation main purpose is to raise money for research and awareness to fight diabetes. His passion for this comes from a close family tie to the disease.
“My relationship with diabetes comes from growing up in my household with my father just being ill for 13, 14, 15 years,” Wilfork said on Thursday. “As a kid, I’m nine, 10 years old at the time, seeing my father go through what he had to go through, give him shots at times, he was so weak.
“We had to bathe him, had to take him to restroom. There was a lot going on that my brother and I had to deal with. So, that’s why this is real close and dear to my heart. I know how this can affect a household because I was one of those people who had to deal with it.”
It’s because of awareness and attention to detail that Wilfork himself has been able to avoid the disease.
“Luckily, God blessed me to be a healthy young man, blessed my family to be healthy but everybody is not able. That’s why it’s very close and dear to my heart to actually come and bring more awareness, to raise money to try and find and fight and tackle this disease. It affects us more than we think.
“One thing that kills me the most is when I see a 4-year old with Juvenile Diabetes,” he said. “I know a lot of people probably have friends and family members that are cancer patients, they’re beating [it] ‘ I put it right up there with cancer. Every year I throw my draft day fundraiser to raise money for diabetes. There’s not one year that comes and goes that I don’t get new people either showing up to my doorstep or showing up to the fundraiser just telling me stories about how they are affected by this disease.” Read the rest of this entry »
|09.23.11 at 9:13 am ET|
NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi joined the Dennis & Callahan show for his weekly conversation Friday morning.
Lombardi was the Browns director of players personnel under Bill Belichick in the early 1990s, and he said Belichick had a human side to him. Asked about the NFL Films documentary on Belichick, in which Belichick shows enthusiasm for a halloween party, Lombardi said that was no act: “That actual portrayal of Bill was dead-on,” he said.
Referring to a filmed meeting between Belichick and Randy Moss in which Moss asks about a party, Lombardi said: “I think ultimately players respect knowledge and they respect somebody who can make them better. And you could just see in that meeting the respect that Randy had for Bill, and obviously the respect Bill had for Randy for talking to him and being honest. I think it was mutual. But I think ultimately what people must understand about the NFL is it’s not how old you are or how young are, it’s how smart you are and can you make the players better. If you can make the players better, they’ll listen to you. If you can’t, they’re going to tune you out.”
Following are more highlights from the interview. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
On Belichick’s game preparation: “Nobody can break the game down to the essential components [like Belichick]. ‘¦ What Bill’s trying to do in the first quarter is to figure out the game plan of the other team. And his preparation all week long is to determine, ‘How quickly can I figure out what they’re going to do to us, and how can I adjust to make sure we can handle it?’ And it’s in that preparation that allows him to do that. Very few people can attack the game the way he did.”
On how the Patriots would do without Tom Brady: “The Patriots will be a good team because they are essentially a team. They’re not like the Colts, who have one great player [Peyton Manning] and a bunch of guys that are just running around.”
On the Patriots’ opponent Sunday, the 2-0 Bills: “I think they are for real in the sense that there’s a tremendous hunger. They’ve lost 14 in a row to the Patriots. ‘¦ I think it will be a really tough game. I think it will be a lot like the Detroit Lions game in Detroit last Thanksgiving Day. It’s going to be a little bit of a fast-paced game. I would expect the Patriots to defer the coin toss if they win it because they’re going to need to get the ball back at the end of the second quarter and into the third quarter to maybe make up for any [Buffalo] lead or potentially to build on any lead that they have. I think this is going to be one of those kind of games, because the Bills aren’t going to go away easily. The Bills are going to fight, scratch and claw, and they’re going to compete as hard as they can.”
On Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick: “I think he’s really a good quarterback. But when you break him down, he’s throws a lot of balls between his line of scrimmage and 10 yards. He doesn’t really chuck the ball down the field. He’s not a down-the-field, drive-the-football [player]. And as the wind changes — the last six games of the  season, his percentage of completions went down to 55 percent. Weather is going to have a lot to do with how he plays. Right now, it’s beautiful and sunny in Buffalo, there’s no wind. And you can handle it really well. But as the weather changes, it’s going to become a factor for him, and I think it’s going to be very difficult.”
