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Tim Wright set new mark for dependability in Patriots passing game in 2014

12.30.14 at 8:00 am ET
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Tim Wright

Tim Wright

Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat –€” a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback –€” it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. Here’€™s a look at the target breakdown for the 2015 regular-season, by receptions.

WR Julian Edelman: 92 catches on 134 targets (69 percent)
TE Rob Gronkowski: 82 catches on 129 targets (64 percent)
WR Brandon LaFell: 74 catches on 119 targets (62 percent)
RB Shane Vereen: 52 catches on 77 targets (68 percent)
WR Danny Amendola: 27 catches on 44 targets (61 percent)
TE Tim Wright: 26 catches on 33 targets (79 percent)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 catches on 10 targets (60 percent)
FB James Develin: 6 catches on 8 targets (75 percent)
RB James White: 5 catches on 5 targets (100 percent)
WR Brian Tyms: 5 catch on 11 targets (45 percent)
RB LeGarrette Blount: 4 catches on 4 targets (100 percent)
RB Stevan Ridley: 4 catches on 5 targets (80 percent)
WR Aaron Dobson: 3 catches on 5 targets (60 percent)
TE Michael Hoomananwanui: 3 catches on 6 targets (50 percent)
RB Brandon Bolden: 2 catches on 6 targets (33 percent)
RB Jonas Gray: 1 catch on 3 targets (33 percent)
TE Steve Maneri: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)
TOTAL: 392 catches on 600 targets

A few notes on these numbers, as well as some context:

— In his first season with the Patriots, Wright managed to set a new mark for dependability in the passing game with his 79 percent catch rate, a high for any offensive skill position player who was targeted at least 20 times in a single season. The tight end broke the previous mark of 77 percent, set by five different pass catchers, most recently Danny Woodhead (who caught 34 of 44 passes in 2010). Of course, that sure-handed skill is nothing new for Wright, who now has a two-year total as a pro (with the Bucs and Patriots) of 73 percent, a remarkable total for any receiver.

— This marked the second straight season that Edelman led the Patriots in targets — he had 105 catches on 151 targets last season.

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Could Patriots see Rex Ryan on opposing sideline this postseason?

12.30.14 at 12:55 am ET
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Could Rex Ryan be back to face the Patriots as a consultant to another playoff team next month? (Getty Images)

Could Rex Ryan be back to face the Patriots as a consultant to another playoff team next month? (Getty Images)

The Jets made it official on Monday, firing Rex Ryan as head coach. In five seasons, Ryan’€™s defenses made life difficult for Tom Brady and the Patriots offense at least twice a year — while his teams were almost always offensively challenged, Ryan’€™s defenses always managed to provide a stern test for New England.

But could Ryan show up on an opposing sideline to face the Patriots sooner rather than later? Specifically, this postseason? It’€™s not out of the realm of possibility. After all, New England football fans can recall the case of Josh McDaniels, who was allowed to leave the Rams at the end of the 2011 regular-season following the firing of head coach Steve Spagnuolo. McDaniels joined the Patriots that postseason, and was part of the coaching staff — as an offensive assistant — for the playoff game against his old team, the Broncos before taking over as the offensive coordinator the following season when Bill O’Brien left for Penn State.

With that in mind, there’€™s nothing to prevent Ryan joining another postseason team in the next week or so, and potentially bringing the secrets of his defensive success against the Patriots with him. Granted, it’€™s considered a long-shot for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Ryan apparently wants a head coaching gig, and the idea of a short-term stopover with another franchise on the way to a full-time job probably isn’€™t all that palatable for him. (Not to mention the idea of another team letting him into their building for a month or two, only to see him stroll out the door with any sort of inside info he might attain along the way.)

But the idea of Rex and another playoff opponent conspiring to take down the Patriots next month is certainly food for thought. And while there are 11 other possibilities still out there, Ryan with the Broncos would likely be the most intriguing scenario, for a few reasons.

Denver is thought to have all the requisite pieces in place on the defensive side of the ball to allow him to play the sort of aggressive, attacking style he loves. With the exception of last year’€™s AFC title game, Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has looked pretty much clueless when it comes to going up against Brady and the Patriots. And while Del Rio and Ryan share some of the same basic defensive ideas from their time together in Baltimore, Ryan’€™s secrets to slowing Brady and the Patriots would represent a sizable improvement in that regard for the Broncos. (Against this backdrop, there’€™s also the possibility of Del Rio interviewing — or even taking — one of the available head coaching jobs, which would certainly add some potential intrigue to the mix.)

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Vince Wilfork on D&H: ‘We have to play better football going forward’

12.29.14 at 8:39 pm ET
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Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork joined Dale & Holley on Monday to discuss the team’€™€™s loss to the Bills in the regular-season finale and to look ahead to the upcoming postseason. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

The Patriots fell to the Bills 17-9 in the regular-season finale Sunday at Gillette Stadium. The loss snapped a 16-game home winning streak and a 17-game home winning streak against AFC East opponents. Although the Patriots had already wrapped up the AFC’s No. 1 seed and the game was essentially meaningless, the team isn’t going into the playoffs the way they wanted to by going into the postseason with a loss.

