|09.12.11 at 5:56 pm ET|
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Patriots have arrived in South Florida, and are ready to roll for their Monday Night matchup with the Dolphins at Sun-Life Stadium. Here are a few quick notes to get you started:
‘¢The Patriots have already made a personnel announcement, saying that offensive tackle Thomas Welch has been promoted from the practice squad, while linebacker Jeff Tarpinian has been waived. The move addresses the depth problems New England had entering the game — with no Sebastian Vollmer, the Patriots were with just two healthy tackles entering the contest in Matt Light and Nate Solder. Tarpinian’s future is unclear — he could return to the team, possibly on injured reserve (he had injury problems over the course of camp and saw the field only rarely).
‘¢The following players were listed as inactive for the game — linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, quarterback Ryan Mallett, wide receiver Taylor Price, linebacker Brandon Spikes, running back Shane Vereen, tackle Sebastian Vollmer and guard Ryan Wendell. No surprise on four of them, as they were downgraded to out on Sunday night (Price, Cunningham, Vollmer and Wendell), a group that included Tarpinian. Meanwhile, it’s clear that Spikes is continuing to work his way back to health, while Vereen hasn’t played much at all over the course of the preseason (he’s been slowed by a hamstring) while Mallett is a personnel move.
‘¢The Patriots will be going for their eighth consecutive win in regular-season openers Monday against the Dolphins — the last time New England lost a regular-season opener was 2003 against the Bills in Buffalo, where they suffered a 31-0 defeat. Things certainly set up very well for them from a statistical standpoint, as Miami was just 1-7 at home last season, which included a 41-14 New England win last October.
‘¢Here are some matchups to keep an eye on this evening, including Patriots quarterback Tom Brady against the Miami defense. Brady has struggled occasionally over the course of his career in Miami, but in his last three games against the Dolphins on South Beach, he has nine touchdowns, two interceptions and a 138.8 quarterback rating.
|09.12.11 at 3:02 pm ET|
The Patriots open their season Monday night against the Dolphins, but if you cannot wait until Monday Night Football to get your Patriots fill, check out WEEI.com’s extensive coverage on all things Patriots.
Mike Petraglia wrote about Devin McCourty‘s new status as a captain and provided interesting facts about Monday night’s matchup. Petraglia also has the story on why Deion Branch is so confident in the Patriots passing game despite not catching a single pass in the preseason.
Gary Marbry has his weekly preview full of Patriots-Dolphins nuggets.
Boomer Esiason called in to the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning and said he believes the Patriots “are a better team than the New York Jets right now.”
Joe Andruzzi also joined Dennis & Callahan Monday to share his thoughts on 9/11 remembrances.
Jesse Agler from The Finsiders provided a Dolphins perspective on the Patriots-Dolphins matchup on the Mut & Merloni show Monday.
|09.12.11 at 1:11 pm ET|
The Patriots take the field tonight in Miami Gardens as a team bound and determined to learn from the last two seasons that ended prematurely in postseason losses on their home turf to the Ravens and Jets, respectively.
McCourty, in his second season, provided leadership in his rookie season out of Rutgers simply by the way he played.
He became just the fourth player in Patriots history to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie, joining Mike Haynes (1976), John Stephens (1988) and Curtis Martin (1995).
His seven interceptions in 2010 fell just one shy of Haynes’ Patriots rookie team record. One of McCourty’s seven picks came against a quarterback he’ll be facing at Sun Life Stadium tonight – Chad Henne.
Some other morsels to chew on in advance of tonight’s game:
* Tom Brady is 12-6 career vs. the Dolphins, with five of the six losses coming in the same stadium he’ll be playing in this evening. His only loss at home to the Dolphins came on Jan. 1, 2006, when he played just the first quarter. Brady is 4-5 all-time in South Florida, including the only shutout loss of his career, 21-0, on Dec. 10, 2006 – also a Monday night. Read the rest of this entry »
|09.12.11 at 11:43 am ET|
CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning, as the Patriots prepare to open the season against the Dolphins.
