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Analysis of addition of Logan Mankins and subtraction of Terrence Wheatley

11.06.10 at 4:59 pm ET
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On Friday, Patriots coach Bill Belchick indicated Logan Mankins still ‘€œ[had] a ways to go’€ in his return to the field. Now, it appears that distance was a lot shorter than anyone may have realized.

On Saturday, it was reported the Patriots will activate the Pro Bowl left guard in advance of Sunday’€™s game against the Browns. Mankins, who was displeased with his contract situation, had stayed away from Gillette Stadium since spring workouts. He also missed training camp as well as the first eight weeks of the regular season, but returned to practice for the first time this week.

In his introductory press conference on Wednesday, Mankins made it clear that even though he hasn’€™t been around Gillette Stadium for the last several months, he’€™s done his due diligence when it comes to staying in shape, save for contact work.

‘€œI’€™ve played football and I’€™ve been through a lot of offseasons,’€ he said, ‘€œso I took this offseason like I take every other one, and I did the things that I’€™ve been taught through the years.’€

Mankins, a first-round pick of the Patriots in 2005, is a two-time Pro Bowler. Since his arrival in Foxboro, his reputation of toughness and durability ‘€” he missed the first professional game of his career at the start of the 2010 regular-season ‘€” have made him one of the best young offensive linemen in the game.

The Patriots were actually granted a two-week roster exemption while Mankins returned to game speed, but apparently, his work in practice this week has left little doubt that the offensive lineman is ready to jump back into action on Sunday against the Browns, at least on a part-time basis.

‘€œ[Mankins] looks all right,’€ Belichick said on Friday. ‘€œI think he has a ways to go, as you would expect, but he looks like he’s in pretty good condition. Logan is a smart guy and he works hard so that’€™s never really an issue. He just has to get better at things he hasn’€™t done in a while.’€

If Mankins felt good enough to start, the move would leave Dan Connolly back on the bench. The Southeast Missouri State had started seven games this season in place of Mankins at the left guard spot, and had played well ‘€” he was part of an offensive line that had yielded just 12 sacks through seven games, the seventh-best mark in the NFL.

Now, Connolly, figures to go back to his old role as the No. 1 backup among the interior offensive linemen. In addition, he pushes Rich Ohrnberger, Ryan Wendell and Quinn Ojinnaka down the depth chart, three others who have played both center and guard.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Dan Connolly, Logan Mankins, Terrence Wheatley

Report: Patriots release Wheatley, plan to activate Mankins

11.06.10 at 2:12 pm ET
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The Patriots will activate guard Logan Mankins for Sunday’s game against the Browns, according to a report in the Boston Globe. To make room for Mankins on the roster, the team has released cornerback and former second round pick Terrence Wheatley.

Wheatley, chosen 62nd overall in the 2008 NFL draft, played sparingly throughout his Patriots career, registering just four tackles in parts of three seasons. With Wheatley’s release, Jerod Mayo, Shawn Crable, Jonathan Wilhite, and Matthew Slater are the only 2008 draft picks remaining on the Patriots. The Pats chose seven players in that draft. Wheatley is one of five players taken by the Patriots in the first three rounds between 2006-2009 who did not stay in New England for their entire rookie contract. Tyrone McKenzie, a third-rounder in 2009, is on the practice squad.

Read More: Logan Mankins, Terrence Wheatley,

Wes Welker: Brandon Tate can be like Randy Moss

11.06.10 at 11:06 am ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots receiver Wes Welker stands to gain the most if Brandon Tate can continue his growth as a deep threat in the Patriots offensive system. Last week, Tate burned Asher Allen of the Vikings and got open for a scrambling Tom Brady on a 65-yard game-changing touchdown in New England’s 28-18 win.

On Friday, Welker said he believes Tate is serving the same purpose as Randy Moss did when he was with the Patriots.

“I think so,” Welker said. “He’s doing a good job out there. I think there are a lot of things that a lot of us can clean up. He’s in his second year, and really it’s almost like his rookie year because he didn’t play much last year.”

