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Poll: What do you think of Patriots decision to acquire Akeem Ayers?

10.21.14 at 5:43 pm ET
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The Patriots swung a deal for linebacker Akeem Ayers on Tuesday. The veteran has struggled with knee issues over the last year-plus, but if he’s healthy, he could add some much-needed depth for New England at a position that’s taken a hit with the season-ending injury to Jerod Mayo.

What do you think of the Patriots decision to acquire linebacker Akeem Ayers?

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Akeem Ayers will finally get a chance to show what he can do as part of a Patriots defense

10.21.14 at 5:17 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)

The Patriots passed on Akeem Ayers in the 2011 draft, but he was certainly a prospect who drew their interest.

“I think I would be a great fit for their defense,” Ayers told me at the combine that February when I asked him about the possibility of playing for the Patriots.

One reason he stuck out as a possible Patriot at the time was the fact that even though he made his bones as a defensive end in college, he displayed enough versatility as a collegian at UCLA to think about as an outside linebacker/pass rusher in a 3-4 pro set.

“I feel like I can adapt to any kind of defense, whether it’€™s 4-3 or 3-4, because of my versatility playing defensive end in college [and] being a pass-rush linebacker,” he said at the time.

“As far as my pass-rush ability, I know I’€™m nowhere near reaching my peak. I’€™ve done a pretty good job rushing the passer these last two seasons, and I’€™m only going to get better.”

The Patriots certainly hope so, as they have apparently swung a deal to acquire Ayers. A longish, active presence who worked primarily as an end in college, he was a second-round pick of the Titans in 2011 after finishing his college career with 14 sacks.

The 6-foot-3, 253-pounder made the move to outside linebacker once turning pro, and had his best season in 2012 when he had a career-best six sacks and eight passes defensed to go along with 110 tackles for Tennessee. From 2011 through 2013, he started 44 of a possible 48 games in his first three years with the Titans.

However, he’s struggled with knee issues as of late — he had two separate knee operations this past offseason to repair the patellar tendons in both knees. In the final year of his rookie deal, Ayers has only been active for two games this season, and has had three tackles. (Pro Football Focus has him down for just 10 snaps on the season.)

He has shown a nice ability to work in support when it comes to run defense, but he’s known first and foremost as a pass rusher. In New England, Ayers’ versatility could allow him to play a couple of different roles in the Patriots’ 4-3 front. Ultimately, New England gets a veteran body to help out as a position where it was dangerously thin following the injury to Jerod Mayo.

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Report: Patriots acquire linebacker Akeem Ayers from Titans

10.21.14 at 4:39 pm ET
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According to Titans beat writer Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, the Patriots have traded for Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers, pending a physical. CBS’ Jason La Canfora adds the Patriots will also receive a seventh-round pick and give a sixth-rounder back to Tennessee.

Ayers was a 2011 second-round pick and started in 43 games during his first three seasons in the league, including totaling 66 tackles in 2012. He reportedly had offseason knee surgery on both knees and has only appeared in two games so far this season.

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Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork back at practice for Patriots, Darrelle Revis among those not spotted

10.21.14 at 12:42 pm ET
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Offensive linemen Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming were all present at the start of practice for the Patriots on Tuesday, while cornerback Darrelle Revis and defensive end Chandler Jones were not among those spotted at the workout, which was held in sweats and shells, according to reports.

Connolly and Stork have been dealing with head injuries the last couple of weeks, while Fleming has been on the shelf because of a finger problem. Special teamer Nate Ebner, who has also been missing with a finger injury for the last couple of weeks, was also spotted at practice.

On the other side, while Revis has had occasional hamstring issues over the course of the season, nothing has kept him from playing. It’s not known what Jones might be dealing with.

The Patriots will host the Bears Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

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Fantasy Football: Week 8 waiver wire

10.21.14 at 11:28 am ET
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It’s an insanely target-rich environment this week on most league waiver wires. There is high-quality talent breaking out all over the place. This is a week to act and I’ve got you covered. Even in most big leagues there is quality talent available this week. Unless you play in a league where Bryce Brown was already rostered, you have some nice options. Players like Jerick McKinnon, Tre Mason and Odell Beckham Jr. simply have to be owned and they are available in a great many leagues based on Yahoo’s statistics.

