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Source: Patriots acquire Ojinnaka from Atlanta

08.22.10 at 10:01 pm ET
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Reports say Quinn Ojinaka, who was dealt to the Patriots on Sunday, could play both guard and tackle. (AP)

The Patriots have acquired offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka from the Falcons for undisclosed compensation, according to a report from Adam Caplan of that has been confirmed via a league source by Ojinnaka, 26, is a 6-foot-5, 299-pound lineman out of Syracuse who has played the last four seasons in Atlanta, and has started 12 of his 39 games with the Falcons since being chosen in the fifth round of the 2006 draft.

Ojinnaka has bounced back and forth between guard and tackle over the course of his pro career, but it appears most of his time has come at tackle. In 2007, he started a career-high seven games, all of which came at left tackle.

The Patriots have had depth problems along the offensive line in recent months, with Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins embroiled in a contract dispute with the team, as well as the recent news that Nick Kaczur — who moved from right tackle to left guard in hopes of filling Mankins’ spot — recently underwent back surgery and is likely to miss the 2010 season.

Read More: Quinn Ojinnaka,

Pats start to shift into regular-season mode

08.22.10 at 5:25 pm ET
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The schedule says there are two more weeks of preseason, but as far as the Patriots are concerned, when it comes to logistics, the regular season has already begun.

Coach Bill Belichick gave his team Friday and Saturday off, and hinted there would be some “lighter” work done on Sunday. In addition, the team will get back to practice on Monday and Tuesday, and have Wednesday free, except for a walkthrough in advance of Thursday’s preseason game against the Rams.

While it isn’t an exact approximation of a regular-season work week, it’s close enough that players can start getting a feeling for a typical regular-season routine when it does begin early next month.

Belichick said the changeup in routine is a philosophy he picked up in his first job, working with coach Ted Marchibroda and the Cots as a special assistant in 1975.

“We had six preseason games, and I’d say after the first preseason game, once we had a preseason game from our opponent — our next opponent, the second team — then those were all kind of like regular weeks. So it was five weeks of regular season preparation in the preseason,” Belichick said of that preseason. “That’s kind of the way, from what I understand, that George Allen did it. His preseason games were like regular-season games, so that’s the way that we did it at Baltimore.”

One of the reasons the Patriots might be doing as much as they can to act like it’s the regular season is because they have a young team — there are currently 19 rookies on the roster. Overall, 41 players currently with the team have less than two years experience in the NFL. Getting younger players used to a regular work week sooner rather than later might be a good thing.

It certainly worked for the 1975 Colts, who went 10-4 and finished first in the AFC East that season. And as a young coach, Belichick said it helped understand what was expected of him once the regular season rolled around.

“By the time we got to the regular season, as a young coach, I certainly knew what the regular season routine was going to be as far as breaking down film, doing preparation work, and practice and those kind of things. That’s pretty much how we did it. I’m not saying everybody did it that way, but that’s the way it was that year. We got a lot of regular season work in preseason.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Ted Marchibroda, training camp,

Upon Further Review: Patriots vs. Falcons

08.21.10 at 1:06 pm ET
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Devin McCourty takes down Michael Turner with a nice open-field tackle Thursday night in Atlanta. (AP)

This is a weekly blog entry we’re calling “Upon Further Review,” one last look at the tape from the previous week’s game and meant to include some things we may have missed the first time around. Basically, it’s one last chance to empty out the notebook before the focus shifts to the week ahead.

•Rookie Devin McCourty was able to flash some physicality, a rare sight recently for New England corners who haven’t had the size or inclination to mix it up with opposing receivers. On a third-down play late in the first quarter, McCourty was matched up on Atlanta’s Roddy White, and he was able to get a really impressive jam on the 6-foot, 212-pound White. The short pass, meant for White, would have gone for a first, but it never got to its intended destination. In the second quarter, McCourty also took down Atlanta running back Michael Turner with what was pretty close to a one-on-one open-field tackle, which set up a third-and-4. There was some soft man coverage that allowed a first-down connection to Atlanta receiver Brian Finneran in the second quarter, but all in all, another good game for the first-year cornerback.

