|09.07.14 at 9:23 am ET|
Join Pete Davidson of WEEI.com and Rotobahn.com for a live Fantasy Football chat, starting at 11 a.m. Get all your questions in as Davidson offers advice as to how you should set your lineup for Week 1.
|09.07.14 at 9:07 am ET|
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — It’s a time-tested weather cliche but appropriate for the season opener between the Patriots and Dolphins here at Sun Life Stadium. It’s not the heat but the humidity that will be the biggest factor on the field.
Game time temperatures are expected in the mid-80s while the humidity will be around 70 percent, making it feel like 95 on the field. With the heat and high humidity, there is a chance of thunderstorms throughout the game.
Players and training staff will obviously be keeping a close watch on the conditions, making sure everyone is hydrated. This could be of particular concern to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who enters the game nursing a calf issue.
The Patriots, under Bill Belichick, are looking for their 11th straight season-opening win, which would match the Dolphins (1992-2002) for the second-longest such streak in NFL history. The Dallas Cowboys hold the NFL mark, winning 17 straight openers from 1965 to 1981.
The Patriots 10 straight wins is also the longest such active streak in the NFL. The Patriots last lost on opening day in 2003 in the infamous “Lawyer Milloy Game” when the star safety was cut from the roster the week before the game and picked up by the Bills during the week. The Patriots were beaten 31-0 but recovered nicely to win Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston.
The Patriots are opening the season against Miami for the eighth time and for the first time since beating them, 38-24, in the Monday Night debut of 2011. The Patriots are 4-3 against the Dolphins on opening day.
Aside from Brady’s calf, the Patriots enter the game relatively healthy, with tight end Rob Gronkowski expected to make his season debut on time as he promised earlier in the week. Gronkowski, who traveled with the team on Friday, will play despite not having participated in a single snap during preseason.
The biggest story to watch during warmups will be who takes the bulk of the reps at left guard. This will be the first time the Patriots enter a season without Logan Mankins since 2004. Josh Kline, who started the preseason finale against the Giants, is a candidate, along with Jordan Devey and Marcus Cannon.
Belichick indicated on Friday that he is considering an offensive line by committee to fill the void and make use of what he sees as good depth along the line.
Speaking of offensive lines, the Patriots defense figures to attack the group protecting Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, as the entire group is new from 2013. The turnover is, in part, due to what happened in the wake of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin verbal abuse controversy, which reached scandalous proportions midway through last season.
This game also marks the regular season debut of Darrelle Revis in a Patriots uniform and he’s expected to go up against Dolphins star receiver Mike Wallace, a receiver Revis and Belichick termed “one of the fastest” in the league this week. Chris Price has a breakdown of this and other storylines to follow.
|09.07.14 at 12:01 am ET|
1. Fast starts have always been a priority in the NFL, but for the Patriots, it’s especially true this season. Looking at the 2014 schedule, New England can certainly take advantage of a soft slate to open the year in an attempt to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the AFC in the early chase for home field. Things certainly set up nicely for the Patriots: over their first eight games, they have only two teams that reached the 2013 postseason on their schedule in the Chiefs and Bengals. Meanwhile, the Broncos — considered New England’s chief competition in the AFC — face five playoff teams in their first seven games in the Colts, Chiefs, Seahawks, Niners, Chargers. (They travel to New England for their eighth game of the season.) As it all relates to this week, the Patriots have traditionally done very well out of the gate — their 10-game winning streak on opening day is third-best in the history of the league. Since Bill Belichick took over in 2000, he’s posted a 29-17 mark in September games, which included a 4-0 start last year, a 3-0 record in 2007 and 2-0 mark in 2004. It’s important to remember that a fast start isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for long-term success: in 2001, the Patriots were 1-2 in September, while they were 2-2 out of the gate in 2003. In both instances, they went on to win the Super Bowl. Conversely, the last two years they were perfect in the first month of the season (2013 and 2007) they fell short of their ultimate goal. But when it comes to this season, the elements are certainly in place for the Patriots to flourish in the early going. Over the first two months of the season, the collective 2013 record of the teams the Patriots play is 61-57, with six of them finishing the 2013 season at .500 or less. Ostensibly, a quick start for New England would provide it with some insurance in case they stumble later in the year. That’s when the road gets considerably rougher for the Patriots, especially when faced with the prospect of the five-game stretch from Nov. 2 through Dec. 7, when four of the five teams they play made the 2013 postseason (Broncos, Colts, Packers and Chargers, with the last three coming on the road).
