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Michael Lombardi on D&C: Rex Ryan ‘hasn’t been really honest with himself’ about struggling Jets

10.21.11 at 9:27 am ET
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NFL Network columnist Michael Lombardi made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning to discuss news from around the NFL.

Lombardi said there should be concern in New York, where the 3-3 Jets have shown few signs of improvement.

“The Jet team to me is just not an overly talented team, especially on defense,” Lombardi said. “They’re front seven doesn’t have a dominating player that can control the game. And then they have to play great defense, because they don’t want their quarterback to ever affect them in the game. They want to minimize Mark Sanchez‘ effect in the game, so it has to complement their defense. And if their defense can’t stop the run, which they haven’t been able to do all season, and their defense can’t handle some passing games, which they’ll struggle with San Diego this week, I think that’s a concern.”

Asked if the Jets won’t make the playoffs, Lombardi said: “I suspect they really won’t. I think they’re a team that’s kind of built up with this false bravado that they’re the greatest team ever, and I think that Rex [Ryan] hasn’t been really honest with himself. I think when you look at their front seven and you analyze every player, Mike DeVito‘s the best player on their front seven. And last week they finally got him back on the field because New England ran him out of the nickel defense, and [the Jets] came up with a nickel front that puts DeVito back on the field. They’ve got to play that.

“Now, DeVito’s never been the best player on any team he’s played for, going back to high school. But he is on this Jet team right now, and that tells you where they are. Bart Scott‘s not the same player. Guaranteed contract for next season as well. Calvin Pace, not the same player. By the way, guaranteed contract for next season. This Nnamdi Asomugha recruiting process that they got caught up with really has affected the team, because they re-did some contracts that affected them for next year on players that might not be good enough this year.”
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Read More: Al Davis, Bart Scott, Carson Palmer, Jason Campbell

Bye-Week Breakdown: Wide receivers

10.21.11 at 1:25 am ET
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Over the course of the next few days, we’€™ll roll out something called Bye Week Breakdown, a position-by-position look at the Patriots as they head into the bye weekend. We’€™ve already tackled the tight end spot. Now, it’€™s the wide receivers.

Overview: The Patriots passing game has been the best in the league through the first six games of the season, and a sizable reason for that has been the connection between Tom Brady and Wes Welker.

Welker’€™s 51 catches and 785 yards make up 32 percent of the Patriots’€™ receptions and 36 percent of their total receiving yards. (He’€™s just off the pace to shatter the league records for most catches, but can still break the record for most receiving yards in a season — at this rate, Welker will have 136 catches and 2,093 receiving yards.)

As for the rest of the receiving corps, Deion Branch has provided depth and dependability at the No. 2 spot (he has managed to make at least one important catch through each one of the first six games). However, it’€™s clear that Chad Ochocinco continues to struggle in the offense, and it will be interesting to see what sort of role he has in the passing game when he returns from the bye weekend.

Meanwhile, Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater continue to serve more as special teams contributors than as wide receivers, getting only occasional snaps on offense, while second-year receiver Taylor Price remains a non-entity with just one snap through six games.

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Read More: bye week breakdown, Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman

Bye-Week Breakdown: Tight ends

10.20.11 at 5:07 pm ET
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Over the course of the next few days, we’€™ll roll out something called Bye Week Breakdown, a position-by-position look at the Patriots as they head into the bye weekend. First up, it’€™s the tight ends.

Overview: In their second season together, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez remain matchup nightmares for opposing defenses, game-changers who add a unique dimension to the New England passing attack. The two have quickly become integral to the success of the Patriots’€™ offense, and a valued and dependable asset for quarterback Tom Brady: Since the start of the 2010 season, Brady has completed 484 regular-season passes, with the two young tight ends accounting for 143 of those receptions, or 30 percent.

Rob Gronkowski is a multidimensional threat who has a huge catch radius, but has also grown as a blocker this season (go back and watch his work against Oakland and the New York Jets). While Hernandez is listed as a tight end, he plays the game like a receiver, and is able to line up against a tackle, in the slot or split wide. Dan Gronkowski has been used exclusively as a blocker in limited action.

