|Brandon LaFell was ‘shellshocked’ at first but is ‘way more comfortable’ with Tom Brady now||08.19.14 at 2:42 pm ET|
FOXBORO — There’s nothing like one of the greatest quarterbacks in history to help you get acclimated to new surroundings.
“From OTAs, if I had to put it on a scale from 0-to-10, it’s like an ’8′ now,” LaFell said when asked about his comfort level with the Patriots offense. “In OTAs, I was shellshocked. I didn’t know what to expect. Everything was all new to me. I was in Carolina for the last four years so I got used to that routine, got used to that playbook. Everything is new here and since the beginning of camp, I feel way more comfortable, just being in the huddle with Brady, hearing him call the plays and stuff like that, I’m way more comfortable.
“For me, it was just language. Everybody in the league pretty much runs the same plays, just terminology, different language.”
“It’s going to be a little weird, just going out there and seeing some of my old teammates and looking at those jerseys and knowing I was just in those jerseys last year. It’s going to be a little weird but I have to do my job.”
LaFell, who signed for three years and $9 million in March, said he’s been paying close attention and that focus has paid off in the last two weeks, including four catches and 45 yards, including a TD grab in the back of the end zone last week from Jimmy Garoppolo.
“We’ve been getting better and better, each and every day, each and every week,” LaFell said of working with Brady. “The more and more reps I get with this guy, our timing is better and also, he’s trying to find me more.”
As tight end Steve Maneri found out last week, if you run a route a yard off, he can cost the team dearly, when Brady threw a pick-6 to Cary Williams.
|Bill Belichick on Stevan Ridley: ‘We never want the ball out’||08.17.14 at 12:50 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Here we go again.
It’s only the preseason but the question of Stevan Ridley and ball security has arisen once more.
On his seventh carry Friday night against the Eagles, Ridley ran off to his right, behind the right guard and just as he appeared to be falling routinely to the ground at the Philadelphia 10, the ball came out.
It was recovered by fullback James Develin so the Patriots managed to salvage the red zone chance and finished it off when Jimmy Garoppolo found Brandon LaFell in the back of the end zone.
There was some question as to whether it was a fumble at all as Ridley was close to having his backside on the turf when the ball came out when safety Earl Wolff stripped it out. But to head coach Bill Belichick, who has been down this road for the last three seasons with Ridley, whether it was down by contact was not the issue.
“We always talk about ball security, taking care of the ball. There’s nothing that correlates more to winning and losing than turnovers, so that’s always a high priority for us,” Belichick said in his Saturday conference call. “We never want the ball out and on the other side of the ball defensively and in the kicking game, we always try to get it out. Sometimes when we get the ball out, we don’t recover it or sometimes when we get it out they blow it dead but we always want to try to do that. The same goes true for the offensive side of the ball.”
Ridley came out of the game on what appeared to be his normal rotation but when he began to sprint on the field before the LaFell touchdown, he was called back and Brandon Bolden took his place. Bolden had two runs and rookie James White had another as Ridley was given time to consider his indiscretion.
“We don’t want plays where they end up with the ball, whether they’re ruled in our favor or not,” Belichick said. “Guys that have an interception in their hands but drop it or plays where the ball gets away from us, whether we recover it or it goes out of bounds or they recover it, those are all plays we’re trying to avoid, obviously. They do matter. So do the ones that, same thing on defense, the plays that we get out, we don’t get them all but the more we get them out, the more we’ll get, so they are significant.”
Ridley’s trouble with holding onto the ball is well-chronicled in New England. He has lost four fumbles in each of the last two seasons and was benched for the AFC championship and Super Bowl in his rookie season when he lost a fumble in the regular season finale and a playoff win over the Texans in Jan. 2012. Still, Ridley remains one of the most productive runners in the Patriots backfield, averaging 4.5 yards and rushing for 20 touchdowns in his first three seasons in New England.
|Why Ryan Mallett felt ‘a lot better’ about his night than preseason opener||08.16.14 at 11:24 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After a 5-for-12 effort against the Redskins in the preseason opener, creating more speculation about his future in New England, no one needed a pick-me-up on Friday night at Gillette Stadium than Ryan Mallett.
