|Bill Belichick on Pepper Johnson: ‘I’m sure he does a good job with them’||10.08.14 at 11:08 am ET|
FOXBORO — Sunday will mark the first time that Bill Belichick has faced Pepper Johnson since the two split after last season.
Johnson is now the defensive line coach of the Bills defense that coached up by former Belichick student Jim Schwartz. Johnson steps into a situation where he has bigger names along the defensive line, names like Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus.
The Bills are allowing just 71 yards per game on the ground, second-best in the NFL. Has Belichick seen any direct impact that Johnson has had on that defensive line?
“I think they’re playing well,” Belichick said. “I’m sure he does a good job with them. It looks very much like Jim’s scheme from Detroit and from Tennessee. Obviously the group is playing well. They have a very good front. They have good depth. They play the run well; they rush the passer well. They’re obviously playing good techniques and that’s a credit to all of them ‘ the players, the coaches, Jim, the defensive coordinator. They’re all doing a good job.”
Belichick will also be facing run-stopping dreadlocked linebacker Brandon Spikes for the first time, as well.
“Yeah, we know him,” Belichick said Wednesday. “I don’t think he’s changed much. Hair might be a little longer. He’s about the same.”
|Cover me: LB James Anderson could bring new dimension to Patriots defense||06.12.14 at 5:28 pm ET|
FOXBORO — James Anderson — who was acquired as a free agent earlier this month by the Patriots — was given No. 55.
Digits aren’t usually that big a deal in the New England locker room. But it is worth mentioning that the guy who wore No. 55 the last four years — linebacker Brandon Spikes — had a trademark freewheeling style (both on and off the field) that’s hard to replicate. However, Spikes departed as a free agent this offseason, taking his electric playing style (and always interesting Twitter feed) to Buffalo.
And while Anderson has only been around Foxboro for a week, it’s clear the Patriots have decided to go in a completely different direction.
Both Anderson and Spikes middle/inside linebackers, but that’s where the similarities end. Anderson has only missed five regular-season games the last four years. Anderson carved out a niche as a relatively quiet and respected veteran who has worked as a mentor for several young players over the years with the Panthers and Bears. And he’s established a rep as a coverage linebacker who still has the wheels to keep up with a tight end or running back in the passing game.
The 30-year-old, who will be heading into his ninth season in the NFL, has played in 110 NFL games with 69 starts and has registered 556 total tackles, 12 sacks, three interceptions, 23 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries. Last season in Chicago, he started all 16 games and finished with 102 total tackles and four sacks.
Still, he acknowledges he’s starting from scratch in New England.
“Everything is still new — still learning the defense, still learning about the guys around me,” Anderson said after Thursday’s OTA session outside Gillette Stadium. “Trying to work in as much as I can so when the season comes, wherever they tell me I need to be, I’ll give it everything I have.
“I feel like I’m picking it up pretty good. The coaches have done a great job of breaking things down and explaining it to me. I’m just taking it day-by-day.”
The Patriots have been lacking a coverage linebacker the last few seasons, and if he’s able to pick up the scheme, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Anderson could fill that role, working alongside a cadre of linebackers that includes Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower.
“As you know, looking at my size, I’m a little bit smaller than most of the other guys around here,” Anderson said Thursday. “So to make up for that, I’m pretty fast, and have to recover.”
Football has changed dramatically over the last decade or so — the evolution of the passing game has forced teams to invest more in defensive backs in hopes of slowing down elite quarterbacks and receivers. As a result, true coverage linebackers have become few and far between.
But Anderson doesn’t believe working as a coverage linebacker has become a dying art.
|Jamie Collins: ‘I’m going to do whatever I’m told to do’||05.08.14 at 1:46 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When the 2013 NFL Draft came around, Jamie Collins was not really paying attention except to find out where he would wind up.
When the Patriots nabbed him with their second-round pick out of Southern Mississippi, Collins was ready to do whatever he was asked to do. That would turn out to be very helpful as the Patriots selected him because of his reputation in college as one of the more versatile linebackers in college in the ’13 draft.
In his rookie season, Collins played both down and linebacker positions, showing he could get to the quarterback, play the run and drop in coverage.
Collins, asked this week to reflect on his first year in the pros, said once you have the talent, the rest is pretty elementary when you play for Bill Belichick.
“It’s pretty easy,” he said. “It’s not easy but it is easy. I don’t know if you get that or not. I’m going to do whatever I’m told to do. I’m the type of guy that is going to do what I have to do. I’m going to get it done, no matter what it is.”
In other words, Belichick has very specific plans for the linebacker, who showed up this spring in Foxboro looking bigger and stronger, all the more reason for the Patriots coaching staff to show more confidence in Collins, who began coming into his own as the 2013 regular season came to an end.
