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Welcome back Marquice Cole: Patriots re-sign corner, special teamer to active roster

10.01.13 at 6:01 pm ET
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Four days after he was released, the Patriots brought back defensive back and special teams player Marquice Cole on Tuesday, signing him back to the active roster.

Cole, who was nursing a sore hamstring, was limited mainly to special teams in the first three games of the 2013 season. He played in just seven special teams snaps against Tampa Bay in his last game on Sept. 22.

Cole, 29, is a veteran of four NFL seasons with the New York Jets (2009-11) and the Patriots (2012). The 5-10, 195-pounder joined New England as a free agent on March 19, 2012, and was re-signed by the team on March 20, 2013. Cole was released by the Patriots on Sept. 1, and re-signed by the team one day later on Sept. 2.

He played in 14 games with one start last season and finished with 12 total tackles, one interception, three passes defensed and seven special teams tackles. Cole played in both postseason games and added four defensive tackles and four special teams tackles. He played in the first three games of the 2013 season mainly on special teams.

Cole originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with Oakland out of Northwestern in 2007. He spent the end of the 2007 season on the Tennessee practice squad and part of the 2008 season on the practice squad of New Orleans. Cole began the 2009 season on the practice squad of the New York Jets before joining the 53-man roster early in September. Cole has played in 51 NFL games with two starts and has registered 26 defensive tackles, three interceptions with one returned for a touchdown and 43 special teams tackles.

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Bill Belichick explains in Xs and Os just why Vince Wilfork is so unique and hard to replace

10.01.13 at 5:54 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When you’ve played with one of the best defensive talents in the game, you know there’s no sense in trying to replace him with another player. Tom Brady admitted as much when he was asked about Vince Wilfork on Tuesday on Dennis and Callahan.

But Bill Belichick is smart enough to know that you don’t replace him – you adjust your game plan. Wilfork, who had Achilles surgery on Tuesday, is a one of kind player. He is not only a space eater in the trenches, he’s one of the quickest defensive linemen in the NFL.

He went into great detail Tuesday to explain how the Patriots, mostly through the draft, have looked for players who can play different roles – or in the case of Chandler Jones – learn different roles.

So with Wilfork out, what’s more important, changing philosophy or personnel? Let Professor Belichick explain:

“I think that’€™s an interesting question. From week to week, you face a lot of different challenges and a lot of different offenses in this league. Trying to find the right matchups, of course it’€™s easy when you have a player that’€™s really good at everything. It’€™s a little bit harder when you have to find somebody, work different combinations of players that maybe excel more in one phase of the game than others.

“But facing teams that are two-back, power running teams like the Baltimores of the world versus a team like Atlanta last week that we were in sub-defense, most of the entire game other than a handful of plays. Now we’€™re seeing teams like San Francisco last year, Buffalo this year, Philadelphia in preseason and I’€™m sure there will be a little more of that trend in the league that the running game is more of a sideline-to-sideline running game as opposed to the traditional what we’€™ve seen for years out of even two-back or two-tight end teams that double team, power block, pulling guards and stuff like that. Over the course of the season, you’€™re going to have to deal with all those things. As soon as your opponent sees you’€™re not very good at one thing, you can expect to see a whole lot more of that. That’€™s what they do if they have it. That’€™s kind of the challenge, is to have enough depth and variety in your defense to be able to match up to those different type of offensive systems and be able to compete with them.

“It’€™s like one week you’€™re going up against, like I said, a team that has four or five really good receivers, the next week you’€™re going up against a team that has a couple really good tight ends, another week you’€™re going up against a spread running team, another week you’€™re going up against a power running team, one week you’€™re going up against a running quarterback, another week you’€™re going up against a real accurate, pocket-type quarterback. You get receivers that are great downfield, deep receivers and you’€™ll get receivers that are underneath, quick, very good maneuverable guys. Those are all the challenges. Like I said, if you have one player that can kind of do pretty good in all those situations, that’€™s great. The guy is probably going to be one of the top draft picks and highest paid players in the league.

“After that, you’€™re trying to put everything else together from a scheme standpoint and from a player standpoint to match up to that week to week. That’€™s definitely a challenge. Trying to find the right players and the right overall composition of your team is challenging. Whereas, on the offensive side of the ball, you have control over the ball. You know who you hand it to, you know who you throw it to, you determine what kind of formations you want to get into, how many guys you want to put on the field that are receivers or tight ends, or where you want to put them, if you want to throw the ball quick or throw it deep or run behind double team blocks or option run. You control that. When you’€™re on the other side of the ball, you don’€™t control anything. You have to defend what they do and it’€™s a much different problem.”

