|08.25.14 at 9:25 am ET|
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning and talked about his confidence in the team’s offense, NFL injuries, doing brain exercises and more. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The Patriots offense struggled at times last season as Brady got used to a new group of receivers. There remains concern that this offense has some issues that will limit its effectiveness, but Brady said the Patriots continue to tune out criticism from outside Gillette Stadium.
“Truthfully, we’ve never really paid attention to the external voices that are out there,” he said. “We just try to focus on what we need to do, what our job is. Because the only people that can really affect what we do are the people that are inside that offensive meeting room.
“We have high expectations. We’ve had some great offenses over the years, and our expectation is to go out there and be a great offense, and that’s one that doesn’t turn the ball over, one that plays physical and smart, makes great decisions and plays great situational football. I think we did a great job of that — we’ve always done a great job of that over the years.
“Coaches talk a lot about situational football, making the plays when it really counts. There’s a lot of games that are decided by three points or less, and the teams that are the ones that win those games — the ones that are three points or less — those are the ones that are the ones that you’ve got to look out for. Teams that really find a way to win, teams that find a way to lose — hopefully we’re one of those offenses that finds ways to win when we have the opportunity.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that have made contributions thus far over the course of the OTAs and the preseason games. We’re going to need that over the course of the year, because it’s a long year. All the guys that are active in that skill group are going to need to be performers for us at whatever level, whatever role they make for themselves. Hopefully we can be one of the top offenses in the league. But we’ve got to go out there and earn it. No one’s going to make it easy for us.”
One of the keys to the Patriots offense clicking early is the players staying healthy, something Brady noted has been a positive in the preseason.
“We’ve done a really good job over the course of the preseason. I think one of the most important things we’ve done is that we’ve all been out there practicing. I think there’s guys that have really made a great commitment over the offseason to get ready and prepare themselves to be out there every day to make the improvements,” Brady said.
“All the skill guys, the receivers have all been out there almost every day practicing, had a lot of opportunities over the summer to work, and the spring, and it’s the same thing. Hopefully we can get some other guys who haven’t been out there back in the mix so that they can incorporate themselves into the offense and we can really see where we’re at — guys like [Aaron Dobson] and [Rob Gronkowski].
“It is fun for all of us to go out and execute well. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
|08.24.14 at 9:31 pm ET|
1. Kelly was a bit of a surprise — he’s a terrific locker room guy, and the team had plenty invested in him, as he went on season-ending injured reserve early in 2013, but still managed to rehab diligently and return for camp this summer. In addition, he re-worked his deal in the offseason with an eye toward staying in Foxboro. One thing certainly worth considering is the fact that he will remain on Bill Belichick‘s speed-dial — if the Patriots feel like Jerel Worthy or any of the younger defensive linemen struggle, Kelly could be recalled at a moment’s notice, provided he doesn’t find a home anywhere else around the league. (One template for Kelly could be the overall career arc of Gerard Warren — while the cases aren’t exactly similar, Warren was released by the Patriots on Sept. 7, 2011, but re-signed by New England three weeks later and ended up playing 12 games for the Patriots that season.)
2. It’s easy to take this as a referendum on the younger players along New England’s defensive line. While it appears to be a sign that the Patriots have a strong belief in their younger linemen like Worthy and Joe Vellano (as well as Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga, both of whom are currently working on rehab following injury), there should be a small level of caution, in particular as it relates to Dominique Easley. From this viewpoint, it would be dangerous to look at the moves on Sunday — particularly the release of Kelly — as a sign that Easley is ready to play significant snaps on a regular basis. The first-round pick out of Florida flashed some impressive moves in the first week in pads, but hasn’t seen any game action to this point in the summer. At this stage of his development it would be a mistake to throw him into the deep end of the pool in Week 1 against the Dolphins and have him swim.
3. Smith was occasionally underwhelming in his relatively brief tenure with the Patriots. There were times where he showed the sort of impressive pass rush moves that allowed him to come away with 67.5 sacks over the course of his 10-year career. But at the same time, Smith (as well as the rest of New England’s backup defensive ends) failed to get a consistent push on the quarterback when they saw game action over the course of the preseason. The 33-year-old, who is trying to come back from spending all of 2013 on the shelf because of a torn ACL, is a well-respected player around the league who should get another shot if he desires. Going forward, this will likely create more opportunities for young defensive ends like Zach Moore, Jake Bequette and Michael Buchanan.
