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Bill Belichick: ‘It was a good week for us down here’

08.10.13 at 12:07 am ET
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Bill Belichick watched as his team racked up a 31 points and built a 31-14 lead before holding on for a 31-22 win over the Philadelphia Eagles Friday night at Lincoln Financial Field in the preseason opener for both teams. The game capped a four-day session with Chip Kelly‘s Eagles in Philadelphia, which included three practices at Philly’s practice facility.

Here’s what Belichick had to say afterward:

‘€œI think we gained a lot of experience,” Belichick said in his opening statement. “We’€™ve got a long way to go. I think there was some good things out there, but we’€™ll just have to keep stringing it together here, keep grinding away. We’€™ve got a long way to go and I think if we can keep putting together good practices and solid efforts when we get out there on the field that we’€™ll make the kind of progress that we need to make. It was a good week for us down here, it really was. Coach Kelly and his staff and the Eagles, we got a lot of good work in this week and definitely we’€™re a better football team than we were 5 days ago.’€

On the running game which produced 248 yards on the ground and three touchdown runs:

‘€œI think we got a lot of production out of our running backs, and actually we got good production out of the receivers, tight ends, quarterbacks, running backs, we were able to get good balance on offense so that’€™s great. Anytime you can run the ball that helps everything else. We blocked well, the receivers blocked well, the backs ran well, we had a few good plays.’€

On Ryan Mallett, who left late in the first half after taking a hit to the face from defensive lineman Damion Square:

‘€œI thought he did a solid job in there. I thought all of our quarterbacks were productive. We got production from a lot of guys. It’€™s not perfect out there by anybody, we’€™ve definitely got things we’€™ve got to work on, but I thought we did enough good things to move the ball fairly consistently and be balanced.’€

On the defense:

‘€œA lot of guys played and again, that’€™s an offense that we practiced against but it’€™s still a tough offense to play against and we got a lot of looks on them, I think that will serve us well when we have to go up against that again. We learned about how to play some of their option schemes, they have several different ones. They do a good job, so that was a good experience for us too. There was a lot of no huddle, a lot of pace, not all, but some and that was good for us too. We could evaluate our conditioning and also some of our schemes against that type of offense.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2013 training camp, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl

Tom Brady, Patriots roll over Eagles in preseason opener

08.09.13 at 10:40 pm ET
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The Patriots kicked off the preseason on a mostly positive note Friday night when they dismantled the Eagles in Philadelphia by a 31-22 score. Here’s a quick look at what went right and what went wrong:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

‘€¢Tom Brady and the starting offense delivered a jolt right out of the gate. On the first drive, it was a six-play, 80-yard sequence that was all on the ground, highlighted by a 62-yard run from Stevan Ridley. The second drive was just as impressive, as the quarterback ended up spreading the ball around to young receivers Aaron Dobson (two catches, 35 yards), Kenbrell Thompkins (four catches, 23 yards) and Shane Vereen (two catches, 18 yards, one touchdown), and ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Vereen on a pass out of the backfield that looked an awful lot like the routes Vereen ran last season against the Texans. Brady played 16 snaps, and was 7-for-8 for 65 yards and one touchdown. A good opening act for the quarterback and the rest of the New England offense.

‘€¢Ridley and LeGarrette Blount had a very good evening. Ridley had his 62-yard run and ended the game with eight carries for 92 yards and a touchdown, while Blount added a 51-yard touchdown run on a play that didn’t quite work the way they drew it up — it included a super-slow cutback from the big back — but ended with Blount flipping into the end zone, thanks in part to a nice finishing block which was thrown by Zach Sudfeld. Blount finished with 11 carries for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

‘€¢The Patriots were able to force a first-quarter turnover when Tommy Kelly and Chandler Jones combined on a sack and forced fumble. New England was able to come away with the turnover thanks to Bill Belichick throwing the challenge flag. The Patriots couldn’t make the Eagles pay, but the turnover was a good sign. Kelly ran pretty much exclusively with the starting defense alongside Vince Wilfork at defensive tackle, and looked feisty while trying to collapse the pocket.

WHAT WENT WRONG

‘€¢It wasn’t all bad, but the backup quarterbacking play was uneven at times, particularly compared to Brady. Ryan Mallett made some good throws (including a dart to Julian Edelman in the second quarter), but struggled with touch at times and ended up going 9-for-18 for 97 yards. (He left the game in the second quarter after taking a hit, and in the third quarter, the team announced he had a head injury and his return was questionable.)

