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D.J. Williams: Picking up Patriots offense is like picking up an attractive woman

12.11.13 at 2:53 pm ET
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FOXBORO — If things don’t work out for him as Rob Gronkowski‘s replacement, Patriots tight end D.J. Williams might want to try the stand-up circuit.

He was en fuego Wednesday as he compared picking up the Patriots offense to charming an attractive woman of Hispanic descent.

“It’s just the terminology,” Williams said. “The concepts are pretty much the same. It’s just called different. It’s like trying to pick up Spanish. This offense is very attractive and if you found a very attractive Hispanic lady, you’d pick it up pretty quick.

“I’ll get in trouble for that. Just have a good time. That’s all it is.”

The good time for Williams in New England began on Nov. 27 when the Patriots signed him as insurance when Michael Hoomanawanui went down with a knee injury. When Hooman came back from injury, Williams was released. Then Gronkowski went down for the season on Sunday with a right knee injury and the Patriots went back to Williams.

“It’s huge. Being here before, getting a little head start, now I’m able to break the huddle and know if I need to go right or left,” Williams said tongue-in-cheek. “So, that’s a big start. I’m glad I’ve got that down. I guess I could go back down and mess that up but no where but up from here.”

Williams, 25, played in seven games with one start for Jacksonville this season before being released by the Jaguars on Nov. 4. The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder originally entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft pick (101st overall) by Green Bay out of Arkansas in 2011. Williams was waived by Green Bay on Aug. 31, and claimed off waivers and awarded to Jacksonville on Sept. 1. He has played in 34 NFL games with three starts and has nine receptions for 70 yards. Williams has yet to be active for a Patriots game.

“The carryover sometimes hits me,” Williams continued. “Even today [Wednesday] in the meeting room, we were going over one play and I was having a hard time understanding it. Matt Mulligan, he was with me at Green Bay, he said, ‘It’s like so-and-so this play.’ I was like, ‘Oh, makes sense now.’ It’s good having him here too to help me figure out the similarities between two different offenses.”

What really helps Williams is the way Tom Brady approaches all players in the meeting rooms and on the field.

“The way he approaches us in the huddle,” Williams said. “In the meeting rooms, he’ll say, ‘I need you to do this.’ Usually, he’s talking to Rob when he’s doing that. Nothing’s changed and he expects us to be able to step up and play. And we expect it from ourselves, too. So, it’s good to know that our quarterback can have trust in us to get out there and make plays.”

Williams said he gave some thought to hanging around New England the first time he was released on Dec. 4 but decided to spend some time with the family.

“I thought about it just to see what was going to happen,” Williams said. “But I didn’t have my car or anything here and I was going to get bored. So, I figured I’d go home and enjoy the good weather and got caught in an ice storm in Arkansas. I had a lot of time to spend with my mom. She enjoyed it a lot.”

Read More: D.J. Williams, Green Bay Packers, Gronk, Michael Hoomanawanui

Penalty phase: Patriots, Dolphins two of league’s least-flagged teams

12.11.13 at 2:51 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Don’€™t expect a lot of stoppages in play Sunday.

This weekend’€™s game between the Patriots and Dolphins in South Florida will feature two of the least-penalized teams in the league. Not including penalties that were declined or offset, New England comes into the contest with 57 penalties — second fewest in the NFL — while the Dolphins are the least-penalized team in the league with 55. In addition, the 534 penalty yards against the Patriots is 30th in the league. Only Miami (502) and Indy (499) have been hit with fewer penalty yards.

Both the Dolphins and Patriots have played two games this season where they didn’€™t get hit with a single penalty. New England wasn’€™t flagged once in an October loss to the Bengals, as well as a win over the Texans earlier this month. Meanwhile, Miami wasn’€™t hit with a single penalty in a September win over Indy, as well as last week against the Steelers.

To put that sort of smart, disciplined play into proper perspective, there are teams like the Buccaneers (106), Seahawks (104) and Rams (100) that already are into triple digits when it comes to total penalties. Tampa Bay leads the league with 1,000 penalty yards, while Seattle is close behind at 966.

In truth, through the first 13 games, it’€™s been a good season for New England when it comes to penalties. Through 13 games last season, the Patriots had been hit with 79 penalties for a total of 680 yards. In the same span in 2011 (the first 13 games of the year), the Patriots had 74 penalties and 658 yards. While they won’€™t set the regular-season mark under Bill Belichick for fewest penalties and least penalty yardage — that came in 2008 with 57 penalties and 501 yards — this year’€™s total represents nearly a 20 percent reduction in penalties and penalty yardage from the previous two seasons.

