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In a fight for a TE job, AJ Derby not getting carried away with big night

08.19.16 at 2:04 am ET
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A.J. Derby

A.J. Derby

FOXBORO — AJ Derby knows he’s in the battle of his young career.

The tight end is trying to gain a spot on an NFL roster that includes Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. What he’s really trying to do is beat out the likes of Clay Harbor, Bear Pascoe and perhaps even fullback Joey Iosefa.

Thursday night’s effort could go a long way in making his case better than anything he had to say after a 23-22 win over the Bears at Gillette Stadium.

The third-year player out of Arkansas caught six passes on seven targets for 71 yards and a 16-yard touchdown pass over the middle in the win. The touchdown catch and two other passes came in heavy traffic, with at least two defenders on him, including a nice leaping grab for 26 yards on the left sideline from Jacoby Brissett.

“Jacoby made a good check on the line,” Derby said. “He made a really good throw and the offensive line did a really good job giving him time to get the throw off. To be honest, I’ve got to watch the film to see exactly what happened before I let you know the answer,” Derby said. “I’m really just trying to get better every day, so I’ve got to watch the film and see how I did.

“I’m having fun, I enjoy it. I enjoy football so it’s good to be back out there.”

Bill Belichick provided a little more insight afterward.

“AJ has had a solid and pretty consistent several months for us here, going all the way back to the spring, to the offseason program, to OTA’s, mini-camp, training camp. He has shown up every day, he’s improving,” Belichick said. “He’s a young player that only played the position for a short amount of time, basically a year down in Arkansas, has a lot to learn, has a ways to go, but has some skills to work with. He’s a smart kid, eh works hard, and he’s gotten better.

“He’s making some plays for us in the kicking game, some tackles, in coverage he has caught the ball and blocked competitively. He’s done some good things.”

Read More: 2016 training camp, AJ Derby, New England Patriots,

Jimmy Garoppolo finishes strong subbing for Tom Brady: ‘It was a good test, I guess’

08.19.16 at 1:19 am ET
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FOXBORO — Even Jimmy Garoppolo was caught off guard.

The credo of every quarterback in the NFL — and especially under Bill Belichick — is be ready to enter the game at all times.

The thinking of the Patriots coach Thursday reportedly was to start Tom Brady in his final home game before Oct. 16 vs. Cincinnati. Then, reportedly, the star quarterback cut his throwing thumb using a pair of scissors to clean his spikes before the game.

When did Garoppolo find out he’d be starting the game and how did he handle the whole situation?

“Pretty suddenly before the game,” Garoppolo said. “I haven’t even got a chance to yet. I found out literally right before the game, so it was pretty sudden. I didn’t think I was going to [start], but then some stuff came up and I got tossed in there. It was a good test, I guess, it always keeps you on your toes. Coach [Belichick] always preaches, you never know when you’re going to go in or when your number is going to get called. You just have to be ready for it.”

For the second straight week, the start wasn’t great. He went three-and-out in the opening series. The offense was shutout in the opening quarter. Then Garoppolo caught fire. He led the Patriots to 17 second-quarter points, and it could’ve been 24 if Brandon Bolden didn’t fumble at the Bears 5.

“It was still not our best start. We started with another three-and-out which is never good, but after that, I think we got into a nice rhythm offensively. Obviously, the defense playing good always helps us. It’s just complementary football.”

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Read More: 2016 training camp, Chicago Bears, Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots

‘Ferocious’ Anthony Johnson ready to fight like ‘a silverback gorilla’ to earn spot on Patriots D

08.19.16 at 12:55 am ET
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FOXBORO — Anthony Johnson made himself quite the name in Thursday night’s 23-22 win over the Bears at Gillette Stadium.

The nose tackle out of LSU has had to remake his image from a 325-pound space-eater to a 280-pound up-the-field force as a defensive lineman.

The undrafted lineman came into the NFL in 2014 and played parts of two seasons with the Dolphins and Redskins. Then, the same tackle who set a Louisiana high school record with 67.5 sacks in four seasons realized he had to change.

The Patriots, after Bill Belichick checked him out in the offseason, gave him that chance this year. But not before Belichick wondered if the trimmed-down Johnson was the same tackle he saw at LSU.

“I said, ‘Do we have the right guy here?’ ” Belichick recalled after Thursday’s game in which Johnson played most of the first half with the first unit and into the second half with the second- and third-team defense.

“A lot different than when we saw him at LSU. Honestly, I didn’t even recognize him when we brought him in for a workout. Yeah, he’s kind of gone in the other direction from being a big guy and really trimming down and his skills are different. He’s faster, he’s quicker, he’s obviously lighter, doesn’t have as much power but he was an interesting guy.