2. Measuring how difficult a team’s season will be via strength of schedule is one metric that figures into predictions, but too often, people overlook distance traveled. In that vein, it was interesting to see Scott Hanson of NFL Network send out a Tweet this week that detailed the mileage each team will have to put up over the course of the 2014 regular season. While the mileage count differs from our breakdown — we have the Patriots going 16,722 miles this season, while Hanson’s chart has them at 16,992 — it’s still a sizable bump from last year, when we had New England at 12,124 round-trip miles, with just one regular-season game outside the Eastern Time zone (Houston). Regardless, the numbers are still worth comparing when stacked against the rest of the league. It’s no surprise that four of the six teams who will be playing a game in London this season make up the top 4 in terms of mileage: Oakland (first at 36,078 miles), Miami (second, 24,740, Dallas (third, 24,530)and Jacksonville (fifth, 21,964). Seattle (fourth, 23,916) makes its way into the top 5 just because they’re roughly 800 miles from another NFL city. By either series of measurements, the Patriots will be 10th in total mileage this season. The team with the easiest travel schedule? The Steelers, who travel 5,918 miles, thanks in large part to the fact that the AFC North is the most geographically compact division. (Four of the bottom 10 teams are from the AFC North.) While it’s easy to dismiss the impact of travel in the NFL — especially when judged against the other major professional sports – it can still come into play, especially when it’s a distance of 1,000 miles or more in one direction. (For more on that, check out this story from 2012 by Bill Barnwell of Grantland.)
3. The average age of the Patriots roster — as of Saturday morning — stands at 25.8. (That counts cornerback Brandon Browner and wide receiver Brian Tyms, both of whom are on the shelf for four weeks to start the season because of suspensions.) That represents a slight spike from June, when the 90-man roster stood at an average age of 25.3. Here are a few quick notes on how the average age of the roster breaks down by position:
a) The oldest position grouping on average is at quarterback, where the 37-year-old Brady and the 22-year-old Garoppolo combine for an average age of 29.5. The youngest is at running back, where the five backs have an average age of 24.4.
b) Brady, who turned 37 in August, is again the oldest player on the roster. The youngest player is rookie offensive lineman Cameron Fleming, who turned 22 on Sept. 3. The near-16-year differential is the largest age discrepancy on the New England roster since Junior Seau (age 40) and Patrick Chung (age 22) occupied the same roster in 2009. This will mark the third consecutive year Brady will be the oldest player on the New England roster. The last time Brady wasn’t the oldest player on the New England roster was at the end of the 2011 season, when offensive lineman Brian Waters, defensive lineman Shaun Ellis and running back Kevin Faulk were all on the team and all older than the quarterback.
c) The position that has seen the wildest fluctuation when it comes to average age over the last few seasons is wide receiver. Currently, the six receivers have an average age of 26.2, with Danny Amendola beating Julian Edelman by a couple of months when it comes to age. (Both are 28.) The average age of New England’s wide receivers has gone from over 30 early in the 2012 season with Deion Branch and Wes Welker to 25 in 2013 with the pickup of youngsters like Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. Now, with the addition of the 27-year-old Brandon LaFell and the move of 23-year-old Josh Boyce to the practice squad, the average age for the receivers on the active roster has jumped to 26.2.
d) In the summer of 2013, the Patriots had 11 players on their roster 30 or older. In June the team had nine players on the roster age 30 or older. Now, it stands at seven: Brady (37), offensive lineman Dan Connolly (32), defensive lineman Vince Wilfork (32), Browner (30), Gostkowski (30), defensive lineman Rob Ninkovich (30) and offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer.
e) The numbers are already out of date because of the recent flurry of roster moves, but if you want an idea of how the Patriots stack up when compared to the rest of the league, this story from Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com — compiled just after final cuts came down late last month — should give you a good idea of where New England stands when it comes to age in relation to the rest of the NFL.
4. One of the interesting angles to Sunday’s Patriots-Dolphins game is the fact that New England may have been able to find a few hints of what might lie in store for them because it spent a few days this summer practicing with the Eagles. New Dolphins OC Bill Lazor spent last season as the quarterbacks coach in Philly, and shares Kelly’s go-go approach to offensive football. “Yeah, I think there will be some similarities,” safety Devin McCourty said this week when asked about possible connections between what they saw with the Eagles last month and what they can anticipate Sunday in Miami. “I guess we’ll really see how helpful it is when we’re out there on the field on Sunday. Some of the scheme stuff helps. When you have a coach that came directly from that system now as an offensive coordinator, I think of course it’s going to help a little bit. How much, we really don’t know. We know some things Philly did, we don’t know if Miami will do it. We’ll see on Sunday.”
5. Three interesting notes about the departure of Ryan Mallett to Houston. First, in his introductory press conference with the Texans, the quarterback took time off the top to thank the Patriots organization for the opportunity he received in New England, as well as the chance to learn from quarterback Tom Brady. Second, Mallett has already been anointed as the backup to starting Ryan Fitzpatrick — given Fitzpatrick’s track record, that could mean Mallett gets a chance to start sooner rather than later. (The double Ryan dynamic sparked one of the best quotes of the week — when asked about the possibility of facing Ryan Mallett or Ryan Fitzpatrick this week in the opener, Washington defensive back Ryan Clark cracked, “Man, I don’t care of they start Ryan Gosling.”) And three, word out of Houston is that the Texans had also shown interest in Eagles backup quarterback Matt Barkley before setting on Mallett. According to 790 Sports Talk’s Lance Zierlein, the Texans actually targeted Barkley first, and when it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, turned to Mallett. It’s not known how serious Houston’s courtship of Barkley was, but in the end, it wasn’t enough to pry him from the Eagles. (One interesting difference between the two is the fact that Barkley has three years of contract left on a relatively cheap contract, while Mallett is in the final year of his rookie deal.)
|09.06.14 at 6:08 pm ET|
In accordance with league protocol, the Patriots will release their inactives 90 minutes before kickoff on Sunday afternoon. But based on what’s happened this week and what the game plan might entail, here’s a guess as to who will be sidelined for the contest against the Dolphins:
Defensive lineman Chris Jones: Jones was ruled out on Friday. He hasn’t seen much action since he suffered an ankle injury in the preseason opener, but could be back to game action sooner rather than later.
