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Will Akeem Ayers actually play this weekend for the Patriots?

10.24.14 at 12:47 pm ET
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Akeem Ayers has nine career sacks with the Titans. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Akeem Ayers has nine career sacks with the Titans. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — The Patriots are in pretty dire straits when it comes to depth at linebacker.

With the loss of Jerod Mayo for the season to a torn patellar tendon and light depth in terms of proven performers at the beginning of the season, the Patriots want to make sure they aren’t caught short at linebacker.

Right now, the Patriots go into Sunday with a group that includes Rob Ninkovich, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Deontae Skinner and Chris White. And maybe Akeem Ayers. The linebacker coming off a pair of patellar knee surgeries 10 months ago was acquired this week from Tennessee.

But Bill Belichick isn’t about to put a player on the field cold without having some idea of what he’s doing. Will the outside linebacker known for his pass rushing skills be ready for the Bears this weekend?

“Well, the only thing we can evaluate until he plays is practice,” Belichick said Friday morning before the fourth and final practice of the week. “Between the walkthroughs and maybe the meetings to a degree but more importantly practice then that’€™s what we have to try to evaluate. Certainly it’€™s a small window. It’€™s a brief snapshot relative to what we’€™ve seen other players do, but it is what it is. Akeem is a guy that’€™s played, he had three years of a lot of playing time so it’€™s not like he’€™s never played before.

“But he hasn’€™t played in this system. It’€™s a question of how comfortable he is, we are with that and once you put him in the game then evaluating how the game, how that part of it goes. Like the same conversation we would have had a month ago with let’€™s say Casey Walker. You practice them. Now Casey was on the [Carolina] practice squad for a couple weeks so it was a little bit different but similar ‘€“ a new guy coming in, learning the system, seeing some things that you feel positive about in practice then being able to feel like mentally the player is ready to execute the assignments and the game then put them in the game and evaluate that.

As Belichick continued, you got the sense that he’s more willing to take a chance to let Ayers learn on the fly, if only because of the position the Patriots are in.

“Of course it’€™s not going to be perfect, but it’€™s going to get some kind of game evaluation,” Belichick said. “Again, similar but different in the case of [Brandon] Browner and [Brian] Tyms because those guys were here all camp and we saw them in games and in a lot more practices but I think Casey Walker is another good example of a similar situation to Akeem. We’€™ll just have to see how ready we feel like he is for game action this week.

“Whether that’€™s this week, next week or whenever it is, then evaluate how he does when he gets that opportunity in game situations. But that’€™s all based on practice and again to a degree walkthroughs and meetings because you can’€™t get a sense of how well prepared a player is in that setting. Practice is in a way a better evaluation, there are just fewer opportunities. You only have, call it 30-35 plays defensively that you’€™re running so whatever fractional number of plays he’€™s in there for, that’€™s part of the evaluation. I’€™d say you have to supplement that with some other things.”

Will Ayers play? Tune in Sunday to find out for sure.

Read More: Akeem Ayers, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots,

Darrelle Revis Report, Week 8: Will Marshall plan be utilized against familar foe?

10.24.14 at 12:10 pm ET
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Darrelle Revis and Brandon Marshall are pretty familiar dating back to their battles when Revis was with the Jets and Marshall was with the Dolphins. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Darrelle Revis and Brandon Marshall are pretty familiar with each other already. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Each week, we’ll present The Darrelle Revis Report, a look at what’s on tap for the Patriots cornerback. This week, New England will host the Bears.

Last week: Because the game was now over a week ago, we won’t spend too much time looking back, but in his first game against the Jets as a member of the Patriots, Revis didn’t have anything special lined up on the night. Instead, it was a relative mix of zone and man coverage throughout the evening — mostly against Eric Decker, at least when it was man coverage. In all, it was a relatively uneventful night for Revis, who yielded three catches on the night (one appeared to be in man coverage and two in zone), while adding two tackles and a big pass deflection on third down with 11:02 left in the fourth quarter in the 27-25 win over the Jets. By our highly unscientific count, in seven games, Revis has now allowed 18 catches on 32 targets for 263 yards this year, with one touchdown and one interception.

Looking ahead: The Patriots will host the Bears in a showdown between corners and receivers that could get very interesting. Revis and Brandon Marshall already have a history together (more on that in a bit), but in addition, Alfonzo Dennard and Alshon Jeffery mixed it up as collegians. In the Capital One Bowl, the two went head-to-head and ended up throwing punches.

The challenge of facing the biggest receiving tandem of the year — Marshall is 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, while Jeffery is 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds — will certainly make for an interesting afternoon.

