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Thoughts on Dominique Easley, Steve Maneri and Garrett Gilbert

12.17.14 at 4:01 pm ET
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Dominique Easley

Dominique Easley

1. Even before the start of the season, it was fairly evident that the Patriots 2014 rookie class was going to face an uphill battle for playing time. Entering camp, the roster was clearly pretty well stocked with entrenched veterans, and when midseason acquisitions like LeGarrette Blount, Alan Branch, Jonathan Casillas and Akeem Ayers showed up, it pushed several of the ones who initially made the cut at the start of the season even further down the depth chart. That’s why, from this viewpoint, the decision to place first-round pick Dominique Easley on season-ending injured reserve isn’t a colossal issue. You never want to lose out on the services of any of your top picks for the season, but because the Patriots have good depth up front with the postseason looming (Branch, Ayers, Vince Wilfork, Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, etc. etc.), it doesn’t represent a seismic loss for the franchise at this point in the year. Easley was on and off the field throughout the spring and into the summer, and saw limited playing time throughout the year because of the knee issues. When he was healthy, he certainly showed the sort of disruptive skill set that the Patriots crave at the defensive line position. Going forward, once whatever knee procedures that need to take place have occurred, it’s on him to take a postgraduate year at Vince Wilfork University. He should keep your eyes open and his mouth shut, follow Wilfork around and learn what it takes to succeed in the NFL. Then, come back in the spring ready to go for 2015.

2. The addition of Steve Maneri to the active roster — taking the place of Easley — is interesting on a couple of levels. First off, Maneri has a background as both a tackle and tight end, and could figure prominently in those heavy sets the Patriots have run so effectively with Cameron Fleming over the course of the year. His versatility and skill set suggest he might be better suited to the job that some of the other options the Patriots have, at least right now with Fleming on the sideline. And second, this could tell us something about the overall state of Fleming’s health. The rookie out of Stanford has been missing since Week 12 because of what the team is calling an ankle injury, and the addition of Maneri could be a sign that the team feels it’s the sort of injury that could have the 6-foot-6, 325-pounder on the shelf for an extended stretch. (It could also be seen as a roundabout sort of challenge to fellow tight end Michael Hoomanawanui.) Ultimately, Maneri is a familiar face who presumably won’t need a lot of time to get up to speed, so if you’re a Patriots fan, that’s a good thing if he’s pressed into service in rapid fashion.

3. And last — but not least — the Patriots went and added another quarterback to the mix in Garrett Gilbert, who landed on the practice squad. The 6-foot-4, 221-pounder out of SMU was on the Rams practice squad — he was a sixth-round pick of St. Louis this past spring — before being cut loose in October. Gilbert had an up-and-down college career — after being recruited to Texas, he struggled in his three years with the Longhorns, playing 24 games and throwing 13 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and completing just 50.9 percent of his passes. Things picked up for him after transferring to SMU, and he posted career-best numbers across the board last year with the Mustangs, throwing for 3,528 yards and 21 touchdowns to go with seven interceptions and an impressive 66.5 percent completion rate. It had been known that the Patriots were in the market for a third quarterback — they were interested in Chicago rookie David Fales before he was promoted to the active roster. However, at this point, Gilbert projects to be a practice squad/scout teamer who could be in the mix as a camp arm in the spring. Here’s some video of his college work while at SMU:

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Darrelle Revis: ‘Kind of sad’ to see what’s happening to old coach Rex Ryan this year

12.17.14 at 2:53 pm ET
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Darrelle Revis sounded downbeat when talking about his old coach Rex Ryan on Wednesday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Darrelle Revis sounded downbeat when talking about his old coach Rex Ryan on Wednesday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Darrelle Revis said Wednesday it was “kind of sad” when it came to his former coach Rex Ryan and what he’s been going through this season in New York.

Revis, who played with the Jets from 2007 to 2012, was asked on a conference call Wednesday if he was shocked that the Jets were 3-11.

“I don’€™t know. I don’€™t know. Like I said, they have a lot on their plate over there in that situation this year,” he said. “It’€™s kind of sad for the position that Rex is in right now. But at the same time [the record is] something that they’€™ve got to change.

“Me and Rex have a lot of history, and we all know that,” he added. “Some of those guys are dear to my heart and everything, but like I said, I’€™ve got to focus on the things that I am doing here and I wish Rex the best.”