“I think Plaxico Burress, I don’t think he really truly understands what’s going on in the world,” Esiason said. “The fact that he didn’t know who Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg was, the fact that in this Men’s Journal article he was blaming Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning for a thing that he did to himself, and the fact that he can’t comprehend what he did was illegal leads me to believe that he’s a space cadet.
“I know that Ochocinco is somewhat the same way, but Ochocinco doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. I think he just enjoys the whole artistry of who he is and the recreation of this alter ego of his. I don’t think he’s a mean-spirited guy. I think Plaxico Burress can be a mean-spirited guy.”
Esiason also offered his prediction for the Patriots’ opener.
“I think that it should be a one-sided game in favor of the Patriots,” Esaison said. “But it is the Dolphins and it is the Patriots, it’s opening weekend and you never know what you’re going to get.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
On what makes the Patriots a great team: “Tom Brady is the difference. If you take a look at teams I picked yesterday for the Super Bowl, Green Bay and New England, you have to play with the best players and the best quarterbacks. We have seen through the most part in this first weekend of the NFL season that quarterbacks who have their coordinators and their head coaches together and have been together for quite sometime are all going to be successful. The other teams are going to struggle at some point. Even though a couple of those teams had pretty good days yesterday, I don’t think they can sustain that through a 16-game season like the Patriots and the New York Jets. But to me, the New England Patriots are a better team than the New York Jets right now.”
|09.12.11 at 9:10 am ET|
It’s football season and I hope you enjoy these weekly previews as much as I look forward to bringing them to you. Obviously, there are serious drawbacks to using 2010 stats at this point considering the massive personnel turnover experienced by every team in the league. But until the teams generate some stats for 2011, “it is what it is”.
For those of you that are new to these previews, when I refer to passing rating, I’m not talking about the NFL’s official (and convoluted) system. My rating takes average net yards per pass attempt (net yards equals passing yards minus sack yards lost) minus the league average net yards per attempt (for that particular situation). Then it adds 30 times the touchdown percentage and subtracts 50 times the interception percentage. If you think about it, throwing 20 touchdowns and 12 picks (1.67 TD/INT ratio) will cancel out that adjustment.
Enough with the mumbo jumbo. Go Pats!:
* – Monday Night Magic: There have been 24 kickoff returns for touchdowns in the history of Monday Night Football, starting with Cleveland’s Homer Jones against the Jets in 1970. Of those 24, the Dolphins have allowed four of them. Only three other teams have allowed even two on Monday nights: Rams (3), Redskins (2), and Steelers (2). In their history, Miami has allowed eight kickoff return touchdowns on days other than Monday in 2,339 attempts (1-in-292 on average). On Mondays, four out of 281 (1-in-70).
* – 4th Quarter Defense: The Dolphins allowed only seven touchdowns in the 4th quarter last season, tied for third fewest in the league:
6 – Titans
6 – Bears
7 – Dolphins
7 – Packers
7 – Redskins
On a related note: Miami and Seattle were the only two defenses that did not allow a passing touchdown in the 4th quarter of a close game last season (score within seven points either way). Seattle only defended 21 attempts (two games were close in the 4th quarter). But 12 of Miami’s 16 games were close in the 4th quarter and opponents tried 83 such passes.
* – Mr. Catchable: New England’s Tom Brady was last season’s most accurate passer as 73.0% of his throws were considered “catchable”:
73.0% – Patriots
72.9% – Saints
72.9% – Colts
70.2% – Packers
However, Patriots’ receivers joined the Panthers and Cardinals as the only three receiving corps that dropped more than 10% of catchable balls last year.
* – Location, Location, Location: Last year, the Patriots average drive started at their 32.1-yard-line while their opponents set up shop on average at their 28.2. Therefore, the Patriots enjoyed a net field position of +3.9 yards, third best in the league. Over the last half of the season, their average net field position was +6.9 yards. The Dolphins, meanwhile, had a net field position of -2.3 yards, ranked 24th. This was mainly due to their poor average offensive starting spot (28.6-yard-line, ranked 28th).
