|09.03.14 at 5:15 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The last time the Patriots went down to Miami in Week 15 of last season, running back Stevan Ridley barely played, as he finished with just eight carries for 34 yards partly due to his fumbling issues throughout the year.
With the start of a new season and a clean slate, Ridley is putting last year in the rear-view mirror and looking forward to a better trip to South Florida this time around for Sunday’s season-opener.
“I’ve learned a lot over the four years,” said Ridley. “What I have learned is you have to leave the past in the past. This year is a new year. It’s a new opportunity and I always said a little bit of adversity never hurts anybody.”
Adversity is nothing new for Ridley as he has fumbled eight times in the past two seasons – four in each year — tying him for the fifth-most in the entire NFL among running backs last season.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick rarely has any patience for putting the ball on the ground, sometimes taking the running back completely out of the game after he fumbled and even went as far as listing him as a healthy inactive for Week 13 in Houston last season.
“What I strive to do every day is try to be the best running back that I can be to help us be productive, to help us win games,” Ridley said. “That doesn’t mean I’m going to be perfect and that I’m going to be out there making a bunch of errors, but it does mean that I have every day to come out here and try to be better than I was the day before and that’s all that I can do.”
Quarterback Tom Brady, who has handed the ball off to Ridley for all three of his years in the league, still has a great deal of confidence in him despite his reoccurring fumbling issues and is looking forward to watching him hopefully bounce back in 2014.
|09.03.14 at 3:34 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots continue to shuffle their practice squad in the days leading up to the season opener in Miami.
The team announced three cuts from the practice squad on Wednesday while signing three more to the practice squad. Among the cuts is quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
Bethel-Thompson, 26, is a third-year player out of Sacramento State, who has been with Miami (2011), Minnesota (2012-2013) and San Francisco (2013). He was signed to the Patriots practice squad on Sept. 1, 2014. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder, was originally signed by San Francisco on July 28, 2011, as a rookie free agent.
As for the additions to p-squad, they include Chris Barker, an offensive lineman who spent training camp with the Patriots, providing depth in the trenches.
The Patriots also announced the signings of tight end Allen Reisner and running back Marcus Thigpen. Thigpen and Don Jones are former Dolphins who signed this week with the Patriots and could provide some insight as the Patriots look ahead to Sunday.
In addition to Bethel-Thompson, S Kanorris Davis and DB Daxton Swanson were released from the practice squad.
Barker, 24, was released by the Patriots on Sept. 1, 2014. He is in his second NFL season after spending the entire 2013 season on the New England roster. The 6-foot-2, 310-pounder, was claimed off waivers and awarded to the Patriots from Miami on Sept. 1, 2013. He appeared in four games, playing mainly on special teams. Barker was originally signed by Miami as a rookie free agent out of Nevada on May 3, 2013, but was released on Aug. 31, 2013.
Reisner, 25, has spent time with Minnesota (2011-12) and Jacksonville (2012-13) during his time in the NFL and has played in 15 games with seven starts, accumulating seven receptions for 58 yards. The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder, originally signed with Minnesota as a rookie free agent out of Iowa on July 27, 2011. He rotated between the practice squad and the 53-man roster in 2011 and 2012, playing in six games in 2011 and four games in 2012. Reisner was claimed off waivers by Jacksonville on Dec. 24, 2012, and spent the entire 2013 season with the Jaguars. He signed back with Minnesota on April 15, 2014, but was released by the Vikings on Aug. 30, 2014.
|09.03.14 at 1:04 pm ET|
FOXBORO — One of the traits of a Bill Belichick coached defense is its ability to focus on and shutdown one particular player of the opposition’s offense.
When facing the Dolphins, that player is shifty tight end Charles Clay.
In the Dec. 15 meeting in Miami last season (a 24-20 Dolphins win), the Patriots had Aqib Talib, their best cover man, line up against Clay on most plays and limited him to just one catch for six yards on two targets.
Overall, Clay led the Dolphins with six touchdowns last season and was a good complement to wide receivers Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace. Without Talib on this year’s team, Belichick and the Patriots will need to find another way to neutralize Clay come Sunday in the season-opener in Miami.
“You have to find him,” Belichick said. “He’s all over. Sometimes he’s in the normal tight end location but you certainly can’t count on that — flex, could be in the backfield, could be detached as a receiver. Yeah, they move him around.”
The Patriots could use Devin McCourty or linebacker Jamie Collins against him — both saw some plays against him last year — or whomever occupies the safety spot next to McCourty.
Clay isn’t a typical tight end in the fact he’s 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds with the ability to line up almost anywhere on the field — in the backfield, in the slot, or even on the outside. This is what makes him so difficult to defend and matchup against.
“It’s his quickness, his speed, his ability as a vertical receiver,” Belichick said. “He can really hurt you down the field, not that he can’t hurt you in short areas but he’s certainly a 20, 30, 40-yard type of guy when they hit him on those seams and overs, vertical routes.”
Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin acknowledged he and his staff studied last year’s game tape where the Patriots shut down Clay, but added a lot has changed personnel wise for both teams — not to mention the Dolphins have a new offensive coordinator this season in Bill Lazor.
|09.03.14 at 12:54 pm ET|
FOXBORO — While there’s some question as to how Darrelle Revis will be deployed in the season opener against the Dolphins — whether he’ll be manning up against a single receiver or working a particular side — one Miami receiver is excited about the prospect of going head-to-head with the Patriots cornerback.
