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Bill Belichick, Patriots gearing up for short week, roster cuts

08.24.14 at 5:09 pm ET
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Following the Patriots’€™ impressive, 30-7 win over the Panthers in last Friday’€™s third preseason game, the team has put that behind them and turned its focus to the Giants and Thursday’€™s final preseason game.

“[Sunday] is our day to go through the film with the players and look at the corrections and all the things that happened in the Carolina game and quickly turn the page here and get on to some of the things we need to cover at the end of training camp before we get into the start of the regular season and also get going on the Giants,” Bill Belichick said on Sunday’€™s conference call. “This is a short week, quick turnaround, and really a lot of things we have to tie up here in the next few days and then hopefully we’€™ll be ready to turn out attention next week to the start of the regular season.”

Also coming this week are roster cuts, as rosters have to be cut down to 75 players by Tuesday and the final 53-man roster by next Saturday.

“Obviously roster moves will be coming. That will be part of the whole process too,” Belichick said of the upcoming week. “There could be some before, but I’€™m sure there will be some on Tuesday as well.”

The Patriots will practice Monday, Tuesday and hold a walkthrough on Wednesday before departing for New York/New Jersey for Thursday’€™s preseason finale.

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Bill Belichick: Vince Wilfork has ‘done a solid job’ in getting back from torn Achilles

08.24.14 at 1:35 pm ET
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Coming off a torn Achilles suffered in Week 4 against the Falcons last season — forcing him to go on season-ending injured reserve — Vince Wilfork appears ready for the upcoming season.

Wilfork hasn’t missed a practice this preseason, but like most starters he didn’t play in the first preseason game against the Redskins. He has played in the last two games — including almost the entire first half of last Friday’s game with the Panthers, showing no issues at all with the foot he injured last season.

“Vince has done everything pretty much since the last week or so of OTAs,” Bill Belichick said during Sunday’s conference call. “He’s done everything with the team, no real restrictions. He hasn’t really missed any time or anything. He’s been out there and worked hard. He’s getting himself ready for the season as he should be. He’s done a solid job of getting himself back and getting ready to play football this year. We’ll see how it goes going forward. I have no issues with him, I think he’s worked very hard coming back from the injury he had last year and be ready to go this season.”

With the Patriots playing more of a 3-4 defensive scheme this preseason, Wilfork has been in the middle of the defensive line — drawing a few double-teams — along with Joe Vellano and Tommy Kelly on either side of him. This has allowed Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich to line up in a standing position at the hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker spot and get a better jump on getting after the quarterback, or dropping back into pass coverage at times.

With Wilfork and Kelly out last season, the Patriots could not use this scheme as Ninkovich and Jones were forced to line up in a three-point stance on the line with the lack of healthy defensive linemen.

Although Wilfork has looked good in the two joint practice sessions with the Redskins and Eagles as well as in the two preseason games, Belichick is quick to point out it’s only the preseason and the real games have yet to begun, so it is unfair to make clear assertions.

“It’s preseason. Let’s not confuse preseason with regular season,” Belichick said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s been out there and participated. He played in all three preseason games. We’re all getting ready for the regular season, but we’ll see what happens when the regular season starts for all of us — players, coaches, rookies, veterans, everybody. That’s when we’ll really see where everybody is.”

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Sunday NFL Notes: New practice squad rules will have massive impact on team-building process

08.24.14 at 7:00 am ET
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Could Josh Boyce end up sticking around Foxboro longer because of the new practice squad rules? (Getty Images)

Could Josh Boyce end up sticking around Foxboro longer because of the new practice squad rules? (Getty Images)

1. When it comes to the team-building process, the recent change in practice squad rules (as well as the fact that they’ll be expanded from eight to 10 players) will have a massive effect on the decision-making process that will take place over the next week as teams start to make the really tough decisions on who to keep and who to cut. When it comes to the Patriots, it could impact several bubble players — individuals the franchise have invested in for at least a year but have yet to show the skills needed to be able to compete on a regular basis in the league on either side of the ball. As a result, they could end up as practice squadders for part of the 2014 season as the teams want to be able to have them evolve within the confines of their system. Wide receiver Josh Boyce and defensive end Michael Buchanan find themselves with practice squad eligibility after the rules change, and the alteration could allow them to stick around Foxboro as p-squadders after the cuts come down later this month, provided they can clear waivers. That would, in turn, mean that some of the youngsters who could have been ticketed for the practice squad under the old rules would end up getting bumped out. Regardless of what happens, it is a game-changer for personnel men and front offices around the league, and will have a major impact on how they operate when it comes to the decisions they make at the end of the month. (For a complete look at the changes and Bill Belichick‘s reaction, check out our story from earlier in the week here.)

2. The New England offensive line has been the very measure of consistency and continuity over the course of the last decade or so, but the Patriots have done a ton of shuffling at two positions (right guard and center) over the course of the summer. And as we head into the final preseason game of the year, they are two positions that — at least from the outside — appear to be up in the air. At center, veteran Ryan Wendell has traded off with Dan Connolly over the course of camp and into the preseason. Meanwhile, the fact that Connolly (who has ably manned the starting right guard spot since 2012) has been on the move has opened up an opportunity for a variety of players to show what they can bring to the right guard spot, a group that includes Jordan Devey, Josh Kline and rookie Jon Halapio. At this point, if the Patriots would be inclined to go with Connolly at center, the leader in the clubhouse at right guard appears to be Devey, as he’s played almost every snap of the preseason. But do they want to lock Devey into one spot at the expense of possibly utilizing his versatility in other places? He’s played both guard and both tackle positions, and could be this generation’s Russ Hochstein when it comes to skill set and versatility. (Hochstein played center and guard with the Patriots from 2002 to 2008.) This is a position that still bears watching from a reps standpoint as New England heads into its final preseason game of the summer Thursday against the Giants.

