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Thoughts on Patriots, penalties, Bobby Carpenter

10.03.12 at 12:25 am ET
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We broke down the Patriots and their penalty situation after four games, and a few things stuck out: First, the fact that they followed a 10-penalty game with a one-penalty contest. (Have to imagine that part of that is due to the return of the regular refs.)

Second, while they are about the same when it comes to total penalties assessed, they are almost 100 yards off last year’s pace (268 yards last year, 173 this year) when it comes to total penalty yards lost.

And third, three offensive players have taken every snap this year for the Patriots — quarterback Tom Brady, center Ryan Wendell and left tackle Nate Solder — and none of the three have picked up a single penalty all season. It’s amazing to consider that two offensive linemen, particularly a left tackle like Solder, have played so much and managed to avoid committing a penalty.

‘€¢ With the news from Tom Curran of CSN that Dont’a Hightower might have a problematic hamstring, it’s no surprise that the Patriots are likely to bring back Bobby Carpenter to play linebacker. Carpenter, who was cut on Sept. 1, looked like he was going to make the team for a couple of reasons out of camp, not the least of which was the fact that he was very good when it came to playing the pass. On Sunday against the Bills, Brandon Spikes played very well against the run, but there was more than one time where he looked overwhelmed in pass coverage. While Tracy White flashed positively at times working against Buffalo on Sunday, Carpenter would take the bulk of the snaps in passing downs going forward.

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels reflects on opportunity to face his old team

10.02.12 at 9:08 pm ET
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As far as Josh McDaniels is concerned, it’s just another game.

On Sunday, the Patriots will meet the Broncos at Gillette Stadium. For McDaniels, it’ll represent the chance to meet his old team on the field once again: he was head coach in Denver for the 2009 season and part of the 2010 campaign.

But McDaniels said Tuesday afternoon that in his eyes, it’s just “the next game.”

“It’€™s an important game for our team,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “I think there are a lot of times over the course of a season where either players or coaches on either team have had the experience of been a part of another organization or team, and I think that happens rather often I would say. I think it’€™s a big game for us because it’€™s the next one, and [we’€™re] trying to build on some of the things that we did well in the last game and really emphasize trying to play well at home.”

McDaniels kicked off his career as a head coach in 2009 with six straight wins. However, it was all downhill from there, as Denver lost six of it’s last 10 games to finish the season 8-8. The following year, the Broncos were 3-9 when owner Pat Bowlen pulled the plug on McDaniels.

Asked what he learned from his experience in Denver, McDaniels said it was hard to pinpoint just one thing.

“I think any time you take on another role or another position, there are always a lot of things that you learn,” he said. “It’€™s hard to really pinpoint one thing over another, but they gave me a great opportunity. It’€™s a great organization, a great owner and you go out there and try to do the best you can with what you know and the things that you’€™re capable of doing. I think that ultimately you learn a lot of different things.

“It’€™s hard really to pinpoint one or two things about exactly what you learn,” he added. “You learn a lot of different things on a lot of different levels because you’€™re involved in so many different aspects of the organization as a head coach. Hopefully all of those different experiences will pay off and make me a better person and coach going forward in the future.”

Here are a few other highlights from his Q&A:
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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

10.02.12 at 8:03 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. Four weeks into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2012:

RB Stevan Ridley: 79 (74 rushes, 5 catches). 10 negative runs.
RB Danny Woodhead: 33 (29 rushes, 4 catches). 2 negative runs.
WR Brandon Lloyd: 25 (0 rushes, 25 catches).
WR Wes Welker: 25 (0 rushes, 25 catches).
RB Brandon Bolden: 24 (23 rushes, 1 catches). 3 negative runs.
TE Rob Gronkowski: 19 (0 rushes, 19 catches).
WR Julian Edelman: 12 (2 rushes, 10 catches). 1 negative reception, 1 negative run.
TE Aaron Hernandez: 7 (1 rush, 6 catches).
QB Tom Brady: 6 (6 rushes, 0 catches.) 8 sacks and 2 kneel downs.
WR Deion Branch: 2 (0 rushes, 2 catches)
RB Shane Vereen: 2 (1 rush, 1 catch)
TE Kellen Winslow: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
TE Daniel Fells: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
TOTAL: 237 touches (136 rushes, 101 catches): 17 negative plays, plus eight sacks.

By position
Running back: 138 touches (127 rushes, 11 catches). 15 negative runs.
Tight end: 29 touches (1 rush, 28 catches).
Wide receiver: 64 touches (2 rushes, 62 catches). 1 negative reception, 1 negative run.

