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Scouting Report: What you have to know about Patriots-Jets 12.19.14 at 10:18 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady combo will provide a test for the Jets Sunday in North Jersey. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady combo will provide a test for the Jets Sunday in North Jersey. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Here’s what you have to know when it comes to Sunday’s Patriots-Jets game at MetLife Stadium:

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL

Don’t expect New England to run the ball that much, as the Jets are still one of the better run defenses in the NFL. New York is fourth in the league when it comes to stopping the run, yielding a stingy 87.5 rushing yards per game. The Jets have allowed more than 100 rushing yards on just five occasions this season, and the Patriots had just 63 when they first met back in October, with Shane Vereen leading the way with 11 carries for 43 yards. (For what it’s worth, that was in the relatively brief window following Stevan Ridley‘s season-ending knee injury against the Bills and the return of LeGarrette Blount from his nine-month odyssey in Western Pennsylvania.) It’s always dangerous to try and predict what the Patriots are going to do when it comes to utilizing their backs. But given the fact that they settled for less than 100 yards on the ground against the Bills, Broncos, Lions and Jets (all top 10 run defenses) and came away with wins in all four of those games, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them run the ball just enough to keep the New York defense honest, but throw to win.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL

Not breaking any major news here, but expect tight end Rob Gronkowski to be a sizable part of the game plan. His past career numbers against the Jets (in his last four games against Jets, the big fella has 27 catches on 47 targets for 373 yards and four touchdowns), combined with the fact that New York has struggled mightily to contain tight ends over the course of the season (Football Outsiders ranks them 32nd when it comes to defending tight ends in the passing game this season), certainly are good enough reasons to think that he will play a major role this week against New York. In the last few games where Gronkowski has been good to go, he’s seen a lot of 6-foot-1, 210-pound safety Antonio Allen, and while Allen has done a relatively good job against him — Allen picked off a ball intended for Gronkowski in the first game back for the tight end in 2013, taking it to the house for a pick-six — he still faces a massive challenge in trying to slow Gronkowski, who is the most unguardable option in the league.

If the Jets are going to have a hope of pulling off the upset, they’ll have to demonstrate an ability to get to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on a consistent basis with their pass rush. Given New York’s ability to pressure the passer over the course of the season — and the occasional struggles of the New England offensive line — this is a possibility. The New York pass rush is led by Sheldon Richardson (6.5 sacks) and Muhammad Wilkerson (4.5 sacks). In the first game of the season between the two teams, the Jets were able to sack Brady once (veteran linebacker David Harris got to him) and hit him seven times, with Wilkerson delivering three of those shots on the quarterback. They need to get to him as fast as possible because, as our scout friend noted here, the Jets secondary has struggled throughout the season, and don’t figure to have much of an answer when it comes to slowing Gronkowski. Look for the tight end to have a particular impact in two areas: that classic seam route down the field is always a favorite against the Jets, while he will also have his usual opportunities in the red zone.

(One more thing worth noting — Vereen has almost always managed to pick up at least one sizable gain in the passing game against the Jets each time there’s a New York-New England matchup. He had five catches for 71 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a receiver the first time these two teams matched up earlier in the year.)

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Shane Vereen on penalty-free streak of epic proportion 12.19.14 at 7:45 am ET
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Shane Vereen hasn't been flagged for a single penalty since he arrived in the NFL in 2011. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Shane Vereen hasn’t been flagged for a single penalty since he arrived in the NFL in 2011. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — In a year where penalty flags have been thrown at a record rate, Shane Vereen is one of the lucky ones.

The Patriots running back is one of four regulars on this year’€™s New England roster who has yet to be penalized. Vereen, Vince Wilfork, Devin McCourty and Chris Jones are the four players on the 2014 team who have played at least 475 snaps this season without being hit with a penalty.

But Vereen has taken that streak to the next level. The 2011 draft pick has yet to be flagged as a professional. That’€™s three-plus seasons in the league without a single penalty — per Pro Football Focus, 1,020 snaps as a professional without a flag.

Informed after practice on Thursday that he had yet to be penalized as a professional, Vereen was taken aback.

“€œShoot,” he said with a smile. “That’€™s crazy. Really?

