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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots’ skill position players

10.18.14 at 5:54 pm ET
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Every week, we list 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. Here’€™s a breakdown of the 2014 New England offense after seven games:

RB Stevan Ridley: 98 (94 carries, 4 catches), 8 negative runs
RB Shane Vereen: 77 (53 carries, 24 catches) 1 negative catch, 2 negative runs
WR Julian Edelman: 50 (6 carries, 44 catches)
TE Rob Gronkowski: 31 (31 catches)
WR Brandon LaFell: 19 (19 catches)
RB Brandon Bolden: 17 (16 carries, 1 catch), 2 negative runs
QB Tom Brady: 13 (13 carries), 13 sacks, 5 kneeldowns
TE Tim Wright: 10 (10 catches)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 (6 catches)
RB James White: 6 (3 catches, 3 carries)
FB James Develin: 5 (1 carry, 4 catches)
WR Danny Amendola: 5 (5 catches)
RB Jonas Gray: 3 (3 carries)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 3 (3 carries) 1 sack, 3 kneeldowns
WR Aaron Dobson: 3 (3 catches)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 2 (2 catches)
WR Brian Tyms: 1 (1 catch)

Notes: The Patriots had three negative plays from scrimmage on Thursday — one sack of Brady and two negative runs by Vereen. … On the season, New England has run 460 plays from scrimmage, and 28 of them have gone for negative yardage, not including kneeldowns. …  Against the Jets, the Patriots ran 53 plays, with 8 of them in no-huddle (7 percent). … In addition, 27 of their 53 snaps (51 percent) were in shotgun formation. … On the season, the Patriots have run 33 of their 460 plays out of no-huddle (7 percent) and 151 snaps in shotgun (33 percent). By way of comparison, over the course of the 2013 regular season, the Patriots were in shotgun for 42 percent of their offensive snaps and they ran no-huddle on 11 percent of their snaps.

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Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

10.18.14 at 3:04 pm 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 after seven regular-season games this year.

WR Julian Edelman: 44 catches on 65 targets
TE Rob Gronkowski: 31 catches on 56 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 24 catches on 35 targets
WR Brandon LaFell: 19 catches on 39 targets
TE Tim Wright: 10 catches on 11 targets
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 catches on 11 targets
WR Danny Amendola: 5 catches on 11 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: 4 catches on 5 targets
FB James Develin: 4 catches on 4 targets
RB James White: 3 catches on 3 targets
WR Aaron Dobson: 3 catches on 4 targets
RB Brandon Bolden: 2 catches on 4 targets
TE Michael Hoomananwanui: 2 catches on 2 targets
WR Brian Tyms: 1 catch on 2 targets

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Chris Jones says film shows Patriots need to be better against run

10.17.14 at 5:39 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The extra weekend of rest couldn’t be coming at a better time for Chris Jones and the Patriots defense. After all, they were on the field for nearly 41 of the 60 minutes Thursday night and had to defend 80 plays while the Patriots ran just 53. Usually, that’s a formula for disaster but the Patriots averted it when Jones blocked the 58-yard field goal attempt from Nick Folk at the final gun.

“We had something like [80] plays, obviously when a defense is on the field that long [it’s bad],” Jones said. “A lot of it is on us. We just can’t do that and win a lot of games doing that. That’s going to wear you down at some point. That’s where the mental toughness kicks in because you’re going to physically be tired and you just have to mentally override that.”

The Jets were 9-of-16 on third down, converting many chances that extended drives and kept the Patriots defense on the field longer.

“As a defense, you don’t anybody do that well on third down,” Jones said. “That’s over 50 percent, which is really good for them but really bad for us. Whenever that happens that’s going to make for a really long day for us.”

The Jets were attacking Jones and the middle of the Patriots defensive front all night, gaining 226 yards on the ground and rushing for over five yards per carry. That was a point of emphasis, according to Jones, during Friday’s film review with coaches.

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Rex Ryan: Officials didn’t do anything wrong on final play

10.17.14 at 4:47 pm ET
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Jets coach Rex Ryan said that he took no issue with umpire Carl Paganelli's relocation of Dont'a Hightower on a game-ending blocked field goal. (Getty Images)

Jets coach Rex Ryan said that he took no issue with umpire Carl Paganelli’s relocation of Dont’a Hightower on a game-ending blocked field goal. (Getty Images)

Jets head coach Rex Ryan, in a conference call on Friday, said that he took no issue with umpire Carl Paganelli repositioning Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower on the game’s final play — a blocked 58-yard field goal attempt by Nick Folk — to avoid a penalty.

‘€œI think that’€™s the best officiating crew in the league, in my opinion,’€ Ryan told reporters in a conference call. ‘€œI think [referee Bill] Leavy and his crew do as good a job as anybody in the league. This league’€™s about protecting the players, and that’€™s the way it should be. If something like that happens, you’€™re trying to protect the player before something has a chance to happen. Obviously, that’€™s a good thing for the league.

‘€œNow, would I like to see it snapped there and [long-snapper Tanner Purdum] take one for the team and us to have another chance at it? Of course. It’€™s to protect the players. The official’€™s not wrong doing what he did.’€

Fantasy Football: Week 7 starts, sits

10.17.14 at 1:35 pm ET
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All right, Patriots fans, after Thursday night’s big win, your heads should be clear and ready to focus on your fantasy fortunes. I’ve got the Week 7 recommendations ready for you and there’s more to come. As always, I will be available this Sunday at 11 a.m. to take all your last-minute lineup questions. Get them in early!