Revis, who played under Ryan from 2009 through 2012 with New York, said it’s a different experience playing on the other side of the rivalry.

“It’€™s two different schemes,” he explained. “Rex is more aggressive with his approach and up here it’€™s a mixture of man coverage and zone too. So it’€™s just two different systems that I’€™ve played with two different cultures that have two different styles of defenses.”

Revis was asked several times by the New York media about possibly returning to the Jets — or reuniting with Ryan — next year, but he wouldn’t comment on the possibility.

“Right now, my focus is playing against the Jets,” he said. “I’€™m not really thinking about the offseason right now. I’€™m thinking about focusing on the next game and the rest of the season.”

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Bill Belichick says Rex Ryan is ‘buttering’ him up by calling him a first ballot Hall of Famer

12.17.14 at 2:25 pm ET
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Sunday could be the last meeting between Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick as Ryan as head coach of the Jets as Ryan could be fired at the end of the season. (Ron Antonelli/Getty Images)

Sunday could be the last meeting between Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick with Ryan as head coach of the Jets as Ryan could be fired at the end of the season. (Ron Antonelli/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Earlier in the week, Rex Ryan said Bill Belichick was a first ballot Hall of Famer. On Wednesday, Belichick was appreciative of the comment, but even with all the possible outside distractions Sunday’s game possesses, he’s focused on the game and nothing else.

“It’€™s a very flattering comment, but it sounds like Rex is just buttering me up,” Belichick said on a conference call with the New York media Wednesday. “I know they’€™re working hard, like they always do, play us very competitively. We’€™ve really had a hard time with them, including the last time we played them. We’€™re going to have to do a good job getting ready to go here stopping a team that runs the ball well, that stops the run well, that’€™s got a lot of explosive guys in the kicking game, that’€™s well coached, that’€™s tough, that beat us down there last year. We have our work cut out for us.”

Asked if he has any memories of games between the two over the years, Belichick wouldn’t get into them as he is focused on getting his team to 12-3 and a step closer to the overall No. 1 seed in the AFC.

With the Jets entering the game with a record of 3-11, it seems likely Ryan will be fired at the end of the season, as the Jets will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season.

“Well of course, they’€™re one of our AFC East rivals,” said Belichick. “This is really about this game, not about some other game. We’€™ve played a lot of games against a lot of teams in the past. Right now the only one that matters is this one on Sunday. That’€™s really where all my focus is. [I’€™m] trying to do the best I can to help our team prepare for Sunday’€™s game.”

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Newcomers Steve Maneri, Garrett Gilbert present at Patriots practice on Wednesday

12.17.14 at 2:05 pm ET
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Dominique Easley

Dominique Easley

FOXBORO — Dominique Easley was not at Patriots practice on the lower field at Gillette Stadium Wednesday in advance of Sunday’s game against the Jets. Easley was placed on injured reserve officially by the team on Wednesday afternoon.

Tight end Steve Maneri, who was with the team in training camp, was seen in the locker room before practice and present at the session. He was officially signed to the active roster and he will take Easley’s place on the active 53-man roster.

Quarterback Garrett Gilbert was also present at the session, as he was signed to the practice squad on Wednesday. Gilbert takes Casey Walker’s place on the practice squad, who was signed by the Ravens on Tuesday.

Practice squad player, offensive lineman Caylin Hauptmann was the only player on the active 53-man roster, or practice squad not at practice.

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Tom Brady is tired of close calls vs. Jets, wants to see Pats play 60 minutes ‘for once’

12.17.14 at 12:42 pm ET
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FOXBORO — He understands the records are what they are heading into Sunday’s Week 16 showdown, but Tom Brady doesn’t want to see the Patriots biting their nails heading into the final minute if they can help it. Brady recalls, of course, the 27-25 escape against the Jets on Oct. 16 at Gillette Stadium, when Chris Jones saved the day with a blocked field goal at the end.

He also recalls last year at MetLife Stadium when the Patriots raced out to a 21-10 halftime lead, only to allow the Jets back in the game and lose in overtime when Jones was called for an illegal play at the line of scrimmage on a field goal attempt.

This year, Brady is hoping for something a little different. More like the “Butt Fumble” game of Thanksgiving 2012 when the Patriots feasted on Rex Ryan‘s Jets, 49-19.

