|Bill Belichick calls firing of Chip Kelly ‘really disappointing’||12.31.15 at 11:06 am ET|
FOXBORO — When it comes to other coaches in the NFL, Bill Belichick is a company guy.
He made that clear Thursday when he was asked if he pays attention to the coaching changes around the NFL at this time of year.
“I would say it’s really disappointing,” Belichick began. “Chip Kelly, to me, is a really good football coach and he does a great job. I think he’s done a good job with that team. It’s disappointing to see. [Like] Josh [McDaniels] in Denver, there’s a lot of examples. But pretty much everybody’s on a one-year contract in this league.”
On Tuesday evening, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, a Brookline native, “released” Kelly as the head coach, despite consecutive 10-win seasons to start his era in South Philly.
But a disastrous six-win season this year, capped off by a 38-24 home loss to the Redskins last Saturday that eliminated Philadelphia, was the final straw for the Eagles owner.
There was drama in Philadelphia that began with three straight losses to Miami (at home), Tampa Bay (home) and at Detroit on Thanksgiving day. The Eagles blew a 16-3 lead at home to the Dolphins before allowing 45 points apiece in losses to the Bucs and Lions.
They followed that up with a shocking 35-28 win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium But even that win came with high drama. On the plane back from Providence, reports leaked that DeMarco Murray had a discussion with Lurie. Those reports led to speculation that Murray and other players were going over Kelly’s head and complaining about the way they were being used. A win over LeSean McCoy in Philly rekindled playoff hopes. But after Saturday’s loss against Washington, a game in which Jason Peters reportedly asked out, cornerback Malcolm Jenkins (who returned a pick-6 against Tom Brady) said there has to be a change in the way players are being coached.
Belichick had a significantly different perspective.
|Scouting Report: What you have to know about Eagles-Patriots||12.05.15 at 1:20 pm ET|
Here’s what you have to know when it comes to Sunday’s game between the Eagles (4-7) and Patriots (10-1) at Gillette Stadium:
WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL
As we stated here and here, if there’s a week for the occasionally inconsistent New England running game to get back on track, it’s Sunday against the Eagles. After an OK start, Philly has really struggled to hold back opposing ballcarriers over the last five games. In that stretch, the Eagles have allowed an average of 165.6 rushing yards per contest. That includes two games where opponents ran for more than 200 yards on Philly (Tampa Bay had 283 yards on the ground, while Carolina had 204 rushing yards). On the other side of the ball, the Patriots have failed to hit 100 yards on the ground as a team in any of their 11 games, and have averaged 78.9 rushing yards per game in the last six weeks. As a team, the Patriots are 29th in the league for the season, averaging 87.2 rushing yards per game. LeGarrette Blount (142 carries, 596 rushing yards, 6 TDs), Brandon Bolden (16 carries, 37 yards) and James White (13 carries, 35 yards) will likely see the bulk of the work, with Trey Williams working his way into the mix if he gets up to speed fast enough. Through 11 games, the Patriots are on pace to have their least-productive season when it comes to running the ball since 2000. A strong game against a woeful Philly run defense from the likes of Blount and Bolden will get things pointed in the right direction.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL
There’s still some uncertainty about just who is going to be available to Tom Brady (65 percent completion rate, 3,600 yards, 28 TDs, 4 INTs, 106.7 passer rating) and the Patriots passing game on Sunday. We know Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman remain sidelined, but it sounds like Danny Amendola (49 catches, 60 targets, 520 yards, 2 TDs) is at least going to try and give it a go. That would mean a combination of Amendola, Brandon LaFell (21 catches, 47 targets, 342 yards) and Scott Chandler (19 catches, 34 targets, 198 yards, 3 TDs) would comprise the primary targets for Brady in the passing game, with the likes of Bolden (9 catches, 13 targets, 125 yards, 2 TDs), White (12 catches, 19 targets, 195 yards) and Keshawn Martin (7 catches, 8 targets, 103 yards, 1 TD) all mixed in offering support. The Eagles have been average at best when it comes to slowing the pass, having allowed an average of 253 passing yards per game (20th in the league). According to Football Outsiders, Philly has been poor at slowing No. 1 receivers (the Eagles are 31st in the league), while its defense against running backs in the passing game is one of the best around (fourth-best in the NFL). If the Patriots can lean on Amendola avoid any more injuries to their skill position players, he might be in line for a healthy amount of work Sunday against Philly. (One more thing: expect Brady to look for Eagles rookie cornerback Eric Rowe, who will get the start with Nolan Carroll out with an ankle injury. Rowe was flambeed on Thanksgiving against Calvin Johnson, who had a pair of touchdowns in Detroit’s win.)
|Bill Belichick respects Chip Kelly’s offense: ‘It’s a really explosive group’||12.02.15 at 7:57 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Despite what they’ve shown in two consecutive embarrassing blowing losses, the Philadelphia Eagles are a team to be taken seriously.
