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Tracking opportunities in Patriots preseason passing game 09.03.13 at 7:45 am ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat ‘€” a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback ‘€” it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. Here’€™s a look at the target breakdown for the New England passing game through the 2013 preseason:

WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 15 catches on 25 targets
WR Aaron Dobson: 11 catches on 29 targets
WR Julian Edelman: 10 catches on 12 targets
TE Zach Sudfeld: 8 catches on 11 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 7 catches on 11 targets
WR Danny Amendola: 7 catches on 8 targets
WR Josh Boyce: 7 catches on 12 targets
TE Daniel Fells: 5 catches on 5 targets
WR Quentin Sims: 4 catches on 6 targets
RB Leon Washington: 3 catches on 5 targets
FB James Develin: 3 catches on 4 targets
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 2 catches on 5 targets
RB Brandon Bolden: 2 catches on 4 targets
WR Kamar Aiken: 2 catches on 3 targets
RB LeGarrette Blount: 1 catch on 3 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: 0 catches on 1 target
TE Evan Landi: 0 catches on 1 target
WR Johnathan Haggerty: 0 catches on 2 targets
TE Jake Ballard: 0 catches on 2 targets

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Patriots reportedly expected to add TE Matt Mulligan 09.03.13 at 12:31 am ET
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The Patriots are expected to sign free agent tight end Matt Mulligan after working him out on Monday, according to several reports. His addition would get the active roster back to 53 after Tuesday’s release of fullback James Develin.

The 6-foot-4, 257-pounder out of Maine played with the Jets from 2009 through 2011, and spent last season with the Rams. He was one of the final cuts in Green Bay over the weekend. Known more for his blocking skills, his best year came in 2012 with St. Louis, when he played in all 16 games (with nine starts) and came away with eight catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.

In all, the native of Bangor has registered 14 catches, 144 receiving yards, and a touchdown in five seasons in the NFL.

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Patriots release fullback James Develin 09.02.13 at 5:20 pm ET
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The Patriots released fullback James Develin on Monday.

Develin, 25, spent the majority of the 2012 season on the New England practice squad and four weeks on the 53-man roster, seeing action in one game vs. San Francisco on Dec. 16.

The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder originally joined the Cincinnati practice squad for the final five games of the 2010 season after playing for the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League. A former college defensive end at Brown University, Develin spent the entire 2011 season with Cincinnati on the practice squad and signed with New England’€™s practice squad on Sept. 1, 2012 after being released by the Bengals.

The active roster now stands at 52.

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Bills WR Stevie Johnson on Patriots: ‘I don’t think they have anybody to stop me’ 09.02.13 at 3:09 pm ET
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Buffalo wide receiver Stevie Johnson kicked off the regular season with a bang Monday, telling reporters he doesn’t “think [the Patriots] have anybody to stop me.”

Johnson was asked why he feels the Bills can compete with New England, which has won nine of the last 10 AFC East titles.

“Because I’m here,” he said. “I don’t think they have anybody to stop me. For real. I think we have guys in the receiver room that are as good as I am, if not better. I just have that confidence in my teammates and in myself.”

At the same time, Johnson was deferential to several players in the Patriots secondary

“[He’s] long, athletic, tries to play with vision,” Johnson said of Aqib Talib. “I have a lot of respect for [Patrick] Chung. [Devin] McCourty: he’s a Pro Bowl player.”

While it’s worth noting that Chung is no longer a part of the Patriots — he signed with the Eagles in the offseason — Johnson continued.

“I give a lot of credit to the Patriots. They play as one unit. … They’re aggressive. It’s going to be a test. It’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “But I still still think we can take advantage of their defense. … I’ll still ride with my boys over their guys.”

The Patriots and Bills face each other in the regular-season opener for both teams Sunday in Buffalo.

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Patriots could super size kick return spot with addition of LeGarrette Blount 09.02.13 at 2:10 pm ET
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FOXBORO — LeGarrette Blount has only been around Gillette Stadium for a few months, but he’€™s already laid claim to having one of the most impressive rides on the team.

The running back, who drives a 1993 Caprice — with 28-inch rims — has gotten a few looks when wheeling around Southeastern Massachusetts. Blount was asked Monday afternoon if the people of Foxboro have gotten used to seeing his ‘€œbaby’€ around town.

‘€œOf course. They love it. I love it. That’€™s my baby,’€ he said with a grin after practice on Monday. ‘€œGrowing up, where I grew up in the ‘hood, I saw a lot of people driving cars like that, and I was like, ‘€˜One day, I’€™m going to get one.’€™ And then, I did. I love it. I love it. People love the car.