If you have questions about any players not listed in this space, head over to my free site, Rotobahn, and dig into my full Week 7 lineup rankings. And don’t forget to tune in Sunday morning for another episode of the Fantasy Football Hour with my buddy Jim Hackett, who will be in a good mood after the Patriots’ third straight victory. If you want to keep track of all my fantasy football content, both here and at Rotobahn, follow me on Twitter. I send out links to all fresh content.



Carson Palmer, Cardinals at Raiders

He’s back and we expect his arm strength to improve week to week. Palmer has a healthy offense around him and he has a nice matchup with Oakland. Start him if you need him in all formats.

Joe Flacco, Ravens vs. Falcons

He lit up Tampa last week and he could do the same thing to the Falcons when the Ravens visit Baltimore this weekend. The Ravens receivers are in a groove and so is Flacco. He’s a viable play in all leagues this week.

Matt Ryan, Falcons at Ravens

He’s not screaming “Start me” this week after light output in Week 6, but Ryan has enough weapons in addition to Julio Jones, who is a monster. He should have to throw the ball for most of the day to keep pace with the Ravens. Ryan is playable in all formats.

Blake Bortles, Jaguars vs. Browns

Need an option in a deep league? Bortles can help because he grinds out points with his arm and with his feet. The Browns should get a lead and force the Jaguars to throw and open up the offense. Bortles might throw a pick or two, but the numbers should be there in the end. A good play in big formats if you are in need.

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NFL officiating chief: Moving Dont’a Hightower before snap ‘not unusual’

10.17.14 at 1:16 pm ET
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NFL’s VP of Officiating Dean Blandino joined NFL Network’€™s “NFL AM” Friday morning to discuss the much-discussed Jets field goal attempt at the end of last night’€™s game. Here’s a brief excerpt of what he said:

On the referee tapping Patriots linebacker Dont’€™a Hightower on the Jets field goal attempt:

“€œThis is a standard officiating mechanic. We call it preventative officiating. Because it’€™s a player safety rule, we’€™re trying to avoid a situation before it happens so the umpires will get in there and move that player out of there. More often you see it when a player is in a three-point stance and he is down on the line of scrimmage and you’€™ll see the umpire tap the player to move him out of that because we have to be outside the framework of the center. So this is really no different than the line of scrimmage officials pointing out the line to the wideouts and it’€™s a standard mechanic. Not something that would be unusual by any means.”

On if it is on the player to know where he can and cannot be:

“€œIf you watch the play, what [Dont’€™a] Hightower is actually going to do, he’€™s going up to the line to make a line call because then you’€™ll see the defensive line shift. Then he’€™s going to back out. So it is on the player to understand that but we will in certain situations warn players to prevent things from happening, especially when it’€™s a player safety issue and trying to prevent a potential injury situation. Ultimately it’€™s on the player but this is something that has been a mechanic ever since this rule has been in place and like I said, not unusual.”

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Adam Schefter on MFB: ‘There’s a lot of people whose jobs are in jeopardy in New York right now’

10.17.14 at 1:09 pm ET
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Adam Schefter

Adam Schefter

ESPN’s Adam Schefter made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Friday to analyze Thursday’s Patriots-Jets game and discuss other NFL news. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The heat is on Rex Ryan in New York, as the Jets are 1-6 after Thursday’s 27-25 loss. Although Schefter noted the Jets “played hard” Thursday and clearly have not quit on the season, he acknowledged, “Rex certainly is on the warmest of warm seats right now.”

“I think there’s a lot of people whose jobs are in jeopardy in New York right now. Whether it’s just Rex, whether it’s Rex and the GM, that’s something that they’re going to have to make a decision on here,” Schefter said, adding: “It’s rare that you see too many in-season changes, or changes before Thanksgiving. Once we get to Thanksgiving, to me, all bets are off. Because if you want to go hire a coach like Mike Holmgren or Mike Shanahan or somebody that’s on the street or on the sideline or in the college ranks, it gives you a chance to get a running head start in an above-board, legal, ethical kind of way.”

During his appearance on Middays with MFB on Thursday, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith claimed general manager John Idzik “sabotaged” Rex Ryan by giving him a weak roster. Schefter disagrees with that assessment.

“I don’t believe that John Idzik sabotaged Rex Ryan,” Schefter said. “I do believe that John Idzik’s approach is not the way that Rex Ryan would approach it. John Idzik had Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the cornerback, in the building [in the offseason as a free agent]. Darrelle Revis was interested in playing for the New York Jets. John Idzik didn’t get the deal done on Rodgers-Cromartie — the Giants eventually signed him for a price that [Idzik] was unwilling to pay. He didn’t call Darrelle Revis, reach out, for whatever reason. John Idzik’s approach on this is very methodical and patient and conservative. And that’s just not the kind of guy that Rex is. Rex is, ‘Get me a corner. Let’s go get that cornerback right now. And if we have to pay more money, so be it.’ That’s what he wants to do.

“I don’t think that Idzik intentionally sabotaged the roster. His job is in jeopardy, too. So by sabotaging Rex he would be sabotaging himself, maybe. But it’s just the way that he does his business. He’s a very smart Ivy League guy with a financial background, where he ran the cap in Seattle and obviously looked over financial issues and is very careful with the way he spends his team’s money — which in many cases is good. Except when you’re 1-6 like the Jets are, people are screaming for blood and demanding answers, they want to know what’s going on, and right now he’s in the crosshairs of that.”

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Read More: adam schefter, John Idzik, Rex Ryan, Tom Brady
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