•All three of Wes Welker’s catches were different types of receptions, which showed that the receiver hasn’t lost much when it comes to his overall pass-catching ability. The first was a short pass over the middle where Welker appeared to read the defense and pull in the ball with his back to the coverage, ending up with a six-yard gain. The second looked to be a simple route where he turned upfield. It ended up going as a 14-yarder, and this was perhaps Welker’s most impressive moment of the night because he had to reach back while going full steam to try and bring it in. (This one was something of a missed opportunity for the New England offense — because it was behind him, Welker had to slow down ever-so-slightly, which allowed defensive back Chavis Jackson to haul Welker down from behind. Could have gone for more.) The third was a simple screen, which was nicely sniffed out by Atlanta defensive back Christopher Owens.

•Tight end Aaron Hernandez really did a good job messing with Atlanta linebacker linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. On his first catch of the night, Hernandez came out of the backfield and caught a pass in the flat with Weatherspoon in coverage. As the tight end turned to head upfield, he sensed Weatherspoon closing in, and executed a little hitch, planting one foot forward before quickly stepping back. Weatherspoon ended up over-pursuing on the play, which gave Hernandez a few extra yards as the Patriots converted the third down. And then, on his touchdown catch he turned Weatherspoon inside-out and had the presence of mind to tip-toe along the back of the end zone and hold on to the football. (He almost knocked out teammate Brandon Tate in the touchdown celebration, but we’ll let that slide.)

•Safety Brandon McGowan, who had such a banner start last year in his first season, slid down the depth chart as the 2009 season wore on, and he’s having a poor start to the 2010 preseason. (Right now, he and James Sanders have been supplanted by Pat Chung and Brandon Meriweather.) He had a bit of a rough night — McGowan was on the field with the second defense for the duration of Atlanta’s 16-play, 80-yard fourth-quarter drive. At the end of the series, he failed to bring down Troy Bergeron on his 19-yard catch-and-run touchdown reception. (McGowan went for the big hit, but not only swung and missed, he took out his teammate Terrence Wheatley out of the play.)

•It was an up-and-down night for the New England offensive line. While there was plenty of good (Dan Connolly and Stephen Neal had some big blocks early, and Alge Crumpler delivered a key block on Fred Taylor’s first-quarter touchdown run), there was also enough bad. Neal was hit with a holding call that negated a big run from Taylor. Meanwhile, rookie Ted Larsen was whistled for a pair of false starts, and was absolutely crushed on a third-quarter run attempt by Atlanta’s Trey Lewis that ended up destroying any hope the Patriots had for a positive result. And a series of miscommunications in the red zone in the second quarter led to a forgettable sequence where New England had negative yardage on three running plays in four attempts.

The day after, coach Bill Belichick wasn’t shy about venting his frustration regarding seven plays where the Patriots had negative rushing yards.

“There were some positives. There were some other things that we need to do better. We lost yardage on seven of our running plays, so that’s not very good,” Belichick said. “I think if we had seven sacks, everyone would be up in arms and it would be the big story of the day, but seven running plays that lost yardage nobody seems to care about.”

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Brandon McGowan, Devin McCourty, Falcons

Report: Ex-Pats FB Turner has ALS

08.21.10 at 12:40 pm ET
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Former Patriots fullback Kevin Turner was recently diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to a report by the Boston Globe. Turner is the 14th NFL player to be struck with the disease since 1960. He played three seasons in New England from 1992-94 and caught 52 passes out of the backfield in 1994 before moving on to the Eagles organization the following year.

Recent research done at Boston University has linked ALS-like symptoms to the head trauma that some football players experience during their careers. Turner told the Globe that he took several hits to the head during his playing days.

Read More: Kevin Turner,

Highlights of Bill Belichick’s conference call

08.20.10 at 6:03 pm ET
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Bill Belichick. (AP)

Patriots coach Bill Belichick just wrapped up a conference call with the media, and he touched on a number of topics. Here are some highlights:

On the play of the rookie tight ends, particularly Hernandez:
“I think they’ve both done all right. I think they still have a long way to go. It’s not only the formations, it’s assignments, it’s adjustments after the snap. It’s techniques. I think that both guys have made progress, but they’ve both got a long way to go. A lot of things we’ve asked them to do are different than what they’ve done in the past — blocking schemes, route adjustments.”

On the offense gaining an identity:
“I would imagine that during the season, we’ll probably do what we usually do, offensively, which is to game-plan for our opponent and try and figure out what’s the best way to attack them, so I don’t know that … I don’t think think we have an identity right now. I don’t know that we would have any particular one. That would depend on who were playing and what they do and what we feel like the best matchups are. Hopefully, right now, we have a basic installation of things that would give us the flexibility to attack teams we feel like we can gain an edge on matchups. That’s the idea, anyway.”

