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Peter King on M&M: Patriots ‘desperately need Aqib Talib’ 10.04.13 at 2:16 pm ET
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Peter King

Peter King

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, at Fenway Park for Friday’s Red Sox-Rays game, stopped by for his weekly visit with Mut & Merloni to discuss news from around the NFL.

Aqib Talib is having a tremendous season, leading to speculation that the Patriots will attempt to sign the cornerback to a contract extension to avoid having him become a free agent at the end of the season. However, questionable behavior in Talib’s past makes the decision more difficult.

“If you’re Bob Kraft, Jonathan Kraft, Bill Belichick, what you have to do is, you really have to do — I’m sure they’ve done a lot of homework already on Aqib Talib before they acquired him. And I’m sure that they’re doing more now. Because I’m sure Bill understands that as a football player, they desperately need Aqib Talib,” King said.

“I was thinking the other day when I read that [Vince] Wilfork goes down. This is the first thought that comes into my mind. I said, If I’m a Patriots fan, I’m saying, ‘Oh, boy, at least it wasn’t Talib.’ … Look, Vince Wilfork one day will get discussed in the room about going to Canton, in my opinion. But right now, this team, the way football is played — 61-39 pass-run ratio in the NFL so far this year, or something like that, it’s very close — 61 percent passing, going against Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones last week, [Peyton] Manning down the road. If you don’t have at least one good [cornerback] — to me, you know who he is right now? He’s Richard Sherman. He’s good, he’s physical and he knows it. And I want my cornerback to have those three traits. So, to me, that is a gigantic [factor]. You can’t let him go. But on the other hand, you also can’t guarantee him [$]30 million, and a year and a half down the road he does something stupid.

“Hey, there’s no right answer if you’re the Patriots. But I think the rightest answer is to sign Aqib Talib for as long as you can, but build enough insurance points into the contract so that if he does something dumb in two years, you’re not liable for this gigantic cap hit.”

The Patriots added oft-injured Austin Collie to the roster Thursday in an attempt to add depth to the receiving corps.

“There’s nobody who knows — and I mean nobody — who knows if he’s going to last two years, two weeks or two days. He has had so many problems with concussions,” King said. “And with the way the league is right now, they’re going to be so adamant about Austin Collie being right every time he goes on the field. I viewed it honestly as a shot in the dark, what can it hurt. Bring him in here. He’s definitely a worthy player on a winning team.

“But the guy’s been out there for a while. And the guy was in camp this summer with San Francisco. … Really at that time, nobody needed Austin Collie more than the 49ers. And they didn’t keep him.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Chandler Jones on Patriots D: ‘Without swagger, you’re not anything’ 09.02.12 at 4:48 pm ET
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Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty says team's defense is ready to get its swagger back. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — There’s a very fine line in the NFL between swagger and overconfidence.

In training camp, the Patriots defense showed they might be able to return to the form of the mid-2000s when Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel led a defensive group that knew it had the other team beat before they stepped on the field. Time after time, the defense broke up plays by Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer. There was yelling and back-slapping as defenders like Patrick Chung, Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo whooped it up on the field and on the sideline every time a big defensive play was made.

The faces have changed but the team remains the same and these Patriots are determined to be known as much for their big-play ability on defense as they are on offense.

“That’s big for any player,” Devin McCourty said on Sunday of the role swagger plays during an NFL game. “To play in this league and to go against the top players every Sunday, you have to have that confidence, you have to be able to take the field and believe in yourself and your teammates, and I think we have that right now.

“I think what’s important to keep that is to keep getting better each day in practice. Confidence comes from you doing the right things in practice and watching film. We’ll continue to do that and get ready to go.”

Even rookie Chandler Jones understands the importance of the “S” word.

“Swagger? Without swagger, you’re not anything I feel like,” Jones said. “I have to have swagger to play this game.”

Then there’s Bill Belichick‘s take on playing with a healthy dose of confidence. Asked if swagger were among the most important traits of a good defense, the Patriots coach threw out some words that are direct by-products. Read the rest of this entry »

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Patriots begin cuts with release of Deion Branch, Brian Hoyer and Dan Koppen 08.31.12 at 2:25 pm ET
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Deion Branch was one of the most popular Patriots players over the last decade. (AP)

FOXBORO — Four big-name Patriots were released Friday afternoon before the team’s 4 p.m. practice as the team began its final cutdown to 53 players by the 9 p.m. NFL deadline.