“I don’€™t know. It’€™s interesting,” he said after a second. “I really don’€™t think about it. I just play and do the best I can. I really don’€™t think of penalties.

“Now you have me thinking I need to go get one. Get my rep up a little bit.”

Historically, running backs are some of the least penalized players on the team, because they simply have fewer chances to be flagged. (By way of comparison, in the same stretch, fellow running back Stevan Ridley — who arrived as part of the same draft class as Vereen — has only two penalties as a pro.) For a pass-catcher like Vereen, however, there’€™s always the possibility of him getting hit with an offensive pass interference call. In addition, his work in blitz pickup (holding) could also leave him susceptible.

Vereen said he’€™d “definitely been flagged in college” a few times when he was at Cal for offsides and holding, but was still amazed that he hadn’€™t been hit with a penalty since he arrived in the league in 2011.

“€œI guess technique is the best explanation,” when asked about the secret to his success. “We practice good technique. A lot of times, the stuff I’€™d probably get called for probably doesn’€™t get called too often. It has to be pretty blatant and out in the open, so as a running back, you’€™re able to get away with some of that sort of stuff. Really, the biggest thing is just practicing good technique and putting your hands in the right places so you don’€™t get called.”

Vereen is also making statistical waves in other areas as well. He’€™s currently only one of six running backs in the league who can boast of at least 85 carries and 45 catches, part of a group that includes high-profile backs like DeMarco Murray of Dallas, Matt Forte of Chicago, Le’€™Veon Bell of Pittsburgh, Fred Jackson of Buffalo and Andre Ellington of Arizona.

If he gets to the 50-catch/50-carry mark, he’€™d be the first New England running back to do it since Kevin Faulk had 83 carries and 58 catches in 2008. Only four running backs in franchise history have ever hit the 50-50 plateau — Faulk (2000 and 2008), Dave Meggett (1995), Leroy Thompson (1994) and Tony Collins (1985 and 1986).

Vereen said Thursday he takes pride in his work as a pass catcher.

“It’€™s huge. It’€™s huge. It means a lot to me,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in being able to do three things — running, catching and pass blocking. I take a huge amount of pride in all three, and the fact that they look to me to be able to make a play and make the offense go.”

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Darrelle Revis gets a chance to connect with ex-Patriots CB Mike Haynes 12.18.14 at 4:57 pm ET
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Mike Haynes played for the Patriots from 1976 to 1982. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Mike Haynes played for the Patriots from 1976 to 1982. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

FOXBORO — When he was in San Diego recently, Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis had the chance to catch up with former New England cornerback Mike Haynes.

Haynes, who was drafted by the Patriots in 1976, played his first seven seasons with New England before finishing his career with seven years with the Raiders. Revis said “it was great” getting the chance to connect with a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

“Just picking his brain and asking him how he covered wide receivers, his techniques,” Revis said after practice on Thursday. “And some of them were similar in the things he was talking about and sharing. And some were different. I definitely took some of his tips and will hopefully try to use them in my game.”

Revis said Haynes — who currently lives in Southern California — was invited to spend some time with the Patriots by coach Bill Belichick.

“When I saw him at first, I was kind of like, ‘€˜I know I know that face.’€™ It looked familiar,” Revis recalled. “Then Bill brought him around the team and introduced him and said, ‘€˜Hey, this is Mike Haynes.’€™ I’€™m like, ‘€˜I knew it. I knew it was him.’€™ I just waited around afterward. A bunch of guys did. Me, Brandon Browner, Devin McCourty and we actually got to talk to him.

“It’€™s just my position and being a fan of those guys,” he added. “They’€™re very successful at what they do, so why not ask questions, so see what answers you can get from those guys.”

Read More: Darrelle Revis, Mike Haynes,
Report: Brad Allen will work as referee for Patriots-Jets 12.18.14 at 3:20 pm ET
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Brad Allen will work as the lead official for Patriots-Jets Sunday. (A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Brad Allen will work as the lead official for Patriots-Jets Sunday. (A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

First-year referee Brad Allen will work as the referee for Sunday’s Patriots-Jets game at MetLife, according to FootballZebras.com.

This will mark Allen’s second New England game of the season — he was the official for the Oct. 23 game between the Patriots and Bears. Allen, who was one of three new hires this offseason, worked as a referee in the ACC for the past nine years, and has also worked as the head official for the 2012 Rose Bowl and the 2014 Sugar Bowl.

