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Patriots-Buccaneers Live Blog

08.18.11 at 7:28 pm ET
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Setting the stage: Patriots-Buccaneers

08.18.11 at 5:28 pm ET
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For the second straight week, the Patriots take on a Florida team as their preseason schedule takes them to Raymond James Stadium to battle Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tonight is expected to be the post-lockout debut of Tom Brady and his new target Chad Ochocinco. They took several reps on Tuesday and in the walk-through on Wednesday before leaving for Tampa.

Both dressed in full uniform last week but did not play as the Patriots blew out the Jacksonville Jaguars in the preseason opener. Wes Welker is also expected to see action on the offensive side of the ball.

Brady listened to the play calling and communication between offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and back-up quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett.

That worked out pretty well as the Patriots piled up 47 points, the most in franchise preseason history, two more than the 45 they dropped on the Redskins on Sept. 4, 1977.

Surprisingly, the Patriots are just 1-7 all time in preseason showdowns with the Buccaneers, with their lone win coming in their first meeting on Aug. 15, 1981 at the old Tampa Stadium, now a parking lot next door to this evening’s venue.

Last Thursday at Gillette, the Patriots started Hoyer, who completed 15 of 21 passes for 171 yards and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Price in the first half. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 training camp, Albert Haynesworth, Brian Hoyer, Chad Ochocinco

Patriots reportedly set to work out another wide receiver

08.18.11 at 4:44 pm ET
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Fresh off the news that the Patriots had T.J. Houshmandzadeh in for a workout last week, it was reported Thursday that wide receiver Mark Clayton will work out for the Patriots on Friday, according to Aaron Wilson of

Clayton, 29, is a former  first-round pick of the Ravens out of from Oklahoma who was traded to the Rams last year. In his career, he has 257 catches and 3,422 yards and 14 touchdowns. Wilson quotes a league source as saying Clayton has made a sound recovery from tearing his patellar tendon in his right knee last year and is on the verge of being ready to play again.

Read More: Mark Clayton, T.J. Houshmandzadeh,

Veteran center Dan Koppen offers his take on the state of the Patriots’ offensive line

08.18.11 at 1:01 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” You want an assessment of the Patriots’€™ offensive line? Go to the most important cog in the machine, center Dan Koppen.

While Matt Light has him beat when it comes to seniority ‘€” by roughly two seasons ‘€” no lineman is more respected by his peers than the Boston College product. A fixture in the middle since he took over for an injured Damien Woody at center early in his rookie season back of 2003, Koppen has been every bit as durable as any other center in the league: Since the start of the 2003 season, the Patriots have played 128 regular-season games, and Koppen has started 119 of them.

With Koppen as the fulcrum of the o-line, the New England offense has finished in the top 10 in total offense seven times in his eight NFL seasons. The 6-foot-2, 296-pounder earned his first career Pro Bowl selection in 2007 and was named to the AP All-Pro Second Team, becoming the third center in Patriots history to earn all-star honors. And in 2008, Koppen started every game at center as part of an offensive line that supported the best rushing season for the Patriots in more than 20 years in terms of rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and average yards per carry.

The current group was honored on Tuesday with the presentation of the Madden Protectors Award, an award that ‘€œrecognizes the accomplishments of the highest performing offensive line unit and their best-in-class ability to provide consistent, powerful protection,’€ according to the press release. The Patriots were selected based on a combination of analysis by John Madden and fan voting.

Since 2003, Koppen has been able to count on seeing many of them same guys to his left. On that side, it’€™s been  Light (left tackle) and Logan Mankins (left guard) on fairly constant basis since 2005, save for Mankins’€™ holdout last season over his contract situation. Both recently signed new deals.

‘€œIt’€™s great to have those guys back,’€ Koppen said. ‘€œThe type of player Logan and Matt are, what they’€™ve done for this team they’€™re such good guys, and to have them in the locker room and have them as good friends. It’€™s really good to see them come back.’€

Comparatively, the right side is fairly young: Sebastian Vollmer (right tackle) settled into his spot as a full-time starter at the beginning of the 2010 season. Meanwhile, Dan Connolly (right guard) has flip-flopped over the course of his brief career, moving from one guard spot to another when Mankins was out last season and also providing backup for former starting right guard Stephen Neal, who retired at the end of last season.

‘€œThose are guys that really have progressed,’€ Koppen said. ‘€œConnolly is one of those guys who have come in our system and has really made strides. He’€™s got a lot of playing time last year and played well for us. And Sea Bass is just one of those guys where he just comes out and works every day. With his size and ability, he’€™s tough to beat.’€

As for Koppen, he’€™s entering his ninth season in the NFL, and has learned a few things about getting through training camp.

‘€œCamp is camp ‘€” [it’€™s all about] coming out here and starting over and trying to get better and get comfortable with the guys around and come together as a group,’€ he said. ‘€œPut your head down and go. Just do what the coaches ask and do it as hard as you can. if you mess up, learn from it and come back and do it better the next play.’€

Koppen says the new practice schedule ‘€” less hitting, no two-a-days ‘€” is a ‘€œdouble-edged sword’€ for players.