As always, the ownership percentages are listed for each player. These rates of ownership are based on Yahoo! leagues, which tend to be smaller and more representative of the 10-team leagues most of us play in. Obviously, these numbers are mostly for perspective. What really matters is which players are available in your particular league, and you’ll need to do the legwork on that.

If you play in really big leagues, as I tend to do, you should head on over to Rotobahn this afternoon and check out my expanded waiver wire. The expanded edition gives you about twice as many options. To keep pace with all WEEI and Rotobahn fantasy football content, including Sunday chats and The Fantasy Football Hour with my good buddy Jim Hackett, follow me on Twitter.


Carson Palmer, Cardinals — 42 percent

He’s not a weekly QB1 — even in big leagues, but Palmer is a fine matchup option and he makes a very good QB2 in all formats. Rarely will he lay an egg in a solid matchup. His weapons are too good, and Bruce Arians’ offense is a great platform for a quarterback.

Joe Flacco, Ravens — 63 percent

He has a Week 11 bye, so be mindful of that. Apart from the bye, most of Flacco’s arrows are pointing decidedly up. I like the schedule for the most part, and Gary Kubiak‘s scheme seems to be taking hold at the right time. Flacco can help you in all leagues.

Robert Griffin III, Washington — 31 percent

Do you feel lucky, punk? Griffin’s stock is at an all-time low. I added him in a few leagues last week and I am glad I did. Once he gets back, probably in Week 10, he could be a weekly option as his weapons in Washington are quite strong. He’s the best QB stash out there right now.

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins — 36 percent

He is past his bye week, so he can help you get through your starter’s bye no matter who that starter is. Tannehill is also playing better football as are his receivers — namely Mike Wallace and rookie Jarvis Landry. The Dolphins starter makes a nice QB2 if you need one.

Eli Manning, Giants — 60 percent

Manning is down the list a bit this week because the Giants are on their bye in Week 8. Still, he has some value after the bye because the Giants have some good remaining matchups and a developing star in Odell Beckham Jr. They also have a few solid tight ends now, and we like the direction that Reuben Randle is heading in as well. Manning can help you as a matchup play in all leagues.

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Josh McDaniels: Danny Amendola’s smarts were big part of late TD Thursday against Jets

10.20.14 at 8:31 pm ET
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On what turned out to be the play that produced the game-winning touchdown pass last Thursday against the Jets, one of the key moments came when wide receiver Danny Amendola recognized the fact that the play had started to break down and was able to scramble to get open. That helped quarterback Tom Brady find the receiver for the touchdown.

On Monday, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels praised Amendola for his ability to not only recognize what was going on, but lean on his experience with the “scramble drill” in an important moment.

“I think the big key for us is to try to always come back to the ball or come towards the quarterback — the direction that he’s scrambling — because throwing away from where the quarterback is going is always a difficult proposition,” McDaniels said. “So, we try to teach them to be friendly to the quarterback in terms of trying to give him an opportunity to make a throw that he can make. And then the guys that are deep, certainly if you’re deep and you go deeper you might get out of his range, so the deep guys may end up coming a little bit shorter.

“In this case, Danny was the short guy. And again, you have two choices, you could either kind of try to get away from your guy going towards the direction the quarterback is rolling to or running, or in the case of what Danny did, he turned and went in the other direction because he was a short receiver that ended up turning his route into a deeper play.”

For a receiver, it’s all about trying to do whatever he can to help out the quarterback.

“It’s not a perfect science,” acknowledged McDaniels. “But what we do try to tell them is, ‘Look, you can’t stand there and be covered, and you don’t want to run out of the quarterback’s potential window to throw you the ball.’ So, they want to stay active, they want to try to mirror the quarterback as best as we can and try to create some separation from the defender that’s closest to you. I thought Danny did a great job — we had a couple guys do a really good job on that play — and Danny ended up with the ball on it.”