3. Strong praise from Belichick on his Saturday conference call with the media, as he compared Julian Edelman and his career path to linebacker Tedy Bruschi. Belichick — who, it should be recalled, wept at Bruschi’s retirement ceremony — said that Edelman’s progression mirrored Bruschi in that he played one position in college but was able to find success at a different position when he reached the NFL. What’s the secret? “Hard work, dedication to starting something that’s relatively new and just working at it day by day to try to do the things they needed to do to be able to compete in this league at their new positions,” Belichick said when asked about Edelman, a former college quarterback who has become an excellent receiver and punt returner. “It took a lot of work. Julian has worked extremely hard, and like I said, he’s developed skills at two areas — punt returner and receiver — that he didn’t have any experience at … and that’s not an easy thing to do at all. You’ve got to give him a lot of credit for the amount of work and dedication and training that he’s put into that.”

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Bill Belichick: With cuts looming, players have to ‘take advantage of opportunity’

08.23.14 at 7:17 pm ET
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With the first round of cuts looming — the Patriots have to go from 87 to 75 players by Tuesday afternoon — Bill Belichick knows that the time is getting short for players who need to carve out a niche for themselves if they want to survive Tuesday’s cuts, much less the second wave of cuts that gets the team to 53 at the end of the month.

“Every player’€™s situation is different,” Belichick said on a conference call with reporters on Saturday afternoon. “Guys that want to play football that have an opportunity, I think they want to take advantage of that opportunity and make the most of for themselves on it or whatever it is. That’€™s really all they can control. Whatever else happens is beyond their control. They can just do the best they can with the opportunities they get. Make the most of the ones they get and that will lead to more.

“I think, honestly, everybody pretty much understands that. We all knew at the start of the season that rosters were at 90 and they were going to be cut to 75 and the 53 and so forth. Everybody knows it’€™s a competitive situation. Just try to go out there and try to do the best you can to make the most out of it.”

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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players in preseason

08.23.14 at 2:53 pm ET
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Jonas Gray

Jonas Gray

Every week, we list the Patriots’€™ “offensive 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. Here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense through the first three preseason games of 2014:

RB Jonas Gray: 30 (30 rushes)
RB James White: 20 (18 rushes, 2 catches)
RB Stevan Ridley: 19 (19 rushes)
RB Shane Vereen: 14 (7 rush, 7 catches)
RB Roy Finch: 13 (10 rushes, 5 catch)
WR Julian Edelman: 10 (10 catches)
WR Brian Tyms: 9 (9 catches)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 (6 catches)
WR Brandon LaFell: 6 (6 catches)
WR Josh Boyce: 6 (5 catches, 1 rush)
QB Ryan Mallett: 5 (5 rushes), 3 sacks
FB Taylor McCuller: 4 (4 catches)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 4 (4 rushes)
WR Danny Amendola: 3 (3 catches)
RB Brandon Bolden: 3 (3 rushes)
RB Stephen Houston: 3 (3 rushes)
FB James Develin: 3 (3 catches)
WR Derrick Johnson: 2 (2 catches)
WR Wilson Van Hooser: 1 (1 catch)
QB Tom Brady: 1 (1 rush)

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Tracking opportunities in Patriots preseason passing game

08.23.14 at 1:34 pm 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 three games of the 2014 preseason:

WR Julian Edelman: 10 catches on 10 targets
WR Brian Tyms: 9 catches on 16 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 7 catches on 7 targets
WR Brandon LaFell: 6 catches on 13 targets
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 catches on 9 targets
RB James White: 2 catches on 3 targets
RB Roy Finch: 5 catches on 9 targets
WR Josh Boyce: 5 catches on 8 targets
WR Danny Amendola: 3 catches on 5 targets
FB James Develin: 3 catches on 4 targets
WR Derrick Johnson: 2 catches on 2 targets
WR Wilson Van Hooser: 1 catch on 1 target
FB Taylor McCuller: 4 catches on 6 targets
TE Justin Jones: 0 catches on 1 target
TE Steve Maneri: 0 catches on 1 target

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How does Tom Brady’s preseason stat line from this year stack up to last decade?

08.23.14 at 8:00 am ET
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If Tom Brady is done for the preseason — and after Friday’s performance, it seems like it’s a safe bet — here’s a look at how his preseason stats from this year stack up to his work over the last decade-plus.

2 games: 25-for-31 (81 percent), 285 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 0 sacks

3 games: 34-for-44 (77 percent), 357 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks

2 games: 17-for-27 (63 percent) 157 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 3 sacks

3 games: 28-for-50 (56 percent), 379 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 3 sacks

4 games: 37-for-50 (74 percent), 476 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks

3 games: 26-for-42 (62 percent), 307 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks


3 games: 32-for-48, (67 percent), 346 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs, 2 sacks

3 games: 35-for-54 (65 percent), 404 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 1 sack

2 games: 18-for-33 (55 percent) 232 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (no sack information available)

3 games: 34-for-44 (77 percent), 374 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT (no sack information available)

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