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Revis Report, Week 1: Will it be Mike Wallace or Charles Clay? 09.04.14 at 11:13 pm ET
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Darrelle Revis and Mike Wallace squared off when Revis was with the Jets and Wallace was with the Steelers. (Getty Images)

Darrelle Revis and Mike Wallace squared off when Revis was with the Jets and Wallace was with the Steelers. (Getty Images)

Each week, we’ll present The Revis Report, a look at what’s on tap for the Patriots cornerback over the coming week. This week, it’s the first regular-season game for the Patriots, as they travel to Miami for a date with the Dolphins.

Overview: This is Darrelle Revis‘ first game with the Patriots, and so there’s not much to go on in terms of history within New England’s system. Over the course of the preseason, the cornerback played two games, and took 36 snaps overall. By our highly unscientific count, he was on the right side for 33 of those snaps, and on the left for three. He was thrown at three times, and there was one completion, a pass from Cam Newton to Kelvin Benjamin.

“I’m very excited. It’s the first week — it’s good to get things going now,” Revis said Thursday when asked if he was excited to get the regular season started. “I think we’re all excited. We’ve been waiting for this for awhile, and now, it’s here.”

Possible man matchups: Revis will likely be utilized against one of two people — either wide receiver Mike Wallace or tight end Charles Clay. Revis said Thursday he’s matched up against Wallace on several occasions times in the past — it appears the last time the two went head-to-head was Week 2 of the 2012 season. According to Pro Football Focus, Revis played in 43 of a possible 85 defensive snaps before going down with a knee injury that ultimately left him on the shelf for the rest of the season.

Then, there’s Clay. Why would Bill Belichick have Revis work against a tight end? A few reasons. First, Belichick has traditionally been all about trying to stop the opposing team’s No. 1 offensive option, and he has a clear level of respect for Clay, so much so that he assigned lead corner Aqib Talib (with some help) to Clay in last year’s contest against the Dolphins in Miami. Clay had one catch for six yards in the loss to the Dolphins.

Clay presents a myriad of challenges for a defender who might be assigned to him in single coverage, including the fact that he could line up at several different positions.

“You have to find him,” Belichick said of Clay earlier this week. “He’s all over. Sometimes he’s in the normal tight end location but you certainly can’t count on that — flex, could be in the backfield, could be detached as a receiver.”

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Read More: Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, Charles Clay, Darrelle Revis
Bill Belichick on Charles Clay’s versatility: ‘You have to find him’ 09.03.14 at 1:04 pm ET
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Dolphins tight end Charles Clay will be a big focus of the Patriots defense Sunday in Miami. (Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Dolphins tight end Charles Clay will be a big focus of the Patriots defense Sunday in Miami. (Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — One of the traits of a Bill Belichick coached defense is its ability to focus on and shutdown one particular player of the opposition’€™s offense.

When facing the Dolphins, that player is shifty tight end Charles Clay.

In the Dec. 15 meeting in Miami last season (a 24-20 Dolphins win), the Patriots had Aqib Talib, their best cover man, line up against Clay on most plays and limited him to just one catch for six yards on two targets.

Overall, Clay led the Dolphins with six touchdowns last season and was a good complement to wide receivers Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace. Without Talib on this year’€™s team, Belichick and the Patriots will need to find another way to neutralize Clay come Sunday in the season-opener in Miami.

“€œYou have to find him,” Belichick said. “€œHe’€™s all over. Sometimes he’€™s in the normal tight end location but you certainly can’€™t count on that — flex, could be in the backfield, could be detached as a receiver. Yeah, they move him around.”

The Patriots could use Devin McCourty or linebacker Jamie Collins against him — both saw some plays against him last year — or whomever occupies the safety spot next to McCourty.

Clay isn’€™t a typical tight end in the fact he’€™s 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds with the ability to line up almost anywhere on the field — “in the backfield, in the slot, or even on the outside. This is what makes him so difficult to defend and matchup against.

“It’€™s his quickness, his speed, his ability as a vertical receiver,” Belichick said. “€œHe can really hurt you down the field, not that he can’€™t hurt you in short areas but he’€™s certainly a 20, 30, 40-yard type of guy when they hit him on those seams and overs, vertical routes.”

Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin acknowledged he and his staff studied last year’€™s game tape where the Patriots shut down Clay, but added a lot has changed personnel wise for both teams — not to mention the Dolphins have a new offensive coordinator this season in Bill Lazor.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Charles Clay, dolphins,
Bill Belichick on Week 1 planning: ‘There are just more unknowns’ at 12:33 pm ET
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Bill Belichick is always teaching and planning when thinking of roster building. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick is always teaching and planning when thinking of roster building. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — The great unknown. Nothing describes the anxiety many teams, including those of championship caliber, face heading into the first game of the new season.

