|Patriots players offer support, prayers after Marathon tragedy||04.15.13 at 7:40 pm ET|
Several members of the Patriots took to Twitter Monday afternoon in the wake of the deadly Boston Marathon bombing to express their condolences and offer support and prayers.
Wow can’t believe what just happened at the Boston Marathon. Praying for everyone down there.
— Rob Gronkowski (@RobGronkowski) April 15, 2013
Ain’t much left to do but pray.
— Stevan Ridley (@StevanRidley) April 15, 2013
Praying for everyone in Boston right now.
— Danny aiken (@Danny_Aiken) April 15, 2013
Prayers go out to everyone that has been affected by this awful event.
— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) April 15, 2013
Saddened by what happened today in Boston. Thoughts and prayers go out to all affected.
— Dan Connolly(@63Connolly) April 15, 2013
|Why the 2012 Patriots offensive line is the best of Tom Brady’s career||12.01.12 at 2:45 pm ET|
At the start of the season, it certainly appeared the Patriots’ offensive line was going to be in for a tough year.
The group was coming off an offseason of change — veteran left tackle Matt Light retired, while both starting left guard Logan Mankins and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer were coming off major injuries that limited their effectiveness in 2011. After a Pro Bowl season, right guard Brian Waters didn’t return, and center Dan Koppen was one of the final cuts before the start of the season. Those factors, combined with a preseason that saw them try multiple combinations on the line — some of which struggled badly — made many believe that this was going to be a rough year up front.
But despite the fact that the group has had little to no overall consistency this season, through 11 games, the group has not only survived, it has thrived. They will face a mighty challenge from San Francisco and Houston (two teams with terrific defensive fronts) at the end of the season, but to this point on the schedule, here are five reasons why the 2012 New England offense line is the best offensive line of Tom Brady’s career.
1. Lack of sacks and other pressure: We tend to get caught up in sacks when it comes to measuring the worth of an offensive line, but it has to be mentioned that the New England offensive line has done a masterful job keeping Brady clean this year — over the first 11 games of the season. Brady has been sacked 15 times. The 15 sacks are tied for the third-fewest total in the league — the Patriots trail only the Giants (13 sacks allowed), Buccaneers (14) and Broncos (14), and are tied with the Texans. In addition, the 36 quarterback hits that have been allowed by the New England offensive line is fifth in the league, trailing only the Broncos (28), Buccaneers (30), Titans (31) and Giants (34).
It’s a pace that would see him finish the year with 21 sacks, his fewest since 2009 when he was sacked 16 times. (For what it’s worth, Brady was sacked 21 times in 2007.) With 36 quarterbacks hits through 11 games, that would add up to 52 over 16 games — the fewest since 2010, when the line gave up the same number. (For Brady’s complete career sack numbers, click HERE.) Currently, the New England offensive line is in the midst of an impressive streak when it comes to protection: it hasn’t allowed a sack since the third quarter of a Nov. 11 win over the Bills in Foxboro. That’s a stretch of nine-plus quarters, or 146:18 of game action.
(For what it’s worth, it’s hard to get much pressure on a team that runs as much hurry up as the Patriots do. Opposing defensive coordinators have a hard enough time keeping the right number of players on the field consistently, let alone knowing which plays to call. Regardless, lack of pressure is lack of pressure.)
2. Smarter football: The Patriots offensive line has cut way back on penalties over the last year. Through 11 games last season, the New England offensive line had been flagged for 20 penalties for 151 yards, the most of any positional group on the team. In that same stretch in 2012, the line has a total of eight penalties for 55 yards.
3. The running game: Some of the biggest fans of the fact that the Patriots now have a consistent running presence? The offensive line. Any offensive lineman will tell you that it’s easier — and frankly, a lot more fun — to run block instead of pass block. In run blocking, you’re going forward and getting a chance to hit someone instead of hanging back and protecting. To that point, through 11 games, the Patriots have run the ball 71 more times than they did through the same stretch of games in 2011.
But it goes deeper than that. The bigger numbers in the running game means pass protection numbers get better simply because of the fact that there are fewer dropbacks and fewer opportunities to rush the quarterback. And the increased presence of the running game means that teams have to respect the possibility of play-action, which means that opposing defensive lines are always kept on their collective toes.
|Setting the scene: Patriots-Cardinals||09.16.12 at 9:34 am ET|
FOXBORO — Ideal conditions are expected for the Patriots home opener against the Arizona Cardinals. Sunny skies and temperatures reaching 70 degrees are expected for the 1 p.m. kickoff as the Patriots look to improve to 2-0 on the season. Wind should not be a significant factor as there will be a breeze out of the northwest of seven miles an hour.
The Patriots are a perfect 10-0 in home openers at Gillette Stadium, dating back to the win on Monday Night Football in 2002 when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in their first game as defending Super Bowl champions. They have won 15 of their last 17 home openers.
