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Bill Belichick: Marcus Cannon ‘great selection’ for Ed Block award

01.05.12 at 1:11 pm ET
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FOXBORO — One of the best ways to impress Patriots coach Bill Belichick is to show you can overcome adversity.

Marcus Cannon certainly fits the bill.

The Patriots rookie offensive lineman and cancer survivor was selected by his teammates as the recipient of the 2011 Ed Block Courage Award, as announced by the team on Thursday morning. The honor is voted on by teammates and bestowed annually upon the player who best exemplifies the principles of courage and sportsmanship while also serving as a source of inspiration. Cannon and award winners from the 31 other NFL teams will be honored at the 34th Annual Ed Block Courage Awards Banquet in Baltimore on March 13.

“Great selection,” Belichick said Thursday morning. “I had the privilege of working for a year with Ed and he is tremendous guy, real inspiration to all of us at the Colts.”

The Ed Block Courage Award is named after Ed Block, a long-time head trainer for the Baltimore Colts and a respected humanitarian dedicated to helping children. Recipients are often players who have overcome devastating injuries or tragedies in their personal lives to return to top-level competition in the NFL.

Belichick began his NFL career as an assistant on the 1975 Colts coaching staff.

“Marcus has gone through a lot this year,” Belichick added. “He’s certainly had to deal a lot more than a normal rookie would have to deal with, which is a big transition as it is, just coming into this league. And he dealt with a lot very maturely and unselfishly. He did what he had to do but at the same time he was always there for the team and was always doing what he could do to help the team, and he’s helped the team in a lot of ways. I’m proud that he’s on our team, what he’s accomplished and he certainly deserves to be recognized for it.”

Cannon was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma following his senior season at Texas Christian University just prior to the 2011 NFL Draft. He was selected by the Patriots in the fifth round (138th overall). After completing treatments, he began the season on the reserve/non-football injury list before being promoted to the active roster on Nov. 15.

Cannon made his NFL debut on Monday Night Football against Kansas City on Nov. 21, playing on the field goal and extra point units before entering the game at right tackle late in the fourth quarter. He played in a reserve role on special teams and at offensive tackle in the Patriots final seven games of the season, seeing significant time at right tackle against Miami on Dec. 24.

Cannon appeared in 49 games at Texas Christian, starting the final 36 contests that he appeared in ‘€“ 24 at right tackle during his sophomore and junior seasons and 12 at left tackle during his senior season. He did not allow a quarterback sack in 2009 or 2010, receiving First-Team All-Mountain West Conference honors in both years. He was named a Third-Team All-American by the NFL Draft Report and in 2010.

Officially formulated in 1986, the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that is sanctioned by the NFL and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS). The Foundation is committed to heightening awareness of the plight of abused children in cities throughout the league. Proceeds from the annual Courage Awards event benefit the Foundation’€™s Courage House National Support Network For Kids.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Ed Block, Ed Block Courage Award, Marcus Cannon

Meet the new guy … No. 17, Britt Davis

01.04.12 at 5:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Britt Davis did not enjoy his time away from professional football. Asked Wednesday afternoon what he was doing over the course of the last few months while he was a free agent, he smiled.

‘€œBesides going crazy?’€ he laughed. ‘€œJust working out every day. That’€™s about it. … I contemplated (getting a job), but I just stayed busy with workouts and just hanging around my family, pretty much.’€

That was until he got the call from the Patriots late last month. The 25-year-old wide receiver out of Northern Illinois was contact by New England, came up to Foxboro for a workout, and he was officially added to the Patriots’€™ practice squad on Wednesday. (New England released tight end/fullback Garrett Mills as the corresponding move.)

‘€œI had worked out about a week ago, and I thought that it went pretty well — I got some good feedback,’€ he said. ‘€œI was definitely surprised. Whenever you get a call… you know, a playoff team and all that type of thing. I was definitely surprised.’€

A first-year player from Northern Illinois, he originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Jets in 2009 and spent part of that year on the New York practice squad. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder was released by the Jets after training camp in 2010 and was then was signed by Denver where he began the year on the practice squad. Davis was signed to the 53-man roster on Dec. 13, 2010 and played in three games for the Broncos. He was release by Denver at the end of training camp this past summer.

Davis had some very definite preconceived ideas about the Patriots before he signed with New England.

‘€œIt’€™s like a machine. It’€™s like a well-oiled machine out here,’€ he said. ‘€œIt’€™s business. Come to work, bring your hard hat and do your job.’€

Davis, who will wear No. 17, said Wednesday that his professional background to this point was mostly on special teams, and acknowledged that he hasn’€™t talked much with the coaching staff about what his role will be going forward.

‘€œThat hasn’€™t been discussed. I’€™m just coming in here to do whatever I have to do to help the team,’€ he said. ‘€œWhatever that is. I don’€™t care.’€

Read More: Britt Davis, Garrett Mills,

Boomer Esiason on D&C: Mark Sanchez ‘like a chihuahua’

01.04.12 at 4:39 pm ET
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CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to discuss a wide range of topics, including the New York Jets and their quarterback situation. Boomer has come under fire in New York for his comments on Jets QB Mark Sanchez.

