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Bill Belichick: Rookies haven’t proven anything

09.12.12 at 1:30 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick was probably waiting for somebody to ask about the rookies on Wednesday, three days after their first three draft picks combined for a strip sack, a fumble recovery for a touchdown and an interception.

Perhaps the biggest play of the Patriots’ Week 1 victory over the Titans came when 21st overall pick Chandler Jones stripped the ball from Titans quarterback Jake Locker, with 25th overall pick Dont’a Hightower scooping the ball up and running it six yards into the endzone in the second quarter.

When he was asked whether the rookies need to be reminded that they only played one game and to not dwell on the past, Belichick talked about them like they had cost the team a win rather than help deliver them one.

“Are you kidding me? They’ve played one game,” Belichick said. “I don’t think any rookie’s got all the answers after one game. I don’t think any experienced coach has the answers after one game either. I think it’s one game. Everybody needs to be coached, everybody needs to improve. There’s a lot of things that everybody needs to do better, and I would put the rookies at the absolute top of that list. Like, not behind anybody. They would be No. 1. It’s going to get a lot harder for them before it gets easier. I can tell you that.”

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Patriots sign S Cyhl Quarles and release TE Alex Silvestro

09.12.12 at 12:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots announced Wednesday that they have signed safety Cyhl Quarles to the practice squad and released practice squad tight end Alex Silvestro.

Quarles, 23, was originally signed by the Ravens as a rookie free agent out of Wake Forest on May 11. The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder was released by Baltimore on Aug. 31. In 50 career games at Wake Forest, he totaled 239 tackles, two interceptions, six passes defensed, two forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery.

Silvestro, 23, originally joined the Patriots a rookie free agent defensive lineman from Rutgers in 2011. The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder, spent the majority of his rookie season on the New England practice squad. He was signed to the 53-man roster prior to the Patriots game vs. Miami last season and played in a reserve role, finishing with two total tackles. Silvestro returned to the practice squad before being signed to the 53-man roster the day before the Super Bowl. He was active but did not play in the game. Silvestro converted to tight end in the offseason. He was released by the Patriots at the end of training camp this year and was signed to the practice squad.

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Brandon Lloyd: Cardinals defense the ‘classic tough guys of the NFL’

09.12.12 at 12:25 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Brandon Lloyd obviously knows the Cardinals well from his time in the NFC West while playing for the Rams, so he certainly isn’t sleeping on the team that last season had both questions at quarterback and an 8-8 record.

On Wednesday, Lloyd sang the Cardinals’ praises for the second straight day, calling their defenders the “classic tough guys of the NFL” and acknowledging that the Patriots offense will have its hands full on Sunday.

Ultimately, when Lloyd looks at the Cardinals he sees a lot of good things that just didn’t start clicking until late last season, when they won five of their final six games. Including their Week 1 win over the Seahawks, the Cardinals are now winners of eight of their last 11 games. Given that, Lloyd sees no need for Bill Belichick to caution against underestimating Arizona.

“He doesn’t have to because these guys are guys who individually get a lot of respect around the league, and now that the philosophy is starting to be well-executed amongst the players, they’re a good team,” Lloyd said. “But even when I was thinking about that team [while I was playing] in St. Louis, they were always that team that could win every Sunday, but things just kind of fell apart and things didn’t fall into place for them, but they’re a good team, and individually those players get a lot of respect.”

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The Hot List: Best opening acts by Patriots rookies

09.12.12 at 12:42 am ET
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The performance of rookies Chandler Jones, Dont’€™a Hightower and Tavon Wilson in the season-opener against the Titans on Sunday got us to thinking: What were some of the best performances by Patriots first-year players in openers? And so this edition of ‘€œThe Hot List’€ looks at the five best debuts by New England rookies.

It’€™s measured solely on first impressions a rookie makes in his initial game as a professional. (It has to be with the Patriots.) As a result, some of the most impressive members of the franchise, like Tom Brady (who technically became a star in his second season) and Wes Welker (who broke into the league with the Chargers and Dolphins before signing with the Patriots) are ineligible. With that understood — and with some help from our friends on Twitter — here’€™s a look at New England’€™s five favorite rookie debuts:

5. Defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont’€™a Hightower: Sept. 9, 2012, vs. Titans — The two rookies provided the oomph for a New England defense that carried the day in a 34-13 win over the Titans. Jones had five tackles (three solo) and a strip sack of Titans quarterback Jake Locker in the first half, his first as a pro. Hightower, who added five tackles (four solo) of his own, was the beneficiary of Jones’€™ forced fumble, coming away with the ball and rumbling into the end zone from six yards out for his first touchdown as a pro. (Defensive back Tavon Wilson also gets some credit for his work — he picked off one Locker pass in the end zone, and added a pair of passes defensed in the win.)
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Read More: chandler jones, Curtis Martin, Dont'a Hightower, Drew Bledsoe

