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Darrelle Revis: Through three games, Patriots ‘doing great’ at limiting deep balls

09.25.14 at 3:48 pm ET
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Through three games, Darrelle Revis and the New England secondary have done well to limit deep balls. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Through three games, Darrelle Revis and the New England secondary have done well to limit deep balls. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Last week against the Raiders, some questioned the sight of Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis playing off some of Oakland’s quicker receivers, particularly James Jones, Denarius Thomas and Rod Streater. That approach may have played a role in the fact that Revis yielding five catches for 63 yards in what appeared to be man coverage.

Revis was asked Thursday after practice about giving those receivers some sort of cushion.

“Every week is a different strategy and different game plan,” he said. “Oakland did a great job of taking care of the ball as well — [David] Carr did. Every week is a different emphasis. As a secondary as a whole, deep balls will kill you. They kill any defense. Double moves in the high red area usually [means] teams go for the end zone and try and take a chance. We’ve been doing great so far, and we just have to continue to stay consistent in that area.

“[But] deep balls will kill you. Just overall. It can be a long day for a secondary, and it’ll be a longer day Monday coming in and the coaches getting after you about it,” he added. “Like I said, we’ve been doing a great job all around the board. We and the safeties have been doing a great job and alerting it in certain situations and key moments and guys have been paying attention, and we’ve been taking care of that.”

To this point in the season, the Patriots are tied for second in the league (six) when it comes to allowing the fewest pass plays of 20-plus yards. And they’re tied for the top spot when it comes to yielding the most pass plays of 40-plus yards (zero). That stands in sharp contrast to the last few seasons, where the New England secondary was usually at or near the top of the league when it came to giving up deep balls, particularly pass plays of 20 yards or more.

2013: 55 20-plus (11th), 9 40-plus (15th)
2012: 74 20-plus (1st), 8 40-plus (14th)
2011: 79 20-plus (1st), 9 40-plus (17th)
2010: 55 20-plus (7th), 4 40-plus (30th)

To this point in the season, a less aggressive approach in the secondary has yielded greater success when it comes to defending the deep ball. It’s a change from the system Revis learned as a younger player with Rex Ryan and the Jets.

“It’s a different system. It’s a totally different system,” he said when asked to stack one against the other. “Rex is more aggressive. We switch it up here. We plan man sometimes, and sometimes, we switch it up and do different things. It’s just two different things.”

Of course, you always have to bring some level of aggression to the cornerback position.
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Cameron Fleming draws praise from Bill Belichick after missing offseason workouts

09.25.14 at 1:17 pm ET
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Cameron Fleming

Cameron Fleming

FOXBORO — Rookie offensive linemen Cameron Fleming got a late start to the Patriots’€™ offseason program because he was finishing up classes at Stanford. But, the 22-year-old aeronautics and astronautics double-major hasn’€™t let that affect him as he’€™s played in all three games this season — although not in his natural position of tackle.

With tight end Rob Gronkowski working his way back to full strength, Fleming has been used as an extra tight end — playing 44 snaps over the three games, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Definitely a learning experience, I had to catch up a little bit,” Fleming said. “€œI’€™ve learned a lot. It’€™s easy just to focus on just football now because that’€™s all I have so it makes it a little easier to dig in and work.”€

Coach Bill Belichick was impressed with how prepared Fleming came to the team after missing most of the offseason workouts and now his work paying dividends.

“€œI think Cam [Fleming] has done a real good job for us,”€ Belichick said last week. “€œOne of the challenges for him and for us was him not really being here for much of the spring. Just being late in spring because of his commitments to school. We really didn’€™t have a great feel for him until training camp started.

“And he came here in really good condition. He ran well. He dropped some weight, he leaned up. He worked really hard between the beginning of June and the end of July. He was definitely ready to go, had a good camp, performed very well. And caught up to all the things we were doing in a short amount of time. The more time we spent around him, the more impressed we were.”

Fleming has never played tight end at any point of his career, but said it isn’€™t much different as he is still blocking, just from a position further out. The fourth-round pick noted the veteran members of the offensive line have helped him out considerably so far this season.

“They are like an encyclopedia of knowledge,”€ he said. “€œAnything I need to know — like how to take a set — they are right there to help me out, give me advice and tell me how they did it.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Cameron Fleming, Patriots,

Adam Schefter on MFB: Kansas City on Monday night ‘a tough spot for the Patriots to step into’

09.25.14 at 1:11 pm ET
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Adam Schefter

Adam Schefter

ESPN’s Adam Schefter checked in with Middays with MFB on Thursday to discuss the Patriots and NFL news. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Patriots have not looked impressive over the first three weeks, but Schefter cautioned pessimistic fans not to get too worried this early in the season.