Sure, the speculation will continue, even after his 7-of-11 effort in a 42-35 win over the Eagles. Mallett passed for 92 yards while registering a team-high 120.3 quarterback rating. His touchdown pass to Brian Tyms in the back corner of the end zone was the kind of touch pass that raises scouts eyebrows.
So was his 23-yard pass over three defenders into the arms of Josh Boyce along the right sideline that led to a a Roy Finch touchdown run.
Mallett’s first drive of the game came with little advance warning, when Duron Harmon intercepted Mark Sanchez on the second play of the third quarter. Mallett opened with a short pass of six yards down the the Philadelphia 6. That was followed by an incompletion. Right off the bat, Mallett faced pressure. Third and 4 and a field goal would be a big disappointment. He dropped back in shotgun. No one broke open so he broke free of the pocket and scrambled for a touchdown.
All told, Mallett led the Patriots to 21 points in a third quarter that might – at least for now – change how Mallett is viewed.
“Yeah we had the momentum all game,” Mallett said. “I feel like we played well throughout the game and it continued throughout the second half and we still got some little things to overcome, but it was a lot better.”
This was a different kind of week for Mallett. He was given two “maintenance” days off from practice. He was not the first quarterback off the bench after Tom Brady.
“I get to play in the game and that’s all that matters. That’s all,” Mallett said. “I just want to get out there and try to get better as a player and I felt like I did that tonight and I just got to keep building on it.”
Yet, Mallett played Friday like a quarterback that still had confidence, and Tyms making circus catches was a big part of that.
“You build confidence in practice,” Mallett said. “We’ve been watching [No.] 84 do that all camp. He’s been making plays and he got one-on-one coverage, so I’m going to let him make a play and just try and get it close to him.”
Mallett did take two sacks in the second half and couldn’t put points on the board in the fourth quarter but overall, still a very good night against an Eagles defense that provided different looks.
“It’s a totally different defense; you know. They’ve got a good team,” Mallett said. “It was close there at the end and we got a stop and then we moved the ball and ran the clock out. The offensive line did a great job right there during that last series as far as moving the ball. There were big holes for the running backs to see and get through. It’s a credit to them.”
But the biggest credit goes to Mallett who put the rumors of his future on the back burner, at least for one night.
“I don’t worry about that stuff,” Mallett said to a reporter asking him if he’s trying to make a point to his doubters. “I leave that to all you.”
|Mike Petraglia, Chris Price assess preseason ‘Flag Day’, Tom Brady in Patriots win||08.16.14 at 1:29 am ET|
FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price break down a penalty-filled game as the Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 42-35, in the preseason debuts of Tom Brady and Darrelle Revis with the Patriots. The three-hour, 11-minute game featured 21 penalties and 11 touchdowns and numerous turnovers.
|Darrelle Revis says despite not being tested in debut, he was ‘ready at all times’||08.16.14 at 12:52 am ET|
FOXBORO — It wasn’t much of a test for a preseason debut.
Darrelle Revis suited up like he did against the Redskins the week before but this time he actually stepped on the field for game action. He might as well not have.
Whether it was his reputation as the game’s best shut-down corner or wanting simply to test other parts of their offense, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and quarterback Nick Foles didn’t challenge Revis all night long in a 42-35 Patriots’ win that evened New England’s preseason record at 1-1.
With Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper out, Revis was matched up against Arrelious Benn. Revis played on Philadelphia’s first three series (the first series was one play and a turnover) and not a single pass was thrown to Benn.
“I don’t know what their game plan is,” Revis said. “My thing is just to go out there and do my job. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t. But you always have to be ready at all times.”
Perhaps just as impressive is that for all the penalties that were called against both secondaries, not a single yellow cloth landed on Revis Island.
“It’s a new rule in 2014 that they’re emphasizing about illegal contact down the field on plays with the wide receiver and the defensive backs,” Revis said. “Like I said before, we have to do the best that we can by being comfortable with the new rules and trying to do the right things out there on the field. I don’t know how many penalties it was. It was a lot, just watching the game and going through it, but I don’t know. It was a lot, but at the same time, the refs are going to call what they see.”