“You just have to cover them the best you can,” Revis said. “When you’re playing against bigger guys, [they] will try and shield their body and try and catch the ball and try and shield you away from the ball. We’ve had our fair share of [covering] bigger guys. The Bengals game, those guys were very big. This is probably the biggest yet, across the board at tight end and wide receiver. Like I said, we just have to try and play through them to get to the ball.”

Possible man matchups this week (with the understanding that it won’t solely be one on one): The Revis-Marshall matchup might be the best and most intriguing one-on-one battle for the Patriots corner to this point in the season. Marshall, who has 31 catches for 349 yards with five touchdowns this season, has gone head-to-head with Revis on a number of occasions, and the New England corner spoke fondly of those battles this week.

“Great receiver, man. This week, we have our hands full in two big receivers in him and Jeffery. We’re looking forward to it — I’m sure he is too,” Revis said when he was asked about Marshall. “I know Brandon personally. It’s football, man. We compete … that’s what we do for a living. We had our battles in the past. It’s great, man. This week is going to be great.”

In all, Marshall has lined up across from Revis on four separate occasions, but the cornerback has usually gotten the better of the 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver. According to Pro Football Focus, Revis has allowed nine receptions on 23 targets for 112 yards without a touchdown when facing Marshall. Revis also has an interception (in 2011) and seven deflected passes when facing Marshall.

Here’s a relatively good breakdown of a 2011 contest between the Jets and Dolphins that featured Revis against Marshall, a game that included that aforementioned pick against Marshall. (You’re going to want to mute the audio, or at least pop on some earphones.)

As for going against Cutler, Revis has faced him twice, and the corner has been beaten twice, both when he was with the Jets: In a Nov. 30, 2008 contest against the Broncos, Revis had three tackles in a 34-17 defeat to Denver. And on Dec. 26, 2010 against Chicago, Revis had four tackles in a 38-34 loss. He has no interceptions against Cutler.

Money quotes: “He’s smart and he’s big. Probably about 6-foot-4 or something. Very physical at the line. A possession type receiver who can go deep as well and run after catches — he’s taken hitches 60, 70, 80 yards. Like I said, we know what type of players they are. We respect them a lot. We know how explosive they are in the passing game, and we have to be able to stop that.” — Revis on Marshall

Darrelle Revis is one of the best in the business; has been for a long time. A lot of times he goes with the No. 1 receiver and matches him and shadows him throughout the game. We’ll see what he does against us.” — Cutler on Revis

One more thing: The size of the Chicago receivers could make the Patriots switch things up — at least in the red zone –when it comes to man coverage. After all, New England does have one of the only cornerback combos in Revis (5-foot-11, 198 pounds) and Brandon Browner (6-foot-4, 221 pounds) who are built to handle the size of a pairing like Jeffery and Marshall. If Browner is in a better place than he was last week when it comes to his football fitness, Browner could end up getting more snaps than Dennard.

Read More: alshon jeffery, Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, Eric Decker

Shane Vereen, Chandler Jones not spotted at Friday Patriots practice

10.24.14 at 12:02 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Shane Vereen joined Chandler Jones Friday as missing at Patriots practice in sweats and shells on the upper grass fields.

Jones has missed all week with a hip injury suffered against the Jets, and will reportedly be out of action for the next 4-6 weeks as he heals. Vereen, meanwhile, has not been on the injury report at all this week. The team will disclose its final injury report later Friday afternoon. The Boston Herald reported via a source that Vereen was given the day off due to an illness.

Newcomer Akeem Ayers was on the practice field again as the team tries to determine if the linebacker – acquired this week in a trade with the Titans – is ready to play in a game. Free agent defensive lineman Alan Branch was not on the field. Branch was in this week to meet with the players and was spotted in the team’s locker room on Thursday.

“I don’€™t know. We work out a lot of players around here over the course of the season,” coach Bill Belichick said Friday morning. “So, the ones that we bring on the roster and sign we work with and the ones that we don’€™t are there if we decide to do it.”

Friday’s practice was the fourth in a row this week as the team prepares to take on the Chicago Bears this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Vereen’s brother Brock is a safety for the Bears and Vereen’s parents are expected in town this weekend to spend time with their NFL sons.

Read More: Brock Vereen, chandler jones, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots

Fantasy Football: Week 8 starts, sits

10.24.14 at 11:35 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 8 starts and sits. With only two teams on their bye weeks, it’s not a tough week to find options at most positions. I’ve done my best to isolate a few options that stand out both on the positive side and the negative side.

