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In Focus: Charting the offensive opportunities for the Patriots’ skill position players through four games

10.06.11 at 8:53 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the 2011 NFL 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 season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2011:

BenJarvus Green Ellis: 51 (50 carries, 2 receptions) three touchdowns ‘€” three negative plays
Wes Welker: 41 (1 carry, 40 receptions) five touchdowns
Danny Woodhead: 32 (26 carries, 6 receptions) zero touchdowns
Stevan Ridley: 21 (18 carries, 2 reception), one touchdown
Rob Gronkowski: 18 (0 carries, 18 receptions), five touchdowns
Deion Branch: 16 (0 carries, 16 receptions), one touchdown
Aaron Hernandez: 14 (0 carries, 14 receptions), two touchdowns
Chad Ochocinco: 7 (0 carries, 7 receptions), zero touchdowns
Julian Edelman: 6 (3 carries, 3 receptions) zero touchdowns ‘€” two negative plays, both runs
Tom Brady: 5 (5 carries, 0 receptions) 13 passing touchdowns, zero rushing touchdowns ‘€” three negative plays (all sacks)
Matthew Slater: 1 (0 carries, 1 reception) zero touchdowns

TOTAL: 212 touches (103 carries, 109 receptions) ‘€” eight negative plays (excluding kneeldowns).

Some more offensive notes: Ridley was the big mover on this week’s board, as he had a game-high 11 touches against the Raiders to move from 10 to 21 on the season. Fellow back Green-Ellis maintained his overall lead on the rest of the field with 16 carries and one reception, his second-best day on the season when it comes to overall offensive opportunities (he had 17 carries and a catch earlier in the season against San Diego). … Last Sunday’s game against the Raiders marked the first game all year where the Patriots ran the ball as often as they threw it (30 rushing attempts, 30 pass attempts). … Brady has actually been sacked four times this season, but the one sack he took against the Raiders was technically for no gain, so it doesn’t count as a negative play. … The Patriots have run 270 plays from scrimmage over the course of the first four games. According to official NFL gamebooks, New England has utilized the no-huddle for 59 snaps (27 plays in the no-huddle against the Dolphins, 15 against the Chargers, 12 against the Bills and 5 times against the Raiders), or 21 percent. … On Sunday against Oakland, the Patriots only went no-huddle on their final drive of the first half. In their two-minute offense with Chad Ochocinco on the field, New England used no-huddle on five of the 11 plays on a sequence that ended with a 44-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski. … All five of the negative plays (the non-sacks) have come in the running game ‘€” both of Edelman’€™s two negative runs came when lined up as a running back.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Chad Ochocinco, Danny Woodhead

Aaron Hernandez on possibly facing Darrelle Revis: ‘I think that would be a good matchup’

10.06.11 at 1:09 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Welcome to the bizarre entity known as “Jets Week.”

Not that the pressure is getting to players but they certainly seem to act differently.

Take Aaron Hernandez for example.

Hernandez let out a primal yell of “ahhhh” each time he was asked whether his injured left knee would be healed in time for him to play this weekend. Hernandez has missed the last two games after injuring the knee in the Week 2 win over the Chargers.

“I feel pretty good,” Hernandez said. “Just trying to get healthy and take it day-by-day. I’ll take it day-by-day and see how it feels.”

The Patriots offense – thanks to Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski – hasn’t missed a beat without Herandez, who credited his fellow pass-catching tight end with helping to pick up the load.

“He’s a beast and he can do so many things, you only need one,” Hernandez said, before reminding everyone he is missing being on the field after a great personal start to the season. “It’s always frustrating when you love the game.

He hasn’t yet been cleared to play on Sunday and still sports a brace on his injured left knee, but the Patriots tight end said Thursday he would welcome a chance to play against Jets star cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Jets cornerback said this week that Hernandez gives the Patriots offense an added dimension and would be a challenge he’d like to take on if the right situation presented itself.

“I think it would be a good match-up,” Hernandez said.

Would Hernandez like the chance to go up against Revis Island?

“You could change that into a story, now, so, ahhhh.”

OK, then.

Read More: Aaron Hernnadez, Darrelle Revis, New York Jets, nfl

Former Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore leaving an impact on Jets offense

10.06.11 at 12:47 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Jets hired former Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore in the offseason, looking for him to bring some of the wisdom he was able to instill in Indy quarterback Peyton Manning over the course of their 12 years together.

According to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, through four games, you can see some of Moore’s fingerprints on the Jets offense.

“I’€™d say there are a few things,” Belichick said. “I think the Jets are still basically the Jets, (but) I think there are a couple things that you could look at offensively and say, ‘€˜That looks like an Indy idea.’€™”

Ryan said that Moore has served as a sounding board for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, and has also focused on improving the Jets’ red-zone performance over the course of the first four games: New York is 10th in the league in red-zone offense, finishing off drives with touchdowns 58 percent of the time. Last season, they were 20th in that department.

