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Dan Koppen on M&M: ‘We know what’s expected of us’

08.22.11 at 12:43 pm ET
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Dan Koppen spoke with Mut & Merloni Monday afternoon. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Koppen said the key to the Patriots’€™ offensive success in the preseason so far is that ‘€œwe’€™ve got a veteran core here, and we know what’€™s expected of us.’€

‘€œWhen we go out on the field, our job is to score,’€ Koppen said. ‘€œDoesn’€™t matter if it’€™s preseason or regular season.’€

Koppen was pleased with Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy‘€™s comments concerning the Patriots’€™ quick offense in their preseason game.

‘€œWe want to play fast, we want to play at our pace,’€ Koppen said. ‘€œIf we can get the defense feeling like that more on a consistent basis coming up, hopefully we’€™re winning some games.’€

Koppen also said it was unlikely any Patriot would ever make comments like that.

Koppen said with the Patriots, ‘€œThere’€™s no difference between how we evaluate regular preseason games and regular season games.’€

As for how playing actual football instead of just practicing felt, Koppen said, ‘€œIt’€™s nice to hit someone else in a different colored uniform.’€

Koppen said the team’€™s focus right now is on the Lions and Saturday’€™s third preseason game, especially elite pass rusher Ndamukong Suh.

‘€œIt will be a great challenge for us,’€ Koppen said. ‘€œReally, another step in our quest.’€

Read More: Dan Koppen, detroit lions, Gerald McCoy, Ndamukong Suh

Fantasy Football 2011: Players to Avoid

08.22.11 at 3:10 am ET
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Knowing whom to draft in fantasy football is pretty darn important, but knowing whom to avoid is a pretty good thing too. Almost every player has some downside; just look at Chris Johnson and what his situation is doing to fantasy GMs. Johnson tops our current list of players to avoid, but he’€™s also a pen stroke away from being nowhere near it. CJ’€™s contract dispute is a perfect example of why holding your fantasy draft early stinks on ice.

With that eloquence out of the way, let’€™s take a look at Johnson and some other malodorous draft options.

Chris Johnson, Titans

He’€™s the best running back in football, but that won’€™t help you if he’€™s watching Titans games in hi-def like you and I. We’€™re not at all worried about the time he’€™s missed so far.   In fact, you could easily argue that his keeper owners are better off with no defenders anywhere near him. The problem is, as we near the season we approach the time threshold where good turns to bad. For us, this begins to hurt his value in a material way as soon as we hit the end of August. Two weeks is more than enough time to get him ready for the opener. So, if you draft in September, you will be able to make a better decision whether he is signed or not. For those drafting now, we are counseling avoidance. As much as it hurts, you just can’€™t risk taking a player in the top five and not have him in your week one lineup. As long as he is signed before the end Of August, we will be taking where we’€™d normally take him.

Michael Turner, Falcons

He’€™s a good back and he’€™ll probably have a solid year, but we see too many potential issues. He’€™s coming off of groin surgery, which is not a big deal alone, but it is a problem when we couple that risk with the risk we see as Atlanta’€™s offense continues to evolve. It’€™s quite possible that Turner’€™s snap count will fall as the Falcs try to get more receiving targets on the field. Both of Atlanta’€™s other backs, Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers, are far superior receivers. We still think Turner is the man when they want to punch it in at the stripe, and we assume he will lead the team in carries, but the ratios will be less favorable than in the past. Lastly, Turner’€™s running style lends itself to plenty of contact and at some point all players begin to shows signs of wear. Given that you need to use a first or high second round pick on him, we are not targeting Turner near his average draft position (ADP.)

