|08.14.12 at 8:00 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The middle of the Patriots defense was quiet last week without its most vocal and physical influence.
Brandon Spikes has returned with a vengeance this week after missing four practices and the preseason opener at Gillette against the Saints. He has been making deflections, picking off passes, calling out signals with Jerod Mayo and sniffing out running plays.
The Patriots got a glimpse of just how big a presence he could be in 2011. After 47 tackles in eight regular season games, Spikes took it to a new level in the postseason, registering 26 tackles and a sack in three playoff games, including an 11-tackle performance in Super Bowl XLVI.
He had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and last week may have just been precautionary management to make sure he maintains his aggressive style, a style he said Tuesday will continue this week and this season.
Will his comfort level in Bill Belichick‘s defense mean he’s ready to take his aggressiveness on the ball to a new level?
‘Absolutely. That’s my nature. Be aggressive, be a shark ‘ it’s shark week so you know, of course [laughs],” he said.
If Spikes can stay on the field, it will open up Mayo to be more of a roving linebacker, allowing him to cover backs and tight ends out of the backfield and call signals.
‘I think we’re doing a great job,” Spikes said Tuesday of the communication going on right now. “A lot of young guys are coming in, making plays; they’re high energy guys, flying around [and] that’s great. They’re catching on to the defense and it’s good, we can just build from there. So I think we’re having a good camp defensively.
‘I feel like over time and over the years, I feel like I’m getting better; learning the differences of the defense, where I’m supposed to be and where the next guy is. Being the middle linebacker I’ve got to kind of direct guys and it’s coming a lot easier this year, so hopefully I can just keep getting better.
|08.14.12 at 9:51 am ET|
FOXBORO — For those who have closely watched Chandler Jones at Syracuse and watched in him camp with the Patriots from the OTAs to minicamp to know, there’s one current NFL player that comes to mind — Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants.
The 23-year-old right defensive end out of South Florida played a key role in the Giants “NASCAR” front that steamrolled opponents in the playoffs last year, on the way to a second Super Bowl win over the Patriots in five seasons.
The similarities are there: Jones is only 22. He is the same height (6-foot-5) and 15 pounds lighter. And both are known for their speed rush off the right end and their ability to get to the quarterback and their length to tip balls at the line of scrimmage.
But Jones made an attempt after practice Monday to put the brakes on any further comparisons.
“Jason Pierre-Paul is a great player,” Jones said. “And I’m a different player from him. I’m not going to sit here and compare us two. But he’s a great player and I respect his game. I have no comment on the comparison.”
Can Jones, as a rookie, be the same kind of disruptive force Pierre-Paul has been in two NFL seasons for the Giants? In two NFL seasons, JPP as he is so known, has 111 tackles, 21 sacks and four forced fumbles. Impressive numbers and numbers the Patriots would surely take in their defensive scheme.
“I come out and work my craft and I work on my moves, if it’s speed or power, I take what the offensive line gives me,” Jones said. “Whatever they give me, I take.”
|08.13.12 at 9:35 pm ET|
FOXBORO ‘ It was another hot day Monday on the practice fields outside Gillette Stadium, ideal for training camp conditioning. Bill Belichick, linebackers coach Pepper Johnson, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and special teams coach Scott O’Brien all took their opportunity to scream words of encouragement during the practice that lasted over two hours.
With Monday’s reported waiving of Dane Fletcher and Britt Davis, the active roster stands at 88 players.
Among the remaining players, 12 were not seen on Monday, and they include fullback Eric Kettani, safety Malcolm Williams, safety James Ihedigbo, fullback Spencer Larsen, linebacker Tracy White, offensive lineman Matt Kopa, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, tight ends Daniel Fells and Jake Ballard, and defensive linemen Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren and Jonathan Fanene.
The bigger news came with the roll call of players in shorts, including Rob Gronkowski for a second straight day. Joining Gronk were tight end Aaron Hernandez, receiver Brandon Lloyd, defensive back Alfonzo Dennard, offensive tackle Markus Zusevics, and offensive linemen Kyle Hix and Sebastian Vollmer.
Here are nine other things we learned from camp on Monday.
MANKINS MAKES STRIDES
Logan Mankins was in shorts and shells again on Monday, and again he was sporting a big black brace on his right knee. While only going through moderate drills on Sunday evening, Mankins joined in with the first team offensive line at left guard and began taking snaps with Tom Brady. Mankins lined up between left tackle Nate Solder and center Dan Koppen, who returned to the first unit rotation. Mankins was given time to recuperate in the middle of practice as the offensive line was going through intense 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills. If all goes well, Mankins is expected to be in full pads on Tuesday for the first time since being taken off PUP on Sunday.
ALL ABOUT TEMPO
After admitting that his offense ‘has a long ways to go’ on Sunday following a 10-punt, two turnover performance in the preseason opener, Bill Belichick had the offensive pick up the pace on Sunday during 11-on-11 drills. Tom Brady opened up in the hurry-up offense, going 3-for-4 with a TD toss to Deion Branch. Included in the hurry-up were six running plays from Stevan Ridley for a total of 10 snaps. Brady would’ve been perfect except for a drop from Julian Edelman. Ryan Mallett was not as effective as he was just 2-for-4 with four runs from Shane Vereen. Brady returned for the conventional huddle in 11-on-11 situational football, going 3-for-4, with the highlight coming on a fantastic over the shoulder grab from Alex Silvestro, getting more time with both Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski sitting out Monday’s practice.