“I think Tom’€™s been good,” Ryan said of the 72-year-old Moore. “He’€™s helped Brian — just another voice for Brian. I think he really works in the red zone with us and I think that’€™s been an area where we’€™ve improved. I think we’€™re throwing the ball a little more effectively this year than we’€™ve done in the past, but clearly, we have to run the ball more.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brian Schottenheimer, Peyton Manning, Tom Moore

The world according to Plaxico Burress

10.05.11 at 8:36 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The career of Plaxico Burress has been defined by two moments – one of glory and one of ignominy.

On Feb. 3, 2008, he ended the Patriots’ perfect season with one 13-yard touchdown catch with 35 seconds remaining in Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz.

“It’€™s definitely the best,” Burress said when asked about where that memory ranks for him. “Coming into this business, it’€™s something that you dream of. Playing the wide receiver position, being able to play in the Super Bowl but to win it in the fashion that I did, it’€™s something that you dream of as a child. To do it against a team that was probably the best in history offensively, what they had accomplished. How big that game was, it’€™s just something that will always be a part of me. It was a defining moment of a lot of guys in our careers and it was beautiful moment.”

Eight months later, he brought an illegal glock into a New York City nightclub and fired an accidental shot into his leg. He would wind up serving two years in prison for the felony gun charge before getting out this year and signing a $3 million, one-year deal with the Jets.

He had a lot of time to think about that catch while in prison. Naturally, it was a source of inspiration during difficult times in jail.

“It’€™s just a part of who I am, playing in that Super Bowl and making that catch, in the fashion that we did, driving down the field in two minutes, making that play on that stage,” he said. “It’€™s just a part of me. It’€™s a part of history. To me it was the greatest Super Bowl ever played. Like I said, it was a moment that every kid dreams of having. To be able to do go out and execute it and do it in the fashion that we did it against the team we were playing against, it just says a lot.”

Burress still can’t believe his good fortune that led to one of the most dramatic catches in Super Bowl history. On Sunday, Burress – now with the Jets – faces the Patriots for the first time since the catch the crushed New England’s sports psyche and ended the Patriots’ dreams of becoming the first 19-0 team in NFL history.

Asked about that catch Wednesday, Burress said he couldn’t believe his good luck when Ellis Hobbs matched up on him in single coverage with no help, just moments before hauling in the 13-yard fade from Eli Manning to put the Giants ahead with 35 seconds remaining.

“It was a play we had run twice,” Burress said. “Eli had told me before we broke the huddle that if they gave me single coverage, he was going to throw it. I’m just thinking to myself, ‘There’s no way they’re going to single cover me at this time of the game, and they actually went with ‘Cover Zero’ with no safety help. Now, I had been watching so much film and watching film of Ellis Hobbs on the 10-yard line to the goal line, and I noticed he likes to stop his feet right around the goal line. I just went up, made a move and never broke stride and kept running.

“I had watched so much film on them that if I had a chance to run that route, I knew exactly how I was going to run it. It actually came down to film and running that exact route as I had seen him do and he did exactly what I had seen him do on tape and I knew when we lined up that I had a great shot to make the game-winning catch.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Eli Manning, Ellis Hobbs, New England Patriots

Tom Brady on Antonio Cromartie: ‘I don’t care what he says’

10.05.11 at 3:45 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady wouldn’€™t take the bait on Wednesday.

Asked twice by writers about comments from Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, the Patriots quarterback responded with a terse, ‘€œ[I] don’€™t care what he says,’€ on both occasions before appearing to cut short his weekly press conference.

Cromartie said last season that he thought Brady was an ‘€œass—-‘€ and sounded like he took issue with some of Brady’€™s perceived post-touchdown antics.

‘€œWe see that a lot. He does it a lot,’€ Cromartie told the New York Daily News last January. ‘€œThat’€™s the kind of guy he is. We really don’€™t give a damn, to tell you the truth.’€

Asked about his comments earlier this week, Cromartie didn’€™t back down.

‘€œWhat I said last year, I meant it,’€ Cromartie told Newsday. ‘€œI’€™m not going to take back anything. I’€™m definitely looking forward to this rivalry game. I still have the same feelings. Feelings don’€™t change. Whatever I said last year is not going to change.’€

On Wednesday morning — before appearing to prematurely leave the podium in the media workroom — Brady called Cromartie an ‘€œexcellent player’€ who is part of a talented New York secondary.

‘€œThey have two very good corners — well, they have a bunch of very good corners actually,’€ Brady said. ‘€œThe two that are out there on their regular defense are very good. They’€™re both fast, they’€™re both physical. They play well at the line of scrimmage. They’€™re very disruptive. They lead the league in pass defense, so that kind of tells you everything you want to know about them.’€

New York knocked the Patriots out of the postseason last year, taking a 28-21 win in a divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. But Brady said Wednesday that loss wouldn’€™t serve as motivation for this Sunday’€™s game.

