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Why Tom Brady isn’t standing pat in the pocket

12.08.11 at 12:53 pm ET
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FOXBORO — You don’t have to be an NFL scout to notice something very significant about Tom Brady this year.

He is getting rid of the ball faster and faster with every passing game.

There are a number of reasons for this.

The Patriots offensive line has been in flux all season, with injuries to Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer and Ryan Wendell, two rookies in Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon and opponents ganging up on Logan Mankins with occasional success.

Then, there’s the lack of a deep true deep threat downfield. With Wes Welker (team-leading 93 catches) and Deion Branch (48) getting open underneath, there has been little reason or motivation for Brady to look deep that often. The struggles of Chad Ochocinco and Taylor Price (now with the Jaguars) haven’t helped either, as both haven’t been able to consistently strike fear into opposing secondaries.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski is having a Hall of Fame and NFL record-setting season for the position, with 65 catches and 13 receiving touchdowns already.

Does Gronkowski get into his routes more quickly than a wide receiver does? Does that have anything to do with being able to get rid of the ball quickly? Let Professor Brady answer.

“Well, there’€™s more versatility in the inside part of the field because they can go in any direction,” Brady said. “If you’re an outside receiver and you’€™re split outside the numbers, there’€™re not many places you can go, so it usually takes a little more time to get in your route. When you’€™re an inside receiver, you have every direction available. So that’€™s why those guys typically have more catches probably for less yards because they have to deal with more people inside, but they also can catch the ball quick, short, intermediate, as well as down the field. So, there is just more route versatility within what they’€™re doing.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Adam Carriker, Brian Orakpo, Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch

Nate Jones starting to settle in with the Patriots

12.08.11 at 12:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Nate Jones has finally allowed himself to take a breath.

The defensive back was signed by the Patriots on Nov. 30, and four days later, he was on the field with New England, playing 70 of a possible 74 defensive snaps in Sunday’s win over the Colts. He finished with nine tackles (six solo) and a pass defensed in his first action with the Patriots.

Now, with just over a week in the system, he’s just starting to get his bearings when it comes to life in Foxboro.

‘€œI’m settled down now,’€ he said before practice on Thursday. ‘€œIt’s life in the NFL — things happen fast, on the field and off the field. Wherever you are, you’ve got to be ready. I’m good now. Getting settled, learning the schedule, learning my way around. It’s not bad.’€

The 29-year-old Jones, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound defensive back out of Rutgers, was drafted in the seventh round by the Cowboys in 2004, and played four seasons with Dallas before making stopovers in Miami and Denver. His finest season came in 2009 with the Dolphins, when he played in 16 games (making four starts) and made 54 tackles (45 solo) with 10 passes defensed and two interceptions. He was cut by the Dolphins on Oct. 5, and signed by New England late last month.

Against the Colts, the Patriots used a lot of nickel coverage, and utilized Jones as a slot corner for much of the afternoon.

‘€œI thought Nate did a good job,’€ said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. ‘€œI mean, he wasn’€™t even familiar with what we were doing, so he had a steeper learning curve, but he’€™s a more experienced player, so there’€™s a tradeoff there. I thought Nate did a pretty good job for us. [He] played the defenses pretty well, was good in communication, got his hands on a couple balls, made a few plays. It was far from perfect, but I thought he did a good job.’€

According to Jones, the assimilation process has been relatively easy.

‘€œI think just playing football, you recognize certain things, certain concepts, certain techniques. But no scheme is going to be identical. It’s hard to really compare schemes. But just being a football player, you understand certain concepts of the game, no matter what team you’re on.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Nate Jones,

From Sean Taylor to the fans, Washington will always mean something special to Andre Carter

12.07.11 at 9:38 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bring up his days in the nation’s capital, and Andre Carter – like he did on Wednesday – shines his sincere smile and has nothing but good things to say.

Even when the tragedy of a former teammate is broached.

Carter was in his second season of six-year, $30 million deal with the Redskins when 24-year-old Sean Taylor was gunned down in his Miami home and eventually died on Nov. 27, 2007. That season will always be with Carter, as the Patriots defensive end acknowledged Wednesday.

“Definitely, the 2007 season in regards to Sean Taylor and playing hard for him, that was by far one of the best moments,” Carter said. “We outplayed the Cowboys the last game of the season. We beat them by 21 points and Sean’s number was 21 so that was definitely a memorable experience that will always be cherished forever.”