|09.22.11 at 5:44 pm ET|
Every week over the course of the 2011 NFL season, we’ll present a list of the Patriots’ “offensive touches,” a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our 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. Two weeks into the season, here’s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2011:
BenJarvus Green Ellis: 25 (24 carries, 1 reception)
Danny Woodhead: 21 (18 carries, 3 receptions)
Wes Welker: 15 (0 carries, 15 receptions)
Deion Branch: 15 (0 carries, 15 receptions)
Aaron Hernandez: 14 (0 carries, 14 receptions)
Rob Gronkowski: 10 (0 carries, 10 receptions)
Tom Brady: 3 (3 carries, 0 receptions)
Chad Ochocinco: 3 (0 carries, 3 receptions)
Stevan Ridley: 2 (2 carries, zero receptions)
Matthew Slater: 1 (0 carries, 1 reception)
Julian Edelman: 1 (0 carries, 1 reception)
TOTAL: 110 touches (47 carries, 63 receptions)
Running back: 48 touches (44 carries, 4 receptions)
Tight end: 24 touches (0 carries, 24 receptions)
Wide receiver: 35 touches (0 carries, 35 receptions)
Other: 3 (3 carries, 0 receptions)
|09.22.11 at 2:09 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Before moving on to the Bills, Vince Wilfork took some time Thursday to admit he savored the interception that made him a hero to defensive lineman all around the NFL.
Wilfork’s wife Bianca immediately made headlines during Sunday’s game when she rightfully tweeted how proud she was of her husband following his interception late in the first half that set up a Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
“I won’t lie,” Wilfork said. “I looked at it a couple of times, just a couple of times. I wouldn’t say different but I go places and the first thing people want to talk about is that play.”
Wilfork said Thursday that Bianca later made copies of the video for her husband to savor and collected numerous newspapers to ensure the moment would be preserved. But now, as hard as it might be, Wilfork is moving on to the Bills since he knows the consequences if he doesn’t.
“I know I can’t live on that play forever,” he said. “The last thing I can do is go out here Sunday and play the worst game of my career and everybody will turn to me and say, ‘If you weren’t thinking about the interception, you probably would have played better.’ I have to turn the pages on that, after this.”
“This is a new Buffalo Bills team,” Wilfork said of the team that has scored an NFL-best 79 points in the first two games, six better than the Patriots. “They’re making big play after big play. It’s not smoke and mirrors with them.”
Behind the efforts of Jackson – who leads the NFL in rushing at 229 yards – and Spiller, and their versatile offensive line, the Bills are putting up points at a pace that would please even Tom Brady.
“Those two together, make a good team, a good running attack,” Wilfork said. “We have our hands full. It’s going to be challenging for us once again. Every week so far, we’ve been challenged.”
This figures to be the biggest challenge from the Bills since Sept. 7, 2003, when the Patriots played their first game since releasing Lawyer Milloy. That day the Bills won, 31-0. The Patriots have won 15 straight over Buffalo since then, the third-longest winning streak over an single opponent in NFL history.
|09.22.11 at 12:44 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez strolled through the Patriots locker room on Thursday morning, the first time most of the media has seen him since he limped out of the locker room with an injured left knee following Sunday’s win over the Chargers. The Florida product politely declined to talk with reporters, but for what it’s worth, he was walking without a limp.
Hernandez, who struggled with a hip injury at times as a rookie last season, did not practice with the Patriots on Wednesday, and was listed on the injury report with a knee. League sources indicate that he will miss between two and four weeks because of the injury. Hernandez is third on the team with 14 catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns on two games.
|09.21.11 at 12:41 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots’ decision to move defensive lineman Myron Pryor to injured reserve with a groin injury robs them of some flexibility up front, and places more on the shoulders of the returning Landon Cohen.
The 25-year-old Pryor, a 6-foot-1, 310-pounder who was taken in the sixth round of the 2009 draft out of Kentucky, has proven himself to be more of a penetrating defensive lineman with an ability to get after the quarterback. In two games this season, he has three tackles, 0.5 sacks (for 4.5 yards) and three quarterback hits. The Patriots are betting that the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Cohen, who had a cup of coffee with the Patriots last season (he played in two games with one start for the 2010 Patriots, finishing with three tackles) can replicate some of that ability.
It also appears that New England is set to add cornerback Phillip Adams to the roster — the former 49ers defensive back was in the locker room during media availability on Wednesday morning. He politely declined interview requests. The 23-year-old out of South Carolina State played in 15 games with San Francisco last season, finishing with 13 tackles and one pass defensed. Checking in at 5-foot-11 and 192 pounds, he was selected in the seventh round with the 224th overall pick by the 49ers in the 2010 draft. According to reports out of the Bay Area, Adams played with an injured ankle last season, which limited his performance but was not seriously enough to place him on the PUP list.
While Cohen and Pryor will essentially trade roster spots, the Patriots have not announced a corresponding roster move to free up space for Adams. (UPDATE, 1:03 p.m.: The Patriots have announced they will move center Dan Koppen to injured reserve to make room for Adams.)