Defensive end Michael Buchanan: The second-teat defensive end was ruled out on Friday because of an ankle injury. That could open up a spot for rookie Zach Moore.
Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga: The second-year lineman suffered a hand injury in training camp, and while he’s been back on the field this week, he was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. Despite the fact that he made the trip (and Tweeted as much), from this viewpoint, he’s a last-minute scratch. (If the Patriots do activate him, Moore might be the one who ends up sitting.)
Defensive back Tavon Wilson: Wilson offers good special teams value, but is the odd man out here, especially in a group that includes special teamers/safeties like Pat Chung and Nate Ebner.
Safety Don Jones: It’s likely that the former Miami defensive back was a signee this week simply for the sake of gathering some intel on the Dolphins. In addition, the surplus of cornerbacks who have played a safety-type role over the course of the summer makes him expendable, at least this week.
Offensive lineman Cameron Fleming: The young tackle out of Stanford figures to be on the outside looking in, at least as long as Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder remain healthy. Jordan Devey just makes it ahead of Fleming because of his versatility — he’s lined up at both guard and tackle spots this summer. In addition, Marcus Cannon’s ability to play guard and tackle figure into the decision as well.
Running back James White: With five scratches on the defensive side of the ball, it seems to just make sense to go for another offensive player, if only to come close to evening things out. In our mind, that means either White or fellow running back Brandon Bolden are likely to sit. In this case, we’ll go with the rookie, which means it’ll be a heavy workload for veteran Shane Vereen in the role of third-down back.
|09.06.14 at 10:27 am ET|
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — As expected the Patriots have signed rookie defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles to the practice squad and released tight end Allen Reisner from the practice squad.
The team formally made the announcement on Saturday after Reisner was not spotted at practice on Friday while Quarles, released from the 53-man roster on Wednesday, was spotted wearing No. 98 on Friday.
Quarles, 22, was claimed off waivers from the New York Giants on Aug. 31, 2014 and then released on Sept. 3, 2014. He was originally signed by the Giants as a rookie free agent out of South Carolina on May 12, 2014. The 6-foot-4, 294-pounder, was released by the Giants on Aug. 30, 2014.
Quarles played in 35 games with 28 starts during a three-year career at South Carolina, finishing with 105 total tackles and 13 sacks. Quarles attended Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy for one year prior to transferring to South Carolina.
Reisner, 25, was signed to the New England practice squad on Sept. 3, 2014. He has spent time with Minnesota (2011-12) and Jacksonville (2012-13) during his time in the NFL and has played in 15 games with seven starts, accumulating seven receptions for 58 yards. The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder, originally signed with Minnesota as a rookie free agent out of Iowa on July 27, 2011.
Reisner rotated between the practice squad and the 53-man roster in 2011 and 2012, playing in six games in 2011 and four games in 2012. Reisner was claimed off waivers by Jacksonville on Dec. 24, 2012, and spent the entire 2013 season with the Jaguars. He signed back with Minnesota on April 15, 2014, but was released by the Vikings on Aug. 30, 2014.
|09.05.14 at 8:10 pm ET|
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady spoke with CNBC on Friday and discussed a number of topics, including his endorsement deal with Under Armour, as well as what he would do as a parent if one of his sons asked him if he could play football — despite the risk of concussion. Here’s a portion of his Q&A.
|09.05.14 at 8:01 pm ET|
Thanks to our pals at the NFL Network, here’s a sneak peek of Tom Brady‘s interview with Andrea Kremer, which will be part of their pregame show Sunday morning:
On the self-talk going on in his head as he gets ready to start his 15th season: ‘’’God Tom, you’re not very good, you have to work harder at this; what are you doing, that was a bad play.’ I think that’s a lot of motivation for me is to always feel like I have to prove it to myself first. Every day in practice I’m trying to make the right throws, the right reads, the right footwork, the right emotional level because to sustain that for four or five months over the course of the season is a tough thing to do. But you have to do it; you have to find the balance. I wouldn’t say it’s an easy thing to do but if you want to play this position at a high level, you have to commit to those things.”
On how will he know when it’s time to walk away from playing football: “I think if I feel like I can’t play at the level that I expect [of] myself, then I’m not going to play anymore. I want to be a great asset to a team; I want to bring a lot of value to a team that I’m playing for.”
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