SOMETHING YOU DON’T OFTEN SEE
During a second round of 11-on-11 drills, Brady came on and actually quarterbacked the scout team against the first-team defense. Moments later, with Brian Hoyer calling signals, he and Ridley fumbled an exchange and both had to run a lap from goal post to goal post.
Rookie Chandler Jones continues to impress, as he tipped a pair of passes, including one by Tom Brady during 11-on-11 snaps. Jones also narrowly missed blocking a field goal by Chris Koepplin at the end of practice, an attempt that was blocked by an interior lineman. Also getting his hand up was Vince Wilfork during a red area 11-on-11 set run by Brian Hoyer. Jermaine Cunningham came over and gave Wilfork an enthusiastic congratulatory slap for his efforts. Read the rest of this entry »
|08.13.12 at 5:28 pm ET|
Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork appeared on the The Big Show on Monday afternoon to talk about how he feels heading into training camp and the state of the team going forward.
Wilfork is now 30 years old and has played his entire nine-year career with the Patriots. Given that, he assumes a veteran role on the team and embraces it.
“I don’t care if we draft all defensive lineman,” Wilfork said. “My job is to get these guys ready to play on Sundays with me and earn that trust level from one another. I think the more you do that, the better you play as a defense, not just as an individual. We need that. These guys have been doing a real good job. I can’t complain. They’ve been doing everything we’ve asked them to do.”
He later added: “When people see Tom Brady, when people see [Wes] Welker, [Rob] Gronkowski, Jerrod Mayo or whoever it may be in their books writing down notes in meetings. When people see that, that makes a bigger impact than talking. … It makes it easier for young guys to say, ‘You know what, I need to get on the ball. I need to up my game. I need up my level of play in the classroom and on the field.’ I’m truly a believer now that you don’t have to say much. I think you can lead by example and I think we have a lot of guys who do that around here.”
When asked about how he was feeling personally, there was nothing but positive response from the defensive tackle.
“I feel awesome,” he said. ” … Once you get on [the field] it doesn’t feel like camp and that’s a positive. I don’t know if it is the time or the rest or the way we practice, but I think we’re getting a lot of stuff done on and off the field to be successful as a football team. Me personally, I feel great. My health is great. I feel like I’m in good shape. I’m just looking forward to getting this thing rolling.”
|08.13.12 at 12:02 pm ET|
Patriots receiver Deion Branch joined Mut & Merloni Monday morning to discuss training camp, the crowded Patriots wide receiving corps and his conversation with former teammate Chad Johnson. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Starting next Monday the Pats have three games in 10 days, so this week of practice ‘is probably our most important week,’ Branch said. ‘All the stuff we’ve been implementing on offense, defense and special teams we have to put it all together right now.’
At 33 years old, the 11-year veteran has sat out a number of practices during training camp but said there are no serious injuries and he’s feeling well.
‘Everything is fine. You know, I think the most important thing in my job is to come in and do everything the coaches ask of me, and that’s what I’m doing,’ Branch said. “And that goes for everybody down the roster. If you come in and coach says to you, ‘Take the day off, do half a day,’ that’s what we have to do. So, there’s no complaints. I’m always in the meeting room, I’m always paying attention to what’s going on on the football field, and I’m always trying to get a little work in on the side as well, but if coach [Bill] Belichick says to chill, then that’s what I have to do.’
With a receiving corps so deep and full of players familiar with the offense, Branch said training camp has been great but a bit crowded.
Given the depth at receiver, Branch laughed when asked whether he’s been in touch with Troy Brown about learning to play defensive back. ‘If coach Belichick wants me to do that, then that’s what I’ll do,’ Branch said. ‘It’s not hard for them to go see that film from high school and college when I played defensive back.’
|08.13.12 at 9:10 am ET|
FOXBORO — After watching his offensive line have moments of disarray in attempting to protect Tom Brady Thursday night, it must have made Bill Belichick smile when the training staff cleared Logan Mankins for practice Sunday morning.
The four-time Pro Bowl left guard was cleared to rejoin the team on the field and taken off the physically unable to perform list, meaning he will be eligible to start the season, that is if his surgically repaired right knee allows. Mankins will be in shells again on Monday and then, if he feels ready, Mankins will get in full pads on Tuesday and see how the knee responds.
“It’s the same rule for everybody, so two days of shells and then pads,” Belichick said.
All of this is fairly impressive considering he played with a torn ACL in Super Bowl XLVI in the first weekend of February.
“He’s worked hard,” Belichick said. “Nobody has worked harder than Logan. He comes in early, stays late, works hard. We know he’s a really tough, dependable guy and he’s put a lot into it. He’s worked as hard as anybody can.”
Mankins also played the Super Bowl with a sore left knee, an injury suffered when he played left tackle for the first time in his career on Christmas Eve in a win over the Dolphins.
|08.12.12 at 12:29 pm ET|
It was reported on Sunday the Patriots will have wide receiver Plaxico Burress visit Foxboro for a workout. If he passes the test, tell us what you think New England should do.