|09.22.10 at 9:19 am ET|
ESPN NFL analyst Merril Hoge joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to talk about the top stories around the league. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Hoge said Patriots coach Bill Belichick deserve credit for getting what he has out of the defense with only one “difference-maker” in Vince Wilfork. “What he’s doing with these young guys for the most part is excellent coaching,” Hoge said. “Does it mean they’re a great defense? No. But you can see them getting better every week.”
Hoge was not as impressed with the Patriots offense. “Offensively, it’s a little concerning,” he said. “You’ve got three dimensions, I think, with [Tom] Brady, [Wes] Welker and [Randy] Moss. But they don’t use a second phase to their offense and their running game as consistent as I feel if they did, it would make Brady even better — which he used to do early in Brady’s career.”
Hoge supported the decision of Eagles coach Andy Reid to give Michael Vick the start this Sunday even with Kevin Kolb returning from injury. “I’ve never seen [Vick] play as good a six quarters as he has played, ever,” Hoge said, adding: “[Vick] made plays that nobody, maybe in the history of our game, has been able to make.”
Hoge said Ben Roethlisberger will be welcomed back in Pittsburgh when his four-game suspension ends. He said the Steelers quarterback has earned the right at a second chance by showing contrition. “He’s done the things you’ve got to do when you’ve made bad choices in life,” Hoge said. “You take ownership of them, and you take action to make changes and then you put that into work. I’ve literally seen him do that. That’s why I’m such a believer in him, and I believe in him.”
|09.21.10 at 8:02 pm ET|
In the wake of today’s news that Kevin Faulk suffered a torn ACL in Sunday’s loss to the Jets, I went looking for some of his greatest moments on YouTube and found this incredibly comprehensive montage of highlights that lasts just over six minutes. It serves as a reminder of just how good a receiver he is (the one-handed grab against the Jags just after the three-minute mark might be my favorite), as well as his dynamic running style. (Points are deducted, however, because there’s no footage of his two-point conversion in Super Bowl XXXVIII.)
You also get a sense of just how long he’s been around — in addition to the shots of him playing at old Foxboro Stadium, the final shot of him walking off the field with Lawyer Milloy of all people really hammers that point home.
|09.21.10 at 5:23 pm ET|
The Patriots have just announced they have signed tight end Carson Butler to the practice squad. Here’s the full text of the announcement from the team:
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots announced today the signing of first-year TE Carson Butler to the practice squad.
Butler, 6-4, 260 pounds, was signed by the Patriots on August. 2, 2010 and was waived on Sept. 4. He was originally signed by the Green Bay Packers as a rookie free agent out of Michigan in 2009. Butler was waived by Green Bay in late July and signed by the Detroit Lions in early August. After being waived by Detroit prior to the start of the 2009 regular season, he spent parts of the year on the practice squads of San Francisco and Cincinnati. Butler signed with the New York Giants in January of 2010 but was waived in June.
|09.21.10 at 3:59 pm ET|
Kevin Faulk is a unique offensive option, a player who has a skill set that few skill position players in the NFL can match. Even at the age of 34, he remains an integral part of the Patriots offense, and if the veteran is indeed lost for an extended stretch because of a torn ACL in his knee (as reports Tuesday have indicated) it would hinder much of what New England can do offensively, and force the Patriots to turn to multiple players in an attempt to pick up the slack left by his absence.
While the 5-foot-8, 202-pounder is not a traditional running back — he’s only had more than 100 carries twice in his NFL career, and just once since 2000 — his versatility is an important weapon. He can still run the ball as a changeup option (he did have double digits in carries twice in 2009), but remains primarily a steady and dependable target out of the backfield, providing quarterback Tom Brady with a go-to option on screen passes and swing passes. (He was tied for third on the team last year with 37 receptions.)
He also remains one of the best in the game at blitz pickup, and even in his 12th season, he can still provide depth in the return game.
“That role is a lot more than having the ball in your hands,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Faulk’s role with the team. “Kevin is in there a lot of plays when he doesn’t have it in his hands — blocking, blitz pickup, formation. It’s not just handling the ball.”
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio compared Faulk to Brian Westbrook, saying Faulk is another undersized versatile back whose worth is measure in more than just numbers.
“He’s a unique player. There’s no question about it. Blitz pickup, there’s a lot that goes into it. It’s not just line up in the backfield and you block this guy. You change the protections,” Caserio said of Faulk. “He’s proven year-in and year-out how valuable of a player that he is, and nobody respects Kevin Faulk more than our team and our club, and myself included. He’s a unique guy.”
However, even with all that, where the Patriots may be hurt most with the loss of Faulk is off the field. Voted an offensive captain, his leadership abilities were unquestioned. In a time where the team remains in transition when it comes to leadership, he is one of a handful of players who can draw genuine respect from guys on both offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
His in-game sideline speeches are the stuff of legend, and the fact that he is the one player left on the roster who predates Belichick as a head coach (Faulk arrived in 1999 and Belichick became head coach in 2000) leaves him as one of the only tangible links to the glory days of the early 21st century.