Of course to Revis, it’s all about the secondary getting better as a unit, with he and Devin McCourty leading the charge. Malcolm Butler started opposite Revis and continued to show progress, stripping a receiver in the second half and recovering the ball. Kyle Arrington even got the starting nod at safety with McCourty.
“We’re getting better every week,” Revis said. “We’re trying to reach our peak by the time Week 1 comes around. We’ve been working hard and we’ve made a lot of great plays out there today on defense so those are the types of things we are looking for. The coaches always stress turnovers to us so we’re just trying to do a good job of that and tonight we did.”
|Setting the scene: Patriots greet Eagles in cool preseason home opener||08.15.14 at 5:53 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Cloudy skies and temperatures in the upper 60s will greet the Patriots and Eagles as they play the second preseason game of the summer. There is no rain in the forecast but it will be breezy and unseasonably chilly by the end of the game, set for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff.
It will be the likely preseason debut of several players for the Patriots, including Tom Brady, Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. The game is the culmination of another week of joint practices as the Patriots and Eagles worked out on the fields outside Gillette Stadium.
This will be the 22nd time the Patriots and Eagles have met in the preseason, surpassed only by the 23 encounters with the Giants, which will grow to 24 in two weeks as the Patriots wrap up the preseason. The Patriots hold an 11-10 advantage over the Eagles in the previous 21 meetings.
As for the game, some of the highlights to watch for will be the snap count for Vince Wilfork, who played just the first series last week in Washington before sitting out the rest of the night. Brady will get the start and who will be snapping him the ball bears some close watching, as Dan Connolly got the nod last week with the first unit offensive line.
Both offensive tackles are looking for a bounce back game, especially Nate Solder, who got beat for a sack, a quarterback hit and a holding call that cost the Patriots a first-down conversion.
The Eagles are expected to be without receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper as Nick Foles gets the call at quarterback.
|Brian Tyms is enjoying ‘a good connection with everybody’||08.08.14 at 10:58 pm ET|
Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce are 2013 draft picks that are still highly regarded.
But Tyms, who has had tours of duty with the 49ers, Dolphins and Browns since coming into the NFL out of Florida A&M in 2012, says he’s not worried about making the Patriots.
“I don’t need to think about that,” Tyms said after catching five balls on six targets for 119 yards in the 23-6 loss to the Redskins Thursday. “Every time the ball is thrown to me, I’m trying to catch it. It’s part of earning respect, again. If I sit out there and drop every one, everybody is going to look at me like I came here for nothing. I’ve got a lot to prove.”
Tyms has yet to make his first regular season catch. He traveled to New England with the Dolphins for the 2012 finale in Foxboro and was elevated to the active roster with the Browns on Dec. 4, 2013. Ironically, the opponent that week was the Patriots in Foxboro.
It’s one thing to look sharp in practice reps, as Tyms has. But for a guy trying to show he belongs in the NFL, Tyms needs to impress the scouts that turn up at preseason games. He did that on Thursday in Landover, Md. He beat his man off the line of scrimmage on a “go” pattern down the right sideline for 53 yards on a beauty of a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo.
“I feel like I got a good connection with everybody,” Tyms said when asked about his chemistry with the rookie quarterback. “That’s all I really came here to do was earn respect from my teammates and coaches. Everything else really don’t matter to me.”
His best catch of the night didn’t count. In the third quarter, Redskins defensive back Chase Minnifield was draped all over him. The flag was thrown at the Redskins 4. Tyms fought through it and made what appeared to be a spectacular one-handed grab in the end zone as he was falling backwards. TV replays showed that Tyms appeared to have kept the ball off the ground but the pass was ruled incomplete.
Tyms was eventually rewarded in the fourth quarter when he caught a 26-yard pass from Garoppolo in the end zone and lept up in the stands, falling into the first row.
“I was just so excited because that was my first one,” Tyms said. “I haven’t been in the end zone other than practice, so I was just excited. Then, God gave me a second chance at it so I capitalized. It feels pretty good.
“It’s hard work. I’m just trying to show these guys that I belong. The most important thing about a winning team is just earning respect. That’s all that matters to me is winning and earning their respect.”
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