‘€¢Tim Tebow also had some good moments, and showed good touch on a couple of screen passes. He managed to put together a third-quarter scoring drive that relied heavily on Blount — including one play that saw New England run the 49ers style read-option from the three-back pistol with Tebow in the game. However, there were also times where he took too long to get rid of the ball and failed to recognize pre-snap changes in the Philly defense, leading to busted plays and negative yardage. At this point in his career, he presents an intriguing question — he is not an NFL game-ready quarterback when presented with a traditional offense. (Simply put, you cannot bang a square peg into a round hole.) But if you want to try some different things and install a different package, that remains a possibility. Tebow finished 4-for-12 for 55 yards and 31 yards rushing.

‘€¢Aqib Talib has had a really good camp to this point, but on Philly’s opening drive, he was burned by DeSean Jackson on a really impressive touchdown toss from Michael Vick.

‘€¢Not all bad, but rookie linebacker Jamie Collins was on the field for big chunks early, and just missed taking down Philly quarterback Nick Foles in the backfield — he simply overran the play. Jake Bequette was another guy who just missed out on a possible play in the backfield when he swung and missed on a possible sack on Matt Barkley just before the end of the first half. (Bequette actually submitted a pretty good effort, and is part of a group that includes Justin Francis when it comes to working as a backup defensive end.)

‘€¢Stephen Gostkowski missed a 44-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter and went wide right on a 53-yard attempt in the thirrd quarter. (He did connect on a 34-yarder late in the first half.) The Patriots are trying out different holders, and that may have had an effect on each attempt, but still not the result you’re hoping for if you are New England.

Tom Brady nearly perfect in preseason debut

08.09.13 at 8:27 pm ET
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Tom Brady didn’t look like a quarterback who was missing his top five receivers from a season before.

The Patriots star quarterback came out and played the first two series of Friday night’s preseason opener, leading a pair of touchdown drives.

The first drive of the night didn’t feature a single pass from Brady but rather three runs from Stevan Ridley and three from LeGarrette Blount, including a 62-yard run off the right side on the first offensive play from scrimmage. Ridley ran twice more, including the 1-yard TD run off the left side for the first score of the game.

After Michael Vick answered with a six-play scoring drive of his own, capped by a 47-yard TD strike to DeSean Jackson over Aqib Talib, Brady came out firing on his second drive.

Brady was nearly sacked on his first play of the second drive but then completed his next seven passes, including a pretty 13-yard touch pass to Shane Vereen, who managed to stay in bounds in the back left corner of the end zone. Brady completed four passes to Kenbrell Thompkins for 23 yards, one to Aaron Dobson for 23 yards and one to Danny Amendola for six yards.

Brady finished 7-for-8 for 65 yards on the night and played a total of 16 snaps before being taken out for Ryan Mallett. Vick was also replaced after two series, going 4-for-5 for 94 yards before Nick Foles stepped in.

Read More: 2013 training camp, Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins, LeGarrette Blount

Several Patriots veterans expected to sit out Friday’s preseason opener against Eagles

08.09.13 at 4:53 pm ET
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The Patriots and Eagles are set to kick off in a few hours in Philly, but based on their practice attendance this week, several New England players aren’t likely to take part in the preseason opener. That group includes wide receiver Michael Jenkins, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, offensive linemen Marcus Cannon, Dan Connolly and Tyronne Green and defensive linemen Jermaine Cunningham and Armond Armstead. In addition, Rob Gronkowski, who underwent offseason surgeries on his back and forearm, hasn’t suited up for the duration of camp, and isn’t expeected to see the field on Friday.

While it will give the coaching staff a chance to see some new faces in new places in game action, the biggest pregame question surrounding the injuries is likely who will play right guard. Connolly, who entered training camp as the incumbent, has been extremely limited since the start of camp, and Cannon has missed the last several practices. In their place, backup tackle Will Svitek has run with the starting offense, but it will be interesting to see who gets the majority of work there this evening.

Report: Randy Moss close to TV deal with Fox

08.09.13 at 3:14 pm ET
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According to Pro Football Talk, former NFL receiver Randy Moss is close to a television deal with Fox. Moss, 36, last played for the 49ers after sitting out the 2011 season.

The 21st overall pick of the 1998 draft by the Vikings, Moss’ most memorable season came in 2007, when he had 1493 receiving yards and set the NFL record for touchdown receptions with 23 as a member of the Patriots. Moss spent parts of four seasons with the Patriots before being traded to the Vikings in a season that saw him play for three teams, as the Titans claimed the troubled receiver after he was waived by the Vikings.

In his career, Moss has played for five teams: the Vikings (twice), the Raiders, the Patriots, the Titans and the 49ers. He was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time All Pro.