‘€œIt’€™s just about playing smart football,’€ said defensive lineman Rob Ninkovich, who has been flagged for just one penalty this year and two dating back to the start of the 2012 season. ‘€œYou can’€™t win football games and expect to win games by having a lot of penalties. It just comes down to basic fundamentals. If you’€™re a defense, you’€™re trying to do your best to stay onsides and not jump off — that’€™s huge for the D-line. Giving up free five-yard plays every time, that hurts eventually.’€

The only positional grouping for the Patriots that hasn’€™t been flagged over the course of the first 13 games of the season is the running backs. In fact, the last two seasons, the running backs consistently have been one of the lowest-penalized positional groupings on the team. In 2012, they were the least-penalized group with two penalties and five yards, and in 2011 they had one penalty for five yards.

At the other end of the spectrum, the cornerbacks have been hit with 128 yards worth of penalties, including a team-high six for Aqib Talib. That high yardage total is no surprise — with pass interference and defensive holding calls coming into play, cornerbacks are the most likely position to rack up higher penalty yardage. (To that point, this year the Patriots have been hit with six defensive holding penalties — four of them against Talib — and four pass interference calls.)

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Read More: Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, chandler jones, Devin McCourty

Mike Petraglia, Chris Price preview Patriots-Dolphins

12.11.13 at 2:02 pm ET
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Read More: Chris Price, Miami Dolphins, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots

Bill Belichick on the competitive Aqib Talib: ‘He’s not the class clown’

12.11.13 at 12:36 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick loves what Aqib Talib brings to his secondary.

The man-to-man coverage skills. The leadership. The fierce competitiveness. And the personality.

As Belichick reminded everyone Wednesday, the 27-year-old corner has drawn the best opposing receiver dating all the way back to training camp, when he drew Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson and Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson. And with the exception of Steve Smith of the Panthers and last week against Josh Gordon, Talib has more than risen to the occasion.

“He’s very competitive. Even from preseason practices, whether it was jumping in line to cover DeSean Jackson or Vincent Jackson or whoever it is, he always wants to compete against the best and feels like it brings out the best in him. He’s a great competitor, he’s a good teammate, he works hard. I think he’s ready to meet any challenge that we’ve given him, whether it be in the kicking game, defensively, run responsibilities, coverage responsibilities, whatever it happens to be. If it helps the team, he’s willing to do it.”

Talib is often seen in the locker room during media availability joking around with fellow defensive backs such as Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington and Marquice Cole. He was the former housemate of running back LeGarrette Blount, whom he knows from his days in Tampa.

“He’s got good energy. He’s a good teammate. He’s very respected in the locker room and liked in the locker room, which is not always the case. I think he has a good rapport with everybody, the offensive players, defensive players, the DBs and the skill players. The linemen. He just has a good way about him. He’s not the class clown but at the same time he has a good personality and he’s serious and competitive. He’s got a nice mixture of all of those things. He kind of goes well in a lot of different settings.”

Steve Gregory is another defensive back who has seen – up close – what Talib brings to the table, on and off the field.

“He brings a lot of confidence to the group. He definitely brings some swagger,” Gregory said. “He’s a fun guy to be around, a good teammate, studies hard, puts in the preparation just as hard as anybody else on this team. He’s a great guy to be around and a guy that we’re glad that’s on our team.

“He definitely brings a good amount of energy to the game, not only on Sundays but every day in practice and in the meeting rooms and things like that. He brings that and it definitely spreads amongst the other guys.”

Read More: Aqib Talib, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, nfl

Patriots practice Wednesday: Nate Solder, Aaron Dobson absent, Marcus Cannon returns

12.11.13 at 11:11 am ET
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FOXBORO — Starting left tackle Nate Solder and wide receiver Aaron Dobson were the only absentees Wednesday as the Patriots began on-field preparations for the Miami Dolphins Sunday in South Florida.

With temperatures below freezing outside, the team worked out in sweats and shells indoors at the Dana Farber Field House to prepare for much warmer conditions Sunday. Sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-80s are expected for kickoff at Sun Life Stadium.

Solder played all 83 snaps in Sunday’s win over the Browns while Dobson missed his second straight game with a injured left foot, a foot that remained in a walking boot on Sunday as he watched the game from the press box.

Right tackle Marcus Cannon – returned to practice after missing the last two games with an ankle injury.