When asked about the the possibility of Peyton Manning being traded to the Jets, Esiason responded, “Everywhere you look, that’s what they’re saying. But first of all, we don’t even know if Peyton’s able to play. If Peyton is able to play and the new general manager and whoever they hire to run that team out there decides to go without Peyton Manning, then I’m sure that the Jets will be sniffing around. Because that’s what the Jets do. They’re trying to find their Tom Brady. They’re trying to find their Aaron Rodgers. And I don’t think in their mind they think that they feel like they’ve found the kid. If you watched Mark Sanchez the last month of the season, he was like a chihuahua standing on Madison Avenue and 36th Street entering the Midtown Tunnel, eyes bigger than you-know-what, and just so shaky.”

Hear the entire conversation by clicking right here. Esiason’s comments on Sanchez begin at the 10-minute mark.

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Read More: boomer esiason, chihuahua, Dennis and Callahan, Mark Sanchez

Patriots Positional Playoff Preview: Tight ends

01.04.12 at 3:08 pm ET
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With the Patriots off this weekend and the postseason ready to begin, we’€™ve got the Patriots Positional Playoff Preview, a weeklong, position-by-position look at the Patriots and how they look heading into the postseason. We’€™ve already broken down the running backs and quarterback. Now, it’€™s the tight ends.

Depth chart: Rob Gronkowski (90 catches, 1,327 yards, 17 receiving touchdowns), Aaron Hernandez (79 catches, 910 yards, seven touchdowns).

Overview: In just over a year, the Patriots’€™ passing game has evolved from a system that had almost no input from the tight ends into one that has become more reliant on tight ends than any other passing game in the league. The combination of Hernandez and Gronkowski represents a matchup nightmare for almost every opposing defense in the NFL — Hernandez, who has the build of a wide receiver, can be used as an in-line blocker, in the slot or split wide, while Gronkowski’€™s size and catch radius make him one of the best and most dependable targets in the league.

Gronkowski set numerous marks this year: his 1,327 receiving yards were a new record for most receiving yards in a season by a tight end. In addition, he finished the season with 18 overall touchdowns (17 receiving, 1 rushing). His 17 overall touchdowns passed Curtis Martin (17 overall in 1996) for the second highest single-season total in Patriots history and the most in NFL history by a tight end. In addition, he was fourth in the league in yards after catch with 668.

It’€™s not just their pass-catching abilities that make them unique. In the case of Gronkowski, he has become one of the better blocking tight ends in the league, and over the last month, with the New England offensive line in a state of recent reconstruction, he has been utilized more as a blocker. Going forward, the Patriots will continue to face some elite pass rushers, and so it wouldn’€™t be a surprised to see Gronkowski used as a blocker more often. That would put more of a burden on Hernandez to step up his game, and down the stretch, he has certainly done that.

Best Moment: Both had several incredible moments over the course of the season, but our vote goes to Gronkowski’€™s performance in the Dec. 11 win over the Redskins in Washington, where he rumbled for an extraordinary 160 yards on six catches, including a Bavaro-esque 49-yard catch and run where he shook a handful of Redskins’€™ tacklers on the way to the Washington red zone.

Worst Moment: It’€™s almost nitpicking, but perhaps the worst of the season came late in the first half of the win over the Jets where Hernandez bobbled a Tom Brady pass on the goal line that would have given New England a touchdown. Instead, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie snatched it out of the air and took it back to midfield at the end of the half. As for Gronkowski, he was the second-most penalized player on the team this season with six flags against him.

By the numbers, courtesy of Nuggetpalooza: A Patriots’ tight end caught at least one pass for a gain of 20+ yards in 15 of the 16 games this season. No other team’€™s tight end managed such a catch in more than 12.

Money quote: ‘€œThe skill set of both those players really allows us to be flexible. Not only are they good blockers, but they can catch the ball, too. You can run it behind them, you can play-action pass and then they’€™ve become pretty efficient in the passing game also, just to spread them out and be able to run them on different run combinations. They’€™re very good players.’€ ‘€“ Brady on Gronkowski and Hernandez

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, antonio cromartie, Curtis Martin, Patriots Position Breakdowns 2012 Playoffs

Patriots add wide receiver Britt Davis to practice squad

01.04.12 at 1:39 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Wednesday they have signed wide receiver Britt Davis to the practice squad and released tight end Garrett Mills from the practice squad.

Davis, 25, is a first-year player from Northern Illinois. He originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the New York Jets in 2009 and spent part of that year on the New York practice squad. Davis, 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, was released by the Jets after training camp in 2010 and was then was signed by Denver where he began the year on the practice squad. Davis was signed to the 53-man roster on Dec. 13, 2010 and played in three games for the Broncos. He was release by Denver at the end of training camp this past summer.