“We have to play better football going forward, I can tell you that,” said Wilfork. “It’s a one-game season from here on out. We have to be at our best so every team that we may face, whoever that may be, they are going to be a good team. We have to be executing on all cylinders to be successful going forward. We have to put everything we have into one basket and hopefully that is enough to get us to where we want to be.”

Wilfork played well into the second half — more than most of the Patriots’ regular starters. By playing well into the game, Wilfork picked up a roster bonus for playing in more than 70 percent of the team’s defensive snaps this season. Wilfork said he didn’t know how much he was going to play going into the game, as that was up to coach Bill Belichick.

“No, I didn’t know anything,” said Wilfork. “Bill just told us all to prepare for this game like we do any other game, so just worry about going out there and execute. I think that’s the way we took it. We took to the game that way — we were playing it like a normal game and if he made any decisions it was his decision that he made. That was Bill’s call to do whatever he wanted to do and what he thought was best for the team. You have to talk to him with those situations.”

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Patriots add LB Eric Martin to practice squad

12.29.14 at 6:53 pm ET
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The Patriots signed linebacker Eric Martin to the practice squad on Monday. The 23-year-old Martin played 13 games for Cleveland this past season and was released on Dec. 26.

Here’s a portion of the statement from the team on the move:

Martin, 23, originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with New Orleans out of Nebraska on April 28, 2013. The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder, was released by New Orleans on Aug. 27, 2013, and was claimed off waivers by Cleveland on Aug. 28, 2013. Over the last two seasons, Martin has played in 29 games with one start and has registered 14 total tackles. He played in 13 games with one start for Cleveland in 2014 before being released last week.

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Reports: Falcons, Niners seeking interviews with Josh McDaniels for head coaching jobs

12.29.14 at 6:34 pm ET
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Both the Niners and Falcons have requested interviews with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

San Francisco’s head coaching vacancy opened up after Jim Harbaugh left the Niners for the University of Michigan, while Atlanta fired coach Mike Smith earlier Monday. McDaniels, who coached the Broncos for almost two years (2009-2010) before eventually returning to Foxboro to serve as the Patrios offensive coordinator in 2012, was asked on Monday if he had any interest in being a head coach in the NFL next year.

“I haven’€™t even thought about that, to tell you the truth,” he said on a conference call with the media. “I know that this is that time of the year, but I know that there is also a procedure in place, and those things will sort themselves out. I’€™ve said a number of times I’€™m very happy here. I think I’€™ve got one of the best jobs you could possibly have, and I’€™m just trying to do the best I can here. My focus has been on the Patriots. It will stay on the Patriots right now.”

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Jets owner Woody Johnson ‘misspoke’ on Darrelle Revis comments, calls Robert Kraft to clarify

12.29.14 at 5:28 pm ET
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Earlier on Monday during his press conference announcing the firings of head coach Rex Ryan and general manger John Idzik, Jets owner Woody Johnson talked about Darrelle Revis and how he would “love” to have him back with the Jets.

“Darrelle is a great player and if I thought I could have gotten Darrelle for that, I probably would’€™ve taken him,”€ Johnson told reporters of the one-year deal Revis signed with the Patriots in March. “And it was our best judgment to do what we did. Darrelle’€™s a great player — I’€™d love for Darrelle to come back.”

Since Revis is currently under contract with the Patriots, and has a team option for next season ($20 million), the comment could be viewed as tampering. Johnson released a statement through the Jets’ official team Twitter account early Monday evening addressing his comments.

The statement read: I misspoke today when I commented on Darrelle Revis. I would never interfere in the contractual relationship of a player with another team and I should not have used those words. I called Robert Kraft this afternoon to emphasize those points.

Bill Belichick was asked of the comments of Revis by Johnson on WEEI’s Dale & Holley Monday afternoon, before the statement was released by Johnson.

“I would think that the league would look into those comments … I’m sure that’s something that they would look into,” Belichick said.

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Report: Tom Brady modifies contract to give Patriots $24 million more to spend this offseason

12.29.14 at 4:52 pm ET
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According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Tom Brady has modified his contract with the Patriots to give the team $24 million in more spending money this offseason.

The report says Brady changed the $24 million in “skill” guarantee to only “injury” guarantee, meaning Brady now would get the guaranteed money only if he were to get injured. It also says Brady can be released by the Patriots without any liability, but then would become an unrestricted free agent.

With a number of free agents for the Patriots after this season — Devin McCourty, Nate Solder, Darrelle Revis (team option for $20 million), Shane Vereen, Stephen Gostkowski and Stevan Ridley — the freed up cash could be used to keep the current Patriots on board for next season, or to go out and get free agents on the open market, or sign current players on the roster to contract extensions.

Brady is currently signed through the end of the 2017 season, with his base salary in 2015 set to go from $2 million this year, to $7 million next year. The restructuring of his deal does not change his cap hit for next season, which is $14.8 million. It is the third restructuring of his deal since March of 2012.

UPDATE 7:50 p.m.: ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss has reported Brady has also restructured his base salary for each of the next three seasons — seeing a $1 million increase in those seasons. He will now have a base salary of $8 million in 2015, $9 million in 2016 and $10 million in 2017.

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