‘€œThat was a long time ago,’€ Brady said. ‘€œSo, that game doesn’€™t have much bearing on this week. We’€™re a different team.’€

While Brady said the Patriots are a different team, he said when it comes to the Jets, it’€™s the same as it ever was.

‘€œ[We’€™re going to get] pretty much what we get from them every time we play them. They’€™re a tough team [and] they’€™re physical,’€ Brady said. ‘€œI think they lead the league in a bunch of defensive categories. They’€™re very challenging to play. They have been — it’€™s always the Jets — since I got here 12 years ago; they’€™re challenging.

‘€œThey’€™re good — they were good last year, they’€™re good this year, and they were good two years ago. I think as long as Rex [Ryan] is coaching that team they’€™re going to have good defense. They have a lot of good defensive players — David Harris and Bart [Scott]. [They have] a good front, corners can cover — safeties [Jim] Leonhard, [Eric] Smith, and Brodney [Pool] have given us problems. So it’€™s a good team.’€

Read More: antonio cromartie, Bart Scott, Brodney Pool, David Harris

Meet the new guy … defensive back Sterling Moore

10.05.11 at 2:23 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It was a strange week for cornerback Sterling Moore: He was a member of the Raiders’€™ practice squad until he was cut loose last Monday, and last weekend, as Oakland was preparing to face the Patriots, New England gave him a call.

‘€œSince they were flying out (to Oakland), they actually worked me out out there,’€ Moore said Wednesday morning in the Patriots locker room. ‘€œAnd then I got the call Saturday that they actually wanted to sign me to the practice squad, and flew out here that night. I’€™ve been here ever since.

‘€œMy Mom, she went from rooting for the Raiders one day to rooting for the Patriots the next day. I was sitting and watching with her [on Sunday]. She was screaming for the Patriots. So yeah, it was a little weird.’€

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Moore is a rookie out of SMU who was signed by Oakland to its practice squad out of training camp but was bumped late last month in favor of safety Ron Parker. After getting the call from the Patriots over the weekend, he became the second defensive back on New England’€™s practice squad, joining safety Ross Ventrone. By all accounts, he’€™s a burner who opened some eyes in his time in the Bay Area.

‘€œHe competes. He’€™s tough. He’€™s not afraid,’€ Raiders coach Hue Jackson said of Moore during training camp. ‘€œHe hasn’€™t played a ton, but he’€™s a guy I think that we have to give a chance and see what he can do.’€

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Read More: Josh Victorian, Ron Parker, Ross Ventrone, Sterling Moore

Rex Ryan on Patriots D: ‘They do what they do’

10.05.11 at 1:12 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots defense has been under the firing gun of opposing offenses, fans and NFL analysts in the first four weeks of the season.

But Jets coach Rex Ryan knows a thing or two about defense and he wants everyone to go beyond the numbers and look at what they do. According to Ryan, the Patriots are the classic bend-don’t-break defense.

The Patriots come in to their Week 5 showdown with the Jets dead last in NFL in yards allowed at 477.5 per game, more than 51 yards more a game than the team at No. 31, the Chicago Bears.

“The defense, statistically, they’ve never ranked way up there,” Ryan said in his conference call to Patriots reporters on Wednesday. “It’s not like they’re 1 or 2 in the league in defense but they’re effective. They make you make mistakes, they don’t give up the run, they do a great job playing the run and they don’t have the ball shot over their heads. That’s what they do.

“They’re doing a great job. They do what they do, they force takeaways. They’re playing better in the red zone.”

To Ryan’s point, the Patriots are still one of the tougher teams in the NFL to run against, allowing 108 yards a game on the ground, tied with Houston for 18th in the league. They held Darren McFadden to 75 yards last week in Oakland and never allowed the Raiders to run it down their throats.

Ryan has kept a close eye on the 4-3 base the Patriots are implementing more this season, especially new names Shaun Ellis and Albert Haynesworth. If the latter is cleared to play after missing the last two games with a bad back, he expects the Patriots to come after Mark Sanchez early and often on Sunday at Gillette since Sanchez was under constant pressure from the Ravens defense last week.

“Now, I expect them to come after us more, obviously. We didn’t do a great job of protecting the quarterback. I would expect more pressure from New England this week.”

Some eyebrows were raised when the Ryan released the 34-year-old Ellis this summer. Ryan says he still has the utmost respect for the former Pro Bowl defensive lineman.

“I think Shaun is an excellent player, no question about it,” Ryan said. “They brought in Carter, they bring in Shaun, they bring in Haynesworth to add what they already had. It’s obviously an upgrade for what New England has. Shaun is an excellent player, he can play in a 3-4 defense end, he can play in a 4-3 defense, they’re doing multiple things so really I think it was a good move by Belichick to bring him in because he is a guy who can play in any defense you’ve got.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Colin Baxter, Mark Sanchez, New England Patriots
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