Bill Belichick is particularly respectful of an offense that, thanks to Chip Kelly’s influence, has plenty of offensive options spread throughout the roster.
The Eagles have Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford as quarterback options. They have Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Miles Austin. Bradford is coming off a shoulder injury and could start this week at Gillette Stadium. They have one of the most reliable tight ends in the game in Brent Celek. They have Zach Ertz behind Celek. And they have last year’s leading rusher in Demarco Murray.
“It’s a really explosive group,” Belichick said. “They’ve got great backs, tight ends are really productive, receivers are productive and they’ve got two good quarterbacks. We played against [Sam] Bradford and we played against [Mark] Sanchez and practiced against Sanchez last year. They really have two starting quarterbacks, they have really three starting running backs, a couple starting tight ends and multiple skill players at receiver, so they can really put two offensive skill groups out there on two different fields and be pretty good. That’s a big challenge for us and they’re very talented offensively. They can score from anywhere on the field in one or two plays, so it’s just hard to keep them contained.”
The problem for Philly in the last two weeks, a 45-17 home loss to Tampa Bay and a 45-14 embarrassment to the Lions on Thanksgiving, has been their defense, which hasn’t given the offense a chance to get started. But if it does, Belichick thinks Bradford or Sanchez is fully capable of taking advantage of numerous weapons. The Eagles are averaging 247 yards passing per game, ranking them sixth in the NFC and in the middle of the pack of the NFL.
“They run their offense. Sanchez has kept the ball a couple times, which I don’t think that’s really Bradford’s thing. A couple of those zone read keep plays but not a lot. I wouldn’t say that Mark is back there to lead the team in rushing or anything like that,” Belichick said Wednesday. “There are other quarterbacks that run more. He’s done it a couple times. I don’t think it’s something you see a lot of from Bradford. They both can run the offense.
“Really they have two starting quarterbacks. Both those payers have a lot of production in this league. They’ve won a lot of big games, they’ve played in a lot of games, they have a lot of experience. They’re fortunate they have great depth at that positon. There are a lot of teams that might not have one guy as good as the two they have.”
|5 things you have to know about Eagles: Chip Kelly on the hot seat as Philly comes to town||12.01.15 at 3:58 pm ET|
Five things you have to know about the Eagles, who visit Foxboro Sunday for a date with the Patriots.
1. Head coach Chip Kelly is feeling the heat.
It’s been tough sledding the last month-plus for Kelly, who has seen his team lose four of their last five, with the last three defeats by a combined score of 110-50 against three teams that won’t come anywhere near the playoffs. (If it weren’t for the free-falling Cowboys, the 4-7 Eagles would be basement-dwellers in the pathetic NFC East.) As a result, it’s easy to see why the coach is under fire. Even after buying himself some goodwill with back-to-back 10-6 seasons in his first two years at the helm in Philly, the mess that the 2015 season has become for him and his team have people calling for his removal. Part of that is that after winning control of personnel decisions in the offseason and adding the likes of Sam Bradford, Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell and Miles Austin, the majority of his additions have had bad years. As a result, it’s not premature to say that, starting with this weekend against the Patriots, Kelly begins a five-game stretch where he could very well be coaching for his job.
2. No one is sure what the Eagles are going to do at quarterback right now.
The Philadelphia quarterback situation is up in the air: there’s a school of thought that after suffering a concussion and a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder earlier in the year against the Dolphins, Sam Bradford (64 percent completion rate, 2,297 passing yards, 11 TDs, 10 INTs, passer rating of 82.4) has rehabbed enough to a point where he would return to the starting lineup against the Patriots. (Early reports out of Philly seem to indicate that Bradford will be a go against New England.) Bradford hasn’t been a Pro Bowler, but there was some improvement shown over the course of the season until the injury against Miami. With Bradford on the sidelines, backup Mark Sanchez (65 percent completion rate, 616 passing yards, 4 TDs, 4 INTs, passer rating of 80.7) has struggled mightily, turning the ball over five times and throwing only four touchdowns. Whoever has been the quarterback hasn’t gotten much help from the ground game: DeMarco Murray (155 carries, 545 rushing yards, 4 TDs, 3.5 yards per carry) has been underwhelming at best for the Eagles in his first season in Philly. Meanwhile, Ryan Matthews (75 carries, 427 rushing yards, 5 TDs, 5.7 YPC) and third-down back Darren Sproles (47 carries, 168 rushing yards, 1 TD, 3.6 YPC) offer some support out of the backfield.
