|Brandon Browner ‘enjoying every second’ as a member of the Patriots||08.20.14 at 3:13 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Cornerback Brandon Browner has kept a low profile since joining the Patriots last March — but when he has spoken out — he’s had nothing but praise for his new organization.
“It’s a professional locker room, professional atmosphere. You never know what you’re getting into until you get there, but I’ve been enjoying every second of it,” Browner said.
The 30-year-old played three seasons in Seattle — including winning last year’s Super Bowl — before signing a three-year, $16.8 million dollar contract this past offseason. Coming from the famous Legion of Boom secondary with the Seahawks, Browner is enjoying his time with his new teammates in the Patriots secondary.
“I’m having fun,” Browner said. “We have a close-knit group with the safeties and corners. That’s a good thing to have — we all get along. There is a lot of talent back here. We’re just trying to build on practices a day at a time and get better than we were yesterday.”
Browner is suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s drug policy, so the team will need to find someone to fill in at corner. But, with how versatile a number of the players in the secondary are — as well as having good depth — it shouldn’t be an issue.
“A lot of versatility, we have great backups as well,” said Browner. “We have a lot of depth here at the cornerback spot and our safeties have range — guys like Devin [McCourty], he has range over the top of us. We have good guys that can play man-to-man, but at the same time we’re far from we want to be. We want to be hitting on all cylinders closer to playoff time. We have to go out there and win Week 1, Week 2 – we can’t look too far ahead. Just build on each practice, one practice at a time.”
A major focus this season is obviously the new emphasis of illegal contact and defensive holding. McCourty talked at length on Tuesday about how important technique will be this season and Browner echoed him on Wednesday.
“That is the key to the game at the cornerback spot. They always say the game is a game of inches so you have to be technique-sound out there in order to make plays to not get beat and not get the penalties,” Browner said.
|Emergence of Malcolm Butler making Patriots secondary even more crowded||08.18.14 at 11:10 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots secondary is a crowded one with plenty of moving parts.
There’s no question Darrelle Revis has one cornerback spot locked down and Devin McCourty one safety spot, but the other positions are seemingly up for grabs — especially with cornerback Brandon Browner being suspended for the first four games of the season.
It’s been hard not to notice the number of players playing along side McCourty at safety during training camp — Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon and even cornerbacks Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan have seen time there.
Belichick noted the cornerbacks could be seeing time at the safety position this year based on the opponents offensive formation.
“Logan’s played some safety for us in the past, so has Kyle,” Belichick said on last Saturday’s conference call. ‘They’ve both played that position ‘ that fourth defensive back. It’s not really anything that’s that new to them. It definitely has a lot of carryover for them from when we are in our nickel defense and they play in the slot.”
The two players’ versatility certainly gives them more value than strictly playing the cornerback position, but the team does have two other cornerbacks — Alfonzo Dennard and rookie Malcolm Butler.
Dennard hasn’t appeared in a game after working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, while Butler — an undrafted free agent out of West Alabama — has made the most of his playing time.
After a strong Week 1 performance against Washington, Butler recorded seven tackles and a forced fumble in last Friday’s win against the Eagles. He’s also made a number of plays in practice, including forcing a fumble against Rob Gronkowski on Monday.
“I come out to compete every time I step on the field — practice, game time — I’m ready to compete every time,” Butler said. “I made a couple good plays, but there is still things to work on. There were two good plays that I think helped the team out, but I think I can do more and we’re just trying to get better as a unit. If you make a couple good plays and then you make a couple of bad plays, you really erased your good plays.”
|Michael Hoomanawanui returns to practice ‘hungry’ to get back to full strength||08.18.14 at 9:07 pm ET|
FOXBORO — With only one healthy tight end on the roster for last Friday’s second preseason game with the Eagles, it was tough to watch for the other Patriots tight ends.
Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui and D.J. Williams did not suit up — and after the team released Ben Hartsock last Thursday, it left Steve Maneri as the only healthy tight end on the roster. Gronkowski had been practicing, but not cleared for contact, while Hoomanawanui and Williams missed the entire week of practice.
After re-signing rookie tight end Justin Jones, the Patriots got another tight end back when Hoomanawanui returned to practice on Monday. While 26-year-old returned to practice, he did not take any contact. After stretching he went down to the lower fields to get some conditioning work in — all part of the process in making a full return.
“I feel good,” he said. “Being out there a little bit — with what I did do today — there’s not much you can simulate being out there in real time situations, but there’s other ways we can try and stay with it. It’ll take a little bit. I’ll get back to that.”
Hoomanawanui admitted it was hard to watch Friday night, especially seeing Maneri play almost 70 snaps after being signed by the Patriots just five days before the game.
“Especially feeling for your position, knowing what they’re going through, taking that many reps, but I’ll be out there as soon as I can and be back there with them,” Hoomanawanui said.
“It’s obviously disappointing. You never want to be hurt,” he added. ” You watch from the sidelines or inside, watching film is hard when you’re not out there. There’s a competitive spirit in all of us. You never want to be out. It’s unfortunate, but I’ll be back. I’ll be fine.”
|Stevan Ridley on fumble against Eagles: ‘I hated it, it was a sick feeling for a second’||08.18.14 at 7:28 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Stevan Ridley is sick of fumbling and tired of answering all the questions that seemingly come with it.
After having fumbling issues last season — to the point where he was even a healthy scratch for Week 13 against the Texans — Ridley once again put the ball on the ground in last Friday’s second preseason game against the Eagles.
Although the Patriots recovered the fumble and on a second-look it appeared he may have been down first, the fact of the matter is he fumbled once again.
“It’s too close to call, man. Either way, I need to avoid those plays in general,” Ridley said. “There’s nothing really else to be said about it. I hated it. It was a sick feeling for a second. We looked at the play, it is what it is, but either way one out is too many. But I’m not going to harp on that. I’m going to learn from it.”
The running back didn’t play a snap following the fumble — something all too familiar for the fourth-year running back out of LSU.
“When I go back and watch the play, and the ball is out again, Week 2, it kind of sucks,” Ridley said. “But it’s football, man, and I can’t get down about it. I can’t harp about it. That’s why you have preseason. I’m just going to keep on working and keep on pushing.”
Ridley was having a good game until the fumble as he finished with 45 yards on nine carries.
“I had a nice little workload early on, and I think the coaches saw what they wanted to see,” he said. “For me, I came on out when they told me to come out. Like I said, we’re moving on. This week’s Carolina. There wasn’t too much said about it — just get back to work, learn from your mistakes just like everybody else and keep on pushing.”
Even with the frustration of fumbling on a seemingly regular basis, Ridley is always there to answer the questions from reporters and understands where the questions are coming from.
|Bill Belichick: Eagles joint practices ‘as productive as any’||08.17.14 at 12:00 pm ET|
By all accounts it was a good week of joint practices and second preseason game for the Patriots and Eagles.
You know it really was a good week when Bill Belichick is calling it the best week of joint practices he’s ever had in four years of holding them.
“The practices and the game combined, I would say probably were as productive as any week we’ve had with any team in training camp since we’ve been doing this,” Belichick said during Saturday’s conference call.
It was the second year of joint practices between the Patriots and Eagles. Belichick and Eagles coach Chip Kelly have known eachother since Kelly was a coach at the University of New Hampshire. The two didn’t change much from last year’s week in Philadelphia practice plan wise.
“Coach Kelly and his staff and the Eagles and their players — it was a real good working environment that was productive and competitive, but not over the top where anybody was really put in any unnecessary risk or any type of after the whistle or cheap shots or anything like that. It was really good,” said Belichick.