In Focus: Charting the offensive opportunities for the Patriots skill position players

09.11.12 at 4:31 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the regular season, we’€™ll present a list of the Patriots’€™ ‘€œoffensive touches,’€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. One week into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2012:

Stevan Ridley: 23 (21 rushes, 2 catches). Four negative plays.
Aaron Hernandez: 7 (1 rush, 6 catches).
Rob Gronkowski: 6 (0 rushes, 6 catches).
Danny Woodhead: 6 (6 rushes, 0 catches).
Brandon Lloyd: 5 (0 rushes, 5 catches).
Brandon Bolden: 5 (5 rushes, 0 catches). One negative play.
Wes Welker: 3 (0 rushes, 3 catches).
Tom Brady: 2 (2 rushes, 0 catches.) One sack and one kneeldown.
Julian Edelman: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch).

Other offensive notes: After not going no-huddle for the entire 2012 preseason, the Patriots went to it judiciously in the regular-season opener, rolling it out for 17 of their 67 plays from scrimmage, or 25 percent of the time (about the same rate as last season). New England used it twice in the first quarter, six times in the second, once in the third and eight times in the fourth. … Ridley was given the ball three times on third down, and all three times, he was able to pick up first downs. … The Patriots had 25 first downs against the Titans: 13 rushing, 12 passing. It’s an interesting mix for a team that had a roughly a 2.5:1 ratio last season when it came to passing to rushing first downs (262 to 107).

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Bill Belichick continues to back Jermaine Cunningham

09.11.12 at 4:09 pm ET
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Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham continued to build on a positive stretch with a three-tackle, one-sack performance in New England’€™s regular-season opener against the Titans on Sunday. One of the defensive surprises for the Patriots in their win over Tennessee was the sight of Cunningham dropped into the interior of the defensive line. New England coach Bill Belichick said the chance to get Cunningham into a favorable matchup was one of the reasons for the switch,

‘€œWhen you move players around, you create different match-ups. [You] just create a different match-up, get one of our productive players on the field, and fortunately he was able to make a couple big plays for us,’€ Belichick said on a conference call with reporters. ‘€œThe holding penalty he got on the quarterback draw was a big play, he knocked the quarterback down, got a couple pressures, made a couple plays at end. Try to get our productive players on the field and create some different match-ups for the offense to worry about.’€

At the start of his third full season in the NFL, Cunningham was clearly affected by last year’€™s lockout. He struggled over the course of the 2011 season before going on IR in December.

‘€œI think one of the things that affected Jermaine, like it did a lot of players, is not really having the offseason that he had this year,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œHe didn’€™t have that opportunity prior to the ‘€˜11 season, and after the ‘€˜10 season, at the end of the season, he had surgery on his shoulder, and that limited his offseason that year too.

‘€œOne of the things that’€™s really helped Jermaine this year was right from the beginning, leaving at the end of last year when he was on IR, he trained very hard, he worked hard on all the aspects of his physical conditioning, strength, explosion, flexibility, all that. He had a real good offseason, had a good spring, that offseason led into a good spring, a good spring led into a good training camp, good training camp led into some production in the preseason and the first regular season game.’€

Here are a few other highlights from Belichick’€™s conference call:
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Josh McDaniels: Game plan reduced Wes Welker’s role

09.11.12 at 3:53 pm ET
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Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday afternoon the reason behind the decline in playing time — and total targets — for wide receiver Wes Welker last Sunday against the Titans was because of the offensive game plan, not because of an overall shift in New England’€™s offensive philosophy.

Welker, who had 122 catches last season, was targeted five times and had three catches for 14 yards in the win over Tennessee. (It was the second-lowest output, yardage-wise, in his five-plus years in a New England uniform — he had one catch for 12 yards in the 2009 regular-season finale against the Texans.) But McDaniels said on a conference call with reporters that the game plan for the Titans called for the Patriots to try and exploit other matchups.

‘€œWe kind of decide those on a week-to-week basis. Certainly Wes had some opportunities in the game and made the most on a few of those. Then we had some other opportunities we didn’€™t quite hit,’€ McDaniels said. ‘€œWes’€™ role is the same as we’€™ve always gone. We’€™ll go each week and try to do what we think is best to help us win. Sometimes that may include playing more multiple tight ends. Sometimes it might be playing a lot more receivers. We kind of try to feel that out as we go through our preparation and then make the decisions that go along with it.’€

Here are some other highlights from the Tuesday afternoon conference call with McDaniels:
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Read More: Josh McDaniels, Wes Welker,
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