Read More: Marcus Cannon, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, nfl

In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

12.10.13 at 4:31 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the regular season, we’€™ll present a list of the Patriots’€™ ‘€œoffensive 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. Thirteen games into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2013:

RB Stevan Ridley: 153 (143 rushes, 10 catches), 13 negative rushes, 1 negative reception, 4 fumbles lost
RB LeGarrette Blount: 103 (102 rushes, 1 catches), 8 negative runs, 2 fumbles lost
WR Julian Edelman: 78 (2 rushes, 76 catches), 6 dropped passes
RB Shane Vereen: 78 (38 rushes, 40 catches), 2 negative runs, 6 dropped passes
RB Brandon Bolden: 73 (54 rushes, 19 catches), 4 negative runs, 1 negative reception
WR Danny Amendola: 42 (1 rush, 41 catches), 1 negative reception
TE Rob Gronkowski: 39 (0 rushes, 39 catches)
WR Aaron Dobson: 35 (0 rushes, 35 catches), 1 negative reception, 7 dropped passes
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 32 (0 rushes, 32 catches), 7 dropped passes
QB Tom Brady: 27 (27 rushes, 0 catches), 35 sacks, 16 kneeldowns, 3 fumbles lost
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 10 (0 rushes, 10 catches)
FB James Develin: 6 (2 rushes, 4 catches)
WR Josh Boyce: 5 (0 rushes, 5 catches)
WR Austin Collie: 4 (0 rushes, 4 catches)
TE Matthew Mulligan: 2 (0 rushes, 2 catches)
RB Leon Washington: 1 (1 rush, 0 catches)

Some offensive notes: The Patriots ran 77 plays on Sunday against the Browns and 37 of them were in shotgun, a rate of 48 percent. To this point in the season, the Patriots have been in shotgun formation on 395 of their 930 offensive snaps, a rate of 42 percent. (Last year through 13 games, the Patriots were in the shotgun for 459 for 995 of their plays, a rate of 46 percent.) ‘€¦ Against the Browns, the Patriots were in no-huddle for 4 of their 77 snaps, a rate of 5 percent. On the year, the Patriots have operated in a no-huddle on 115 of their 930 plays from scrimmage ‘€” 12 percent of the time. ‘€¦ New England has run 930 offensive plays this year in 13 games. Not counting kneeldowns, 68 have been for negative yardage. Of the 77 plays against the Browns, five went for negative yardage ‘€” four sacks of Brady and one negative run from Ridley.

By way of comparison, here’s a look at the the offensive breakdown through the first 13 games of 2012.

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Josh McDaniels: With or without Rob Gronkowski, our approach remains same

12.10.13 at 4:05 pm ET
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Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels acknowledged Tuesday the New England offense has some experience when it comes to playing without Rob Gronkowski — the big tight end has missed most of 13 games over the last year-plus — and the group will have to rely on that background going forward.

“Any time you lose a player like that — or you can’€™t use a player like that — you need to put your time into a few different things, and other people have to play different roles,” McDaniels said of Gronkowski, who will now be out for the rest of the 2013 season because of a knee injury. “You play offense a little differently, and we do have experience doing that.

“We did it at the beginning of this year for a significant number of weeks, we did it in the offseason, we did it last year during the course of the season as well, so we’€™ve experienced this before. I think for that reason, we kind of have an idea of exactly what we need to use and how to kind of formulate our game plan to max out our strengths and try to make up for the loss of a very unique player.”

As was the case when the Patriots lost Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo on the defensive side of the ball, McDaniels said that the job of trying to replace Gronkowski won’t fall solely to one individual.

“I think the thing that we rely on the most from one week to the next has always been trying to figure out what part of our offensive system to use to maximize the strengths of the players that we have available for us that week against the strengths of the opponent that we’€™re playing that week as well,” McDaniels said. “For us, the formula’€™s not going to change.”

At various points of the 2013 season, the New England offense has had to make do without Danny Amendola, Shane Vereen, Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon, and in each case, the group has had to adjust accordingly. While making a point to say that Gronkowski is an undeniable talent, McDaniels said Tuesday the overriding philosophy will be the same.

“We have the players that we have, we love the guys that we have to play offense with — we’€™re just missing one of them that’€™s certainly a very good player,” McDaniels said. “So we go to work, and we figure out exactly what the right formula for us is this week to try to win the game against the Dolphins, and then we’€™ll worry about next week next week.”
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Read More: Josh McDaniels, Rob Gronkowski,



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