“He was a good player coming out of college, an interesting workout, and a guy that’s a lot different than most of our other interior defensive lineman, so we thought in signing him that his skills might complement some of the other players that we have, so we’ll just see how that plays out.”

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Read More: 2016 training camp, Anthony Johnson, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots

Chris Hogan admits he was emotional prior to Thursday’s game vs. Bears

08.19.16 at 12:47 am ET
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Chris Hogan admitted he was emotional before Thursday's game vs. Bears. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Chris Hogan admitted he was emotional before Thursday’s game vs. Bears. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Although it was just a preseason game, it had special meeting for Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan.

Since he didn’t play in the first preseason game against the Saints last week, it was his first game as a member of the Patriots and he admitted he was emotional heading into it.

“I had a lot of emotions coming into this game — my first game really as a Patriot, at home, which was a lot of fun for me,” Hogan said. “I’m an emotional guy out there, so I was excited about it.”

Hogan left the Bills last offseason and signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Patriots after the Bills wouldn’t match the offer sheet. The 27-year-old finished the game with four catches for 53 yards and also converted the Patriots’ two-point conversion in the second quarter on a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo.

“It’s been good,” Hogan said of his chemistry with Garoppolo. “Obviously we get a lot of work in during training camp. With me being a new guy, you have to be able to communicate with those guys so that they know that we’re both on the same page. Jimmy was able to find me a couple of times, which was great.”

Hogan figures to have a big role in the offense this year and it could get even larger to start the season if Danny Amendola (PUP) isn’t ready for Week 1. Hogan can do a number of different things as he’s comfortable both in the slot and on the outside.

Although the third preseason game is typically a “dress rehearsal” for the season opener, Hogan isn’t thinking of it like that.

“For me, it’s another game, another opportunity to play with this team, for them to get to know me and to get yourself ready for the season,” he said. “We’ll be excited to get back to work and get ready for this third preseason [game].”

Read More: Chris Hogan,

Malcolm Butler addresses earlier fight with Bears WR Alshon Jeffery: ‘You’re going to have those mistakes’

08.19.16 at 12:27 am ET
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Malcolm Butler addressed his fight earlier in the week with Alshon Jeffrey. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Butler addressed his fight earlier in the week with Alshon Jeffrey. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — The Patriots hosted the Bears for three days of joint practices and then Thursday’s preseason game, but most exciting part the week may have happened on the first day.

During Monday’s joint practice, Malcolm Butler and Bears wide out Alshon Jeffery got into it after a play in 11-on-11s.

The two had their hands on eachother’s face masks and then it appeared Butler took a swing at Jeffery causing numerous players from each team to converge in the corner of the end zone.

After a few seconds order was restored and Butler was ejected from practice as Bill Belichick has a no fighting policy. Jeffery stayed as the Bears just fine their players for fighting.

After the game, speaking for the first time since it happened, Butler referred to it as a mistake.

“I just learned from it and moved on,” he said. “Wasting quality reps out there, you know I could be getting better at the same time. It’s just like pick up game, anything, everything is not perfect. You’re going to have those mistakes. I learned from it and moved on. Went back out there the next day trying to be the best football player I could be.”

Butler and Jeffery appeared to make up the next day and moved on from the incident. Overall it was a good week for the Patriots’ cornerbacks to go up against both Jeffrey and Kevin White, two of the better receivers in the league.

“[It will] be very helpful, you know, there [are] a lot of big guys in this league, we have a couple [of] big opponents this year,” Butler said. “You know, try to take advantage of the opportunity to work with those guys. It [wasn’t] perfect, but you know it is what it is.”

In the game Thursday, Jeffery finished with two catches for 41 yards, while White had one catch for six yards.

Read More: Alshon Jeffrey, Malcolm Butler,

Mike Petraglia, Chris Price talk Tom Brady scissor-gate, Jimmy Garoppolo sharp in Pats win over Bears

08.19.16 at 12:13 am ET
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FOXBORO — What did Bill Belichick have to say about Tom Brady’s absence? And Jimmy Garoppolo and AJ Derby star in Patriots 23-22 win over the Bears. WEEI’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price have the details at Gillette.

Read More: 2016 training camp, Bill Belichick, Chris Price, Jimmy Garoppolo

Poll: Do you feel better about Jimmy Garoppolo now than you did last week?

08.19.16 at 12:11 am ET
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Do you feel better about Jimmy Garoppolo now than you did last week?

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