Here’s a look at who has worked as the lead official for each New England game this year, and the corresponding penalties for each game, not counting the flags that were offset or declined.

Sept. 7 at Miami: Walt Anderson — 9 penalties, 100 yards (Dolphins — 4 penalties, 26 yards)
Sept. 14 at Minnesota: Tony Corrente — 15 penalties, 163 yards (Vikings — 7 penalties, 58 yards)
Sept. 21 vs. Oakland: Pete Morelli — 6 penalties, 59 yards (Raiders — 6 penalties, 49 yards)
Sept. 29 at Kansas City: John Parry — 3 penalties, 30 yards (Chiefs — 4 penalties, 35 yards)
Oct. 5 vs. Cincinnati: Jerome Boger — 12 penalties, 114 yards (Bengals — 4 penalties, 37 yards)
Oct. 12 at Buffalo: Walt Coleman — 9 penalties, 60 yards (Bills — 8 penalties, 107 yards)
Oct. 16 vs. Jets: Bill Leavy — 9 penalties, 64 yards (Jets — 7 penalties, 70 yards)
Oct. 23 vs. Chicago: Brad Allen — 7 penalties, 38 yards (Bears — 5 penalties, 41 yards)
Nov. 2 vs. Denver: Walt Anderson — 9 penalties, 71 yards (Broncos — 10 penalties, 72 yards)
Nov. 16 at Indy: Pete Morelli — 5 penalties, 53 yards (Colts — 4 penalties, 27 yards)
Nov. 23 vs. Detroit: Tony Corrente — 11 penalties, 89 yards (Lions — 9 penalties, 54 yards)
Nov. 30 at Green Bay: Ed Hochuli — 4 penalties, 25 yards (Packers — 4 penalties, 22 yards)
Dec. 7 at San Diego: Bill Leavy — 6 penalties, 70 yards (Chargers — 8 penalties, 61 yards)
Dec. 14 vs. Miami: Bill Vinovich — 5 penalties, 51 yards (Dolphins — 5 penalties, 35 yards)
Dec. 21 at Jets: Brad Allen

For more on Allen’s work as a referee, check out his page at Pro Football Reference. For more information on this week’s assignments, click through to the always reliable Football Zebras. And for more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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Rob Gronkowski, Darrelle Revis take turns talking each other up 12.18.14 at 3:02 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With the debate around Darrelle Revis and Rob Gronkowski as potential MVP candidates, this afternoon in the Patriots locker room, we decided to ask each player about the other one and what they bring to the field.

“He’s a great player,” Gronkowski said of Revis. “He’s just so great with ball skills and he’s just so relaxed out there. You don’t even think he’s trying — that’s how good he is. When you see a player like that, you’re like, ‘Man, is he trying?’ He’s just right at the ball every time. That just means he’s got a lot of skills and he’s quick on his feet. The day he can react to a ball is unbelievable. He’s a great corner. It’s great to have him on our team.”

“The same stuff you see in the game, he’s doing at practice,” Revis said of Gronkowski. “He’s humble. He’s humble about it — the way he approaches the game. He goes out and works. He works at it. Him and Tom [Brady], the chemistry they have, you see them working at it, week in and week out at practice. You just have to give them credit for what they do. They’re working hard, and the catches you see in the game are the ones you see in practice. You’re just in awe sometimes of how much chemistry they have between the two.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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Thoughts on Dominique Easley, Steve Maneri and Garrett Gilbert 12.17.14 at 4:01 pm ET
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Dominique Easley

Dominique Easley

1. Even before the start of the season, it was fairly evident that the Patriots 2014 rookie class was going to face an uphill battle for playing time. Entering camp, the roster was clearly pretty well stocked with entrenched veterans, and when midseason acquisitions like LeGarrette Blount, Alan Branch, Jonathan Casillas and Akeem Ayers showed up, it pushed several of the ones who initially made the cut at the start of the season even further down the depth chart. That’s why, from this viewpoint, the decision to place first-round pick Dominique Easley on season-ending injured reserve isn’t a colossal issue. You never want to lose out on the services of any of your top picks for the season, but because the Patriots have good depth up front with the postseason looming (Branch, Ayers, Vince Wilfork, Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, etc. etc.), it doesn’t represent a seismic loss for the franchise at this point in the year. Easley was on and off the field throughout the spring and into the summer, and saw limited playing time throughout the year because of the knee issues. When he was healthy, he certainly showed the sort of disruptive skill set that the Patriots crave at the defensive line position. Going forward, once whatever knee procedures that need to take place have occurred, it’s on him to take a postgraduate year at Vince Wilfork University. He should keep your eyes open and his mouth shut, follow Wilfork around and learn what it takes to succeed in the NFL. Then, come back in the spring ready to go for 2015.