3. On paper, they appear to have a deep passing game.
It’s debatable who has the capability to get the ball to them, but the fact that the Eagles have six guys with 20 or more catches is worth noting. It’s a group led by wide receiver Jordan Matthews (58 catches, 89 targets, 625 yards, 3 TDs), but it’s a collection that also gets a ton of help from backs and tight ends. Murray (39 catches, 295 receiving yards, 1 TD) and Sproles (36 catches, 58 targets, 258 receiving yards, 1 TD) have proven to be effective at times out of the backfield, while tight ends Zach Ertz (38 catches, 62 targets, 394 receiving yards) and Brent Celek (20 catches, 27 targets, 294 receiving yards, 3 TDs) are also part of a nice package of pass catchers.
|Which teams are most likely to deal on NFL draft weekend?||04.27.15 at 9:39 pm ET|
With draft weekend approaching, which teams will be the most inclined to make some moves? From our viewpoint — in no particular order — here are the teams most likely to deal, as well as a couple of scenarios thrown in for good measure. (On this same topic, make sure you read this excellent piece from Andrew Healy at Football Outsiders on draft trade value. His study reveals that the biggest buyer of draft value since 2000 has been New England. The biggest seller? Washington.)
New England and Philadelphia — basically, football BFF’s Bill Belichick and Chip Kelly: Provided they stay in their current positions, these two will likely be trade partners for a very long time. Belichick was a semi-regular draft weekend trade partner with the Eagles when Andy Reid was in Philly, and given his background with Kelly, there’s certainly reason to think that there will be at least one swap this weekend between the Patriots and Eagles. For what it’s worth, since he took control of the Patriots in 2000, by our count, Belichick has made 102 trades. In all, he’s made the most deals with Oakland (9), followed by Denver, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Green Bay (all 6). That’s followed by Houston, New Orleans, Baltimore and Philly (5).
Atlanta: Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff has been known to make a big splash from time to time — remember wide receiver Julio Jones? — and given the fact that Atlanta holds the eighth overall pick in the draft (and has a desperate need for a pass rusher), they could be one of those teams looking to potentially move up to take Vic Beasley or Dante Fowler, Jr., two individuals who may not make it out of the top 5.
Cleveland: In our chat with him on “NFL Sunday,” draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network pointed to the Browns and Ravens as two of the teams who might be more inclined to pull off a draft weekend deal. Cleveland has Nos. 12 and 19 in the first round — the Browns are one of two teams with two first-round selections. And based on what we saw last year with the big deal with the Bills, they certainly wouldn’t shy away from trying to swing a big first-round deal to try and move up. Cleveland certainly has some needs across the board, and will have a real chance to address those issues come Thursday.
Baltimore: Like Belichick, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome is a big fan of compensatory picks, and while those can’t be dealt away, the three comp selections that Baltimore acquired this offseason — in addition to the fourth and fifth rounders Newsome got from Detroit in exchange for defensive tackle Haloti Ngata — certainly gives Newsome the sort of potential draft capital he might need if he wants to try and climb the board. One thing that Patriots fans might want to keep in mind here is that Newsome and Belichick are very tight (Belichick has made five draft weekend deals with the Ravens). If the Patriots see a potential target sliding down the board and could put together a package for Baltimore’s 26th overall pick, that certainly remains a possibility.
San Diego sends Chargers QB Philip Rivers to Tennessee for the No. 2 overall pick: This sounds like an interesting deal, but it apparently stalled out over the weekend. It would be a fascinating swap that would fundamentally be a Rivers-for-Mariota deal between San Diego and Tennessee, with multiple picks presumably going in both directions. While that would appear to mean the Chargers would be hitting the reset button with a rookie quarterback as opposed to the 33-year-old Rivers, as Jeremiah reminded us in our Sunday conversation with him, while the front office has changed in San Diego, the Chargers have never been shy about making big draft weekend deals. Individuals like Rivers (2004) and LaDanian Tomlinson (2001) landed in San Diego after draft swaps.
|Who are Bill Belichick’s favorite trade partners?||03.19.15 at 4:13 pm ET|
If you’re of the mind that the Patriots need to make some deals in hopes of shoring up the secondary of defensive line in the wake of the personnel losses of Darrelle Revis or Vince Wilfork, you should be checking out the rosters in Houston, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.