The biggest name is Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch, a release first reported by Shalise Manza-Young of The Boston Globe. The 33-year-old Branch has played 10 years in the NFL, including the better part of six seasons with the Patriots. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Branch had 51 catches for 702 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Branch expressed his appreciation for his time in New England Friday afternoon on his Twitter page. Truly thankful for all the support from everybody. I Love You guys #LovePeaceandHappiness

According to league sources and various reports as of Friday at 1:30 p.m., the Patriots also cut back-up quarterback Brian Hoyer, offensive lineman Dan Koppen and defensive back James Ihedigbo in their attempt to get down to 53 players before the league-mandated deadline of Friday at 9 p.m.

The moves also cleared over $5 million in cap space on the 2012 Patriots roster. The release of Hoyer ($1.927 million), Ihedigbo ($765,000), Koppen ($1.375 million) and Branch ($1.325 million) total of $5.392 million in freed cap space.

Koppen, 32, has been with the Patriots since 2003, when he was drafted out of Boston College. The former Pro Bowler has started 120 regular-season games over the course of his career in New England and was a member of the 2003 and 2004 Super Bowl champions. The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder had struggled over the course of the summer but had played better as of late.

As for Hoyer, he had served as a backup to Tom Brady since he was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State in 2009. In limited regular-season action, the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder had gone 27-for-43 for 286 yards with one touchdown and one interception over the course of his career in New England.

The 28-year-old Ihedigbo, who tweeted his dismissal on Friday afternoon, played one season with New England, finishing the 2011 campaign with 69 tackles (46 solo) in 16 games, 12 of them starts. Ihedigbo, 6-foot-1 and 214 pounds, is a product of UMass.

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Ryan Mallett: ‘I feel a lot more confident in what I’m doing’ 08.30.12 at 12:21 am ET
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Ryan Mallett - speaking after Wednesday's game - believes he's shown improvement this preseason. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The key question coming into camp for Ryan Mallett was just how much improvement could he show in the preseason.

After going 8-for-15 for 40 yards in seven possessions of the first half Wednesday night, the answer might still be up for debate.

“Not bad,” Mallett said after New England’s 6-3 loss to the Giants at MetLife Stadium. “There’s good things, bad things, stuff like that when we go look at the film, we’ll be like, ‘I could’ve done this better. I could’ve done that better.’ It’s just something you learn from.”

Learning wasn’t something he had a lot of opportunity to do a year ago. His preparation was shortened greatly by the lockout, limiting the number of live game reps he had.

“Last year, I didn’t really know too much, coming in late didn’t help,” Mallett said. “Having the spring and then the camp now was crucial for me, and I feel a lot more confident in what I’m doing.

“We’ve been practicing together for three or four weeks now. I wasn’t thinking about that. I just wanted to go out there and play.”

Mallett led the Patriots offense on it’s only scoring drive, leading them 51 yards in 12 plays during a four-minute, 58-second drive in the second quarter. Brandon Bolden finished it up by running three times into the line to set up Stephen Gostkowski‘s 20-yard field goal.

“As a quarterback, I don’t like the [term] game manager. You want to go out there and make plays when they present themselves. You don’t want to force anything but I don’t know about managing the game. You have to stay within yourself when you’re playing the game.

“It doesn’t change anything for me. I’m just going to go out there like I’m preparing to start every week and get the game plan down, get the opponent down, and keep moving along.”

With Wednesday night in the books and Friday’s two late TD passes at Tampa Bay, has Mallett shown enough to overtake Brian Hoyer as the No. 2 QB on the Patriots behind Tom Brady? Only head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels know for sure. But Mallett was the only Patriots quarterback not to get strip-sacked in the preseason. Brady was victimized twice and Hoyer was stripped late in the fourth quarter Wednesday, leading to the game-winning Giants field goal. Read the rest of this entry »

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Preseason stat check of Patriots quarterbacks 08.21.12 at 2:09 pm ET
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A quick look at where the Patriots quarterbacks stand statistically after two weeks of the preseason:

Tom Brady: 19 total snaps (all in the preseason opener)
4-for-7 for 30 yards, 1 sack.

Brian Hoyer: 41 total snaps (9 in the preseason opener, 32 on Monday)
13-for-32 for 100 yards, 1 touchdown pass, 2 sacks.