Mills, 28, originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick of the Patriots in the 2006 NFL Draft out of Tulsa and spent the majority of his rookie season with New England on the injured reserve list. Mills, 6-foot-1, 235 pounds is a veteran of five NFL seasons and has played with New England (2006), Minnesota (2007-09), Philadelphia (2010) and Cincinnati (2010). After being listed as a game inactive for the first nine contests of his rookie season in 2006, Mills finished the year on the injured reserve list with hip and thigh injuries. He was waived by the Patriots at the end of training camp in 2007 and was claimed off waivers by Minnesota. After two seasons seeing limited action for the Vikings in 2007 and 2008, he split the 2009 season between the Minnesota active roster and practice squad but did not see any game action. Garrett went to training camp with Minnesota in 2010 but was waived prior to the start of the regular season. He then was signed to the Philadelphia practice squad before being signed to the active 53-man roster. Garrett played in seven games with three starts last season with Philadelphia and registered two receptions for 19 yards. He was released by the Eagles on Dec. 21 and claimed off waivers by Cincinnati, where he finished the season. He was waived by Cincinnati on Aug. 16. He joined the New England practice squad on Sept. 14.

Read More: Britt Davis, Garrett Mills,

Target Practice: Who was Tom Brady’s favorite (and most dependable) target this season?

01.03.12 at 8:09 pm ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains an imperfect stat ‘€” a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback ‘€” it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. Here’s a look at the target breakdown for the New England passing game for the 2011 season:

Kevin Faulk: 7 catches on 9 targets (78 percent)
Rob Gronkowski: 90 catches on 124 targets (73 percent)
Wes Welker: 122 catches on 172 targets (71 percent)
Aaron Hernandez: 79 catches on 113 targets (70 percent)
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 9 catches on 13 targets (69 percent)
Stevan Ridley: 3 catches on 5 targets (60 percent)
Danny Woodhead: 18 catches on 31 targets (58 percent)
Deion Branch: 51 catches on 90 targets (57 percent)
Tiquan Underwood: 3 catches on 6 targets (50 percent)
Julian Edelman: 4 catches on 8 targets (50 percent)
Chad Ochocinco: 15 catches on 32 targets (47 percent)
Matthew Slater: 1 catch on 3 targets (33 percent)
Taylor Price: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)
Dane Fletcher: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)

By position:
Tight end: 169 catches on 237 targets (71 percent)
Running back: 37 catches on 58 targets (64 percent)
Wide receiver: 196 catches on 309 targets (63 percent)
Other: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)

When you compare this year’€™s numbers to the last two seasons, it’€™s clear the New England passing game has evolved from one that relied heavily on the work of wide receivers like Wes Welker and Randy Moss and one that has started to turn more toward tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. It’€™s also interesting to see the decreased numbers of the running backs in the passing game — all three years, their production has dropped off. Here’€™s a look at the target numbers from 2010 and 2009.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Patriots, targets,

Brian Waters: Gillette Stadium ‘can be loud – at times’

01.03.12 at 5:39 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It’s a criticism as old as the building itself – Gillette Stadium is not an intimidating place to play.

Certainly, the Patriots enjoy the home field advantage, having gone 7-1 this season. They have five perfect home seasons since the building opened in 2002. Their worst record at home is 5-3, four times. Overall, they are 67-13 in 10 regular seasons in their home that opened after their first Super Bowl win.

They won their first eight playoff games in the stadium as well. Then Ray Rice ripped off an 83-yard run on the first play from scrimmage in wild card round two seasons ago and the karma has been off ever since.

The Patriots have lost their last two playoff games in the facility, dropping a 33-14 decision to the Ravens in Jan. 2010 and the 28-21 shocker to the Jets last January.

Patriots Pro Bowl left guard Brian Waters is returning to the playoffs this season in his first season with the Patriots. He was on a 13-3 Chiefs team in 2003 that lost in the AFC Divisional round to the Colts, 38-31. So he knows the heartbreak of one-and-done at home.

He also knows what an intimidating factor noise can be as he played 11 seasons in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.

“Good question,” Waters responded before a very long pause and some laughter, presumably to himself. “It’s a tough question. You’re right, I have played in some loud places, and this place can be loud – at times.”

Could the Patriots’ home venue be louder and more intimidating?

“You said that. I didn’t say that,” Waters smiled, quick to cover his rear.

Is part of the problem that Patriots fans have been spoiled and expect a win every single home game?

“I have no idea,” Waters said. “This is my first year here. You have to ask someone who’s been here a long period of time,” Waters responded. “I’m not going to get into that one. That’s not a good situation to really comment on.”

Tom Brady has been critical of the Gillette Stadium crowd in the past, including this year when he encouraged fans to arrive early for the 4:15 p.m. home opener on Sept. 18 against the Chargers and get “lubed up.” He later clarified himself through the team by asking fans to be sure they “hydrate” properly.

Read More: Gillette Stadium, lubed up, New England Patriots, nfl
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