What went unnoticed on that play last Sunday is how open Welker was on the opposite side of the field as he had his man beat. Welker raised his hand but Brady circled away from the right side and scrambled as the play broke down. Tate came back to Brady and the rest his history as Brady found him in the nick of time.

“There’s a big learning curve there, but for the most part he’s doing a great job for us,” Welker added. “[He's] making a lot of plays, and that’s what we need him to do.”

The other aspect of running the right routes – like Tate has been doing – is staying away from the turnover bug.

“I think we’€™ve done pretty well, especially the past few games, making sure Tom is going to get it to the right guy, and making sure that we’€™re getting open for him and not screwing him up by running a different route or anything like that,” Welker said. “[We need to] make sure we’€™re on top of everything and everybody is securing the football when we need to.”

Thanks in part to his receivers running the right routes, Brady has been efficient and accurate all season, throwing just four interceptions in seven games, with all four coming in two games (Jets and Ravens).

“As far as offensively, you’€™ve got to take care of the football,” Welker said

Welker, taking a page of out Bill Belichick’s “What could go wrong if you don’t play well” handbook, then referred everyone to the game in which the Browns beat the Super Bowl champion Saints in New Orleans, intercepting Drew Brees four times. And two of those were returned by David Bowens for TDs.

“Obviously they made some great plays out there and they do a great job of disguising and really hustling around to the football,” Welker said. “They’€™re a tough, hard-nosed defense. You have to bring it every single play and make sure you’€™re on top of everything.”

In other words, just because the Browns are 2-5 doesn’t mean they can’t win Sunday.

“It’€™s a team that, I wouldn’€™t say that they have nothing to lose, but they really want to try and keep you off balance and keep you off guard,” Welker added. “You’ve got to be ready for all those scenarios – fake punts, fake this, fake that. They’€™ve got them all. You’€™ve got to make sure you’€™re on your toes and ready for all blitzes and everything else they’€™re bringing at you.”

Read More: Brandon Tate, David Bowens, Drew Brees, Randy Moss

Peter King on D&H: Only Bill Belichick can handle Randy Moss

11.06.10 at 7:38 am ET
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Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports football insider Peter King joined the Dale & Holley show on Friday once again to talk about NFL news. The conversation covered everything from the NFL’s Top 100 Players list, the Randy Moss saga and player fines.

Many Patriots fans are upset that Brett Favre was ranked slightly ahead of Tom Brady on the all-time list, but King offered a consolation for the future. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they do another list in 2020, when the NFL turns 100, the 100 best players as the league turns 100. And again, if Brady just progresses at a very normal level, and if even if he ends at three championships, I’€™ve got to think at the end of the day that’€™ll he’€™ll be higher than Brett Favre will be.”

Following are some more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

How does Tom Brady make your midseason MVP but not your midseason All-Pro team?

That’s one of those decisions that at the end I really thought long and hard, I thought long on two decisions. One was [Steelers center] Maurkice Pouncey over [Rams quarterback] Sam Bradford as Offensive Rookie of the Year, which was a really difficult choice because Bradford has been so good. I picked that because Pouncey has been a better center, and solidified a really shaky unit of one of the best teams it football, been a better center than Bradford has been at quarterback.

But let’s focus on the Brady-Manning thing. To me, I think it’s arguable that Peyton Manning has played better in the first half of the season but that Tom Brady has been more valuable to the best team in football in the first half of the season. And at the end of the day ‘€” I finished this Sunday morning at about 7:30 or 8 in the morning. I could have changed after Sunday’s games if I had wanted to, but I didn’t. I couldn’t go back in with the Monday night game. I just think that Manning has been absolutely terrific, as usual, and has had a great passing season and a great season orchestrating what he’s had to do in Indianapolis with a new offensive coordinator.

Whereas Brady, I think his value has rarely if ever been higher to the Patriots, because he’s gotten five new receivers up to speed while having the whole Moss thing go haywire. I realize it’s a very subjective thing. At the end of the day, I sort of wanted to honor each guy, because I think each of them had been tremendous in the first half of the season.