* – Marching Down the Field: After leading the NFL in 2008 and ranking second in 2009, the Patriots offense ranked sixth in 2010 with 29 drives of 10 or more plays. However, they cashed those drives in at a high level, averaging 4.45 points per long drive, third best in the league:
4.65 – Colts
4.53 – Falcons
4.45 – Patriots
This is quite an improvement after averaging 3.71 in 2008 and 3.46 in 2009. New England’s defense was very poor in this regard, allowing 33 drives of 10+ plays (only Tennessee, with 35, allowed more) and gave up an average of 3.94 points on those opponent drives, ranked 26th. Read the rest of this entry »
|09.10.11 at 11:35 pm ET|
So, when asked this week whether he’s concerned about not having caught a single pass in the four preseason games, Branch said if the quarterback’s not worried, he’s not going to waste time fretting either.
“Trust me, I’m not worried and Tom’s not worried,” Branch said. “As long as Tom’s not worried, I’m not worried.”
Pats coach Bill Belichick also sounds like a man not overly concerned by the goose egg in the catches column so far for Branch.
“I think the most important thing for us offensively is just to play well and score points,” Belichick said. “Individual statistics and all that are not really my focus. Sometimes they’re going to go to one player and sometimes they’re going to go to another player. We always come in here on Monday and talk about the player who didn’t have the most statistics, what happened to him. The most important thing is how the team performs, whether we get the ball in the end zone and score points. That’s what our goal is offensively ‘ it’s not individual statistics.”
What did Belichick think of Branch’s preseason?
“Good. I thought he was in good condition, [he] was out there every day, practiced well, gave great leadership to the position. You love having Deion Branch on your team.”
Brady is someone else not really paying attention to the numbers – or lack of them – in the last two preseason games. Right now, all of the focus is on being ready for Monday night in Miami.
“Yeah, and I think all of the preparations over the last couple weeks have been for this night, so we’ve been working hard to get ready for opening night ‘ for obviously this week of practice,” Brady said. “So, look, if things don’t go well in the preseason, you correct them. If things don’t go well in the regular season, you correct them.
“You’re always trying to see the things you did wrong so you can correct those things and improve on them, and then hopefully they get better over the course of the year. We’re working on getting them better. You wish you had every single problem solved in week one, but I think that’s the goal [and] how realistic it is, we’ll see when we take the field. I’m excited to see where we’re at. You’re basing it against some pretty tough competition. We have a great test on Monday.”
|09.10.11 at 4:38 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Sebastian Vollmer was again a no-show at practice on Saturday and is listed as questionable for Monday night’s season opener in Miami with a bad back.
The bigger question is: If Vollmer is unable to go, who might take his spot at right tackle?
Light hasn’t played there since 2001, when Bill Belichick came to the conclusion that Light is “just a left tackle,” a very good left tackle but just a left tackle.
Solder played some right tackle in the preseason, showing promise in the first game against the Jaguars.
“I don’t know exactly what’s going to go on with that,” Solder said on Friday when asked. “I’m going to play wherever I need to be played. People think that it’s not a big deal but sometimes it is difficult to do that. When you’re playing on the left, you’re going to be working with your inside hand, so a lot of things just flip.
“A lot of things carry over from college but I’m learning so much every day. It’s been a learning process. A lot of the elements stay the same though and some things carry over, which is good.”
Asked earlier in the week, Belichick seemed OK with the thought of putting Solder at right tackle, if needed during an NFL regular season game.
“I think Nate is a pretty versatile guy,” Belichick said. “[He] seems very flexible ‘ athletically, his footwork and so forth. He seems to be very comfortable wherever we put him.”
Belichick confirmed what Solder said about the footwork aspect being the biggest challenge of making any transition along the O-Line.
“Different techniques, yes,” Belichick said. “Playing from inside-out and keeping your weight on your inside foot in pass protection or reach blocking, working with different people ‘ the right guard instead of the left guard. Tight ends are tight ends; they flip sides, but working with different guys next to you in games and blocking combinations, things like that [are some of the challenges.]”
There is one wild-card that could emerge and his name is Logan Mankins. The newly-renewed veteran played some right tackle when he played at Fresno State and it’s widely assumed, given his experience, he could make the transition over to the right side.
The last possibility is signing one of three offensive linemen off the practice squad but that would also require releasing someone off the 53-man roster.