The Patriots started the somewhat new phase of joint practices in the league in 2010 when they had them with the Saints and Falcons. In 2012 they did them again with the Saints and added the Buccaneers. Last year the Buccaneers came to Foxboro and the Patriots went to Philadelphia. Finally this year, the Patriots were in Washington last week before welcoming the Eagles. Belichick usually holds them with other coaches in the league he is familiar with and respects, including Greg Schiano, Mike Smith, Sean Payton and last week Jay Gruden.
Many players and coaches speak to the value of the sessions as often times teams get tired of going up against the same players on their own team day-after-day. It also gives teams a chance to go against different schemes that their own team may not use on a consistent basis.
Kelly agreed with Belichick that it was a beneficial week — even with the Eagles losing 42-35 on Friday night.
|Jimmy Garoppolo impresses for second straight week||08.16.14 at 1:49 am ET|
FOXBORO — For a rookie quarterback who hadn’t even been to an NFL game as a fan — yet alone play — prior to last week’s preseason opener with the Redskins, Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t showed any sign of nerves as he had his second consecutive impressive performance Friday night against the Eagles at Gillette Stadium.
“I felt good going into this game, had a good week of practice,” Garoppolo said. “Going against another team always brings out the competitive spirit in everyone, so I thought our whole team had a good week this week.”
Garoppolo came out on fire, as following a Tommy Kelly fumble recovery on the first play of the Eagles’ first drive of the game, the rookie led the Patriots on a four-play, 28-yard drive, topped with a 15-yard touchdown pass to fullback James Develin out of the backfield.
The second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois continued the momentum on the next drive leading the offensive on an impressive 13-play, 75-yard drive, which finished with a Brandon LaFell touchdown catch in the back of the end zone.
The offense cooled off for the remaining three Garoppolo led drives — a few with penalties playing a large role — but overall it was the second of two good outings for the rookie.
“There’s plenty of stuff to correct. I’m still a rookie learning as we go,” Garoppolo said. “There is always going to be things to correct, but overall a good game and good to get a ‘W.’’
Last week against Washington, Brady didn’t play so Mallett played the first half and Garoppolo the second half. Things were different Friday as Garoppolo entered the game first.
This was a bit of a surprise to the rookie — something the team does to simulate what would happen during the regular season if an injury would to occur within the game.
|Tom Brady on Friday’s preseason debut: ‘It was fun being out there’||08.16.14 at 12:51 am ET|
FOXBORO — After sitting out the first preseason game with the Redskins last week, Tom Brady got his first action of 2014 Friday night against the Eagles and he couldn’t have been more excited.
“It’s fun being out there. Sitting on the sideline like last week isn’t nearly as fun, so getting out there and getting a chance to play a little bit was great,” said Brady. “It was a great experience for me — fun to be out there with my teammates, so I enjoyed it.”
Brady and the Patriots were looking good on their opening drive of the game as they ran nine plays, going 39 yards to the Eagles’ 41-yard line, but it suddenly came to a screeching halt. Brady was picked off by Eagles cornerback Cary Williams and he returned it 77 yards for a touchdown.
The pass was intended for tight end Steve Maneri, but there was a miscommunication between the two and Williams was able to step in for the interception.
“It happens and I’m glad it happened in the preseason,” Brady said. “The one thing about offensive football is all 11 guys have to be on the same page, so those are things we’re all trying to try to correct.”
Brady settled down after the interception as on the following drive he led the offense on a nine-play, 74-yard drive, capping off with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins.
“KT [Thompkins] made a great catch,” Brady said. “I’ve got so much confidence in him and what he’s been able to do and continue to achieve for us has been great, so hopefully there will be a lot more of those.”
The quarterback’s night was done after the touchdown drive and he finished 8-for-10 for 81 yards with the touchdown and interception. Playing two series’ is the standard for Brady in the second preseason game as in four of the six previous second preseason games that is what he’s done.
“We had a good drive going there to start the game and we showed a little mental toughness getting the touchdown there on the second drive, so it was great,” said Brady.
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