|What to make of: Buffalo Bills||07.21.15 at 12:30 pm ET|
With Patriots camp opening up on July 30 at Gillette Stadium, WEEI.com takes a quick look at each of the Patriots’ rivals in the AFC East, their additions, losses and what each team needs to accomplish in camp.
2014 finish: 9-7, 2nd in AFC East
Key losses: Head coach Doug Marrone, LB Kiko Alonso, RB C.J. Spiller, WR Stevie Johnson, CB Da’Norris Searcy, TE Scott Chandler
Camp goals: Find a consistent starting quarterback, Rex Ryan gets his message across to the team
What to make of the Bills:
Since the Bills last made the playoffs in 2000, the Bills have been in desperate search for a consistent starting quarterback.
The fact that they’re pinning their hopes on Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor to compete with EJ Manuel doesn’t offer up a lot of hope for Bills fans but Rex Ryan is a head coach accustomed to working with quarterback mediocrity. He’s also a coach that made the AFC championship in back-to-back years with Mark Sanchez.
Manuel, who started most of the 2013 and part of the 2014 seasons, is considered by many close to the team as the frontrunner to regain the starting job. But he will compete with free-agent Taylor and trade acquisition Cassel for the gig.
The biggest deal of Buffalo’s offseason came on March 10 when they dealt linebacker Kiko Alonso to Philadelphia for star running back LeSean McCoy, who scored just five touchdowns in 2014. The team immediately signed the six-year veteran to a five-year, $40 million deal. He replaces C.J. Spiller, who left to sign with the Saints.
After posting a surprising 9-7 record under second-year coach Doug Marrone, the team was dealt a surprising blow when he quit, taking advantage of a three-day out clause in his contract that would still pay him his full 2015 salary.
|Scott Chandler has already discovered that Tom Brady is ‘working harder than anybody’||04.28.15 at 1:37 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It didn’t take tight end Scott Chandler long to realize what makes the Patriots the best organization in football and one of the best in pro sports.
Chandler, working out with his new teammates at Gillette Stadium, has realized that when your best player is also your hardest worker, it’s sets the tone for everyone else, even after winning a Super Bowl.
“It’s exciting to get to play with a guy who’s had some success in the past but that past success doesn’t determine future success,” Chandler said, after taking a break from his offseason workout day on Tuesday. “We’re all working hard right now and Tom’s working harder than anybody.
“It’s been fun to come in and these guys that you’ve seen and heard about for so long, to get to actually meet them and just a great group of guys. I’m just trying to find my niche in there.”
Chandler has also had the chance to rub elbows with Rob Gronkowski, another tight end is figures fairly prominently in the Patriots’ 2015 offensive plans.
“I had met Gronk a few times,” Chandler said. “He’s a fun loving guy. A fun guy to be around. He works hard. He’s a fun teammate to have. You can tell that they’re a classy organization from the top to the bottom. Guys want to work hard and do things the right way.”
Chandler said his first contact with his new teammates has come mainly through the workout program and not beforehand.
“Guys were enjoying their offseason time and I got here and there were a couple of guys I knew from before. Other than that, it’s kind of a been a learning experience. I think we want to do it the right way. You want to work hard and work hard to win games, and win games as a team.
“I think you want to do everything you can to just ingratiate yourself to your teammates. You see how hard guys work and you want to work hard with them. That’s what builds a team.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Scott Chandler is excited to get to Foxboro and ‘deal with’ Bill Belichick, work with Rob Gronkowski||03.20.15 at 4:53 pm ET|
Scott Chandler knows the situation he’s in coming to Foxboro. He leaves Buffalo where he was clearly the best pass-catching tight end in the Bills’ offense and comes to New England where he will be the second-most recognizable tight end behind Rob Gronkowski.
During a conference call Friday, Chandler called Bill Belichick a straight shooter.
Did Belichick lay out to him what it will mean to be the second tight end in a potent offense behind Rob Gronkowski?
“We didn’t get into that too terribly much,” Chandler said. “I think what I want to do is be part of a team that’s a winning team. Whatever that role that the coaches define for me there, I want to do whatever I can to help the team win.