‘€œYou might have less two-a-days,’€ he said, ‘€œbut that one practice you’€™re out here for, it’€™s a doozy, so you have to have your mind right and be ready to go the whole way through. It’€™s a long practice, so you have to be mentally ready, mentally into it.’€

Read More: 2011 training camp, Damien Woody, Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen

Via Twitter, Vince Wilfork addresses allegations of his involvement in Miami scandal

08.17.11 at 9:36 pm ET
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Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, who was named prominently in a Yahoo! Sports report about improprieties in the football program at the University of Miami, issued a statement Wednesday via his Twitter feed. Wilfork wrote: I am aware of the report that has claims that involve me while at the U. While the NCAA and the U conduct their investigations [my wife] and I believe that it is not appropriate for us to comment. Thanks for your continued support and confidence in me.

The report alleges that Wilfork accepted $50,000 while he was a player at the University of Miami in order to sign with Axcess Sports, a player agency started by Nevin Shapiro and Michael Huyghue. A separate page of the report details the benefits to Wilfork while he was at Miami. Shapiro is in jail for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme. Huyghue, who is now the commissioner of the UFL denied the claims made by Shapiro.

Read More: Michael Huyghue, Nevin Shapiro, Vince Wilfork,

Patriots cut loose offensive lineman Mark LeVoir

08.17.11 at 5:07 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Wednesday they have released veteran offensive lineman Mark LeVoir. LeVoir, 29, was claimed off waivers by the Patriots from the St. Louis Rams on Sept. 1, 2008. Originally signed by the Chicago Bears as a rookie free agent in 2006 out of Notre Dame, the 6-foot-7, 310-pound tackle played in 32 games including two starts over three seasons in New England. He played in six games and was inactive for 10 in 2010, including the divisional playoff game vs. the New York Jets (1/16/11).

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Fantasy Football 2011: Rookie Wide Receivers

08.17.11 at 7:37 am ET
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Every year we hear about rookie receivers who will be all-world and this and that. And every year most of them disappoint us. I learned a long time ago that only the very exceptional rookie receivers will have fantasy viability.  We have a few of those guys this season and they top our list.  Perhaps we won’€™t see any Randy Moss-types, but we’€™ll see some solid performers who landed in good situations, like Julio Jones.  And, while we do not recommend taking any of these players as anything more than your third fantasy receiver, we see a lot to like in the 2011 rookie class both for this year and future seasons.

AJ Green, Bengals

This guy has eye-popping talent and he has WR2 upside right out of the box. We’€™d tell you about his weaknesses, but we just don’€™t see any as far as his physical game is concerned. If he had a veteran QB and the usual OTAs to get in-sync, we’€™d place him even higher in our full-season rankings. As it stands, we expect Green and rookie QB Andy Dalton to grow together and experience typical rookie ups and downs. We estimate that the ups will make him worth a shot as your WR3 or better yet, your WR4 if you can land him late enough.  For us, it’€™s only a question of when with Green, and we expect some early returns.

Julio Jones, Falcons

The rookie has looked great in camp so far and, like with Green, we like him if you can get him as your 3rd or 4th receiver. Just don’€™t reach for him in the early rounds. Obviously, he has to be one of the first picks in a dynasty draft and he’€™s worth going after in all keeper formats. We think he’€™s a fantasy stud by 2012 and a viable fantasy receiver in 2011. Jones’€™ big knock is his inability to stay healthy which is directly related to his aggressive style of play. In this regard, being the 2nd option could actually help him.  His talents are undeniable.

Greg Little, Browns

We love him for the long term, but he is a wildcard as a rookie in Cleveland’€™s developing passing attack. Not only did he miss time due to the lockout as all rookies have, but Little also missed all of the 2010 college season at UNC due to improper contact with an agent. He will clearly have a kink or two to work out. Once he does that, Little, with his size and play-making ability, has a chance to be Percy Harvin meets Terrell Owens. He is awesome with the ball in his hands and he has the physical tools to develop into a well rounded receiver. He is just what the doctor ordered for Colt McCoy. We expect Little to do good things at some point this season, but perhaps not right out of the box. He’€™s worth a late pick in larger redraft leagues, but he is a mandatory selection in long term formats as he has true WR1 potential.

Denarius Moore, Raiders

Yes, it’€™s a little early for this guy, but we love his game and he’€™s on a team where he could land a starting spot from the get-go. Moore was a potential steal in the 5th round out of Tennessee. He could make an impact at some point early in 2011 if he fails to start right away. Right now, he is the star of camp and though preseason heroes often fade quickly, we think this kid is very much for real. Keep an eye on the former Volunteer. He is fast as can be and has the skills to make it matter. We would not be surprised if he started alongside Jacoby Ford this year. If the Raiders could protect the quarterback, we’€™d be even more excited about Moore’€™s rookie possibilities. He’€™s a quality sleeper in most any format and he’€™s a very solid pick in long term leagues.

Titus Young, Lions

Titus is an exceptional athlete with medium size and great ability after the catch. He’€™s got tremendous change-of-direction ability and makes great cuts in the open field and gives the Lions some more options in the return game. Rookie receivers have a tough road, especially this year with the lockout, but this kid should have a role as a slot guy and he could be a solid starter down the line. For now, Nate Burleson will likely remain as the starter, but Burleson does not have Young’€™s youth and speed working for him. For this reason, we expect Titus to take over the starter’€™s spot at some point. He’€™s too good to be a long term third receiver, but like all rookies, he is enduring a crash course. That, and his early hamstring injury will slow him down enough to keep him in the slot for much of his rookie year. He’€™s a flier in redraft leagues, but we are very high on him in dynasty leagues and long term keeper leagues.

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Read More: 2011 Fantasy Football,
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