|09.25.13 at 11:22 am ET|
FOXBORO — Another day, another failed attempt to gain any sort of prediction from Bill Belichick as to whether Rob Gronkowski could make his long-awaited return to the Patriots this Sunday night in Atlanta.
Gronkowski was on the field for full pads practice Wednesday morning. He has been practicing with the team since being taken off PUP on Aug. 31. After being officially listed as “doubtful” by the team for the first two games, he was upgraded to “questionable” (50-50 chance of playing) last week for the first time this season after an offseason filled with forearm and back surgeries. He was subsequently one of the seven inactives for the third straight game to start the season.
Wednesday, Belichick was asked about Gronkowski’s physical improvement from week to week.
“He’s definitely made progress,” Belichick said.
Belichick was asked if the upgrade from doubtful to questionable was an indication Gronkowski has taken positive steps of late.
“Just doing better; football conditioning,” Belichick answered. “Like any player that’s not able to do some things, they do what they can do. The things they can’t do, they can’t do. Things they can do, they can do. Hardly anybody has a full body injury. If they have an injury in one part of the body, they can still train other parts of the body. If that’s the part of the body that’s injured, that’s the part that needs to be rehabilitated. But that’s a medical thing, it’s not a coaching thing, I don’t really have anything to do with that.”
From a playing standpoint, does Belichick feel his strength is in a good place?
“It’s better than what it was.”
One of the obvious areas Gronkowski is missed is in the red zone. After three games, the Patriots are ranked dead last (32nd) in the NFL in red zone efficiency at 30.7 percent. Even worse is New England’s goal-to-go efficiency without Gronkowski. They are converting just 16.67 percent. Can Gronkowski’s potential return start to change things around?
“I don’t know. We’ll see, I don’t know,” Belichick said.
But whether or not Gronkowski returns, there’s something else Belichick would like to see change inside the 20.
“Number one, not turning the ball over,” Belichick said. “That would be number one.”
Tom Brady threw a red zone interception last week against Tampa Bay and fumbled the ball at the goal line in Buffalo.
|09.25.13 at 10:39 am ET|
The team practiced in full pads as they prepare for the Falcons on Sunday night at the Georgia Dome.
Slater is out 4-6 weeks after breaking his wrist in the Sept. 12 game against the Jets while Vollmer appeared to injure his foot in the first half of Sunday’s win over Tampa Bay.
Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reported that Vollmer sustained “only” a foot sprain and the injury is not considered serious. Still, his availability this Sunday night is in question.
Vollmer did not play in the second half and was replaced at right tackle by Marcus Cannon. Vollmer was not spotted in the locker room but was seen leaving Gillette Stadium in a walking boot, according to a report from Comcast’s Mike Giardi.
If the Patriots lose the 6-foot-8, 320-pound right tackle, the depth impact could be felt immediately as they face road tests in Atlanta and Cincinnati in back-to-back weeks before hosting New Orleans. In his third season, Cannon did play well in the second half against Tampa Bay as the Patriots played with the lead.
Danny Amendola (groin) appeared to be moving slightly better but was still not at full speed. Amendola has missed the last two games after reinjuring his groin in Week 1 at Buffalo.
|09.24.13 at 7:55 pm ET|
Now Nolan is in charge of the defense in Atlanta for head coach Mike Smith and the Patriots offensive coordinator will have to scheme against him this week. How much will that history help?
“There are definitely some similarities,” McDaniels said in a conference call Tuesday. “Certainly every year I think that most coaches adapt and evolve and change a few things here or there, so there’s definitely plenty of new things that I’m seeing, and then there’s some things that I’m sure Mike has done for a long time that I’m familiar with that he did there [in Denver].
“There’s a lot of Coach Smith’s, there’s some elements there that I’m sure he’s brought to the whole scheme. By and large, we’re getting ready for a new opponent, a group of players that we haven’t played a lot, and this is going to be a great challenge for us. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us this week to make sure that we familiarize ourselves with this team that we’re going to play on Sunday night.
Nolan has the reputation of using an aggressive blitz package but now with Osi Umenyiora on the defense end and Jonathan Babineaux on the tackle, they’re not as reliant to bring extra bodies to disrupt the passing game. They’ve sacked the quarterback seven times, with five of those coming last Sunday against Ryan Tannehill in Miami. Umenyiora had two while the other three came via a blitz, two by the linebackers and another on a corner blitz.