On the offensive balance:
“I thought there were some definitely good things. There were some positives. There were other things that we need to do better. We lost yardage on seven of our running plays — that’s not very good. I think if we had seven sacks, everybody would be up in arms. That would be the big story of the day. But seven running plays that lost yardage, nobody really seems to care about. That’s the difference. I think we could do things better. There were certainly positives in the running game. We had our moments. Then, we had other plays that weren’t so good. So I think in probably all areas of the game — not just the running game — we’re working on more consistency. Eliminating the bad plays and having more good ones. That’s offense, defense, special teams, running the football, passing, kicking, returning. I think you could say that for every phase of our game. Coaching. You can put it all in there.”

On the play of Derrick Burgess against the Falcons:
“I think Derrick had a good week. I think he’s in pretty good shape and played a decent number of plays or snaps, both in practice and in the games, so I think he’s doing OK. I think he’s doing OK. Trying to catch up to everybody else in terms of recognition and installation and communication and all those things, but he’s working hard at it, and I think he’s doing all right.”

On how things will work for the next few days:
“We’ll be back Sunday for probably a lighter day, then, the rest of the week … to be honest with you, I’m not really sure exactly how we’re going to work things this week. That’s one of the things we need to talk about as a staff over the next couple of days. We’ll be in Sunday. What exactly we’re going to do, I’m not … I don’t know about that yet.”

On shifting into a regular-season mode in the preseason — where did you pick that up?
“I would say, from what I understand, a lot of teams do that, but where it was most evident for me was in my first year with the Colts, we had six preseason games, and I’d say after the first preseason game — once we had a preseason game of our next opponent — those were all kind of like regular weeks. It was like five weeks of regular-season preparation in the preseason. That was with [Ted] Marchibroda. He brought that from George Allen,, and from what i understand, that’s how George Allen did it. His preseason games were like regular season games. That’s the way we did it in Baltimore. By the time we got to the regular season, as a young coach, I certainly knew what the regular season routine was going to be as far as breaking down film and doing preparation work and practice and those kind of things. That’s pretty much how we did it. Not saying everybody did it that way, but that’s the way it was that year, so we got a lot of regular season work in the preseason.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, training camp,

Target practice for Patriots’ pass-catchers

08.20.10 at 3:39 pm ET
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With two weeks of preseason action in the rear-view mirror, the Patriots’ quarterbacks have done a nice job of distributing the ball. Here’s a look at how often each receiver has been targeted, and what sort of numbers they’ve posted along the way.

Wide receiver Julian Edelman: 2 games, 7 targets, 7 receptions, 98 yards
Tight end Aaron Hernandez: 2 games, 11 targets, 7 receptions, 72 yards, 1 touchdown
Wide receiver Randy Moss: 2 games, 6 targets, 4 receptions, 54 yards
Wide receiver Darnell Jenkins: 1 game, 2 targets, 1 reception, 52 yards
Wide receiver Brandon Tate: 2 games, 5 targets, 3 receptions, 45 yards
Running back BenJarvus Green-Elliis: 2 games, 1 target, 1 catch, 8 yards
Wide receiver Sam Aiken: 2 games, 2 targets, 2 catches, 4 yards
Running back Chris Taylor: 2 games, 2 targets, 1 catch, -7 yards
Wide receiver Taylor Price: 2 games, 4 targets, 1 reception, 7 yards
Wide receiver Rod Owens: 2 games, 1 target, 0 receptions
Tight end Alge Crumpler: 2 games, 1 target, 0 receptions
Running back Kevin Faulk: 2 games, 2 targets, 1 reception, 11 yards
Running back Sammy Morris: 2 games, 5 targets, 1 reception, 3 yards
Tight end Rob Myers: 2 games, 1 target, 1 reception, 12 yards
Tight end Rob Gronkowski: 2 games, 4 targets, 4 receptions, 38 yards, 1 touchdown
Wide receiver Wes Welker: 1 game, 3 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards

Read More: Patriots, training camp,

A quiet weekend looms in Foxboro

08.20.10 at 2:51 pm ET
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The Patriots have announced their schedule for the next couple of days, and it sounds like things will be a little quiet in Foxboro this weekend.

Today: conference call with coach Bill Belichick at 5:30 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: No media availability.

Read More: Bill Belichick, training camp,
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