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What to watch for Friday: Snap counts and rookie receivers

08.08.13 at 11:51 pm ET
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Here are eight things we’€™ll be watching for Friday when the Patriots meet the Eagles in the preseason opener for both teams:

1. Tom Brady and his snap count: This is probably one of the more overhyped storylines this time of year, but there could be something telling in the number of snaps he takes in the preseason opener for a few reasons, not the least of which includes the fact that he’€™s going to be throwing to (almost) a whole new group of receivers. If he does play, it shouldn’€™t be more than two series — anything less would be putting the quarterback in harm’€™s way. For what it’€™s worth, the last five years, he’€™s played in three preseason openers. He didn’€™t play at all in the first preseason game in 2008 and 2011. Last year, we had him at 19 total snaps in the win over the Saints. He also played 14 snaps in 2010 and 24 in 2009.

Just for fun, I took a look back at my notes, and here are some snap counts from the 2012 preseason opener against the Saints, including penalties: Brady: 19, Brian Hoyer: 13, Ryan Mallett: 27, Stevan Ridley: 17, Danny Woodhead: 17, Shane Vereen: 26, Brandon Bolden: 17, Chandler Jones: 27, Dont’€™a Hightower: 37, Ras-I Dowling: 46, Tavon Wilson: 43.

2. Aaron Dobson and the rest of the rookie receivers: The whole host of young receivers — Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins — have looked good to this point in the summer. While there have been plenty of rookie moments, there’€™s also been a lot of good along the way as they have been force-fed the New England passing game. It’€™s one thing to look good in practice. How does all of that translate to game action? They will likely see plenty of reps over the course of the evening, and we should have a pretty good idea as to where they stand by the end of the night.

3. LeGarrette Blount: The veteran running back hasn’€™t really shown up on the radar much if at all over the course of camp. (It’€™s not altogether his fault — part of that is because the Patriots haven’€™t done a lot of full-contact, full-go work to this point, and Blount’€™s strengths are more smash mouth than finesse football.) Things are pretty fluid, but along with Bolden, Blount is currently in the mix to serve as Ridley’€™s backup, and if he gets some significant reps on Friday night, it would serve as a good indication as to where he is in the New England system.

4. Zach Sudfeld: Like the rookie receivers, Sudfeld has looked good to this point in camp, but we’€™ll know more about where he is when he’€™s tested by game action — when he has to block a defensive end, or goes against a coverage linebacker at the NFL level. Can he make the leap from practice player to game-ready rookie? Friday will give us the first real indication if he’€™s ready to contribute as a professional.

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Patriots takeaways Thursday: Michael Vick to start against Pats Friday, no word on Tom Brady

08.08.13 at 3:50 pm ET
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It’s expected that Tom Brady will make his preseason debut on Friday night against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field but as is his custom, Bill Belichick will wait until game time to make that official.

New Eagles coach Chip Kelly will not wait that long as he confirmed on Thursday, at the third and final joint practice between the two teams, that Michael Vick will start on Friday night.

Nick Foles also will take snaps with the first team and, according to Kelly, will start the second preseason game. Both Vick and Foles are expected to get between 12 and 20 snaps each versus the Patriots.

“I can’t read into it,” Vick told The Philadelphia Daily News. “Coach, all he told us is that I’m going to start, but it won’t be the same next week. So you’ve got to take it for what it’s worth and keep moving.”

“We’re cool with it. We’re ready to go, we’re ready to go after it,” Foles added, according to The Daily News.

As for the Patriots side of things, Tim Tebow indicated that he’s unsure of just how much playing time he’ll see on Friday.

According to various reports from the NovaCare Eagles practice facility, the Patriots and Eagles scaled back the tempo and workload for their two-hour joint practice on Thursday, the third and final session before they kick off preseason action on Friday.

The teams worked on 7-on-7 near the goal line, special teams situations and 11-on-11 at the end of practice. The Patriots kickoff team worked on speciality kicks (squibs, onsides kids, free kicks, etc.) against the Eagles kickoff return team while also working on red zone offensive and defensive drills.

Toward the end of practice, Tom Brady connected with Aaron Dobson on an out route but did not get immediately out of bounds with little time left on the simulated play clock, drawing the ire of Belichick, who yelled at the rookie to make his point about clock management – always a point of emphasis with the Patriots’ boss.

Josh Boyce got some work in recovering onside kicks for the hands team, a possible sign of how much the team trusts the rookie to handle and catch the ball.

The Patriots also worked in some three tight end sets. This “jumbo” package was a common sight over the past several years inside the 10 when the Patriots chose to power the football into the end zone.

Read More: 2013 training camp, Michael Vick, New England Patriots, nfl
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