Depth chart: Rob Gronkowski (six games, 29 catches, 491 yards, five touchdowns), Hernandez (four games, 27 catches, 289 yards, three touchdowns) and Dan Gronkowski (three games, zero catches).

Best moment: Gronkowski caught seven passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns in a Sept. 25 loss to Buffalo. The game included a touchdown pass that is quickly becoming Gronkowski’€™s signature move — a seam route where he connected with Brady for a touchdown. In the second quarter, the big tight end took off and hauled in a 27-yard scoring strike from the quarterback.

Worst moment: There haven’€™t been many for this group of tight ends, but perhaps the worst of the season came late in the first half of the win over the Jets where Hernandez bobbled a 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. It ended Brady’€™s streak of 325 career red-zone passes at home without an interception.

By the numbers, courtesy of Nuggetpalooza: Patriots tight ends have been targeted in the red zone 16 times this season, leading to 10 receptions for nine first downs and seven touchdowns. All of those stats are NFL highs. They’€™ve been targeted in the red zone at least once in 15 straight games, the longest streak in the league.

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

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, bye week breakdown, Dan Gronkowski, Rob Gronkowski

In Focus: Charting the offensive opportunities for the Patriots’ skill position players through six games

10.20.11 at 1:57 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the 2011 NFL 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. Six weeks into the season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2011:

BenJarvus Green Ellis: 95 (91 carries, 4 receptions) five touchdowns ‘€” six negative plays
Wes Welker: 52 (1 carry, 51 receptions) six touchdowns
Danny Woodhead: 38 (30 carries, 8 receptions) zero touchdowns ‘€” one negative play
Stevan Ridley: 30 (28 carries, 2 reception), one touchdown ‘€” two negative plays
Rob Gronkowski: 29 (0 carries, 29 receptions), five touchdowns
Aaron Hernandez: 27 (0 carries, 27 receptions), three touchdowns
Deion Branch: 26 (0 carries, 26 receptions), two touchdowns
Tom Brady: 10 (10 carries, 0 receptions) 16 passing touchdowns, zero rushing touchdowns ‘€” 11 negative plays (all sacks)
Chad Ochocinco: 9 (0 carries, 9 receptions), zero touchdowns
Julian Edelman: 6 (3 carries, 3 receptions) zero touchdowns ‘€” two negative plays, both runs
Matthew Slater: 1 (0 carries, 1 reception) zero touchdowns
TOTAL: 319 touches (163 carries, 160 receptions) on 411 plays from scrimmage ‘€” 22 negative plays (excluding kneeldowns).

Some more offensive notes: The Patriots had a season-high seven negative plays from scrimmage Sunday against the Cowboys (three sacks of Brady to go along with negative runs from Ridley, Woodhead and two from Green-Ellis). … The only New England offensive players who went wire-to-wire on Sunday were Brady and the starting offensive line, Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Brian Waters and Nate Solder. … The Patriots entered the game having run the no huddle on just over 21 percent of their plays from scrimmage over the course of the first five games. On Sunday against the Cowboys, they went no huddle more often than they have all season long — of the 69 plays the Patriots’€™ offense ran, they utilized no huddle on 36 of the snaps, or 52 percent of their plays. They went heavy on the no huddle in the second half (23 snaps), and on six of their 10 plays from scrimmage on their game-winning drive, the Patriots used the no huddle. … Overall in the first six games of the season, the Patriots have run 411 plays from scrimmage. According to official NFL gamebooks, New England has utilized the no-huddle offense for 110 snaps (27 plays against the Dolphins, 15 against the Chargers, 12 against the Bills, five times against the Raiders, 15 times against the Jets and 36 times against the Cowboys), or 26.8 percent of the time.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Brian Waters, Chad Ochocinco

Rex Ryan: If the Chargers hired me in 2007, I’d have a couple of rings by now

10.19.11 at 10:14 pm ET
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Rex Ryan is at it again.