Other offensive notes: The big mover on the list this week was Bolden, who came into Sunday’€™s game with just seven touches over the first three weeks of the season, tied for seventh-most on the team. With 17 touches against the Bills, he moved to 24 on the season, good for fifth on the team. … The Patriots were in the in the no-huddle for 15 of their 77 snaps on Sunday against the Bills, or 19 percent. It was a season low. Through three weeks, the Patriots have been in no-huddle for 85 of their 299 plays from scrimmage, a rate of 28.4 percent. ‘€¦ The Patriots are tops in the league in total offense (438.3 yards per game) and points per game (33.5). They are eighth in the NFL in average rushing yards (144 yards per game) and sixth in the league in average passing yards (294.3 yards per game). … Through four games, the Patriots have attempted 154 passes and run the ball 137 times. … Thanks in large part to their 31-point fourth quarter against the Bills, the Patriots enjoy a plus-22 point differential in fourth-quarter scoring (49-27). They’€™ve also outscored their opponents in the first (30-9) and third quarters (31-28). The only quarter when they are getting outscored is the second (28-24). Overall, they hold a 134-92 scoring edge on their opponents through four games — their plus-42 mark is the second-best in the AFC, trailing only the Texans, who are at plus-70.

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Pats waive DT Terrell McClain, reportedly cut OL Thomas Austin and are set to bring back LB Bobby Carpenter

10.02.12 at 7:02 pm ET
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The Patriots placed defensive tackle Terrell McClain on waivers on Tuesday. The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder was active for his one game with the team — last Sunday against Buffalo — but did not register any statistics in limited action. The 24-year-old was a 2011 third-round pick of the Panthers, but was released by Carolina last month before getting scooped up by the Patriots.

According to Tom E. Curran of Comcast Sports Net, the Patriots have also terminated the contract of practice squad offensive lineman Thomas Austin. In his second tour with the Patriots — he was on New England’s practice squad in 2010 — Austin was signed to the team’s practice squad on Sept. 1 after being waived by the Texans. He’s also seen time with the Vikings.

In addition, CSNNE is also reporting that in the wake of a hamstring injury to rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower, the Patriots are expected to re-sign linebacker Bobby Carpenter. The 29-year-old Carpenter, who was signed by New England this offseason but was cut before the start of the season, has some positional versatility, having played both middle and inside linebacker over the course of his six seasons in the NFL.

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Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

10.02.12 at 12:52 pm ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains an 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 first four weeks of the 2012 regular season:

WR Wes Welker: 25 catches on 37 targets
WR Brandon Lloyd: 25 catches on 38 targets
TE Rob Gronkowski: 19 catches on 29 targets
WR Julian Edelman: 10 catches on 15 targets
TE Aaron Hernandez: Six catches on eight targets
RB Stevan Ridley: Five catches on eight targets
RB Danny Woodhead: Four catches on five targets
WR Deion Branch: Two catches on three targets
RB Brandon Bolden: One catch on one target
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: One catch on one target
TE Kellen Winslow: One catch on two targets
TE Daniel Fells: One catch on two targets
RB Shane Vereen: One catch on two targets
TOTALS: 101 catches on 151 targets

By position
Wide receiver: 62 catches on 93 targets
Tight end: 28 catches on 42 targets
Running back: 11 catches on 16 targets

By way of comparison, here’s how the targets looked after four games last season.

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Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2012 season

10.02.12 at 9:00 am ET
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Through four weeks, the Patriots have been flagged for 22 penalties (26th in the league) for a total of 173 yards (29th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots this year, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
TE Rob Gronkowski: three penalties (two offensive holding, false start), 20 yards
CB Devin McCourty: two penalties (defensive holding, defensive pass interference), 32 yards
WR Julian Edelman: two penalties (false start, offensive pass interference), 15 yards
Team: two penalties (illegal formation, illegal block above the waist), 15 yards
ST Niko Koutouvides: two penalties (defensive holding, illegal block above the waist), 14 yards
LB Jerod Mayo: two penalties (defensive pass interference) 8 yards
S Steve Gregory: one penalty (personal foul), 15 yards
S Tavon Wilson: one penalty (offensive holding–punt return team), 10 yards
CB Ras-I Dowling: one penalty (defensive pass interference) 9 yards
LB Brandon Spikes: one penalty (defensive holding), 5 yards
CB Kyle Arrington: one penalty (defensive holding), 5 yards
DE Chandler Jones: one penalty (defensive offsides) 5 yards
LS Danny Aiken: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
OL Donald Thomas: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
DL Vince Wilfork: one penalty (encroachment), 5 yards