4. The release of Anderson was a bit of a surprise — on Sunday’s scale, it ranked below Kelly but ahead of Smith. The veteran, who was acquired as a free agent over the course of the spring as the Patriots tried to bolster their depth at linebacker, did well in coverage in his relatively brief time in New England. One thing that could have factored into the decision to part ways with Anderson was a desire to go with a younger linebacker who had more special teams value. That could likely open the door for someone like Darius Fleming, Steve Beauharnais (who had a nice pick in Friday’s win over the Panthers), James Morris or Ja’Gared Davis to land a spot on the final 53, as they have shown the occasional ability to do both. For what it’s worth, I’d be shocked if Anderson doesn’t find a job somewhere — he’s a great locker-room presence, considered something of a mentor, and is still able to work in coverage. (He led the Bears in tackles last season.)
5. Ultimately, the fact that the three veterans were released this early in the process means a few things, but one of the takeaways is the fact that all three now have a better chance to land somewhere else now than if they were released closer to the final cuts. The Patriots now have nine more cuts to make between now and the Tuesday deadline (4 p.m.) to get down to 75 players. Following that, the finals cuts — to 53 — must take place before Saturday afternoon.
|08.24.14 at 5:34 pm ET|
With Tuesday being the deadline for rosters to be cut down to 75 players, the Patriots got a bit of a head start by releasing a few veterans ahead of time.
Kelly, a 10-year veteran, played in five games last season with the Patriots before being placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL. Smith, who has played nine years in the league, also tore his ACL last year while playing with the Saints, was signed by the Patriots on May 5 of this year. Anderson, 30, led the Bears in tackles last season and was signed by the Patriots on June 4.
The team currently has 84 players on the roster and will need to get it down to 75 by Tuesday afternoon.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|08.24.14 at 5:09 pm ET|
Following the Patriots’ impressive, 30-7 win over the Panthers in last Friday’s third preseason game, the team has put that behind them and turned its focus to the Giants and Thursday’s final preseason game.
“[Sunday] is our day to go through the film with the players and look at the corrections and all the things that happened in the Carolina game and quickly turn the page here and get on to some of the things we need to cover at the end of training camp before we get into the start of the regular season and also get going on the Giants,” Bill Belichick said on Sunday’s conference call. “This is a short week, quick turnaround, and really a lot of things we have to tie up here in the next few days and then hopefully we’ll be ready to turn out attention next week to the start of the regular season.”
Also coming this week are roster cuts, as rosters have to be cut down to 75 players by Tuesday and the final 53-man roster by next Saturday.
“Obviously roster moves will be coming. That will be part of the whole process too,” Belichick said of the upcoming week. “There could be some before, but I’m sure there will be some on Tuesday as well.”
The Patriots will practice Monday, Tuesday and hold a walkthrough on Wednesday before departing for New York/New Jersey for Thursday’s preseason finale.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|08.24.14 at 1:35 pm ET|
Coming off a torn Achilles suffered in Week 4 against the Falcons last season — forcing him to go on season-ending injured reserve — Vince Wilfork appears ready for the upcoming season.
Wilfork hasn’t missed a practice this preseason, but like most starters he didn’t play in the first preseason game against the Redskins. He has played in the last two games — including almost the entire first half of last Friday’s game with the Panthers, showing no issues at all with the foot he injured last season.
“Vince has done everything pretty much since the last week or so of OTAs,” Bill Belichick said during Sunday’s conference call. “He’s done everything with the team, no real restrictions. He hasn’t really missed any time or anything. He’s been out there and worked hard. He’s getting himself ready for the season as he should be. He’s done a solid job of getting himself back and getting ready to play football this year. We’ll see how it goes going forward. I have no issues with him, I think he’s worked very hard coming back from the injury he had last year and be ready to go this season.”
With the Patriots playing more of a 3-4 defensive scheme this preseason, Wilfork has been in the middle of the defensive line — drawing a few double-teams — along with Joe Vellano and Tommy Kelly on either side of him. This has allowed Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich to line up in a standing position at the hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker spot and get a better jump on getting after the quarterback, or dropping back into pass coverage at times.
With Wilfork and Kelly out last season, the Patriots could not use this scheme as Ninkovich and Jones were forced to line up in a three-point stance on the line with the lack of healthy defensive linemen.
Although Wilfork has looked good in the two joint practice sessions with the Redskins and Eagles as well as in the two preseason games, Belichick is quick to point out it’s only the preseason and the real games have yet to begun, so it is unfair to make clear assertions.