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 8 lineup rankings. And don’t forget to tune in Sunday morning for another episode of the Fantasy Football Hour with my buddy Jim Hackett. 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.

QUARTERBACKS

Start

Tom Brady, Patriots vs. Bears

Brady is a good play this week. You can throw on the Bears and they have issues at cornerback with Kyle Fuller banged up. The Bears have been a get-well matchup lately, and Brady’s already well. He might just have a big game. Keep him active in all leagues.

Joe Flacco, Ravens at Bengals

The Bengals haven’t stopped much lately, and Flacco is rolling with a healthy array of weapons and a balanced offense. He also gets his starting LT back this week. Things are looking very positive for Flacco. He can help you in any league this week.

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins at Jaguars

Tannehill is a solid option, but it’s a road game and the Jags are looking a little stronger than they did early in the year. This mirrors their 2013 season when HC Gus Bradley’s defense got better as the year progressed. So don’t expect a total demolition here. What you should get is serviceable numbers worthy of a play in most leagues.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Blake Bortles, Jerick McKinnon, joe flacco, Ryan Tannehill

Rodney Harrison on D&C: Reported racial issues in Seahawks locker room ‘speaks to the ignorance in our society’

10.24.14 at 10:31 am ET
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NBC NFL analyst Rodney Harrison joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday to discuss the big topics around the league. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Earlier this week, reports came out that there is a division the Seahawks locker room. A Bleacher Report story, in particular, reported that some African-American players on the team feel that quarterback Russell Wilson “isn’t black enough.”

“I think that a notion that you’€™re not black enough or you’€™re a sellout because you talk a certain way, because you dress a certain way, if you marry outside your race, I just think it speaks to the ignorance in our society,” Harrison said. “When you look at someone, obviously you have to judge them by spending time with them, how the way he carries himself. But that is a problem, a problem to small section of our community where they think if you’€™re successful, or if you talk a certain way, I mean people come up to me and say, ‘Russell Wilson, is he black?’ Why would you say that? Just because he’€™s a very intelligent guy, he dresses a certain way and maybe because his ex-wife was white. … I think it’€™s just very ignorant and I think it’€™s just a very closed-minded way of looking at people.”

Continued Harrison: “You talk about the Seattle Seahawks in particular, I think that’€™s why it’€™s so hard to repeat as Super Bowl champs because there’€™s a lot of jealousy in an NFL locker room. A lot people won’€™t admit to it, but there’€™s a lot of jealousy. When you have success, some guys get more attention than others. A lot of times, certain guys can’€™t handle that.”

When Harrison played with the Patriots, he said he never had a problem with Tom Brady, and the team itself was a very close-knit unit. That’€™s what, as Harrison said, helped make New England successful.

“Tom’s one’€™s of those dudes where he’€™s just so smooth, and he was just a good guy,” Harrison said. “I honestly didn’t look at what we had in white teammates. We were just like a big family. Everyone cared about each other and we had Bible studies together, we had a real good group of guys.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Rodney Harrison, Russell Wilson,

Bill Belichick isn’t about to say what happened with Darrelle Revis this week

10.24.14 at 10:08 am ET
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FOXBORO — The question was waiting to be asked but Bill Belichick wasn’t about to provide an answer.

Still, Kevin Walsh of Comcast Sports New England asked the Patriots coach exactly what happened with Darrelle Revis on Tuesday, when the star cornerback was a no-show at practice.

The Boston Globe reported a day later that Belichick sent Revis home after he overslept and showed up late to a team meeting. Revis reportedly came back later in the day and apologized to Belichick.

Before the news broke, Revis was asked Wednesday by ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss if Tuesday’s day off was just a “mental break” day.

“That’s between me and coach,” Revis replied. “Ask him about it.”

Well, on Friday, Walsh did just that, pressing Belichick for his version of events on Tuesday.

“Anything between me and the players is between myself and the players.”

You sent him home, is that correct?

“I didn’t say that.”

He was here and then …

“I’m ready to talk about the Bears. Anything else is between myself and the players.”

Will his playing time be impacted on Sunday, based on that?

“Well, I think the Bears are really a good team. I think they’re going to be a tough, tough matchup for us. We’re going to do the best we can to match up against them.”

OK, then.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Darrelle Revis, New England Patriots,

Video: ‘4th & Goal’ breaks down Bears and Patriots

10.24.14 at 9:36 am ET
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WEEI.com Patriots writer Chris Price previews the Week 8 matchup between the Patriots and Bears. Find out the keys to the game as well as Chris’ prediction.

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