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Pressure Points: Which Patriots defenders did the best job of getting to the quarterback in the preseason?

09.03.13 at 8:30 am ET
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In the 2013 preseason, the Patriots had 20 quarterback hits and 13 sacks as a team. Based on gamebooks, here’€™s a quick look at some pass-rush numbers for the Patriots from the recently concluded preseason:

Quarterback hits
Michael Buchanan 3
Chandler Jones 3
Dane Fletcher 2
Brandon Spikes 2
Rob Ninkovch 2
Marcus Benard 2
Justin Francis 1
Joe Vellano 1
Tommy Kelly 1
Marcus Forston 1
Jeff Tarpinian 1
Scott Vallone 1

Buchanan 2.5 (11.5 yards)
Benard 2 (17 yards)
Spikes 2 (11 yards)
Kelly 1.5 (9.5 yards)
Ninkovich 1.5 (9.5 yards)
Vallone 1 (9 yards)
Vellano 1 (7 yards)
Jones 1 (4 yards)
Tarpinian 0.5 (3.5 yards)

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Tracking opportunities in Patriots preseason passing game

09.03.13 at 7:45 am ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat ‘€” a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback ‘€” it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. Here’€™s a look at the target breakdown for the New England passing game through the 2013 preseason:

WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 15 catches on 25 targets
WR Aaron Dobson: 11 catches on 29 targets
WR Julian Edelman: 10 catches on 12 targets
TE Zach Sudfeld: 8 catches on 11 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 7 catches on 11 targets
WR Danny Amendola: 7 catches on 8 targets
WR Josh Boyce: 7 catches on 12 targets
TE Daniel Fells: 5 catches on 5 targets
WR Quentin Sims: 4 catches on 6 targets
RB Leon Washington: 3 catches on 5 targets
FB James Develin: 3 catches on 4 targets
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 2 catches on 5 targets
RB Brandon Bolden: 2 catches on 4 targets
WR Kamar Aiken: 2 catches on 3 targets
RB LeGarrette Blount: 1 catch on 3 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: 0 catches on 1 target
TE Evan Landi: 0 catches on 1 target
WR Johnathan Haggerty: 0 catches on 2 targets
TE Jake Ballard: 0 catches on 2 targets

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Patriots reportedly expected to add TE Matt Mulligan

09.03.13 at 12:31 am ET
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The Patriots are expected to sign free agent tight end Matt Mulligan after working him out on Monday, according to several reports. His addition would get the active roster back to 53 after Tuesday’s release of fullback James Develin.

The 6-foot-4, 257-pounder out of Maine played with the Jets from 2009 through 2011, and spent last season with the Rams. He was one of the final cuts in Green Bay over the weekend. Known more for his blocking skills, his best year came in 2012 with St. Louis, when he played in all 16 games (with nine starts) and came away with eight catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.

In all, the native of Bangor has registered 14 catches, 144 receiving yards, and a touchdown in five seasons in the NFL.

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Patriots release fullback James Develin

09.02.13 at 5:20 pm ET
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The Patriots released fullback James Develin on Monday.

Develin, 25, spent the majority of the 2012 season on the New England practice squad and four weeks on the 53-man roster, seeing action in one game vs. San Francisco on Dec. 16.

The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder originally joined the Cincinnati practice squad for the final five games of the 2010 season after playing for the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League. A former college defensive end at Brown University, Develin spent the entire 2011 season with Cincinnati on the practice squad and signed with New England’€™s practice squad on Sept. 1, 2012 after being released by the Bengals.

The active roster now stands at 52.

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Bills WR Stevie Johnson on Patriots: ‘I don’t think they have anybody to stop me’

09.02.13 at 3:09 pm ET
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Buffalo wide receiver Stevie Johnson kicked off the regular season with a bang Monday, telling reporters he doesn’t “think [the Patriots] have anybody to stop me.”

Johnson was asked why he feels the Bills can compete with New England, which has won nine of the last 10 AFC East titles.

“Because I’m here,” he said. “I don’t think they have anybody to stop me. For real. I think we have guys in the receiver room that are as good as I am, if not better. I just have that confidence in my teammates and in myself.”

At the same time, Johnson was deferential to several players in the Patriots secondary

“[He’s] long, athletic, tries to play with vision,” Johnson said of Aqib Talib. “I have a lot of respect for [Patrick] Chung. [Devin] McCourty: he’s a Pro Bowl player.”

While it’s worth noting that Chung is no longer a part of the Patriots — he signed with the Eagles in the offseason — Johnson continued.

“I give a lot of credit to the Patriots. They play as one unit. … They’re aggressive. It’s going to be a test. It’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “But I still still think we can take advantage of their defense. … I’ll still ride with my boys over their guys.”

The Patriots and Bills face each other in the regular-season opener for both teams Sunday in Buffalo.

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Bill Belichick: Cutting Tim Tebow ‘was the best decision to make for the team’

09.02.13 at 2:34 pm ET
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FOXBORO — For the first time since making the decision to cut Tim Tebow from the roster, Bill Belichick spoke Monday about the decision to keep just two quarterbacks on the roster.

Belichick was asked directly why the team decided to release Tebow and keep Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett.

“Because we thought it was the best decision to make for the team,” Belichick said in his Monday press conference. “There are a million things that go into every decision, personnel decision. There are a lot of things that play off one another. In the end, we did what we thought was best for the team, at every position, every one.”

The move means the Patriots will have just two active QBs on the roster for the second straight season. The last time they played with three was 2011 when Brady, Mallett and Brian Hoyer were all on the roster.

As to whether the door is finally closed for Tebow, Belichick wouldn’t rule anything out.

“I don’€™t know what’€™s going to happen during the year,” Belichick said. “Certainly we’€™ve had a lot of players that have left here and come back here. I don’€™t think that would be anything ‘€“ that’€™s already happened multiple times this year.”

It certainly figures to be much less likely with Tebow, who cleared waivers and is a free agent. Tebow was just 11-of-30 for 145 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Quentin Sims in the preseason finale.

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Patriots confirm addition of WR Quentin Sims to practice squad

09.02.13 at 2:12 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots confirmed Monday afternoon the signing of rookie WR Quentin Sims to the practice squad. Sims joined the Patriots as a rookie free agent on July 19 and was released by the team on Aug. 31. The move was first reported by Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald on Sunday evening.

Sims, 23, played two seasons at Georgia Tech (2009-10) before transferring to Tennessee-Martin in 2011. The 6-foot-3, 202-pounder had 86 receptions for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.

Sims had four catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns in four preseason games. He caught a pair of TDs from Tim Tebow in the preseason finale against the Giants last Thursday, including a 52-yard grab on an in-cut route in the fourth quarter.

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