“It’s preseason. Let’s not confuse preseason with regular season,” Belichick said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s been out there and participated. He played in all three preseason games. We’re all getting ready for the regular season, but we’ll see what happens when the regular season starts for all of us — players, coaches, rookies, veterans, everybody. That’s when we’ll really see where everybody is.”
|08.24.14 at 7:00 am ET|
1. When it comes to the team-building process, the recent change in practice squad rules (as well as the fact that they’ll be expanded from eight to 10 players) will have a massive effect on the decision-making process that will take place over the next week as teams start to make the really tough decisions on who to keep and who to cut. When it comes to the Patriots, it could impact several bubble players — individuals the franchise have invested in for at least a year but have yet to show the skills needed to be able to compete on a regular basis in the league on either side of the ball. As a result, they could end up as practice squadders for part of the 2014 season as the teams want to be able to have them evolve within the confines of their system. Wide receiver Josh Boyce and defensive end Michael Buchanan find themselves with practice squad eligibility after the rules change, and the alteration could allow them to stick around Foxboro as p-squadders after the cuts come down later this month, provided they can clear waivers. That would, in turn, mean that some of the youngsters who could have been ticketed for the practice squad under the old rules would end up getting bumped out. Regardless of what happens, it is a game-changer for personnel men and front offices around the league, and will have a major impact on how they operate when it comes to the decisions they make at the end of the month. (For a complete look at the changes and Bill Belichick‘s reaction, check out our story from earlier in the week here.)
2. The New England offensive line has been the very measure of consistency and continuity over the course of the last decade or so, but the Patriots have done a ton of shuffling at two positions (right guard and center) over the course of the summer. And as we head into the final preseason game of the year, they are two positions that — at least from the outside — appear to be up in the air. At center, veteran Ryan Wendell has traded off with Dan Connolly over the course of camp and into the preseason. Meanwhile, the fact that Connolly (who has ably manned the starting right guard spot since 2012) has been on the move has opened up an opportunity for a variety of players to show what they can bring to the right guard spot, a group that includes Jordan Devey, Josh Kline and rookie Jon Halapio. At this point, if the Patriots would be inclined to go with Connolly at center, the leader in the clubhouse at right guard appears to be Devey, as he’s played almost every snap of the preseason. But do they want to lock Devey into one spot at the expense of possibly utilizing his versatility in other places? He’s played both guard and both tackle positions, and could be this generation’s Russ Hochstein when it comes to skill set and versatility. (Hochstein played center and guard with the Patriots from 2002 to 2008.) This is a position that still bears watching from a reps standpoint as New England heads into its final preseason game of the summer Thursday against the Giants.
3. Strong praise from Belichick on his Saturday conference call with the media, as he compared Julian Edelman and his career path to linebacker Tedy Bruschi. Belichick — who, it should be recalled, wept at Bruschi’s retirement ceremony — said that Edelman’s progression mirrored Bruschi in that he played one position in college but was able to find success at a different position when he reached the NFL. What’s the secret? “Hard work, dedication to starting something that’s relatively new and just working at it day by day to try to do the things they needed to do to be able to compete in this league at their new positions,” Belichick said when asked about Edelman, a former college quarterback who has become an excellent receiver and punt returner. “It took a lot of work. Julian has worked extremely hard, and like I said, he’s developed skills at two areas — punt returner and receiver — that he didn’t have any experience at … and that’s not an easy thing to do at all. You’ve got to give him a lot of credit for the amount of work and dedication and training that he’s put into that.”
|08.23.14 at 7:17 pm ET|
With the first round of cuts looming — the Patriots have to go from 87 to 75 players by Tuesday afternoon — Bill Belichick knows that the time is getting short for players who need to carve out a niche for themselves if they want to survive Tuesday’s cuts, much less the second wave of cuts that gets the team to 53 at the end of the month.
“Every player’s situation is different,” Belichick said on a conference call with reporters on Saturday afternoon. “Guys that want to play football that have an opportunity, I think they want to take advantage of that opportunity and make the most of for themselves on it or whatever it is. That’s really all they can control. Whatever else happens is beyond their control. They can just do the best they can with the opportunities they get. Make the most of the ones they get and that will lead to more.
“I think, honestly, everybody pretty much understands that. We all knew at the start of the season that rosters were at 90 and they were going to be cut to 75 and the 53 and so forth. Everybody knows it’s a competitive situation. Just try to go out there and try to do the best you can to make the most out of it.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com.patriots.
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