“I think they have a good blitz package, that’s for sure,” McDaniels said. “They don’t have to blitz to generate pressure on the quarterback. They’ve done a decent job of creating pressure with some of their guys up front, and then they have, I would say, a diverse blitz package, both from their base and their sub defense where you’ll see a lot of different types of players come at the quarterback, whether that’s the linebacking corps, the safeties, the nickel backs, the corners. They’ve all blitzed and they’ve all pressured, and we’re going to need to do a great job of making sure that we follow our rules and are ready for anything that we could see on Sunday because they’ve done a lot of it.
“I would say that it’s probably a great blend of both. Both of them are great defensive coaches. I’ve had an opportunity to work with Mike Nolan and certainly had the chance to coach against both of them on numerous occasions. Their units are always disciplined, they do a great job of disguising, not trying to give you too much information before the ball is snapped, and they don’t give up a lot of big plays and they create turnovers. I think all of those elements are there, you see a lot of different looks from some of their sub packages that they use to try to create some confusion or some uncertainty, and yet they are certainly a disciplined group that plays the scheme well, and you can tell that they’re very well-coached.”
|09.24.13 at 4:55 pm ET|
Every week over the course of the regular season, we’ll present a list of 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. Three weeks into the regular season, here’s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2013:
RB Stevan Ridley: 37 (36 rushes, 1 catch), 6 negative plays, 1 fumble lost
WR Julian Edelman: 28 (1 rushes, 27 catches)
RB LeGarrette Blount: 25 (25 rushes, 0 catches), 3 negative plays
RB Shane Vereen: 21 (14 rushes, 7 catches)
QB Tom Brady: 12 (12 rushes, 0 catches), 6 sacks, 7 kneeldowns, 1 fumble lost
WR Danny Amendola: 10 (0 rushes, 10 catches)
WR Aaron Dobson: 10 (0 rushes, 10 catches)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 9 (0 rushes, 9 catches)
RB Brandon Bolden: 8 (3 rushes, 5 catches)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 3 (0 rushes, 3 catch)
RB Leon Washington: 1 (1 rush, 0 catches)
FB James Develin: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
Some offensive notes: Overall, the Patriots were in the shotgun for 35 of their 72 snaps against the Bucs. The 49 percent rate was tied with the season opener against the Bills, when they were in shotgun on 44 of their 89 plays. On the season, New England has been in the shotgun for 103 of their 225 offensive snaps, a rate of 46 percent. ‘¦ When it comes to no-huddle, against Tampa Bay the Patriots used it on just four of their 72 plays from scrimmage, a season-low. On the year, the Patriots have operated out of a no-huddle on 17 of the 225 plays from scrimmage, a rate of 8 percent. That’s a sizable step down from the last two years when they averaged 25 percent during the regular season. (Through three games last year, New England was in the no-huddle for 70 of its 222 plays, a rate of 31 percent.) ‘¦ We covered some of this here, but it bears repeating that for all the talk of New England’s uptempo offense and how it changed the game the last few seasons, the Patriots have actually run more plays through three games this season than they did last year (225 to 222). It will be interesting to see how those numbers change over the rest of the year, but right now, they’re on pace to just barely break the NFL record for most offensive plays in a season — 1,199, set by the 1994 Patriots. ‘¦ Patriots have run 225 offensive plays this year in three games. Not counting kneeldowns, 15 have been for negative yardage. Not counting Brady’s three game-ending kneeldowns on Sunday, the Patriots had five negative plays on the day against Tampa — one each from Ridley and Blount, as well as three sacks of Brady.
|09.24.13 at 4:17 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots aren’t facing Peyton Manning this week, but ask defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and he’ll tell you they’re up against another quarterback who can beat you with his brain alone if you’re not prepared.
The Patriots take on Matt Ryan and the 1-2 Falcons this Sunday night in Atlanta. The Falcons have lost to the Saints and Dolphins on the road, a pair of 3-0 teams to start the season. Ryan is completing 68.1 percent of his passes, has thrown seven touchdowns, been intercepted twice and has a quarterback rating of 100.4 in three games.