Ryan, who interviewed for the head coaching job in San Diego four years ago — a job that ended up going to Norv Turner — said Wednesday that if the Chargers had hired him back then, he would have won ‘€œa couple of rings.’€

‘€œI’€™m telling you, those teams were loaded,’€ Ryan told San Diego reporters when asked about how things would have unfolded if he were hired by Chargers general manager A.J. Smith. ‘€œThere’€™s no question about it.’€

Ryan, whose team will face San Diego this weekend, then took a step back.

‘€œBut things happen for a reason,’€ he added. ‘€œObviously, Norv Turner has done a great job there. And A.J. (Smith) and everybody ‘€¦ that’€™s a great franchise. He was probably the best guy for the job at that time.’€

While it’€™s debatable as to whether or not the quote could be construed as a shot at Turner, the statement certainly implies that Turner, who has been to one conference championship in his career with the Chargers but hasn’€™t won a Super Bowl, has failed to get the most out of a ‘€œloaded’€ team like San Diego.

Regardless, Turner later said Ryan called him, but didn’€™t reveal specifics of the call. He later said everything was OK between the two, saying the league didn’€™t need any more coach-on-coach drama in the wake of the postgame flap last week between San Francisco’€™s Jim Harbaugh and Detroit’€™s Jim Schwartz. He did however, take a little shot of his own at Ryan.

‘€œI hadn’€™t seen his quote and I was a little bit surprised by the call,’€ Turner said, via the Associated Press. ‘€œAnd then after I saw the quote, I didn’€™t have a chance to ask him this, but I was wondering if he had those rings with the ones he’€™s guaranteed the last couple of years.’€

Read More: A.J. Smith, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Schwartz, Norv Turner

Andre Carter on his Patriots experience: ‘It’s been great’

10.19.11 at 8:44 pm ET
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Patriots defensive end Andre Carter was interviewed by the NFL Network Wednesday afternoon (check out the complete video here), and the Q&A touched on a variety of topics, including New England’s recent win over Dallas, the chance to play with Tom Brady, as well as the development of the Patriots defense and Albert Haynesworth.

On the game-winning drive against the Dallas Cowboys: ‘€œThat’€™s definitely one of those games that’€™ll you never forget. One of the games that will be in history in my mind in my own personal book of football history. What a better person, what a better player [than Tom Brady] to go out and finish a game on top and end up beating the Cowboys.’€

On quarterback Tom Brady: ‘€œFirst and foremost, he’€™s a professional; a professional on the field, a professional off the field. He’€™s constantly in his playbook like any quarterback should be, but every time I come across him he’€™s just so deep in his book it’€™s ridiculous. He’€™s always talking to the receivers, talking to the running backs, always studying the game like any player should but he’€™s just in a league of his own.’€

On how he has been acclimating to his new team: ‘€œI’€™ve been just enjoying living in the moment and I’€™m very thankful for the opportunity to play for such an amazing organization. Me and my wife were going upon faith because we didn’€™t really know what the future held. We definitely had a mutual agreement as far as being released from the Washington Redskins; their schemes just didn’€™t work for me, and they knew that and I knew that. We shook hands and parted ways, and I appreciate that chapter in my life. So just kind of sitting around waiting and I got a phone call from coach Belichick telling me they were interested in me, and it’€™s been great ever since.’€

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Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Tom Brady,

Patriots announce the return of Ventrone and Moore

10.19.11 at 2:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€“ In what is becoming a weekly event, the Patriots announced another personnel move involving safety Ross Ventrone on Wednesday, as the team has signed Ventrone to the 53-man roster. In addition, the team said defensive back Sterling Moore has been added to the practice squad. Both players were released from the 53-man roster on Monday.

Ventrone, 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, has spent time on both the practice squad and 53-man roster this season, playing in three games. He was originally signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Villanova on April 29, 2010. He was waived by the Patriots on Sept. 4, 2010 and then signed to the practice squad on Oct. 19, 2010 where he finished the season.

Moore, 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, was signed from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Oct. 15 and played in the win against Dallas. He originally was signed by the Raiders as a rookie free agent out of Southern Methodist on July 28, 2011. He was released by the Raiders after training camp and spent the first few weeks on the Oakland practice squad before being released on Sept. 26. Moore was signed to the Patriots’€™ practice squad on Oct. 5.

Read More: Ross Ventrone, Sterling Moore,
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