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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

Nate Solder: ‘I’d like to shore up my pass protection’

09.24.14 at 7:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Give Nate Solder credit for this much: he knows exactly where improvement in his game begins. He admitted Wednesday that if he doesn’t do a better job blocking for Tom Brady‘s blindside, the Patriots offense has little chance of improving.

“I’€™d like to shore up my pass protection,” Solder told reporters in front of his locker. “I’€™d like to work better with the offensive line and do some of those things better that I haven’€™t been doing well.”

On Sunday in the 16-9 win over the Raiders, Solder allowed three quarterback hits on the franchise and at least one hurry. Solder had particular trouble against Raiders rookie sensation Khalil Mack and veteran lineman Justin Tuck.

But if Solder thought those two were tough, he could be having nightmares about what’s coming up the next two weeks. On Monday night in Kansas City, while he’s trying to battle the noise at Arrowhead and the communication on the line, he’ll have to deal with either Tamba Hali or Justin Houston, both outside linebackers. That will be followed up by Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry six days later at Gillette Stadium.

“We’re going to practice at a high pace and high tempo and try to get as prepared as we can for any sort of circumstances that may arise,” Solder said.

There’s been plenty of speculation this week that there is a serious issue with cohesion and leadership on the offensive line and that there might even be dissension with new offensive line coach Dave DeGugielmo. The Patriots offensive line reportedly came in extra early Wednesday morning for meetings. Solder acknowledged the issues of unity when he said the offensive line needs to close ranks and get on the same page heading into Kansas City.

“Yeah, you’ve got to have to have some cohesion and some unity going into that situation,” Solder said. “Every week in this league you have to be improving, especially when you’re not playing where you want to be, you have to make strides throughout the course of the week.”

How bad has it been? Brady has taken six sacks, 10 hits and has been hurried 28 times in the first three weeks.

“I think the problem is we’re not playing the way we’d like to play and we’re going to continue to work on that,” Solder said.

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Chandler Jones: Patriots defense ‘takes pride’ in forcing turnovers

09.24.14 at 6:11 pm ET
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Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones

FOXBORO — Having the best turnover differential in the NFL is something the Patriots have a lot of satisfaction in.

The Patriots defense has forced eight total turnovers in the first three games –€“ six interceptions and two fumbles — and along with two giveaways by the offense, New England is tied for the league-lead in turnover differential at plus six with the Bengals.

“For the defense to get a turnover that can be huge for the offense and it’€™s something that we take pride in. Get the ball to the offense,” defensive end Chandler Jones said.

The defense’€™s eight forced turnovers are tied with the Bears for the most in the NFL.

“That is a credit to the defense working together and also credits the coaches and their game plans and play calling,” Jones said. “Coach [Matt] Patricia and Coach [Bill] Belichick do a good job of calling blitzes and when to drop into coverage — things of that nature to confuse the offense a little bit or even the quarterback.”

While Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has thrown three interceptions so far this season, he’€™s known as being a game-manager and not turning the ball over much –€“ not throwing more than seven interceptions in each of the last three seasons.

Smith is in his 10th season in the league, spending his first seven with San Fransisco, so the Patriots know they will have their work cut out for them Monday Night on the road.

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Read More: Alex Smith, Bill Belichick, chandler jones, Patriots
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