‘€œIt’€™s a cool car — it’€™s really nice inside and everything. I had the whole thing customized, so it’€™s a pretty cool car. I like it.’€

The big back — who checks in at 6-foot-0, 247 pounds — is not just a car guy. With the recent release of running back/kick returner Leon Washington, he also could become one of the bigger return men in recent NFL memory. He’€™s seen plenty of practice reps at the spot over the course of the summer, and returned one kick for 27 yards in the preseason against the Lions.

‘€œHe’€™s got a lot of experience carrying the ball and he has good vision, good running skills and seemed to pick it up well,’€ said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. ‘€œMost return guys aren’€™t that kind of size. I’€™d say it definitely puts him in the above-average category. No doubt about that.’€

Blount, who has not worked as a returner at the NFL level in his three years in the pros, said Monday he’€™s done some work back there in college and high school. He welcomes the chance to show a little versatility.

‘€œI’€™ve been back there practicing it the whole time I’€™ve been here. [The Detroit game] was just my only chance to go out there and do it live — get some live action. I like it, though. It’€™s something different,’€ he said. ‘€œThat’€™s not usually a position that a guy my size is usually in. I just like the fact that I can go back there and hopefully make some things happen.’€

Since the Patriots shipped Ellis Hobbs III out of town after the 2008 season, they have struggled to find consistency in the kick return game. Last season, using a variety of players back there — Devin McCourty, Julian Edelman, Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead and Matthew Slater — the Patriots averaged just 21.2 yards per kickoff return, 25th in the NFL.

Blount figures to be part of a mix this year that includes McCourty, as well as Edelman (who will still serve as the primary punt returner), Slater, rookie Josh Boyce and Shane Vereen. The 26-year-old Blount said he’€™s working with a lot of those same guys to try to get a sense of what sort of challenge he’€™s facing.

‘€œJust some guys who have done it before: Julian, Devin, Slater. Just some guys who have done it before,’€ he said. ‘€œThey’€™re giving me some key pointers — some tips about how it’€™s done. Some things to look out for. [I’€™m] just kind of look at those guys and ask some questions as I go.’€

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Time to ‘amp’ it up: Veterans, rookies talk differences between preseason and regular season 09.01.13 at 7:00 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When it comes to life in the NFL, you don’€™t know what you don’€™t know.

Provided the roster stays the same over the next week (based on past seasons, it’€™s important to note that’€™s a bit of a longshot), the Patriots will head into Sunday’€™s regular-season opener against the Bills with all seven members of their draft class and a whopping eight undrafted free agents as part of their 53-man roster. While not all 15 will be part of the game day roster, that’€™s an extraordinary number of first-year players who will likely get their ‘€œWelcome to the NFL’€ moment Sunday in upstate New York.

So what should they expect? Veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly says that good rookies understand the increased sense of urgency that comes with the regular season on multiple levels — including the wallet.

‘€œUntil you get out there and experience it for yourself, you really won’€™t know,’€ Kelly said. ‘€œWords can’€™t describe it. It’€™s going to be a lot more intense than what you think. The speed you think it can reach, it’€™s probably going to go a little bit faster.

‘€œNow, everything counts. People are getting paid now, so when those game checks start coming in, they amp it up a little more,’€ he added with a smile. ‘€œI think we have a good group of rookies, especially up front. I think they’€™ll be all right, especially with Joe [Vellano] and Mike [Buchanan]. I think they don’€™t seem too wide-eyed. They’€™re real calm and cool out there. They’€™ll be all right.’€

Kelly recalled his first NFL game as a rookie with the 2004 Raiders.

‘€œReally, my first game rookie year — I remember just how intense and how fast it was. It was an eye opener,’€ he said. ‘€œBut I caught up quickly. It wasn’€™t that hard of an adjustment for me. But the speed of the game was a real adjustment for me.

‘€œBut I came in with a whole bunch of veterans and so they set the tone. When you come in the game with people like Warren Sapp and Ted Washington and Bobby Hamilton, no one will care what you think anyway. You just fall in line. I had good veterans who kind of baptized me into the NFL.’€

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Report: Patriots claim offensive lineman Chris Barker off waivers from Dolphins 09.01.13 at 2:53 pm ET
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The Patriots have claimed offensive lineman Chris Barker off waivers from the Dolphins, according to Reno Gazette-Journal. Barker, an undrafted free agent out of Nevada, is a 6-foot-4, 305-pounder who started 40 games at guard for the Wolfpack over the last four seasons.

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