2. The addition of Steve Maneri to the active roster — taking the place of Easley — is interesting on a couple of levels. First off, Maneri has a background as both a tackle and tight end, and could figure prominently in those heavy sets the Patriots have run so effectively with Cameron Fleming over the course of the year. His versatility and skill set suggest he might be better suited to the job that some of the other options the Patriots have, at least right now with Fleming on the sideline. And second, this could tell us something about the overall state of Fleming’s health. The rookie out of Stanford has been missing since Week 12 because of what the team is calling an ankle injury, and the addition of Maneri could be a sign that the team feels it’s the sort of injury that could have the 6-foot-6, 325-pounder on the shelf for an extended stretch. (It could also be seen as a roundabout sort of challenge to fellow tight end Michael Hoomanawanui.) Ultimately, Maneri is a familiar face who presumably won’t need a lot of time to get up to speed, so if you’re a Patriots fan, that’s a good thing if he’s pressed into service in rapid fashion.

3. And last — but not least — the Patriots went and added another quarterback to the mix in Garrett Gilbert, who landed on the practice squad. The 6-foot-4, 221-pounder out of SMU was on the Rams practice squad — he was a sixth-round pick of St. Louis this past spring — before being cut loose in October. Gilbert had an up-and-down college career — after being recruited to Texas, he struggled in his three years with the Longhorns, playing 24 games and throwing 13 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and completing just 50.9 percent of his passes. Things picked up for him after transferring to SMU, and he posted career-best numbers across the board last year with the Mustangs, throwing for 3,528 yards and 21 touchdowns to go with seven interceptions and an impressive 66.5 percent completion rate. It had been known that the Patriots were in the market for a third quarterback — they were interested in Chicago rookie David Fales before he was promoted to the active roster. However, at this point, Gilbert projects to be a practice squad/scout teamer who could be in the mix as a camp arm in the spring. Here’s some video of his college work while at SMU:

Read More: Dominique Easley, Garrett Gilbert, Steve Maneri,
Darrelle Revis: ‘Kind of sad’ to see what’s happening to old coach Rex Ryan this year 12.17.14 at 2:53 pm ET
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Darrelle Revis sounded downbeat when talking about his old coach Rex Ryan on Wednesday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Darrelle Revis sounded downbeat when talking about his old coach Rex Ryan on Wednesday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Darrelle Revis said Wednesday it was “kind of sad” when it came to his former coach Rex Ryan and what he’s been going through this season in New York.

Revis, who played with the Jets from 2007 to 2012, was asked on a conference call Wednesday if he was shocked that the Jets were 3-11.

“I don’€™t know. I don’€™t know. Like I said, they have a lot on their plate over there in that situation this year,” he said. “It’€™s kind of sad for the position that Rex is in right now. But at the same time [the record is] something that they’€™ve got to change.

“Me and Rex have a lot of history, and we all know that,” he added. “Some of those guys are dear to my heart and everything, but like I said, I’€™ve got to focus on the things that I am doing here and I wish Rex the best.”

Revis, who played under Ryan from 2009 through 2012 with New York, said it’s a different experience playing on the other side of the rivalry.

“It’€™s two different schemes,” he explained. “Rex is more aggressive with his approach and up here it’€™s a mixture of man coverage and zone too. So it’€™s just two different systems that I’€™ve played with two different cultures that have two different styles of defenses.”

Revis was asked several times by the New York media about possibly returning to the Jets — or reuniting with Ryan — next year, but he wouldn’t comment on the possibility.

“Right now, my focus is playing against the Jets,” he said. “I’€™m not really thinking about the offseason right now. I’€™m thinking about focusing on the next game and the rest of the season.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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