Brady is taking no comfort in New York’s 3-11 record or the fact they’ve lost by two touchdowns in five of their 11 losses.

“I don’t know why those scores go the way they do against other teams,” Brady said. “Against us, they always seem to be close. You just don’t want to go down there and have a bunch of poor execution like we’ve done in the past. I think we really have to focus on our execution and try to go out there and play good for once. I think that’s kind of what we’ve been talking about, playing our style of football for 60 minutes and see what that looks like because we haven’t done a great job against the Jets doing that.

“It’s a great rivalry. We’ve always had some pretty interesting games against them. A lot of them come down to the wire, especially recently. They’ve got a real good defense. They’re good up front, do a great job against the run. We’re going to have to go out and play really well. I know the records are what they are but we don’t look at it like that. I think it’s a good challenge for us. We lost going to the Meadowlands last year. So, we’re anticipating getting their best game.”

The Patriots, of course, are 11-3 and looking for the top seed in the AFC, which they will get with a win over the Jets and a Denver loss in Cincinnati Monday night. But the Patriots QB knows the offense needs to get back to getting off to fast starts, a trademark during their seven-game win streak.

“It’s frustrating for all of us when we’re not scoring the type of points we’re capable of doing,” Brady said of the struggles against the Dolphins in the first half last Sunday. “I just have to focus on what I’ve got to do better, and I can certainly do better in that area, making better decisions, better throws. We’re going to need it this week against this team because they challenge you in a lot of ways. They’ve got a multitude of things that they do. They’ve always done that. They really test your communication. Certainly, execution is something that we look at all the past games we’ve played against them and think, ‘God, our execution just wasn’t very sharp.’ We have to be very sharp this week.”
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Dominique Easley headed to season-ending injured reserve

12.17.14 at 12:11 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots will place rookie defensive lineman Dominique Easley on season-ending injured reserve, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

UPDATE 2:30 p.m.: The Patriots officially placed Easley on injured reserve Wednesday afternoon.

Easley, who was a first-round pick of New England thus past spring, was limited over the course of the spring and summer because of knee issues. The 22-year-old — who was taken 29th overall out of Florida — had nine tackles and a sack in eight games with the Patriots this season.

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Rex Ryan insists ‘our record is the only thing that stinks’ heading into Patriots showdown

12.17.14 at 11:25 am ET
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Rex Ryan. (Getty Images)

Rex Ryan. (Getty Images)

Rex Ryan knows his team is 3-11 on the season. He also knows his team is a heavy underdog this Sunday in what could be his final game as Jets coach before the New York faithful.

But for all that has been written and said about the discord and dysfunction around the Jets in another season to forget, the Jets coach insisted Wednesday in a conference call with the Patriots’ media that he loves his team and their effort.

“Anything that is swirling around inside our team, I’m proud of this team,” Ryan said. “We’ve got nothing [in terms of controversy]. Some guys’ reports are probably as far off as any I’ve ever seen. This team is tight. Our record is the only thing that stinks. We’ve got a great group of guys that care, that prepare, practice hard and it’s just obviously unfortunate that our record is what it is but it has nothing to do with the type of character in this room.”

Asked what he thinks of his place in the Patriots-Jets rivalry, should this indeed be his last game coaching the Jets, Ryan begged off, preferring instead to focus on the game at hand.

“I have no idea. We all know what’s getting ready to happen in this game. We know that both teams give their maximum effort against each other,” Ryan said. “I don’t think each team particularly likes each other but it’s on. Regardless of what the record is, we could be playing for first place, or whatever, but it’s the same effort always. It’s usually a close game and it’s usually a physical game.

“I never have to worry about them, regardless of who we play. We’re professionals and we get a chance to play a game, and it’s a game we love and we’re going to play it to the best of our abilities.”

Another subject was the effect Ryan’s former star pupil Darrelle Revis has had in transforming the Patriots’ defense into a championship caliber unit.

“Well, I think their whole defense has changed quite a bit since the last time we played them,” Ryan added. “They’ve brought in a couple of big guys. Chandler Jones [hurt against Jets], a tremendous player. But the coverages and recognizing a lot of different coverages that haven’t really played in the past that they’re playing now.

“There’s a couple of different ways to play man coverage but they’re starting to do some different things in the man. It’s kind of hard to explain but we recognize it. They’re doing a good job of it, obviously.”

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