With the Patriots, they have a new star cornerback, a new starting left guard (still TBD) and a new offensive line coach. But it’s not so much the unknown of your own players but the unknown of the opposition that provides the biggest challenge when game planning at this time of year.

Preseason film is very basic and not chock full of exotic looks so coaches have to take their best guesses as to what a team like the Dolphins will do once the game begins.

“I’€™d say there are just more unknowns,” Belichick said. “I think each year has its own the opener has its own set of unanswered questions, unknowns. We know a little bit more about our team each week. We’€™ve been with them, but once we get to the regular season, opening day and the succeeding games, we’€™ll continue to learn. I’€™m not really sure what we have. I’€™m not sure anybody knows what they have.

“I don’€™t know what they have. We’€™ll see how it goes. I’€™m sure there will be some matchups that we’€™ll be alright with. I’€™m sure there will be other matchups that we won’€™t be alright with. We’€™ll see how that plays out in succeeding weeks and if there’€™s a pattern or not a pattern or whatever. There are always a lot of unknowns on opening day. This year is no exception.”

The Dolphins are featuring a new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor, the quarterbacks coach of the Chip Kelly-led Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. Lazor is installing a version of the hurry-up offense that featured the fastest snap-to-snap offense in the NFL. [WEEI.com’s Chris Price gave a detailed look at what to expect from Lazor.]

“If they don’€™t substitute, it’€™s going to be hard for us to substitute,” Belichick said Wednesday. “But, I don’€™t know who they’€™re going to have in the game. They use different personnel groups. Whoever they have in the game, if they go quicker with that group, then they go quicker with that group. I’€™m sure we’€™ll have to leave our group on the field. It would be hard to sub in those situations.

“If they change, we change to match them. We’€™ve done both ‘€“ we have, we haven’€™t. I don’€™t know. It would depend on, again, what groups they use and what the situations are and so forth. Look, if you want to substitute a player to get a matchup then the advantage is, you’€™ve substituted to get that matchup. If you don’€™t substitute, then you take the matchups that you have and have more continuity possibly. There’€™re tradeoffs no matter which way you do it.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots,
Bill Belichick: ‘I don’t think you could ever question [Rob Gronkowski’s] work ethic’ at 10:01 am ET
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FOXBORO — Don’t ever question the work ethic of Rob Gronkowski. Bill Belichick certainly doesn’t.

There has been some speculation around Foxboro that the Patriots this year didn’t want to endure the week-to-week drama around the health of their star tight end that circulated in 2013. There was even the talk that the Patriots were sending a message to Gronk to make sure he was ready to go.

Well, Belichick made it clear publicly Wednesday, he’s never, ever had any doubt that Gronkowski would do everything in his power to be ready for Sept. 7 in Miami.

“Gronk always works hard,” Belichick said. “I don’t think that’s really ever been an issue since he’s been here. He works hard in the weight room, works hard in the film room and the meetings and works hard on the field. I don’t think you could ever question Rob’s work ethic. I never have. I think it’s always one of the best on the team.”

Belichick hinted that, barring any setbacks this week with Gronk’s surgically repaired right knee, Gronkowski will be good to go for the opener after Gronkowski himself declared himself ready on Monday despite not playing a single snap in the preseason.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of guys in the league, we’ll have other guys on our team that will probably fall into that category too, didn’t play a lot in the preseason but that will play Sunday. I’m sure every team has guys in that category,” Belichick said.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots,
Attacking Miami heat in September isn’t issue it used to be for Patriots 09.02.14 at 5:17 pm ET
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Tom Brady and the Patriots have apparently gotten over any sort of early-season issues they've had with playing the Dolphins in Miami. (Getty Images)

Tom Brady and the Patriots have apparently gotten over any sort of early-season issues they’ve had with playing the Dolphins in Miami. (Getty Images)

In the spring, veteran safety Devin McCourty joked about building a “big sauna” at Gillette Stadium to try and replicate the sweaty conditions they’ll face when they head south for the regular season opener Sunday against the Dolphins.

But in truth, the early-season Florida weather doesn’t vex the Patriots like it once did — New England has won its last four early-season meetings in Miami, coming away with victories in September/October games in 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2011.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday on a conference call with the media that he actually prefers playing in South Florida early in the season because it’s easy to prepare, especially coming off some of the occasionally steamy August days in training camp.

“Personally, I would rather play in a warm climate at the beginning of the year than at the end of the year, because at least we’€™ve been practicing in it,” he said.