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Matt Patricia on loss of Vince Wilfork: ‘The next guy has to step up and perform’

10.01.13 at 4:02 pm ET
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Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said Tuesday that when it comes to replacing veteran defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, the team will rely on the “next man up” approach to pick up the slack.

“Certainly, he’€™s someone that we rely on heavily,” Patricia said on a conference call with the media Tuesday afternoon. “But like in all situations and cases, the situation is what it is and the next guy has got to step up and perform to the best of his ability and go out there and obviously execute whatever it is we’€™re asking him to execute.

“Certainly injuries are an unfortunate part of the game of football, but that is what it is, and we’€™re obviously going to expect whoever’€™s out on the field to perform to the highest level of their ability. But certainly Vince Wilfork is a phenomenal player for us and certainly someone who we rely on week in week out to really attack each opponent at a truly very professional level.”

The loss of Wilfork will be felt on and off the field. The Miami product, in his 10th season in the league, is one of the most well-respected players in the New England locker room. The 31-year-old All-Pro brings a certain level of work ethic, leadership and gravitas that few can match.

“Obviously, first and foremost, Vince is just a phenomenal player both on and off the field for us,” Patricia said. “Defensively — from his leadership to his ability to his work ethic, which is such an incredible example, all of which all of our guys look at and try to model themselves after. Certainly from that standpoint, he’€™s phenomenal as a professional and someone that takes his craft very seriously and works extremely hard to improve himself every day. It’€™s a great work ethic for everyone to see, whether you’€™re a younger player or an older player that’€™s maybe just gotten to our program to really take a look at and obviously see someone like Vince prepare himself week in week out.”

Here are some of the highlights from the rest of Patricia’s Q&A with the media:
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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

10.01.13 at 3:45 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the regular season, we’€™ll present a list of the Patriots’€™ ‘€œoffensive touches,’€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Four weeks into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2013:

RB Stevan Ridley: 50 (47 rushes, 3 catches), 7 negative plays, 1 fumble lost
WR Julian Edelman: 35 (1 rushes, 34 catches)
RB LeGarrette Blount: 34 (34 rushes, 0 catches), 4 negative plays
RB Shane Vereen: 21 (14 rushes, 7 catches)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 15 (0 rushes, 15 catches)
RB Brandon Bolden: 15 (9 rushes, 6 catches), 1 negative reception
QB Tom Brady: 17 (17 rushes, 0 catches), 6 sacks, 10 kneeldowns, 2 fumbles lost
WR Aaron Dobson: 11 (0 rushes, 11 catches)
WR Danny Amendola: 10 (0 rushes, 10 catches)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 3 (0 rushes, 3 catches)
FB James Develin: 2 (0 rushes, 2 catches)
RB Leon Washington: 1 (1 rush, 0 catches)
TE Matthew Mulligan: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
WR Josh Boyce: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)

Some offensive notes: Overall, the Patriots were in the shotgun for 15 of their 62 snaps against the Falcons. The 24 percent represents a season-low. On season, Pats have operated in shotgun for 118 of their 287 offensive snaps, a rate of 41 percent. ‘€¦ The Patriots didn’t run any no-huddle against the Falcons, marking the third time since the start of the 2012 season they didn’t use no-huddle in a game. On the year, the Patriots have operated out of a no-huddle on 17 of their 287 plays from scrimmage, a rate of six percent. That’€™s a sizable step down from the last two years when they averaged 25 percent during the regular season. (Through four weeks last year, the Patriots have been in no-huddle for 85 of their 299 plays from scrimmage, a rate of 28.4 percent.) ‘€¦ New England has run 287 offensive plays this year in four games. Not counting kneeldowns, 18 have been for negative yardage. Not counting Brady’€™s three game-ending kneeldowns on Sunday, the Patriots had three negative plays on the day against the Falcons ‘€” one negative reception from Bolden and one negative run each from Ridley and Blount. ‘€¦ We covered some of this in our piece last week about running back by committee, but the guy who has seen his opportunities decrease dramatically over the first four games was Ridley. Through four games last year, he had 79 touches (74 rushes, five catches). Through four games this year, he’s at 50 (47 rushes, three catches).

By way of comparison, here’s a breakdown through the first four games of the 2012 season.

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Pressure Points: Which New England defenders have done best job getting after QB in 2013?

