|Wes Welker ‘probable’ for return to New England Sunday night||11.22.13 at 3:49 pm ET|
Wes Welker is on track to make his return to Foxboro Sunday night.
There had been serious doubt at the beginning of the week as to whether Welker would be able to play Sunday night against the Patriots when he suffered a head/neck injury while catching a pass in the fourth quarter last Sunday night against Kansas City.
Welker missed practice on Wednesday but returned Thursday and was again at practice on Friday. After attending practice Friday, Welker was officially listed as probable on the final injury report of the week.
Broncos interim coach Jack Del Rio said that Welker has passed all the concussion baseline tests from independent neurologists necessary for him to be listed as probable.
Meanwhile, tight end Julius Thomas was listed as questionable after a second straight limited practice with a knee injury. Even if Thomas is able to play, Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme figure to see more playing time at tight end in multiple packages.
Cornerback Champ Bailey is also questionable with a foot injury but is expected to play.
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 7: Patriots bump up a spot to No. 8||10.15.13 at 11:17 am ET|
Week after week the NFL proves to be as unpredictable as the weather in New England. Who would’ve thought at the start of the season that the Giants would open the season 0-6? Or that the Chiefs, who won just two games last year, would be 6-0? The defending NFC South champion Falcons started the season in the top five of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Now they’ve plunged all the way to No. 20.
One thing about which there’s no doubt is the Broncos’ stranglehold on the top spot. Denver has rolled through its first six games and now is seeing Pro Bowlers Von Miller and Champ Bailey return to its defense. Behind the Broncos, no team has separated itself to become a clear second best in the league. With the Saints’ last-second loss to the Patriots, the Seahawks jump a spot to No. 2.
The much-anticipated Week 7 is near. Peyton Manning makes his first trip back to Indianapolis to play the Colts, who slipped to ninth after their Monday night loss to the Chargers. It should be another fun and wild week in the NFL.
1. (1) Broncos (6-0) — The undefeated Broncos didn’t even notice that Miller, the All-Pro linebacker, was missing for six weeks. Miller will just make the powerhouse even better with his return.
2. (3) Seahawks (5-1) — The imminent return of Percy Harvin and Zach Miller will help this offense greatly in the red zone. Russell Wilson and Co. have struggled to punch the ball in the end zone.
3. (2) Saints (5-1) — It’s never easy going into New England. The Saints were delivered their first loss, but they could have easily won that game with better coaching and clock management from Sean Payton. Great coaches make mistakes, too (just ask Bill Belichick). The Saints will be fine.
4. (4) 49ers (4-2) — Since back-to-back losses, the Niners have gone back to the ground game on offense. Running back Frank Gore had a total of 20 carries in Week 2 and 3. In the last three San Francisco victories, Gore is averaging 20 carries per game.
5. (6) Bengals (4-2) — With wins against the Steelers, Packers and Patriots, the Bengals are sitting pretty atop the AFC North.
|Brandon Lloyd: Champ Bailey taught me importance of ‘finishing the play’||10.03.12 at 5:40 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When Brandon Lloyd played for the Broncos from 2009 through the trading deadline of 2011, he went up against perennial Pro Bowl corner Champ Bailey every day in practice.
What did he learn?
“They were good battles,” Lloyd said. “I learned a lot from him, just from a technique standpoint, catching and finishing the play because Champ is one of the only cornerbacks I’ve gone against that that play is never over. He can catch the ball, and if you’re not bringing it in or if you’re not protecting it, then he will find a way to get it out.”
Lloyd is now going to be facing Bailey, with 50 career interceptions, for real on Sunday. But that doesn’t mean Bailey will be on Lloyd all day since he could be lined up against a receiver or tight end at the snap.
“Champ is a very talented kid when it comes to his film study and how he plays out there,” Lloyd said. “I’m sure that the coaching staff is going to do a good job of mixing up the routes and combinations that we’re doing out there.”
|Eric Mangini: Josh McDaniels will ‘have an impact’ on Saturday night against Denver||01.13.12 at 12:57 am ET|
Former Patriots defensive coordinator Eric Mangini said Thursday that he doesn’t see the fact that Josh McDaniels jumped from St. Louis to New England in the postseason as a “huge issue,” but says that the move will almost certainly “have an impact” on Saturday’s divisional playoff game between the Patriots and Broncos.
“I do think Josh can have an impact on this game this weekend. Not in terms of his knowledge of Tim Tebow, but more in terms of his knowledge of Denver’s defensive players, and the players in general,” said Mangini, who is currently working as an analyst for ESPN. “Because as a coach, your whole job is to help players improve on their weaknesses. And to try to get them to play better based on trends, but more importantly to take care of those weaknesses.
“In this situation, Josh can sit down with Tom (Brady) and say, ‘OK, these are the issues the guys in the secondary have. These are the issues the linebackers or defensive linemen have.’ That’s where I think his biggest impact is going to be.”
McDaniels, who was New England’s offensive coordinator from 2006 until 2008, became head coach in Denver the next year, and held that job for nearly two seasons. He was the Rams’ offensive coordinator in 2011, but was hired away by New England last week as an offensive assistant, and figures to take over as offensive coordinator in 2012 when Bill O’Brien becomes the head coach at Penn State.
“(The Patriots) were signing Josh before they knew they were playing Denver, so it wasn’t exactly cause-and-effect there,” Mangini said. “I think it’s a really good situation for New England. I don’t know if you’d ever have a situation like this in the future where a coach is going to be able to impact a game the way this has happened, this kind of coincidence.”