“If he does follow me, it will be an exciting matchup,” Wallace told reporters. “I’ll have fun. Go after it all day long.
“He’s a good player. He’s a really smart, crafty guy,” Wallace said of Revis. “He’s going to be in the right spots. You have to move him off his spots because he’s a guy that’s not going to be fooled with all the movement, jerking around at the line. You’ve got to get going, get to your spots and be fast out of your break.”
Wallace doesn’t sound like the type of player who is going to get drawn into a potential war of words with Revis.
“Me personally, I don’t really have a mental battle with anybody,” he said. “I’m just out there trying to play football. I don’t get into too much back and forth, this or that. For me, mentally, it’s about myself and being in the spots I need to be in, and doing what I’m coached to do. I’m not really worried about one guy.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick extolled the virtues of Revis on Wednesday. Speaking with Miami reporters on a conference call, he called Revis “very professional” and praised his work ethic.
“Darrelle has done a good job since he’s been here,” Belichick said. “Very professional, smart player, works hard, durable, dependable. He’s really done everything we’ve asked him to do and really tried to do it well. Very professional. I think if any of our players want to see why he’s had such a successful career, all they have to do is watch him prepare off the field and work. He really does a good job there.”
In last year’s game against Miami, the Patriots utilized Aqib Talib on tight end Charles Clay. While Belichick wouldn’t get into specifics on a potential Revis-Clay or Revis-Wallace matchup, he did expand on the pros and cons of using a defensive back on a single receiver.
“The pros and cons of it: the pros are that you have a matchup or maybe more than one matchup that you want,” he said. “The drawbacks are that it forces other people to adjust and you have guys playing multiple positions, and especially if you don’t know where the receivers are going to be, somebody has to make some adjustments there.
“It’s easy for a guy to follow the guy he’s following, but then depending on what personnel groups and formations they use and what defenses you’re in, what type of calls you’re running, then there could be some communication and adjustments there. You just have to weigh those factors out and figure out what you’re comfortable with as a team and how you like the matchups or don’t like [the matchups], how you want to change them and so forth.”
|09.03.14 at 12:33 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The great unknown. Nothing describes the anxiety many teams, including those of championship caliber, face heading into the first game of the new season.
With the Patriots, they have a new star cornerback, a new starting left guard (still TBD) and a new offensive line coach. But it’s not so much the unknown of your own players but the unknown of the opposition that provides the biggest challenge when game planning at this time of year.
Preseason film is very basic and not chock full of exotic looks so coaches have to take their best guesses as to what a team like the Dolphins will do once the game begins.
“I’d say there are just more unknowns,” Belichick said. “I think each year has its own the opener has its own set of unanswered questions, unknowns. We know a little bit more about our team each week. We’ve been with them, but once we get to the regular season, opening day and the succeeding games, we’ll continue to learn. I’m not really sure what we have. I’m not sure anybody knows what they have.
“I don’t know what they have. We’ll see how it goes. I’m sure there will be some matchups that we’ll be alright with. I’m sure there will be other matchups that we won’t be alright with. We’ll see how that plays out in succeeding weeks and if there’s a pattern or not a pattern or whatever. There are always a lot of unknowns on opening day. This year is no exception.”
The Dolphins are featuring a new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor, the quarterbacks coach of the Chip Kelly-led Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. Lazor is installing a version of the hurry-up offense that featured the fastest snap-to-snap offense in the NFL. [WEEI.com’s Chris Price gave a detailed look at what to expect from Lazor.]
“If they don’t substitute, it’s going to be hard for us to substitute,” Belichick said Wednesday. “But, I don’t know who they’re going to have in the game. They use different personnel groups. Whoever they have in the game, if they go quicker with that group, then they go quicker with that group. I’m sure we’ll have to leave our group on the field. It would be hard to sub in those situations.
“If they change, we change to match them. We’ve done both ‘ we have, we haven’t. I don’t know. It would depend on, again, what groups they use and what the situations are and so forth. Look, if you want to substitute a player to get a matchup then the advantage is, you’ve substituted to get that matchup. If you don’t substitute, then you take the matchups that you have and have more continuity possibly. There’re tradeoffs no matter which way you do it.”
|09.03.14 at 12:25 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Only cornerback Brandon Browner and wide receiver Brian Tyms (both of whom are serving four-game suspensions) were missing from the start of Patriots practice on Wednesday, a session held on the back fields behind Gillette Stadium in full pads.
The Patriots, who are prepping for their season opener Sunday against the Dolphins in Miami, had three new practice squadders on the practice field, one of which was former Dolphins running back Marcus Thigpen.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|09.03.14 at 10:42 am ET|
FOXBORO — Even for the closest of friends, there’s a time to put friendship aside and take care of business.
That was the message from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady Wednesday at his press conference when he was asked about the four-game suspension of close friend Wes Welker for violation of the NFL drug policy.
“I don’t have a lot of thoughts or comments on that,” Brady said. “That’s Wes’ situation and their team. Obviously I have plenty to worry about with this week and this team. As a friend you always hope for the best, but it’s not friend time, it’s opponent time, and I’m focused on the Dolphins.”
Brady and Welker were spotted together in May at the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Ky. It was at the Kentucky Derby where, according to Pro Football Talk, Welker took an illegal substance containing ecstasy and amphetamines and was later tagged positive by an NFL-mandated drug test.
Brady was asked Wednesday if he saw Welker taking any such substances.
“I have no comment on that,” Brady said with a heavy laugh.
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