The Patriots haven’t lost a home opener since Bill Belichick‘s second year in New England, when they were beaten by the New York Jets, 10-3. The 10-game streak, like their nine-game winning streak in openers overall, is the longest such streak in the NFL.
The Patriots have beaten the Cardinals five straight times, the longest current winning streak against an opponent. This is the fifth time the Patriots are playing an NFC opponent in a home opener but the first time since losing to Tampa Bay in 2000. New England has also opened the season at home against an NFC opponent in 1978 (Washington), 1985 (Green Bay) and the Cardinals (1996).
The Patriots have seven players listed as questionable with the most notable being starting right guard Dan Connolly. He suffered a head injury serving as fullback on Stevan Ridley‘s one-yard TD run against Tennessee. Connolly returned to full pads practice on Thursday and was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday. If he doesn’t play, expect Donald Thomas to take his spot at right guard, with Marcus Cannon a possibility as a back-up.
But Cannon might be the starting right tackle if Sebastian Vollmer can’t go because of his chronically sore back. Vollmer was also one of the questionable seven for the Patriots. Also questionable are running back Shane Vereen (foot), Nick McDonald (shoulder), Sterling Moore (knee), Daniel Fells (shin) and rookie DB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring). All were limited in practice on Thursday and Friday.
With one catch today, Wes Welker will pass the newest member of the Patriots Hall of Fame – Troy Brown – and become the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions. Both Welker and Brown are tied at 557.
For the Cardinals, they are expected to start Kevin Kolb at quarterback. Kolb came in last Sunday in relief of John Skelton and led the Cardinals on a game-winning fourth-quarter drive. Skelton injured his right ankle and did not practice this week. He was officially listed as doubtful on Arizona’s injury report on Friday and will likely be inactive for the game.
Before the 2011 season, Kolb was signed to a six-year, $63.5 million contract, with $12 million guaranteed, to be the starting quarterback in Arizona. Kolb suffered a toe injury late in the season last year and Skelton came on to replace him. This year, Kolb was again designated the starting quarterback but suffered a bruised rib in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, allowing Skelton to win the starter’s job.
The Cardinals are 8-2 over their last 10 regular season games. Only the Patriots – at 9-1 – are better in the NFL.
|Bill Belichick on Stevan Ridley: ‘I thought he ran hard’||09.10.12 at 6:11 pm ET|
FOXBORO — On Sunday, Bill Belichick watched Stevan Ridley run the ball 21 times for 125 yards and get rewarded with a one-yard TD run. On Monday, Belichick watched the film and it confirmed what he saw from the sidelines.
“I thought he ran hard, he had some good runs,” Belichick said of Ridley, who had a 17-yard run for his longest of the day. “He had some other runs that we’ve talked about that could have been better. I thought he finished runs, he ran hard, broke a couple tackles in the secondary. Overall, we just need to be more consistent with the running game.
“I think we still left some yards out on the field, plenty of them, for one reason or another, combination of everything. Just keep trying to improve that, but there were some good plays to the outside, we were able to get outside, get to the off-tackle, outside areas. Stevan made some yards after contact and in a couple cases, he made secondary players miss around the line of scrimmage and got some extra yardage.”
Tom Brady emphasized after the win how important a strong running game was to a tough, physical team and thought Ridley established that. Belichick agreed, adding there are still some areas where Ridley can improve even more. In 2006, Laurence Maroney had a breakout game against the Bengals on Monday night football in Cincinnati when he ran for 125 yards on 15 carries. It was his only 100-yard game of the season and he reached the century mark just six more times in his career, which ended in 2010.
So, what’s the key to consistency and not leaving “yards on the field”?
“A combination of things,” Belichick said. “Running game involves a lot in terms of footwork, technique, setting up blocks, reading the hole properly – any of those things can put the linemen at a disadvantage or not take advantage of an opportunity that’s there.”
Of course, at the end of last season, Ridley was benched in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl after fumbling in the Denver playoff game.
Belichick was asked Monday if he has stressed that this year to Ridley.
“We stress it every week,” Belichick said. “I’ve never not stressed it since I’ve coached. It’ll always be stressed; that will never be not stressed.
“With everybody specifically, doesn’t matter – anybody that touches the ball. Anybody that touches the ball, there’s nothing more important than possession of the ball. Anybody that handles it, that’s their number one job – take care of it.”
The rest of Belichick presser from Monday touched on a number of things – Tom Brady’s nose, Dan Connolly, who appeared to get injured blocking for Ridley’s TD run in the third quarter, and Marcus Cannon debuting at right guard midway through the game.
|Is Ryan Wendell ready to replace Dan Koppen at center?||09.03.12 at 2:35 pm ET|
FOXBORO — There will be a new full-time center snapping the ball to Tom Brady in 2012.
In the preseason that featured more moving parts along the Patriots offensive line than a well-oiled machine, Ryan Wendell appears to be that guy.