Thanks to Carter and his teammates, the Redskins beat the Cowboys, 27-6, concluding a four-game winning streak that began after they lost to the Bills, 17-16, the game after Taylor’s death. That day, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had no free safety on the opening snap, putting 10 men on the field to start the game in a tribute to Taylor.

“That was also special, too. It took a lot of guts to do that,” Carter said. “But hey, that’s one thing about Gregg Williams, he’s definitely hard-nosed and people think he’s misunderstood but he loved Sean Taylor the way we loved him and why not do one last play for him.”

That win over the Cowboys put the Redskins in the playoffs in 2007. They would lose in Seattle in the first round of the playoffs, the last time the Redskins have appeared in the postseason.

“Unfortunately, they haven’t been successful,” Carter said of Washington woes under the likes of head coaches Jim Zorn and Mike Shanahan. “But the fans, in general, have held on and definitely have faith in trying to turn that particular organization around. I’ve been glad and blessed to meet some of the greats, and actually was with some of the greats, especially Joe Gibbs. It’s just an amazing franchise. Hopefully, in due time, that organization will turn around because it was a great place to play in, holding 100,000-plus fans. It can get loud when things are really rolling.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andre Carter, Gregg Williams, Joe Gibbs, New England Patriots

Pressure Points: Which New England defenders have done the best job of getting after the quarterback through 12 games?

12.07.11 at 6:06 pm ET
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According to official NFL gamebooks, opposing quarterbacks have 486 dropbacks against the Patriots through 12 games this season, and have been hit by New England defenders a total of 64 times, to go along with 27 sacks (16th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of who has been getting to the quarterback for the Patriots through 12 games:

Quarterback hits:
Defensive end Andre Carter: 19
Defensive end/linebacker Mark Anderson: Nine
Linebacker Rob Ninkovich: Eight
Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork: Seven
Linebacker Dane Fletcher: Four
Linebacker Jerod Mayo: Three
Defensive lineman Myron Pryor: Three
Defensive lineman Kyle Love: Three
Defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth: Two
Defensive lineman Gerard Warren: Two
Defensive lineman Shaun Ellis: One
Safety Pat Chung: One
Linebacker Brandon Spikes: One
Cornerback Phillip Adams: One

Sacks:
Carter: 9 (65 yards)
Anderson: 7 (49 yards)
Ninkovich: 4.5 (20 yards)
Wilfork: 2.5 (17.5 yards)
Love: Two (11 yards)
Chung: One (3 yards)
Pryor: 0.5 (4.5 yards)
Mike Wright: 0.5 (4 yards)

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher

Is Andre Carter seeing a lot more double-teams? ‘You know it!’

12.07.11 at 2:30 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The question had to be asked.

With his sudden falloff in sack and tackle numbers against the Eagles and Colts, has Andre Carter been seeing a lot more double-team coverage from opposing offensive lines?

“Yep,” Carter said in a response so fast and affirmative that he clearly knew the subject would eventually be addressed. “You know it! You know the answer to that question. As a player, you try to find a way to make those adjustments but I can’t get frustrated. I’m just happy to see other guys playing well and that’s what you do, you celebrate with your teammates because it’s a team sport.”

In his first 10 games, Carter had nine sacks and was tied for fourth in the NFL in that category. He came within 1/2 sack of setting the new franchise single-game record before a league statistician reviewed the film and determined that he “only” had 4.0 sacks against the Jets on Nov. 13.

Looking beyond just the sacks, Carter has also been held in checks in the tackle column as well, collecting just one solo tackle in each of the last two games after averaging six in his previous five.

But that didn’t keep Bill Belichick from raving on Wednesday about his veteran defensive end, who along with Brian Waters, has turned out to be one of the most valuable new additions to the 2011 Patriots roster.

“We need players that can play and he’€™s done a good job of that,” Belichick said. “Certainly, bringing a professional approach to the game, that’€™s great too. He’€™s done a good job at everything. He’€™s very attentive. He’€™s in excellent physical condition, he’€™s out there, he takes a lot of plays, he plays them hard in practice and the games. He’€™s very professional in his approach. We’€™ve asked him to do some different things, he’€™s embraced those and tried the things that he knows how to do, do; the things that are a little bit new or different for him, he’€™s tried hard to learn and understand how we want those things done.

“Very unselfish player that works hard [and] is consistent. You get the same effort out of him every day, seven days a week, whatever this is, [16] games or however many we’€™ve played. He’€™s really the same dependable player on a daily basis with a lot of consistency. All those are strengths. I don’€™t know how you rank them, but they’€™re all important. He does a great job at all of them. He’€™s been such a pleasure to have on this team and he’€™s added a lot to our football team in a lot of different ways.”