History tells us that when it comes to dealing, Bill Belichick has a relatively small circle of teams — and more specifically, individuals — he prefers to deal with more than others. Since he took control of the Patriots in 2000, by our count, Belichick has made 102 trades. In all, he’s made the most deals with Oakland (9), followed by Denver, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Green Bay (all 6). That’s followed by Houston, New Orleans, Baltimore and Philly (5).
The Raiders have been Belichick’s most frequent trade partner, and deals with Oakland have arguably produced the most blockbusters, including the trades of Richard Seymour and Randy Moss. However, it’s worth noting that since the death of Al Davis in October 2011, the Patriots have not made a single deal with Oakland. (The last trade between New England and Oakland came when the two teams swapped picks on draft weekend in April of that year.) That’s not to rule out any sort of future trades between the two teams — only to suggest that the Raiders might not necessarily be the first team Belichick targets when he picks up the phone to talk about a deal this time around.
As for the best of the rest, it’s also unlikely that the Patriots and Broncos look to make a deal anytime soon, given the nature of their rivalry, as well as the fact that old friends Mike Shanahan or Josh McDaniels are no longer with Denver. Tampa Bay and Green Bay remain intriguing trade partners, as the Packers and GM Ted Thompson have shown a willingness to work with Belichick in the past on more than a few occasions over the last decade, with the last trade between the two teams coming last summer when New England acquired defensive tackle Jerel Worthy for a draft pick. And while the Patriots and Bears made a couple of notable deals a little over a decade ago (New England acquired Ted Washington in 2003 and a swap of draft picks that same year netted the Patriots Ty Warren), the two teams haven’t made a deal since 2007.
(Two teams we do know who are likely off Belichick’s trade radar: the Colts and Jets. While New York received compensation for losing Belichick to the Patriots in 2000, since he arrived in New England, Belichick has not made a personnel swap with either Indy or the Jets.)
That brings us to the Texans, Ravens, Eagles and Bucs. All four of these franchises have shown a willingness to work with the Patriots in the past, and given the deep relationship Belichick has with most of the decision-makers in each one of the four teams, it makes it a possibility that they could put together another deal in the not-too-distant future.
|What we learned Sunday: J.J. Watt is a beast, Steve Smith is awesome and Adam Vinatieri is ageless||09.28.14 at 8:55 pm ET|
With the Patriots set to play Monday night, here’s a quick look at what we learned around the league Sunday, mostly from a New England perspective.
1. J.J. Watt could be an MVP.
Remarkably, the last defensive player to win MVP was Lawrence Taylor in 1986, but if he continues on his current path, Houston’s J.J. Watt could certainly make a case to be the next defensive player to take home the honor. The defensive lineman had six quarterback hurries and a pass defense before picking off an EJ Manuel pass and rumbling 80 yards for the pick-six to help lift the Texans past the Bills.
Through the first three games, the Patriots offense has five touchdowns. Watt has two of his own this year, and is just the second player since the merger with a receive touchdown and interception in the same season. (Ex-Pats linebacker and current Houston assistant Mike Vrabel was the first to turn the trick back in 2005.)
2. EJ Manuel is apparently suffering from a crisis of confidence. The second-year Buffalo quarterback was apparently pretty shaken in the wake of Sunday’s loss to the Texans. Manuel ended the day 21-for-44 for 225 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Texans as the Bills lost their second straight to fall to 2-2 on the young season. To be fair, things were a little shaky around Manuel, given the fact that his offensive line was struggling, there were a couple of key drops and the fire-breathing monster known as Watt was on the other side of the ball. Coach Doug Marrone said after the game there were no plans to hand the reins to backup Kyle Orton, but the idea of jumpstarting the offense with a switch at quarterback has to be entering the minds of the Buffalo coaching staff.