“I’ve talked to Rob on the field after games and that’s about it. I’m sure we’ll get to know each other and get along well. He seems like a fun guy to be around. Obviously he’s a great player. I’m looking forward to being able to learn from him and watch him do his thing. He’s pretty fun to watch.”
Chandler, like Gronk, is a tall tight end, at 6-foot-7, and – like Gronk – could provide more blocking along the offensive line as he has developed that part of his game.
“I think it’s one of those things that it can be tough, but I’ve been dealing with it for a while now,” Chandler added. “You learn to sink or swim pretty quick in this league. You want to do whatever you can to get low and stay low. It’s hard, but you learn how to deal with it because if you can’t get the job done, they’re going to find someone else.”
Chandler, who signed a two-year, $5.3 million contract on March 13, will be more than happy to make some personal sacrifices to attain more team glory. In five non-playoff seasons in Buffalo, Chandler caught 17 touchdowns, including 28 catches on 42 targets and four touchdowns in nine games against the Patriots.
“I think you go into a game just wanting to do what it takes for your team to win and sometimes that means catching the ball and sometimes that means blocking well,” Chandler said. “I’ve probably had games that I didn’t have very good stats, but they were some of my better games throughout my career. It just so happened that in those games I needed to catch the ball a little bit and I was able to do that.”
Belichick can trust that Chandler has been taught well. Before playing for the Bills, he played his college ball under Belichick’s good friend and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. Read the rest of this entry »
|Report: Patriots ‘targeting’ Stevie Johnson||03.13.15 at 8:06 pm ET|
The Patriots apparently really like what they saw from the Bills passing game in the last couple of seasons.
Early on Friday, the Patriots reportedly signed Scott Chandler to add to depth to their tight end position. Later in the day, it was reported by Dianna Maria Russini of NBC4 in Washington, D.C. that the Patriots have their eyes on receiver Stevie Johnson and are ‘targeting’ the wideout.
The 28-year-old Johnson left the Bills after the 2013 season when he was traded by Buffalo to San Francisco. This week, he was released by the 49ers after a disappointing season.
Before 2014, Johnson earned a reputation as one of the better route runners in the game. While with the Bills, Johnson caught four touchdown passes in nine games against the Patriots. The Patriots are looking for another perimeter passing threat to join Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman and the recently restructured Danny Amendola.
In seven seasons, Johnson has 31 touchdown receptions and over 4,200 yards receiving. His best seasons came in a three-year stretch between 2010-12, when he caught at least 75 passes and had over 1,000 yards receiving in each season. Johnson would figure to immediately be ahead of Aaron Dobson, Brian Tyms, Josh Boyce, Brandon Gibson and Kevin Dorsey on the depth chart.
The Patriots are targeting WR Stevie Johnson per sources
‘ Dianna Marie Russini (@NBCdianna) March 13, 2015
|As opening of free agency officially approaches, Texans cut ties with WR Andre Johnson||03.09.15 at 4:36 pm ET|
With 24 hours before the official start of free agency Tuesday afternoon, teams continued to make roster adjustments in preparation for the opening of the market. Here are some of the more notable moves:
The Texans cut wide receiver Andre Johnson. The veteran, who has played all 12 of his seasons in Houston, has 1,012 catches for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns over the course of his career, all while working with some truly wretched quarterbacks. Johnson will almost certainly be one of the most attractive targets in free agency, but he’ll turn 34 before the start of the 2015 season, which means he’ll have to take a slight pay cut from the $21.5 million (over two seasons) he had left on his deal with the Texans. It’s debatable as to whether or not the Patriots would be in the mix for Johnson, but he’ll certainly find plenty of interested partners when free agency begins on Tuesday, including the Colts, who recently cut ties with veteran Reggie Wayne.
One note we forgot to include earlier in the day — the Bills have retained pass-rushing specialist Jerry Hughes, as the TCU product has apparently agreed to a five-year deal worth roughly $45 million, with $20 million in guaranteed money. Hughes had 10 sacks in each of his first two seasons with Buffalo, and the 6-foot-2, 253-pounder will likely have s sizable role in Rex Ryan‘s defensive scheme with the Bills.