While there’s been a large outcry in Denver about the fact that the Patriots could hire the Broncos’ former head coach the week before they faced New England in a playoff game, fellow NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck said it’s a slippery slope if you start thinking about blocking movements of assistant coaches.
“You have to be careful if you try to start to block coaching moves when teams fire their head coach, so that the assistants are kind of sitting there, as lame ducks, waiting for when their next opportunity is,” Hasselbeck said. “If you’re closing doors down to hire assistants for teams that are still playing, I just think that’s a bad spot to be in as an assistant coach who was just coaching for a head coach who was fired.
“I can see Denver being upset about it, and I agree with Eric in terms of the information,” he added. “In some ways, it’s no different than talking to a quarterback that plays in the same division who faces somebody twice a year and saying, ‘Well, tell me what you think the best way to attack Champ Bailey is.’ And so I do think there’s knowledge there because of the familiarity with the players. But I don’t know that there’s really a right or fair way to start blocking coaches from moving from team to team at this point in the year.”
|Analysis: Some thoughts on the Patriots and the Pro Bowl||12.28.11 at 12:54 am ET|
Five thoughts on the news that the Patriots had eight players named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster on Tuesday:
•The Patriots led the AFC with eight players on the roster, a number that feels about right. However, in my mind, there were four guys who might feel like they’ve gotten hosed: left tackle Matt Light, punter Zoltan Mesko, cornerback Kyle Arrington and tight end Aaron Hernandez. Light is having one of the finest seasons of his lengthy career, while Miami’s Jake Long and New York’s D’Brickashaw Ferguson made it on rep. (We’ll concede the other spot to Cleveland’s Joe Thomas.) Ferguson in particular was a curious choice. As for Mesko, he probably doesn’t have the same case as Light, but if Oakland’s Shane Lechler (who is having a very good year) comes down with an “injury,” expect Mesko to get a call. While Arrington leads the conference in interceptions, it’s hard to argue with the trio of New York’s Darrelle Revis, Denver’s Champ Bailey and Houston’s Johnathan Joseph. Hernandez has a beef as well, as he lost out to San Diego’s Antonio Gates, who is having a subpar season with the Chargers.
•Three no-brainers for New England? Tom Brady, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski. Brady was named to the Pro Bowl for the seventh time in his career, and has 4,897 passing yards and 36 touchdowns in one of the best seasons of his career. Welker, the NFL’s leading receiver with 116 catches 1,518 yards and nine touchdowns, makes it for the fourth time. Meanwhile, Gronkowski, who has 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 15 receiving touchdowns, will be making his first appearance on the AFC roster. “It was a great surprise, an honor,” Gronkowski said on the NFL Network. “The teammates around me have helped me get to this level. With the veteran receivers, Aaron [Hernandez] at the other tight end, we have so many weapons, I’m just the one who happens to get (the ball).”
|Five takeaways from the Tuesday conference calls with Bill Belichick, Bill O’Brien and Nick Caserio||12.13.11 at 4:38 pm ET|
Five takeaways from the Tuesday afternoon conference calls with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and director of player personnel Nick Caserio:
1. Both Belichick and Caserio talked about their predraft experiences/thoughts on Denver quarterback Tim Tebow. Belichick and Tebow had a well-documented dinner together in the North End as part of Tebow’s predraft get-together with the Patriots.
“We brought Tim in and spent a whole day with him here, in addition to our other interactions with him,” recalled Belichick. “He’s an impressive young man. He had great success in college. I think all his attributes are pretty well documented. He’s a strong guy, smart, works hard, a great leader, great football character. He made a lot of big plays for Florida and won two national championships.”
“I think any meeting you have with a draft prospect, you’re just trying to get as much information as you possibly you can,” Caserio said. “You look at the body of the work on the field, you look at their production, then spend some time with them off the field, just go through and talk through some different things, football related. Smart guy, works hard, was a productive player in Florida. I’d say it was a lot like most of the meetings that we have with a lot of the players when they come out.”
2. Traditionally, either backup quarterback Brian Hoyer or No. 3 signal-caller Ryan Mallett will play the role of scout team QB in helping the defense prepare for the opposing quarterback that week. However, because Tebow has such a unique skill set, the Patriots may look elsewhere when trying to find a scout team quarterback this week in practice.
“That’s something we definitely have to talk about,” Belichick said. “The most important thing for our defense is to get a good look at as close to what the actual plays are going to look like as we can replicate them. However we do that, whichever players we use to try to get that look – we’ll definitely talk about that and try to do it in the way that gives the defense the best look at it.”
|Potential Patriots: Brian Williams||02.12.11 at 12:30 am ET|
Despite the looming labor uncertainty, as free agency approaches, WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that could be available to the Patriots in free agency this offseason.
Why the Patriots would be interested: Assuming that the Patriots get Leigh Bodden back healthy next season, the duo of Bodden and Devin McCourty could be one of the top corner tandems in the league. However, New England still needs to build depth at the position, and the possibility of a well-traveled veteran like the 31-year-old Williams providing quality snaps in relief of Bodden or McCourty or as a slot corner would make a lot of sense.
Why it would happen: There figure to be other, higher-profile corners on the market this offseason (Nnamdi Asomugha, Champ Bailey), but the Patriots are simply looking to build depth at the spot this offseason, and Williams, an unrestricted free agent, is as good a choice as any. He’s not a starter — age and injury have made sure of that — but he’s a smart veteran with a good rep. Williams has some positional versatility, as he’s played both corner and safety over the course of his career. It doesn’t appear the Falcons will franchise Williams, and he would almost certainly come at a reasonable price. He won’t remind anyone of Ty Law, but could provide a bridge year to younger corners or even step in in a pinch.
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