“We’€™ve had some hot days here at the beginning of the season,” Belichick added. “I think you can get a hot day pretty much anywhere. It really comes back to the conditioning of your team. Whether it’€™s hot or not, it’€™s the same for both teams and the player’€™s conditioning level and his ability to perform at a high level is going to be reflected later in the game based on his physical conditioning.”

It’€™€™s easy to forget now, but not so long ago, the Patriots had serious early-season struggles when faced with the prospect of playing in Miami in August and September. The Dolphins used to be without peer when it came to playing in the South Florida heat early in the season ‘€” from 1994 to 2002 Miami won 16 consecutive home games in August and September.

In that same stretch, several former Patriots confessed to being befuddled about how to beat the warm temps, and admitted that the whole thing got in their heads. (On one occasion, the Patriots tried to tape garbage bags over the air conditioning systems in the locker room for fear of getting too comfortable at halftime.)

It’s never easy in Miami ‘€” the Patriots stumbled late in the 2009 and 2013 seasons against the Dolphins in South Florida ‘€” but it appears as though the Patriots are over any early-season phobias with the Miami heat.

“I don’€™t think this game is going to be decided on the heat or the weather, just like I don’€™t think the ones at the end of the year are decided by the cold,” Belichick said. “It’€™s a little bit of a factor in the game, but we’€™re playing a good football team. If we play well, we’€™ll be competitive and we’€™ll have a chance. If we don’€™t play well, it won’€™t make a difference what the conditions are, we’€™ll be in a lot of trouble. That’€™s where most of the emphasis is going to be this week, and where it should be.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty,
Option play: Bill Belichick, Patriots ready for Miami’s new-look offense at 2:40 pm ET
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The Patriots will be facing a new offensive coordinator on Sunday, as Bill Lazor is in his first season as OC with the Dolphins. Lazor, who served as the quarterbacks coach in Philly last season, figures to bring a slice of the uptempo style that Chip Kelly and the Eagles delivered last season.

So how do you prepare for a new OC when there’s little meaningful film of his schemes as a coordinator at the NFL level? Bill Belichick said Tuesday that the Patriots have already tried to get a sense of the new-look Miami offense by taking a look back at the uptempo Philly offense last year.

“I would say that they look very similar to the way the Eagles look offensively; different than what Miami looked like last year,” Belichick said of the Dolphins. “I’€™d say it’€™s quite substantial.”

Substantial might be an understatement. Measured situation-neutral offensive pace –€” a formula from the site Football Outsiders that eliminates things like two-minute drills and late-game clock-killing situations to get a truer idea of the offense’€™€™s intentions when it comes to offensive pace –€” the 2012 Dolphins were ninth overall at one play every 29.23 seconds, and last year, on average, they ran one play every 30.08 seconds, 14th quickest in the NFL.

That contrasts with the speed of Philly’s offense: under Kelly last year, the Eagles were the fastest team in the league, getting off a play once every 23.88 seconds.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill Lazor, Chip Kelly, Ryan Tannehill
Bill Belichick on Rob Gronkowski’s playing status: ‘We’ll have to make decision that’s best for team’ at 1:02 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski pronounced himself ready to play on Monday, but in a conference call with the media Tuesday afternoon, Patriots coach Bill Belichick sounded hesitant when it came to giving a thumbs up on the playing status of the tight end.

“I’m glad that Rob’s optimistic about his situation,” Belichick said. “We’ll go through the week of practice and take a look at everything, everybody, and see where everybody’s at and try to do what we feel like is best for the team.

“With all due respect to Rob — I’m glad he feels the way he does — but, in the end, we’ll have to make the decision we feel like is best for the team and we’ll do that as we go through the week.”

Gronkowski said he was “super excited” Monday, and proclaimed himself “good to go.”

“€œJust seeing my teammates grind all week,” he added. “Go back out there with them, get in the huddle, break the huddle with them. It’€™s going to be an honor to be out there with my teammates. Super pumped, super excited and just preparing for the game.

“€œI feel mentally and physically ready, for sure. No doubt about it.”

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels also commented on Gronkowski’s status Tuesday, saying the tight end has been a part of practices all along.

“Rob has been practicing, and we’€™ve been doing some different things, building our offensive system and packages as we go throughout the course of the year. He’€™s been a part of that,” McDaniels said of Gronkowski. “Whatever we can or are available to use him to do — however big, small, whatever the decision is at the end of the week — and he’€™ll be ready to do it. Going in there, we’€™re going to do what we think is the right thing to do to win the game this week and worry about going forward next week.”

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

Read More: Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski,
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