“I’ll take a 2-1 start every time, with the criticism and questions, because teams evolve as the season goes on. There are peaks and valleys, fits where they go through where teams look better than they had,” he said. “They have not looked particularly strong. I think they’ve looked a little slow on the offensive side of the football so far. They just have not looked like the efficient machine that they’ve been in other years. Now, that’s not to say that they won’t become that starting Monday night in Kansas City, which is a tough place to play. But they just haven’t looked in rhythm. Maybe it stems from the protection that [Tom] Brady has gotten up front. Maybe it stems from a lack of speed and dynamic playmakers on offense. They’ve got good players. [Rob Gronkowski] doesn’t look all the way back to me right now. He looks like he’s laboring just a little bit. That’s just my sense of things.”

Added Schefter: “The offense through the first three games has lacked some of the explosion that we’ve seen in other years. Like I said, it used to operate like a machine. And it might get back to that point starting Monday. It just hasn’t looked as rhythmic and as routine and as easy for the offense as it has in other years. Maybe that starts up front. Maybe they’re holding back something. I don’t know. I don’t have the answer to that. I wish I did.”

The Patriots have a big challenge next on the schedule, as they play the Chiefs in a Monday night game at Arrowhead Stadium. While the Chiefs are 1-2 and have had issues on the offensive line, they get a big home-field advantage.

“On Monday night, at home, against New England, that place is going to be very loud. Very loud,” Schefter said. “It’s a tough place to play. It’s one of my favorite places in the NFL to watch a game. It’s always been just a great atmosphere, and it will electric on Monday night, and it will be a tough spot for the Patriots to step into.”

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DL Sealver Siliga (foot) only one missing at start of Patriots practice

09.25.14 at 11:58 am ET
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Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga was the only member of the Patriots 53-man roster not present at the start of Thursday practice, according to reports. Siliga, who is dealing with what the team is calling a foot injury, was also the only one missing at the start of practice on Wednesday as the team continues to prepare for Monday night’s game against the Chiefs in Kansas City.

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Can Dave DeGuglielmo’s career as an OL coach give us some idea as to what might happen to Patriots offensive line?

09.25.14 at 11:44 am ET
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Dave DeGuglielmo

Dave DeGuglielmo

History tells us that the offensive lines coached by Dave DeGuglielmo have a history of successful power running, but have always struggled when it comes to pass protection.

Going back and looking at the numbers provided by Football Outsiders (as well as some other stats), the four seasons that DeGuglielmo worked in the NFL as an offensive line coach — with the Dolphins from 2009-2011 and the Jets in 2012 — the lines were distinguished in a positive manner by their ability to run the ball and make tough yards. On the flip side, his teams have also had issues when it came to protecting the quarterback, as well as occasionally developing the level of talent needed to provide depth when one or more key linemen go down.

When considering these numbers, it’s important to remember that DeGuglielmo favors a fairly standard version of line play — there are a few new things he brought with him, but it’s not like the Patriots suddenly instituted a zone-blocking system under the new coach. It’s also important to remember that the offense as a whole must be considered when evaluating offensive line play — the quarterback and skill position players can often play a large role in determining the success or failure of run or pass blocking — but given the numbers from FO, we have a pretty good idea of what sort of lines DeGuglielmo had in his time in Miami and New York. Here’s a quick look at the work each year, and their best and worst attributes:

Miami — 2009
Rushing Yards Per Game — 139.4 yards per game, 4th
Passing Yards Per Game — 198.1 yards per game, 20th
Power Success — 79 percent — 2nd
Stuffed — 14 percent — 1st
Second Level Yards — 1.01 — 28th
Open Field Yards — 0.63 — 21st
Pass Protection — 18th — 34 sacks — Adjusted Sack Rate of 6.5 percent

After offensive line Mike Maser was fired by the Dolphins following the 2008 season, DeGuglielmo was hired by Miami coach Tony Sparano after spending the previous five seasons as a member of the Giants staff, including the previous four as assistant offensive line coach. DeGuglielmo inherited an offensive line that was stocked with elite draft picks, including tackles Jake Long (the first overall pick in 2008) and Vernon Carey (who was taken in the first round in 2004). As a result, the Dolphins good offensive line numbers were not wholly shocking. After a start where they failed to crack 100 yards rushing over the first four games of the season, the Dolphins were one of the best rushing teams and best run-blocking teams in the league. According to FO, Miami had the fewest percentage of stuffed runs (percentage of runs where the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage), finishing with 14 percent. They were also second in the league when it came to successful power runs (percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown) at 79 percent. That Miami team struggled when it came to second-level yards and open field yards, but that was more about the speed of the backs as opposed to the blocking styles. They were barely below average when it came to pass protection — the Dolphins yielded 34 sacks, and their adjusted sack rate of 6.5 percent was 18th in the league. (Adjusted sack rate gives sacks — plus intentional grounding penalties — per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent.)