Reggie Wayne, Colts

He’€™ll be a borderline Hall of Fame candidate in a few years, but he’€™s no longer a player we like for fantasy based on where we’€™d need to select him. Like Turner, Wayne will help any fantasy team. But near the end of round two, which is where he gets taken, we see some far more enticing options. We understand that some folks see Wayne as a safe option, but the path to fantasy glory is often not the safe one. He’€™s a better choice in PPR formats, and that is worth noting, but we still worry about his shrinking touchdown potential and his advanced age. There’€™s also the issue of all the other quality targets at Peyton Manning‘€™s disposal.

Jeremy Maclin, Eagles

This one is a tough one and I feel creepy writing it as Maclin has been battling real health issues. While we wish him nothing but continued good news as far as his health is concerned, we’€™re worried about taking him as a WR2. Like with Johnson, Maclin’€™s situation could change by the time most of us draft, but for now we recommend steering clear unless he slips into the 5th or 6th round. Better to look at guys like Santonio Holmes or Percy Harvin for the time being.

Knowshon Moreno, Broncos

He’€™s a good young back and John Fox likes to run, but he favors the power game. Denver has brought in Willis McGahee to pair with Moreno and we are very concerned that the former Raven may end up getting the lion’€™s share of goal line carries. If that happens, Moreno is a reach as a RB2 and that is where he’€™s being drafted. If you can get him as your 3rd or 4th back, then go for it, but targeting Moreno at the end of the 3rd round is bad business as things currently stand. Not enough upside and too many questions.

Ryan Mathews, Chargers

It’€™s no news flash that Mathews disappointed as a rookie. We advise that you don’€™t give him a chance to disappoint you in 2011, unless you can nab him as your 3rd or 4th option. There are two primary issues that we have with Mathews. First, he gets hurt getting out of bed. Second, even if he stays healthy, it appears that the Chargers are committed to using both Mathews and Mike Tolbert in equal measures. And, the kicker is that Tolbert was better on the goal line last year. We like Mathews’€™ ability and we see some real upside in his game, but as a third or fourth rounder, we need more. You can generally get a guy like BenJarvus Green-Ellis four rounds later, and we like his chances of getting goal line love a lot better.

Check us out at for all your fantasy football draft needs.

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Tight end Garrett Mills returns to New England while Patriots cut a pair

08.21.11 at 5:19 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Sunday they have signed tight end Garrett Mills and released safety Bret Lockett and rookie free agent offensive lineman Zach Roth.

Mills, 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick of the Patriots in the 2006 NFL Draft out of Tulsa and spent the majority of his rookie season with New England on the injured reserve list. Mills is a veteran of five NFL seasons and has played with New England (2006), Minnesota (2007-09), Philadelphia (2010) and Cincinnati (2010). In all, he’€™s played in 16 NFL games with three starts and has nine receptions for 110 yards.

Mills was also at the center of an interesting squabble between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and former Vikings coach Brad Childress. Days before the start of the 2007 season, Childress claimed Belichick called to ask him not to claim tight end Mills off waivers so New England could get him through to the practice squad. Childress even claimed that Belichick offered to avoid picking up a player the Vikings cut as a reward. Childress declined, and the Patriots responded by claiming linebacker David Herron. Neither player had any sort of long-term impact with their new club, but it was enough to stir some bad blood.

‘€œ[Belichick] didn’€™t really care for that,’€ Childress told Minnesota’€™s WCCO-AM after everything went down. ‘€œHe was trying to leverage, but you always find out who is honest and straightforward.’€

Lockett, 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, was claimed off waivers and awarded to the Patriots from the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 7, 2009. He originally joined Cleveland as a rookie free on May 4, 2009 out of UCLA. As a rookie with the Patriots in 2009, he played in 10 games and finished with two tackles on defense and five special teams tackles. He missed the 2010 season after being placed on injured reserve with a chest injury.

Roth, 6-foot-6, 319 pounds, was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent from Texas Christian University on August 13. Last season, Roth started 10 games at right tackle and helped anchor an offensive line that enabled TCU to set a single-season school record for touchdowns (73), points scored (541) and total offense (6,199 yards).