“Obviously you are talking about a tremendous quarterback here, who is showing great poise and leadership out there running the offense,” Patricia said. “This guy is really cerebral, very smart quarterback and player who is able to go out, diagnose the defense and get the ball to the proper people. [He can] handle the offensive scheme and the check system down there where he can change the play at the line of scrimmage based on the defensive look.”
The Patriots are 3-0 themselves but the combined win-loss record of their opponents is 3-6. Patricia’s defense is second in the NFL this season behind Seattle in points allowed, giving up just over 11 points per game. They will be up against their stiffest challenge in containing Ryan and his receiving corps of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas.
“[They] get the ball to the running backs, get the ball to the tight ends, out to the wide receivers,” Patricia said of Ryan. “He really uses the audible system if he has to along with just the whole tempo of the offense in general. The guy is just a really good, phenomenal quarterback. [He is] really accurate, has good arm strength, like I said, recognizes defensive coverages very well, and I think just a really tough guy. A competitive, tough player who can stand in the pocket and make those hard throws if pressure is in on him. If he gets hit, he can still stand in, get the read, get the proper route progression and get the ball where it has to go. So, he’s just a very, very talented quarterback.”
As for the stats that show the Patriots as the second stingiest defense in the league in the all-important points allowed category, Patricia says that won’t mean a thing when they step on the field against a Falcons offense that is heads and shoulders above the Bills, Jets and Buccaneers.
“Well I think for us, we approach every week just trying to get better and improve,” he said. “It’s the very beginning of the season, and we don’t pay attention to a lot of those things except for trying to win the ball game and putting our team in the best position to win every time we go out on the field. That’s all we’re really trying to do. We’re trying to get better than we [were] last game, play better than we did last week, and obviously this week is a huge challenge for us with Atlanta and the different problems that they present. They’re a very well coached offense, great quarterback, excellent running backs, good players both at the wide receiver and tight end positions, along with a big offensive line up front, which does a great job of protecting the quarterback and running the ball. They’re just a very well coached team with head coach Mike Smith, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. It’s just a very big challenge and we’re just trying to improve every week to get better.”
|09.24.13 at 11:28 am ET|
Welcome to the waiver wire. These are my free agent targets for those who play in typical 10-team formats. For those of you who play in deep leagues, these obviously are great players to add, but they are far less likely to be available. If you play in 12 or 14-team formats, please join us at Rotobahn.com, where I will be posting my expanded waiver wire later on Tuesday. The player percentages listed below represent the player’s availability in Yahoo! leagues.
Andy Dalton, Bengals
I like his schedule over the next month enough that he can start for me in 10-team leagues if I need a quarterback. Dalton is surrounded by playmakers, and he’s out there for the taking in 27 percent of leagues.
Jay Cutler, Bears
He looks better each time I watch him under coach Marc Trestman. Cutler can help you if you need quarterback help, and he has very solid matchups in the coming weeks. You can get him in 48 percent of leagues.
Philip Rivers, Chargers
He’s playing well and his team has a nice schedule for the pass in the coming weeks. He’s taken in 62 percent of leagues, but he can help you if he’s there.
Terrelle Pryor, Raiders
He has some good matchups on the horizon and he can help you on some weeks, even in 10-team formats. He’s available in 80 percent of leagues.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
He’s available in 83 percent of leagues and he can help you when the matchup is right. The Dolphins are throwing the ball a lot, and that works just fine for fantasy purposes.
|09.24.13 at 10:45 am ET|
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 seven sacks (tied for 18th), 21 quarterback hits and 23 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 hits (per NFL game books)
DE Chandler Jones: 6
DL Tommy Kelly: 5
DE Rob Ninkovich: 3
DE Michael Buchanan: 3
LB Dont’a Hightower: 1
DL Vince Wilfork: 1
LB Jerod Mayo: 1
DE Jake Bequette: 1
Quarterback hurries (per PFF)
DE Chandler Jones: 10
DE Rob Ninkovich: 7
DL Vince Wilfork: 2
DL Tommy Kelly: 1
DE Michael Buchanan: 1
LB Jerod Mayo: 1
DE Jake Bequette: 1
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