“Guys are different,” he said. “I just look at things and I just know it’s my job and I have to do what I have to do to survive. I was learning, regardless. But once a guy goes down, it’s next man up. You have to be strong. You lose a guy, the next man has to be ready to play. I’m excited to have him [back]. Read the rest of this entry »
|Dont’a Hightower: It’ll be ‘real fun’ being a part of this group of linebackers||05.01.14 at 4:11 pm ET|
FOXBORO — There have been a lot of changes at linebacker for the Patriots to this point in the offseason. Dane Fletcher and Brandon Spikes have departed via free agency, while linebacker coach Pepper Johnson left for a new challenge in Buffalo. Meanwhile, the team awaits the return of veteran Jerod Mayo, who was out for the bulk of the 2013 season because of a torn pectoral muscle
But Dont’a Hightower said Thursday that even with all the changes, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the state of the linebacker group in New England heading into a new year. The return of Mayo and the emergence of Jamie Collins — as well as his own strong finish in 2013 — all bode well for 2014, according to Hightower.
“Definitely with those guys — myself, Mayo, a longtime vet, and Jamie Collins coming up and playing the way he did last year, he definitely stepped up,” Hightower said. “I feel like that’s another thing that’s going to be real fun this year, having that linebacking corps right there. We have guys in that room who can also step up and play much like Dane did, but I feel like it’s going to be real fun with those three.
“Spikes was a big heart on the defense. (He) played with a lot of emotion,” Hightower said. “Dane was a great special teams guy as well as a guy to come in and play as well as he did. He did a great job. But we’re building right now. We’re all kind of getting back to what we’re doing, watching a little film, talking about things. I think it will be interesting to see how things (unfold). As a unit, we’ve been watching a lot of film together, learning the basic stuff right now so we’re not coming in to OTAs with too much on our plate. We’re teaching some of the younger guys and getting in with that.”
Hightower also pointed out that youngsters Steve Beauharnais, Ja’Gared Davis and Chris White are working hard, but has been particularly impressed by the work of Mayo.
“Working out now with him, he looks great,” Hightower said. “He’s a hard worker, always been a hard worker, always going to do what’s best for the team and what’s best for himself. I’m not sure how long he’s been up here or what he’s been doing, but he looks great.”
|Reports: Patriots cleared of wrongdoing regarding injury reports||04.25.14 at 8:26 am ET|
The Patriots have been cleared of any potential wrongdoing when it comes to injury reports, according to multiple media outlets.
Both Aqib Talib and Brandon Spikes took their shots at the franchise on the way out the door, saying that the team played fast-and-loose with how it reports injuries. However, an NFL spokesman said the Patriots were acting within the rules regarding Talib and Spikes.
“It was determined that the Patriots complied with the injury report procedures regarding both players,” NFL Senior Vice President of Communications Greg Aiello wrote in an email to ESPN.
“I know, I heard they put me on IR and stuff like that. That was just a false report,” Spikes said shortly after he signed with the Bills. “That’s just how things go there. Almost like what happened with Talib and his hip.
“That was just from the labor throughout the season, man. It was just — you know how it is – it’s a tough 16 games. All I needed was rest and rehab.”
Spikes’ claim was the second in a month. When he signed with the Broncos, Talib said he was listed with a hip injury, but he was quick to say he had no such problem.
“The Patriots have their way of reporting stuff, but I haven’t had a hip problem since Tampa,” Talib said. ‘The injury I had was actually a quad injury. It was reported as a hip injury, but that’s how they do things.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Mike Petraglia, Chris Price dish on Dante Scarnecchia, Brandon Spikes, protecting ‘Patriot Way’||04.17.14 at 5:52 pm ET|
FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia is joined by Chris Price to discuss the leadership that offensive captain Logan Mankins brings to the Patriots. Mankins defended the team against the harsh criticism of former linebacker Brandon Spikes and laughed off a prediction from Spikes that his new team, the Bills, would beat the Patriots twice in 2014. Petraglia and Price also discuss how Mankins will stabilize a veteran offensive line that lost its longtime coach, Dante Scarnecchia, to retirement.
|Logan Mankins on Brandon Spikes’ guarantee of wins over Patriots: ‘Spikes being Spikes’||at 12:52 pm ET|
Spikes, who signed with the Bills as a free agent after four seasons in New England, recently predicted a pair of Buffalo wins over the Patriots this season. He also took a shot at New England’s approach to the injury report, hinting that the Patriots aren’t completely truthful when it comes to reporting injuries.
But on Thursday morning, Mankins wasn’t interested in retaliating.
“Everyone has their own opinions and everyone likes to think they know it all,” said Mankins during a break in his offseason workout program while at Gillette Stadium. “It really doesn’t bother me too much. I know what we have here. I know the owner pretty well now over the years and the head coach and those guys care about the team. They care about winning football games. Whatever anyone says, it kind of rolls off our backs. We know what we have here.
“I don’t pay too much attention to the media that much anyways — I’ve only heard guys joking around about what he said. But I think it’s just Brandon being Brandon. He has a pretty good sense of humor, I think — well, I don’t know if it’s good. But he likes to make jokes. I don’t know if he was joking here or being serious. But I think that’s just Spikes being Spikes.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
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