Read More: Bill Belichick, brad childress, Bret Lockett, David Herron

Andre Carter: Repeat after me, it’s all about the reps

08.20.11 at 9:32 pm ET
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FOXBORO — As Albert Haynesworth re-introduced himself to the practice field on Saturday afternoon – albeit as purely an observer of a walk-through – his once and current teammate Andre Carter spoke of one of the most important facets in the life of a defensive lineman.

“Reps, reps and more reps,” said Carter, who played his first game in a Patriots uniform on Thursday night in Tampa. “I think overall, it was great to just put my hand in dirt and do what I do best, just compete.”

After not starting against Jacksonville, Carter got the call to start the game against the Bucs. And while his name didn’t show up in the stat sheet, his force along the defensive front, along with Kyle Love and Vince Wilfork opened up gaping holes for Jerod Mayo to crash through to the quarterback.

“I went up against Lee once or twice,” Carter said of his first-half battle against Bucs projected starting right tackle James Lee. “I definitely had a feel for him.”

But more than that, Carter reflected on how much he’s learned in his 10 previous seasons.

“Like any player, especially when a young player starts to mature have a long sense of longevity in the league, their technique starts to change and that’s nothing against the opponent himself. But, we call it the “crafty vet.” I think it was just studying film and once you get a feel for your opponent and play-by-play, you have an idea of what you need to do.”

So, what did he think of Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis returning to the practice field on Saturday, with Ellis taking part in end-of-practice drills?
Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 training camp, Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, New England Patriots

Shaun Ellis knows what he’s in for: ‘I was born into this family’

08.20.11 at 6:23 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Shaun Ellis has been sidelined on the physically unable to perform list since he first arrived in New England earlier this month, but it’€™s not like he doesn’€™t know the challenge that lies ahead. After all, he’€™s become pretty familiar with similar systems over the course of his 11-year career.

‘€œI’€™ve kind of been through it a little bit ‘€” I was born into this family with [Bill] Parcells, being drafted by him, and going through that period my rookie year, and going through it with [Eric] Mangini,’€ he said after practice on Saturday, his first since coming off the PUP list. ‘€œYou [just] have to get back into the swing of things.’€

The 6-foot-5, 290-pounder, who was signed by the Patriots on Aug. 7, was back on the field on Saturday. He spent Saturday’€™s low-intensity walkthrough with a helmet, standing and watching many of his counterparts during the hour-long session. He did take part in the end-of-practice stretching and jogging.

‘€œIt felt good,’€ said the 34-year-old Ellis. ‘€œJust being on the field, around the teammates, moving around a little bit. It felt good.’€

It’€™s been a frustrating stretch for Ellis the last two weeks ‘€” he’€™s been trying to get up-to-speed in other areas while watching his new teammates play a pair of preseason games.

‘€œLifting weights, running ‘€” doing some extra conditioning,’€ said Ellis when asked what he’€™s been doing over the last two-plus weeks. ‘€œ[I’€™m] just trying to get caught up to speed with the rest of the guys. They’€™ve been running a lot, so I’€™ve just been trying to get caught up with them and get ready for the season.’€

While Ellis has been sidelined, he’€™s watched the New England defensive line offer a pair of absolutely dominant performances, silencing Jacksonville and Tampa Bay in preseason action.

‘€œIt’€™s been great,’€ Ellis said of the performance of the Patriots’€™ defensive line over the first two games. ‘€œIt made me want to be a part of it that much more. We have a lot of guys who can stop the run and also get after the quarterback ‘€” a lot of talent. I’€™m just eager to be a part of it and just go out there and contribute the best way I can.’€

Going forward, Ellis said he isn’€™t sure if he’€™ll be good to go for the next preseason game ‘€” set for Saturday in Detroit against the Lions. (‘€œI’€™m going to see this week. What Belichick wants me to do, that’€™s what I’€™m going to do,’€ he said.) But he believes that this New England defensive line could be capable of some ‘€œgreat things.’€