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Read More: Brett Favre, Jeff Fisher, Josh McDaniels, Peter King

Browns’ defensive coordinator Rob Ryan reflects on time with Belichick, Pats

11.05.10 at 7:44 pm ET
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He is the other Ryan, less bombastic than his twin brother but no less respected in NFL circles.

Cleveland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, the twin brother of Jets coach Rex Ryan, will get the chance to lead the Browns’€™ defense against the Patriots on Sunday. Like many Cleveland coaches, Ryan’€™s ties to New England run deep ‘€” he was the Patriots linebackers coach from 2000 to 2003 before leaving New England to become defensive coordinator in Oakland from 2004 through 2008.

Prior to the start of last season, Ryan joined Eric Mangini‘€™s staff in Cleveland, part of a group of former Patriots assistants ‘€” including Mangini, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and special-teams coach Brad Seely ‘€” who have migrated to Cleveland to try and implement the New England system on the shores of Lake Erie.

In his weekly press conference with Cleveland-area reporters on Friday, Ryan recalled his early days with the Patriots where the team wasn’€™t yet where it wanted to be. In particular, the 2000 season wasn’€™t what Ryan was expecting.

‘€œShoot, we had a rough start when we were 5-11 out there. I was questioning it like, ‘€˜Man, I thought this was going to be a little different,’€™’€œ Ryan recalled Friday. ‘€œThings were a little bleak there and everybody was calling for [head coach Bill] Belichick‘€™s head and everything else like that.’€

The nadir of that season was a 19-11 loss in Cleveland, a contest where the Browns’€™ fans jeered Belichick in his first time back in Cleveland as an opposing head coach. It dropped the Patriots to 2-8.

‘€œI just remember that it was just an awful game. Cleveland got the better of us in about everything they did. They played better on defense, offense, special teams and according to Belichick, which I’€™m sure he was right, coaching,’€ Ryan said. ‘€I can remember getting off of that plane and having a meeting and we just got ripped from one side down to the next.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brad Seely, Brian Daboll, Eric Mangini

Browns injury report Friday: Colt McCoy to start

11.05.10 at 4:48 pm ET
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The Browns and coach Eric Mangini announced that Colt McCoy will make his third NFL start on Sunday against the Patriots as quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace both missed practice for a third straight day with an ankle injuries.

Browns Injury Report for Friday:
Did Not Participate

QB Jake Delhomme (ankle) Doubtful
OL John St. Clair (ankle) Doubtful
QB Seneca Wallace (ankle) Questionable

Limited Participation
DL Kenyon Coleman (knee) Questionable
DL Shaun Rogers (ankle) Questionable
LB Matt Roth (hamstring) Questionable

Full Participation
TE Alex Smith (ankle) Probable

Read More: Cleveland Browns injury report, colt mccoy, jake delhomme, New England Patriots

Pats injury report Friday: Deion Branch, Pat Chung questionable

11.05.10 at 4:40 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tully Banta-Cain‘s absence from practice on Friday was not injury related and he is probable for this Sunday’s game against the Browns in Cleveland. Meanwhile, running back Fred Taylor will miss his fifth straight game while safety Jarrad Page missed his second straight. Both have been ruled out. Linebacker Brandon Spikes was limited with a knee issue but is listed as probable. Deion Branch, Pat Chung and Matt Slater are all questionable for Sunday.

Patriots Injury Report for Friday:
Did Not Participate

S Jarrad Page (calf) OUT
RB Fred Taylor (toe) OUT
LB Tully Banta-Cain (not injury related) Probable

Limited Participation
WR Deion Branch (hamstring) Questionable
S Patrick Chung (knee) Questionable
WR Matt Slater (ankle) Questionable
LB Brandon Spikes (knee) Probable

Full Participation
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder) Probable

Read More: Cleveland Browns, Deion Branch, injury report, New England Patriots
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