The Eagles reached an agreement on a new contract with outside linebacker Brandon Graham. According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, it’s a four-year deal with $26 million, with $14 million in guaranteed money. One of the highest-rated edge defenders in the league, the 6-foot-2, 265-pounder finished with a career-high 5.5 sacks with Philly in 2014.
|Rex Ryan: ‘It was terrible’ watching Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX||02.18.15 at 1:36 pm ET|
Although Rex Ryan is no longer coaching the Jets, he didn’t go very far as he’s still in the AFC East coaching the Bills, which means the Patriots remain his top competition within the division.
Speaking at the NFL combine Wednesday, Ryan was asked what it was like to see the Patriots win the Super Bowl.
“It was terrible, next question,” Ryan joked to reporters. “No, you know what? That was a great game, obviously a great game. I think it was anticipated it was going to be a great game. You had two outstanding teams, both of them really well coached. And, obviously, it was an outstanding game.”
The day of the Super Bowl a report came out that the Bills would be interested in acquiring Patriots star cornerback Darrelle Revis, reuniting Revis with his former coach in New York. Ryan was asked if he had any interest in the Patriots’ corner, and Ryan didn’t take the bait, as he didn’t want to get himself involved with potentially tampering with another team’s player.
“All right, now, I was waiting. I knew it would come from somebody,” said Ryan. “See, my first year, I would have done this and I would have swung at that pitch, and probably been fined for tampering or something like that. This time, no way am I going to talk about somebody else’s player, so I refuse to do that.”
Ryan also was asked about Deflategate, and if the accusations changed the way he viewed the Patriots winning the Super Bowl. The Bills coach said it shouldn’t take away from the win, as the team earned it.
“I think they earned the Super Bowl, period,” he said. “That’s the way I’d see it.”
|Free Agent Snapshot: Jerry Hughes||02.17.15 at 12:00 pm ET|
When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that all of these guys aren’t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they’re players we think would be a good fit in New England. We already featured C.J. Spiller, Hakeem Nicks, Torrey Smith, Pernell McPhee, Charles Clay and Rahim Moore. Today we’re featuring Jerry Hughes.
Position: Defensive end
Age: 26 (Aug. 13, 1988)
Weight: 254 pounds
The skinny: Hughes just wrapped up the end of his rookie contract with the Bills, after he was traded to Buffalo from Indianapolis in April of 2013 for linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. The Colts drafted Hughes in the first round, No. 31 overall in the 2010 draft. The change in scenery did a great deal for the TCU product, as in three seasons with the Colts he recorded just five sacks, but in only two as a member of the Bills he recorded 19.5 sacks. He was part of one of the best defensive lines in football last season, as Buffalo finished with 54 sacks as a team, which led the entire NFL. Hughes finished the year with 9.5 sacks and 36 tackles.
With Rex Ryan taking over in Buffalo, it doesn’t seem likely Hughes will re-sign, and he will become a free agent for the first time in his career.
By the numbers: In 32 regular-season games in Buffalo, Hughes has five multi-sack games.
Why it would work: With Akeem Ayers likely not to return to the Patriots next season, New England will be in search for a pass rusher, and Hughes can certainly get after the quarterback. The 19.5 sacks in the past two seasons speak for itself, as no one player on the Patriots had more than that the past two seasons (Chandler Jones is the closest with 17.5). He would be a great complement on the defensive line to line up opposite Jones, and the two could team up to be a force in the pass rush, which the Patriots haven’t been known for over the past few seasons. He’s also been durable, playing in all 16 games the past three seasons, and 12 in his first two years in the league.
Why it might not work: This one is pretty simple — money. With the way Hughes has performed in Buffalo the past two years, he’s made a name for himself as a dominant pass rusher, and with how rare good pass rushers are on the open market, Hughes is sure to cash in. A benchmark for a potential Hughes contract would be around $8 million a year, and with the players on the Patriots defense that need their contracts taken care of, (Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty) the money just likely won’t be there for a player like Hughes. While Hughes is a great player, the Patriots don’t seem to be in a position to go out and sign a defensive end of his caliber.