10.01.13 at 12:38 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the 2013 season, we’€™ll provide a look at the Patriots pass rush numbers. While sacks can be overrated, when evaluated as part of a bigger picture that includes quarterback hits and quarterback pressures (the latter courtesy of Pro Football Focus), it should provide a good picture as to which defenders are consistently able to get after the quarterback. Through three games, the Patriots have nine sacks (tied for 20th), 26 quarterback hits and 44 quarterback hurries. Based on the official NFL game books and PFF, here’€™s a quick look at some pass-rush numbers for the Patriots to this point in the 2013 season:

Quarterback sacks
DL Chandler Jones: 3 (20.5 yards)
DE Michael Buchanan: 2 (15 yards)
DL Tommy Kelly: 1.5 (6.5 yards)
DL Joe Vellano: 1 (13 yards)
LB Jerod Mayo: 1 (1 yard)
DE Rob Ninkovich: 0.5 (1 yard)

Quarterback hits (per NFL game books)
DE Chandler Jones: 8
DL Tommy Kelly: 5
DE Rob Ninkovich: 4
DE Michael Buchanan: 4
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 1
DL Vince Wilfork: 1
LB Jerod Mayo: 1
DE Jake Bequette: 1
DL Joe Vellano: 1

Quarterback hurries (per PFF)
DE Rob Ninkovich: 15
DE Chandler Jones: 13
DL Tommy Kelly: 4
DL Vince Wilfork: 3
DL Joe Vellano: 2
DE Michael Buchanan: 2
LB Jerod Mayo: 2
DE Jake Bequette: 1
LB Dont’a Hightower: 1
LB Brandon Spikes: 1

By way of comparison, here’€™s a look at the pass rush numbers through three games in 2012.

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Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2013 season

10.01.13 at 12:23 pm ET
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Through four weeks, the Patriots have been flagged for 22 penalties (tied for 22nd in the league) for a total of 209 yards (19th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
CB Kyle Arrington: two penalties (defensive pass interference, defensive holding), 25 yards
OL Logan Mankins: two penalties (two offensive holding), 20 yards
OL Dan Connolly: two penalties (two false starts), 10 yards
OL Marcus Cannon: two penalties (two false starts), 6 yards
CB Aqib Talib: one penalty (defensive pass interference), 38 yards
CB Alfonzo Dennard: one penalty (unnecessary roughness), 15 yards
LB Dont’a Hightower: one penalty (facemask), 15 yards
LB Jerod Mayo: one penalty (unnecessary roughness), 15 yards
DL Chandler Jones: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
S Duron Harmon: one penalty (offensive holding’€“special teams), 10 yards
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (false start), 5 yards
CB Marquice Cole: one penalty (12 men on the field), 5 yards
DL Chandler Jones: one penalty (neutral zone infraction), 5 yards
OL Nate Solder: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
WR Julian Edelman: one penalty (illegal shift), 5 yards
QB Tom Brady: one penalty (delay of game), 5 yards
Team: one penalty (illegal shift), 5 yards
S Kanorris Davis: one penalty (illegal formation), 5 yards

Most penalized by position
Cornerback: 83 yards
Offensive line: 41 yards
Defensive line: 20 yards
Linebacker: 30 yards
Safety: 15 yards
Tight end: 5 yards
Team: 5 yards
Wide receiver: 5 yards
Quarterback: 5 yards

Most frequently called penalties
False start: Six
Offensive holding: Three
Unnecessary roughness: Two
Defensive pass interference: Two
Illegal shift: Two
Roughing the passer: One
Neutral zone infraction: One
Twelve men on the field: One
Illegal formation: One
Facemask: One
Defensive holding: One
Delay of game: One

By way of comparison, here’s how the penalties broke down through four games last year.

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Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

10.01.13 at 11:54 am ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely 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 after the first four games of the 2013 season:

WR Julian Edelman: 34 catches on 43 targets
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 15 catches on 39 targets
WR Aaron Dobson: 11 catches on 30 targets
WR Danny Amendola: 10 catches on 14 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 7 catches on 10 targets
RB Brandon Bolden: 6 catches on 7 targets
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 3 catch on 5 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: 3 catches on 3 targets
FB James Develin: 2 catches on 2 targets
WR Josh Boyce: 1 catch on 6 targets
TE Matthew Mulligan: 1 catch on 1 target
TE Zach Sudfeld: 0 catches on 3 targets
RB Leon Washington: 0 catches on 1 target
RB LeGarrette Blount: 0 catches on 1 target

By position
Wide receiver: 71 catches on 132 targets
Running back/fullback: 18 catches on 24 targets
Tight end: 4 catches on 9 targets

By way of comparison, here’s a look at how things broke down through four games last season.

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