‘€œJust on names alone, it’€™s good. But we have to go out and put the work in in practice and all of us get out there and play together. I think it’€™ll gel,’€ he said. ‘€œWe all have to work hand-in-hand. I think we all have the potential to do great things with this defense, but we have to get some practice in and get down the mental aspects of playing defense.’€

Read More: 2011 training camp, Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Eric Mangini

Some quick notes on the Patriots’ Saturday afternoon practice

08.20.11 at 4:51 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots wrapped up their final training camp practice with an hourlong session on Saturday afternoon, their 21st practice of camp, which was held under occasionally cloudy skies and in helmets and no pads. (The skies opened up and it started to rain ‘€” very hard ‘€” just as practice came to a close.)

‘€¢The following players were not on the field: Taylor Price, Stevan Ridley, Leigh Bodden, Bret Lockett, Darius Butler, Shane Vereen, Josh Barrett, Danny Woodhead, Malcolm Williams, Eric Kettani, Jeff Tarpinian, Dane Fletcher, Brandon Spikes, Marcus Cannon, Ryan Wendell, Brandon Deaderick, Lee Smith, Jermaine Cunningham, Ron Brace and Mike Wright. In addition, Kevin Faulk and Ras-I Dowling were on the field in sweats.

‘€¢Saturday marked the return of Albert Haynesworth to the practice field for the first time since Aug. 3. Haynesworth was in shorts and a jersey ‘€” but no helmet ‘€” for the duration of the session. He spent most of the time off to the sideline as the rest of the defensive linemen took part in the slow-speed walkthrough. Toward the end of practice, Haynesworth chatted with owner Robert Kraft on the sidelines while other players went through a post-practice routine of jogging and stretching. He did not speak with the media after practice.

‘€¢Meanwhile, fellow defensive lineman Shaun Ellis was on the field, and he was slightly more active than Haynesworth. (According to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Ellis was removed from the PUP list.) Ellis did have a helmet and did take part in the end-of-practice stretching and jogging, but was on the sidelines for much of the afternoon. He did address the media after practice ‘€” more on that shortly.

‘€¢Several other names of note were on the field, including wide receiver/returners Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman. Tate had not been on the field for a practice since Aug. 4, while Edelman had been sidelined since Aug. 13. Both took part in special teams drills as returners.

‘€¢In offensive line work, rookie left tackle Nate Solder got some work at right guard. After practice, Belichick was asked about Solder at a different spot. ‘€œWe’€™re going to look at players at a lot of different positions, like we always do so we have depth on our roster,’€ he said. ‘€œWe only take seven linemen to a game; you’€™ve got to double up.’€

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Albert Haynesworth is back on the field but just watching and still ‘day-to-day’

08.20.11 at 4:49 pm ET
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FOXBORO — While he was only watching from the sidelines and did not have his helmet with him, Albert Haynesworth returned to the Patriots practice field for the final formal day of training camp.

Haynesworth, wearing his uniform practice jersey No. 92, watched as the team took part in a walk-through for about an hour and then went through about 20 minutes of conditioning before the end of the final open practice of camp.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick would not say whether this was an indication that Haynesworth, who hasn’t practiced since an in-stadium work out for season ticket-holders on Aug. 3, will be ready to return to practice soon or play in a preseason game.

“He’s been day-to-day,” Belichick said following Saturday’s walk-through. “He’s still day-to-day. When he’s ready, he’€™ll be out there.”

Meanwhile, Shaun Ellis returned to the practice field as well, and did take part in the walk-through. Ellis came to camp after missing time last season with the Jets with a hip injury. The Patriots have the day off on Sunday before returning to practice on Monday in preparation for the Lions next Saturday night at Ford Field in Detroit.

Read More: 2011 training camp, Albert Haynesworth, James Inhedigbo, New England Patriots
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