Going forward, the Patriots will likely be forced to make some alterations to their game. Newly-acquired running back Danny Woodhead might be asked to do many of the things that Faulk has done in the past. Meanwhile, wide receiver Julian Edelman has many of the same versatile elements to his game that Faulk had. However, the loss of Faulk for an extended would really be a blow to a team that is still struggling with the loss of several key players (Ty Warren and Leigh Bodden). And his presence as a locker room force would leave a void that would be difficult to replace.
|09.21.10 at 2:04 pm ET|
The 34-yard, one-handed touchdown grab Randy Moss made late in the first half of Sunday’s loss to the Jets was a great reception, but where does it rank on the list of his best catches as a Patriot? This week’s Hot List puts it in perspective:
5. Moss escapes Revis Island. Sept. 19, 2010: The offensive highlight of an otherwise disappointing afternoon for the Patriots’ passing game, Moss was able to one-up his rival with a 34-yard touchdown catch, the first of the season and 150th of his career.
With one minute left in the first half and the Patriots in a 1st and 10 on the New York 34-yard line, Moss lined up on the right side against his old foe Darrelle Revis. Coming off the line, Moss beat the cornerback, flipping his around and causing him to lose a step. That small separation was all Moss needed, and he raced past him toward the end zone.
The ball from quarterback Tom Brady was delivered a little high, but Moss reached up with his right hand and made the grab — he never using his left hand the entire sequence. Meanwhile, it was the last play of the day for Revis, who grabbed his hamstring and left for the sideline.
“It was just everyday work. I don’t know,” Moss shrugged after the game, a 28-14 loss for the Patriots. “I don’t have anything really to say. It was just making a play.
“My job is to go out here and move the ball and score touchdowns, and I don’t think I did a good job of that today, so, regardless of the touchdown, the one-handed catch … my teammates commended me on it, but we didn’t win the game. Like I said, I didn’t really care too much about it. We lost the game.”
“I’m just saying that I’ve seen him do that a number of times where he’s running full stride and the ball is out in front of him and he reaches out with one hand and grabs it,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the next day. “The first time it happened, it was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ Then you see it again. I’m not saying it’s a routine play, I don’t mean it that way. I’m just talking about those of us who are in practice and watch Randy. I’ve seen him make that play a number of times.”
|09.21.10 at 12:54 pm ET|
It’s becoming clear the Patriots are planning for the possibility of life without veteran running back Kevin Faulk.
Faulk was injured late in Sunday’s loss to the Jets when he was knocked out of bounds by Jets defensive back Drew Coleman in the fourth quarter. He was on the ground for a few minutes before coming off the field with the training staff. After Coleman came over to check on him, he fired his mouthpiece to the ground in frustration, and he could be seen on the sidelines wearing a large ice pack on the injured knee.
In the locker room after the game, the 34-year-old Faulk was clearly emotional — although its not known if he was upset about the bitter defeat or the status of his knee.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday afternoon that things remain up in the air regarding the status of the veteran running back.
“They’re still working on it,” Belichick said in a conference call with the media Tuesday afternoon. “I think part of it is how things come around in the next day or so. We’re not even 48 hours yet. They said based on how that is, we’ll make a decision at that point.”
|09.21.10 at 11:49 am ET|
FOXBORO — The mere thought of the question made Julian Edelman laugh a laugh like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’
But the question was a serious one. Did he feel like he was truly back in the flow of of things when he took his first big hit of the regular season during Sunday’s game at the Meadowlands?
Lance Laury of the Jets drilled Edelman at the Patriots 25 following a 15-yard punt return in the first quarter.
“I guess,” Edelman began. “Yeah… sure. You don’t really want to get hit like that, but it was good to get the cobwebs shaken off. I hadn’t been hit in a while and it was good.”
What was not good was, of course, the final result. The loss hurt much more than Laury’s hit in the opening 15 minutes. But still, Edelman repeated the mantra of all Patriots on Monday, look ahead to the Bills this Sunday at Gillette, not back on the Jets last Sunday.
“First thing we have to do is put that game behind,” Edelman said. “We have to have a short memory. That’s what we have to preach to our guys right now and that’s what we’re doing. We have to take from that film we just watched. Take all the bad things and learn from them, fix them and go out here next week and prepare for the Bills and get better.
“It’s always tough. It’s the Jets and it’s a division game. But, you have to move on and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Edelman caught two balls for just one yard, net on Sunday while returning two punts for 26 yards. He’s looking for much more beginning this Sunday at Gillette.
“It felt good to get out there and get that first game under my belt,” he said. “Now, I have to build off that and get the confidence going and watch that film. [I have to] do everything I can do to do my job to help contribute to the team.
“You know, I enjoy whatever they let me do. I’m going to do whatever the coaches tell me to do. I’m going to prepare myself, take in their coaching and do whatever I can to contribute to the team and get on the field.”
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