3. Maybe the Dolphins weren’t as dysfunctional as we thought. The week of back-and-forth between Miami coach Joe Philbin and quarterback Ryan Tannehill ended Sunday in London, where the Dolphins absolutely crushed the Raiders, 38-14, at Wembley Stadium. Tannehill, who engaged in a weird public exchange with his coach after Philbin refused to name him the starter in the media, was an impressive 23-for-31 for 278 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Meanwhile, the Raiders, who looked good last week when they came to Foxboro and put a scare in the Patriots, were a mess. Their issues were compounded by the fact that rookie quarterback Derek Carr left the game in the third quarter, and told the media after the game that he has a high ankle sprain and sprained MCL. Yikes.
4. The Jets are in trouble. New York struggled at home against the Lions, and it was another bad outing for quarterback Geno Smith, who was 17-for-33 for 209 yards, one touchdown and one pick in a 24-17 loss to Detroit. After the game, Rex Ryan said he was standing by Smith. “I’m confident in Geno. If Geno’s healthy, then Geno Smith will start,” Ryan told reporters after the game. “I’m not gonna replace him. I feel good about Geno, and again, I think he’s gonna get it turned. He’s a tough, resilient young man, and I think we’re gonna win.” Meanwhile, it doesn’t sound like Jets fans are going to stand by Geno.
Geno Smith yelled “F— You” to a fan who was taunting him as he walked off the field. ‘ Steve Overmyer (@OvermyerTV) September 28, 2014
Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson told reporters after the game that fans who were booing Smith should “shut up.” Yikes.
5. Not everyone needs a punter.
Sunday’s game between the Packers and Bears was either the second or third game in NFL history without a punt. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns in the 38-17 win over Chicago. The Packers, who had been suffering from offensive inconsistency over the course of the first three games of the year, scored on their first six possessions and finished with 358 total yards on the way to their fifth consecutive victory at Soldier Field. It was a bit of a redemption for Rodgers, who told Green Bay fans to “R-E-L-A-X” this week when they started worrying about the Packers‘ 1-2 start.
6. No one knows what to make of the Steelers.
There are weeks where the Steelers look ready to crush all those who come before them. Then, there are occasions like Sunday, where they melt down in the fourth quarter and end up losing a game to a Tampa Bay team ‘¦ that lost to the Falcons by six touchdowns a week ago. Mike Glennon hit Vincent Jackson with the game-winner with six seconds left on the way to a shocking 27-24 win over host Pittsburgh. The Steelers, who were poised to move to 3-1 with the win, fell back to .500 with the surprising last-second loss. (Pittsburgh committed a whopping 13 penalties for 125 yards.)
7. Steve Smith is never not awesome.
As promised, the gritty receiver one-upped his old team. The former Panther lit up Carolina for seven catches — including an awesome reception on a tipped ball he ended up taking for a touchdown — for 139 yards and a pair of scores on the way to a 38-10 win over the Panthers. There wasn’t “blood and guts” like he promised, but Smith, who played 13 seasons in Carolina before he was cut in the offseason, clearly enjoyed making his old team eat a little crow after the contest. “I’m 35 years old and I ran by those guys like they were schoolyard kids,” the veteran said after the game. Meanwhile, while we were all upset about the state of the Panthers’ offense, it’s worth noting that Carolina has yielded 75 points in two games.
I want to know what this kid is thinking.
8. Adam Vinatieri is some sort of superhuman.
It’s remarkable to think that the former Patriots kicker is now in his ninth season in Indy, and while the 41-year-old isn’t the kicker he once was, he’s still money when it comes to working extra points and field goals. Through four games, he’s 8-for-8 on field goal attempts and 16-for-16 on extra-point attempts, including a pair of field goals and five extra points Sunday in the 41-17 win over the Titans.
Oh, and this happened 18 years ago.
9. Chip Kelly can feel Bill Belichick‘s pain.
Philly went West on Sunday and nearly knocked off the Niners, despite the fact that the Eagles continue to have serious offensive line issues. Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis went down in Week 1, and with starting right tackle Lane Johnson already serving a four-game suspension, things got even worse when starting center Jason Kelce went down last week with a sports hernia. Despite those woes, Philly nearly pulled off the upset, despite the fact that the Eagles’ offense didn’t pass midfield until the fourth quarter and it had just two more first downs (five) than turnovers (three) late in the third quarter. Things should get better next week when Johnson is eligible to return from his ban, but the fact that Kelce and Mathis won’t be back until the second half of the season should provide some interesting phone conversation between BFF’s Kelly and Belichick when it comes to commiserating about their woes.
10. The Patriots are in first place.
The Bills’ loss to the Texans in Houston allowed the 2-1 Patriots to sneak into first place in the AFC East.
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