Ryan Mallett: 48 total snaps (14 in the preseason opener, 34 on Monday)
18-for-39 for 194 yards, 1 touchdown pass, 1 interception.

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More on Stephen Gostkowski’s big night and Jeff Demps’ big contract at 10:08 am ET
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Stephen Gostkowski

Three things worth passing along this Tuesday morning:

1) He didn’t make the cut when it came to “10 Things We Learned,” but Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski had a heck of a night against the Eagles. Gostkowski was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts, including dead on connections from 51, 35 and 55 yards. (In the regular season, Gostkowski is 5-for-8 from 50 yards or more in his career, including a career-best 53-yard field goal at Denver on Nov. 11, 2009. His only 50-plus field goal at Gillette Stadium in the regular season was a 51-yarder vs. Chicago on Nov. 26, 2006.) Working with backup kicker Chris Koepplin, the Patriots put four of their five kickoffs into the end zone, and finished with three touchbacks. All in all, a very good night for the New England kicking game.

2) From the press box, here are a few final snaps counts from Monday night, per Stephen Hewitt:

QB Ryan Mallett: 34
QB Brian Hoyer: 32
RB Stevan Ridley: 19 (plus two on kick return)
RB Shane Vereen: (28 (plus three on kick return)
RB Brandon Bolden: 15 (plus one on kick return and one on punt return)
DE Chandler Jones: 11
LB Dont’a Hightower: 11

3) Good read here on the contract for new Patriots running back Jeff Demps from Brian McIntyre of NFL.com. According to McIntyre, Demps received a signing bonus of $11,000. In addition to the signing bonus, the Patriots have fully guaranteed $200,000 of the $390,000 base salary Demps would earn if he makes the 53-man roster. According to McIntyre, the total of $211,000 in guaranteed money is the second-largest sum given to a 2012 undrafted free agent, exceeded only by the $214,000 the Cowboys guaranteed offensive lineman Ronald Leary.

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10 things we learned Tuesday from Patriots training camp 08.14.12 at 11:22 pm ET
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Defensive back Patrick Chung showed ball skills on Tuesday, picking off Tom Brady. (AP)

FOXBORO – The Patriots held their second straight day of practice in full pads on the upper practice fields Tuesday. The team announced that it will practice from 1:30-4 Wednesday through Friday. The team likely will be off Saturday, the same day Bruce Springsteen plays Gillette Stadium. Camp will break as the team likely will have a walkthrough on Sunday before hosting the Eagles Monday night at Gillette.

ROLL CALL

The biggest news came off the field as the team confirmed that linebacker Dane Fletcher cleared injury waivers and was immediately placed on season-ending injured reserve. The team also confirmed that wide receiver Britt Davis was released outright after an injury settlement, meaning he is not eligible to rejoin the team on injured reserve. Tuesday’s moves leaves the active roster at 88 players.

Among the remaining players, nine were not seen on Monday, most notably tight end Aaron Hernandez. Also missing were fullback Eric Kettani,, fullback Spencer Larsen, linebacker Tracy White, offensive lineman Matt Kopa, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, tight end Jake Ballard, and defensive linemen Gerard Warren and Jonathan Fanene.

Safeties Malcolm Williams, safety James Ihedigboreturned.

There was again a lengthy list of players in shorts, including Rob Gronkowski defensive linemen Myron Pryor, Daniel Fells, receiver Brandon Lloyd for a second straight day, defensive back Alfonzo Dennard, offensive tackle Markus Zusevics, and offensive linemen Kyle Hix and Sebastian Vollmer.

Here are nine other things we learned from camp Tuesday.

MANKINS STILL HELD BACK

Logan Mankins was in padded pants on Tuesday, but again he was in only shells. The hope is he might be able to finally fully participate on Wednesday in full 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills. Mankins was again primarily an observer on the sidelines, only taking part in agility and technique drills.

PICK PARTY

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett were all victimized by a very aggressive Patriots secondary on Tuesday. All three quarterbacks were intercepted. The secondary forced a number of turnovers, getting their hands on the ball and making good on opportunities to intercept passes. Steve Gregory, Patrick Chung and Kyle Arrington were all able to corral picks, and the defense was especially strong overall during situational work. Read the rest of this entry »

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