Most penalized by position:
Cornerback: Four penalties for 46 yards
Specialists (punter, kicker, long snapper, kick/punt units): Four penalties for 29 yards
Tight end: Three penalties for 20 yards
Linebacker: Three penalties for 13 yards
Team: Two penalties for 15 yards
Wide receiver: Two penalties for 15 yards
Defensive line: Two penalties for 10 yards
Safety: One penalty for 15 yards
Offensive line: One penalty for five yards

Most frequently called penalties on the Patriots:
False start: Four
Defensive pass interference: Four
Defensive holding: Three
Offensive holding: Three
Illegal block above the waist: Two
Defensive offsides: Two
Illegal formation: One
Personal foul: One
Encroachment: One
Offensive pass interference: One

Notes: By way of comparison, through four games last year, the Patriots had 28 penalties for 268 yards. ‘€¦ The Patriots were likely happier than any team in the league to see the regular refs back, as they were called for just one penalty on Sunday against the Bills. The last time they were flagged for just one penalty was the AFC title game last season against the Ravens (1/22/12). It’€™s also worth noting that Sunday’€™s nearly penalty-free performance comes on the heels of the 10-penalty game the previous Sunday night against Baltimore. … The one penalty that was called on New England on Sunday was offensive holding on safety Tavon Wilson, who was working on the punt return team — that’€™s why we have it labeled as a special teams penalty and not as a penalty to the safeties. … No team in the league has seen their penalty numbers fluctuate over the last two weeks like the Patriots. In the wake of the flag-filled loss to the Ravens, New England jumped from 24th in the league in total penalties against to 15th. In addition, the Patriots went from 28th in total penalty yardage lost to 20th. After Sunday’€™s disciplined victory over the Bills, New England dropped back to 26th in the league in total penalties and 29th in total yardage lost. … In what is clearly a sign the Mayans were right about the impending apocalypse, the Raiders — annually one of the most penalized teams in the league — have just 19 penalties for 143 yards (both 31st in the league).

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Fantasy Football: Week 5 waiver wire

10.02.12 at 8:52 am ET
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Now that the real four-team byes are here, I wanted to broaden the scope a little more, so you’€™ll find more players listed than usual. After all, more team needs will require more free agent options. The teams on the bye in Week 5  are the Cowboys, Lions, Raiders and Buccaneers. We get the Steelers’€™ and Colts’€™ players back.

We’€™ll have a full waiver wire posted at later today and I will be updating it up until early evening as I continue to work through the Week 4 games. And please check out our podcast that will be posted later today on Jim Hackett and I will get into this week’€™s free agent options and take a look at next week’€™s game as well.


Andy Dalton, Bengals

He continues to get it done thanks to all the talent around him. There’€™s no reason this guy should be available in any league. Snatch him up if he’€™s there.

Christian Ponder, Vikings

He was a game manager last week, but now that he has Jerome Simpson back, we think he has enough talent around him to be pretty consistent. He should be owned in all leagues.

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins

He’€™s been impressive. He made Brian Hartline into a star last week. He looks like a guy who should be rostered in large formats, and he can be used when he has a decent matchup. In long-term formats, he is definitely a player to own.

Matt Hasselbeck, Titans

This could be a short-term add for those who normally start Jake Locker (non-throwing shoulder injury), whom they are calling day-to-day right now. Locker is a longshot to play in Week 5. The veteran looked pretty good out there in relief of the less consistent but infinitely more athletic youngster.

Kevin Kolb, Cardinals

Kolb is really battling. We give the guy credit, and his newfound mettle may help him keep the gig all year. And the receiving talent that surrounds him gives him viability in big leagues.

Tim Tebow, Jets

The Mark Sanchez watch is on and for good reason. Tebow has upside as a starter due to his foot-point potential. He’€™s a nice add in large formats if you have issues with QB depth. He’€™s also a great add in long term leagues. He might be the Jets QB in 2013.

Brandon Weeden, Browns

Weeden has more ability than he’€™s getting credit for. He’€™s making some rookie mistakes, but it’€™s the mistakes happening around him that are really hurting him. If his receivers start hanging onto the ball, he could have some value through the bye weeks. Target him for deep leagues and long term formats only.

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