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Following the flags: Tracking Patriots’ penalties for 2014 season

10.20.14 at 7:04 pm ET
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Through seven games, the Patriots have been flagged for 63 penalties (most in the league heading into Monday Night Football) for a total of 590 yards (most in the NFL). To this point in the season, here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
ST/DB Logan Ryan: 6 penalties (illegal block above the waist, 2 defensive pass interference, 2 defensive holding, illegal use of hands), 83 yards
WR Brandon LaFell: 5 penalties (offsides on free kick, 3 offensive pass interference, false start), 40 yards
OL Nate Solder: 5 penalties (offensive holding, illegal block above the waist, 3 false starts), 35 yards
OL Jordan Devey: 4 penalties (2 offensive holding, false star, unnecessary roughness), 40 yards
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 3 penalties (roughing the passer, defensive offsides, unnecessary roughness), 35 yards
DL Chandler Jones: 2 penalties (2 roughing the passer), 30 yards
S/ST Duron Harmon: 2 penalties (face mask, illegal block above the waist), 21 yards
TE Rob Gronkowski: 2 penalties (false start, unsportsmanlike conduct), 20 yards
ST/DB Don Jones: 2 penalties (2 offensive holding), 20 yards
DL Dominique Easley 2 penalties (neutral zone infraction, unnecessary roughness), 20 yards
WR Aaron Dobson: 2 penalties (offensive pass interference, false start) 15 yards
OL Cameron Fleming: 2 penalties (false start, offensive holding), 15 yards
OL Bryan Stork: 2 penalties (false start, offensive holding), 15 yards
CB Darrelle Revis: 2 penalties (2 defensive holding), 10 yards
CB Brandon Browner: 2 penalties (2 defensive holding) 10 yards
CB Alfonzo Dennard: 2 penalties (2 defensive holding), 10 yards
CB Malcolm Butler: 1 penalties (defensive pass interference), 24 yards
WR Danny Amendola: 1 penalty (face mask), 15 yards
LB Jamie Collins: 1 penalty (unnecessary roughness), 15 yards
OL Ryan Wendell: 1 penalty (facemask), 15 yards
OL Dan Connolly: 1 penalty (chop block), 14 yards
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 1 penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
S/ST Tavon Wilson: 1 penalty (offensive holding) 10 yards
OL Marcus Cannon: 1 penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
Team: 1 penalties (illegal substitution), 10 yards
QB Tom Brady: 1 penalty (intentional grounding), 10 yards
RB/ST Brandon Bolden: 1 penalty (offensive holding) 9 yards
DL Sealver Siliga: 1 penalty (illegal use of hands), 5 yards
S Patrick Chung: 1 penalty (defensive holding), 5 yards
OL Josh Kline: 1 penalty (false start), 5 yards
WR Julian Edelman: 1 penalty (false start), 5 yards
LS/ST Danny Aiken: 1 penalty (false start), 5 yards
TE Tim Wright: 1 penalty (false start) 5 yards

Most penalized by position
Offensive line: 17 penalties, 149 yards
Cornerback: 13 penalties, 137 yards
Wide receiver: 9 penalties, 75 yards
Special teams: 6 penalties, 49 yards
Defensive line: 5 penalties, 55 yards
Linebacker: 4 penalties, 50 yards
Tight end: 4 penalties, 35 yards
Safety: 2 penalty, 20 yards
Team: 2 penalties, 10 yards
Quarterback: 1 penalty, 10 yards

Most frequently called penalties
False start: 13
Offensive holding: 11
Defensive holding: 9
Unnecessary roughness: 4
Offensive pass interference: 4
Facemask: 3
Roughing the passer: 3
Defensive pass interference: 3
Illegal block above the waist: 3
Illegal use of hands: 2
Offsides on free kick: 1
Neutral zone infraction: 1
Defensive offsides: 1
Offsides on free kick: 1
Illegal substitution: 1
Unsportsmanlike conduct: 1
Intentional grounding: 1
Chop block: 1

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