Read More: Andre Carter, Brian Waters, New England Patriots, nfl

Meet the new guy … No. 80, Dorin Dickerson

12.07.11 at 12:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — On a team where wide receivers play defensive back and linebackers occasionally shift to corner, Dorin Dickerson should fit right in.

The newest member of the Patriots’€™ practice squad is a Swiss Army Knife of a player, someone who lined up at wide receiver, tight end and linebacker in college at Pitt. And while he’€™s lined up strictly on offense during his relatively brief professional career, it’€™s clear that nothing is out of the question now that he’€™s in New England.

‘€œI’€™m just trying to settle in at this point,’€ he said before his first practice with the Patriots on Wednesday morning. ‘€œI’€™m just looking to go out there and practice hard and do what I can.’€

Expect the Patriots to lean on his versatility. In college, Dickerson started as a wide receiver and kick returner before moving to defense as a sophomore. That year, he played 12 games as a reserve strongside linebacker and had 15 total tackles. As a junior, he moved back to offense and played 13 games at tight end, finishing with 13 catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns. He stuck at tight end as a senior, and had 45 receptions for 508 yards (11.3 avg.) and 10 touchdowns.

The 6-foot-2, 227-pounder was originally drafted by Houston in the seventh round (227th overall) out of Pittsburgh in 2010. As a rookie, he played in seven games mainly on special teams. He was released by Houston on Sept. 3 and was then signed to the Pittsburgh practice squad on Sept. 12 before being released on Sept. 15.

‘€œI’€™ve just been sitting out for a little bit. I got a call. Worked out for these guys and it went pretty well,’€ said Dickerson, who will wear No. 80 in New England. ‘€œIt’€™s just a good opportunity for me to help the team or whatever and do what I can.

‘€œI just know the have a great offense and a great defense and a great organization. I talked to a lot of guys around the league, and they say they have a good organization. I’€™m just happy to be here.’€

Read More: Dorin Dickerson,

Five takeaways from the Tuesday afternoon conference calls with Bill Belichick, Bill O’Brien and Nick Caserio

12.06.11 at 4:15 pm ET
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Five takeaways from the Tuesday conference calls with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Bill O’€™Brien and director of player personnel Nick Caserio:

1. Belichick spoke at length about his longtime relationship with Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. The two go back a long ways as assistants, and have faced each other eight times as head coaches, with Shanahan holding a 5-3 edge on Belichick (when Shanahan was in Denver) in their head-to-head matches.

‘€œI think Mike liked me because he used to like to beat up on us all the time,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œMike was out in San Francisco when I was with the Giants, so we’€™ve always competed against each other; we’€™ve never been on the same staff. I’€™ve gotten to know Mike a little bit off the field, league meetings and stuff like that. He’€™s a great competitor, I have great respect for what he’€™s done, all the championships and all the outstanding teams he has had and coached. I’€™d say most of our stuff has been off the field.’€

Belichick hosted Shanahan at training camp a couple of years ago, and clearly has a deep and abiding respect for the former Broncos coach.

‘€œIt’€™s great to be able to talk to somebody that has that perspective,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œThe Jimmy Johnsons or the Mike Shanahans or people like that that have been through NFL seasons and have a lot of experiences and can relate to all the different points in time, whether it be the draft, training camp, regular season, Xs and Os, personnel and so forth. It’€™s great to be able to exchange ideas with somebody like that. Mike is a really smart guy and he’€™s had a tremendous career. I think he has a lot to offer in a conversation.’€

2. We touched on this in our story today on the Redskins’€™ defense, but the strength of the Washington defense appears to be in their two young pass rushers, Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.

‘€œThey don’€™t move them around a whole lot. They have a couple looks, but for the most part, it’€™s not hard to find them. The problem is blocking them,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œIt’€™s kind of like [Robert] Mathis and [Dwight] Freeney. They move those two guys around a little bit, a couple of snaps here and there, but the problem isn’€™t finding them; the problem is blocking them. They’€™re very good. They each other well. They’€™re both strong guys, really powerful and can collapse the pocket and also are fast enough to run around, work the edges.

‘€œThey both do a pretty good job in coverage, better than a lot of linebackers that I’€™ve seen that are outstanding pass rushers. They use them in some coverage responsibilities and they’€™re pretty competitive there. They do a good job in the running game. They’€™re both strong tacklers ‘€“ they wrap up well, they finish well. It will be a big challenge for us. These guys are two good bookends.’€
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Brian Orakpo, dwight freeney
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