Miami — 2010
Rushing Yards Per Game — 102.7 yards per game, 21st
Passing Yards Per Game — 220.4 yards per game, 16th
Power Success — 83 percent — 1st
Stuffed — 16 percent — 7th
Second Level Yards — 0.86 — 32nd
Open Field Yards — 0.38 — 32nd
Pass Protection — 15th — 38 sacks — Adjusted Sack Rate of 6.3 percent

The two elite tackles in Carey and Long stuck around — one of the reasons the line was able to maintain some level of success on the edges — but the interior struggled. In fact, the interior was a continual issue for the Dolphins throughout the Jeff Ireland/Bill Parcells era, as there were some really bad deals handed out to a few players, including center Jake Grove, who was cut in September 2010, just one year after the signed him to a five-year, $29.5 million contract with $14 million guaranteed. One thing that stuck out about this group was the fact that while some of those bad deals washed out, the Dolphins and head coach Tony Sparano seemed hell-bent on reassembling the Cowboys old offensive line — prior to the start of the season, Miami went out and got three former Dallas offensive linemen, all of whom who worked with Sparano when he was the offensive coach with the Cowboys. As a result, it’s fair to wonder if DeGuglielmo was stuck with some Sparano retreads that he might not necessarily have pursued himself. (In the end, 1,643 rushing yards, 3.7 yards per attempt and eight rushing touchdowns were all the lowest numbers produced in Sparano’€™s three years as head coach.) Ultimately, the in-depth numbers were still fairly comparable to 2009 — the power/stuffed numbers were good, the second level/open field yardage numbers are a little odd, while the pass protection numbers are middle of the pack at best.
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Bill Belichick is getting his team ready to face an ‘explosive’ 1-2 punch in Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis

09.24.14 at 9:07 pm ET
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Jamaal Charles is a question mark heading into Monday's game against the Patriots. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Jamaal Charles is a question mark heading into Monday’s game against the Patriots. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — The Chiefs were without star running back Jamaal Charles last week and they still managed to throttle the Miami Dolphins, 34-15, in South Florida.

Bill Belichick was paying close attention to the back who picked up the slack.

With Charles sidelined by a high ankle sprain, Knile Davis ran 32 times for 132 yards and a touchdown.

“I think they’€™re different skill sets, but they do the same things with them so the same plays look different depending on who is carrying the ball,” Belichick said of Charles and Davis. “Davis is strong — they’€™re both very fast — Davis is strong, 230 pounds, whatever he is and he breaks tackles, he’€™s got good lower body strength, hard guy to bring down. You see that on some of his kickoff returns from last year, too, where he just runs through arm tackles and all that.

“Charles has good playing strength, too, but he’€™s more elusive, great quickness, acceleration. They’€™re different, but they’€™re both very good. They both can hit the homerun ball. They’€™ve both got great long speed, they have that in common, but their styles are a little bit different but they’€™re both very dangerous — strong guys, strong runners.”

If Charles doesn’t go, Belichick will also have to be ready for former Jets tailback Joe McKnight, who chipped in with six catches and 64 yards. There’s also veteran receiver Dwayne Bowe and explosive tight end Travis Kelce.

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Read More: Alex Smith, Andy Reid, Bill Belichick, Jamaal Charles

Rob Gronkowski is totally OK with Patriots increasing his workload

09.24.14 at 8:20 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski (87) had four catches for 40 yards and a touchdown against Miami. (Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski (87) had four catches for 40 yards and a touchdown against Miami. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Nothing’s holding Rob Gronkowski back now.

The Patriots tight end insisted Wednesday that he’s getting closer and closer to full strength and, as such, is ready to carry more of the workload.

In the season opener against Miami, Gronkowski was down on the official box score for 38 of the 86 offensive snaps. With the Patriots building a big 24-7 halftime lead and with the running game taking more of a priority, his workload was decreased in Minnesota. He took just 28 of 67 snaps.

Last week against the Raiders, Gronk was in on 42 of 73 offensive snaps. Is anything with regard to the reconstructed ACL keeping him from playing more?

“Nah,” Gronkowski replied. “I’m a few games deep now, three games, so basically it’s progressing every week. It’€™s getting to the point now where we can start rolling more and more.”

On Tuesday, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels hinted that he would like to increase Gronkowski’s workload.

“Obviously, I’m a football player and I don’t want to be limited,” Gronkowski said. “I always want to play as much as I can.”

With so much talk this week about the problems the offensive line has had protecting Tom Brady, Gronkowski said he certainly wouldn’t object to helping out by staying in to block.

“That could be a way,” Gronkowski said. “But it’s up to the coaches. They’re the ones who game play. Whatever they have, and whatever my job is to do, I’ll go out there and do to the best of my ability.

“I like being out there. It’s up to the coaches and whenever my number is called, I’m going to go out there.”

Read More: Gronk, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady
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