The reason? With center Dan Connolly likely moving over to take Brian Waters‘ spot at right guard and with guard/center Matt Tennant still learning the Patriots blocking schemes, Wendell is most-suited to the center job.
Wendell (3 starts) and Connolly (11 starts) shared those duties in 2011 when Dan Koppen went out with an ankle injury in the season opener in Miami. But this season, with the release of Koppen, Wendell appears to be the man who will get the call to handle signal-calling along the line and stabilize interior protection. Wendell has the experience advantage over Donald Thomas, who is certainly also in the mix as the Patriots consider interior depth along the offensive line.
Still, Wendell, who has played and practiced with Koppen since joining the Patriots in 2008 as an undrafted rookie out of Fresno State, the same school that produced Patriots Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins under coach Pat Hill.
“Koppen’s a great guy, great player and a great friend of mine and I’m happy to be his friend in the future,” Wendell said on Monday. “Being behind Koppen and watching him play for the last several years has been a great learning experience on how to be a pro.
“Specific examples, just work ethic, study habits, how to practice, being a pro is lot more than about what you do on Sundays.”
Wendell played in all four preseason games, starting the games against the Eagles and Giants. Last year, he started three games at center. He has started five games in his three seasons in the NFL.
“I think every year is different,” Wendell said. “The only similarity is that you always are trying to do the best you can in your role. You go out and try to work every day and you just try to get better at whatever that role is.
“You’re just happy to be out there and work hard each day and try to get better at your job. I’m most comfortable every day going out and trying to play football, do my best.”
There has been plenty of speculation that no one has seen the “real” Patriots offensive line yet since they did not employ the “no-huddle” or “hurry-up” in preseason games. Could the tempo change drastically this Sunday?
“We’ll have to see on Sunday when that comes up,” Wendell said. “I’m really excited. I think everybody is to get the season started in earnest, to fight for wins that count toward our record. I think we’re all excited for that, I am. I’m just really excited to go out there and just try to do the best I can in my role.
“Like I said, we’ll find out on Sunday.”
|Ten things we learned from Day 6 of Patriots training camp||08.01.12 at 9:37 pm ET|
FOXBORO – Gillette Stadium filled with 22,633 fans on Wednesday night as season-ticket holders and Foxboro residents watched the Patriots hold a two-hour practice under the lights.
SOLDER AND SPIKES SCRAP
Early in the session, left tackle Nate Solder and Brandon Spikes got into a scuffle. At the end of one running play, Solder blocked Spikes to the ground, and gave him an extra push for good measure. Spikes retaliated, running at Solder and knocking him to the ground drawing a crowd of players from each squad. Solder was sent to run a penalty lap for the incident, while Spikes limped to the locker room with a trainer. Spikes soon returned to practice though and did not appear injured.
Brandon Lloyd, Dan Connolly, Visanthe Shiancoe, Tony Flammetta, Jamey Richard and Will Allen all missed their first practices of training camp on Wednesday.
Other New England players who did not practice on Wednesday were Alfonzo Dennard, Tracy White, Nick McDonald, Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer, Jeremy Ebert, Daniel Fells, Myron Pryor, Nate Ebner, Markus Zusevics and Jonathan Fanene. Brian Waters and Jake Ballard were absent again, while Ebner, Ebert and Zusevics were all seen wearing shorts on the sideline.
Among the more notable absences of the day were Lloyd and Connolly, who were each absent for the first time this training camp. Connolly’s absence make four potential starting linemen who have missed at least one day of training camp this year, as Waters has not arrived at camp while Mankins and Vollmer have not practiced due to injury.
RECEIVERS VS. CORNERS
In the one-on-one matchups between receivers and cornerbacks in the end zone, Wes Welker emerged as the most consistent star of the group, beating Kyle Arrington all four times for scores. Each time, Welker cut to the outside, catching the ball before the pylon and cutting back into the end zone after the catch.
Matthew Slater and Ras-I Dowling had a very competitive matchup, with each of them made a nice play in the battle. Dowling swatted the ball out of Slater’s hands in the pair’s first matchup to prevent a score. However, on the next play Slater shed the press coverage, made a move to the inside and was wide open in the corner of the end zone for the score.
DONTE’ STALLWORTH SEES MORE TIME WITH FIRST TEAM
With Lloyd absent from Wednesday’s practice, Donte’ Stallworth saw an increase of reps with the first team and performed well on the day. The 10th year man out of Tennessee saw a lot of time as an outside receiver opposite of Jabar Gaffney and consistently made plays in the end zone, including a nice catch in his matchup with Sterling Moore.
SAFETIES VS. RUNNING BACKS
Eric Kettani, the fullback who served in the Navy last season, looked good in a one-on-one drill between the safeties and the running backs. Kettani made a few nice cuts to get open and make catches, while serving as a good pass protector for the quarterback.
While Stevan Ridley was not perfect in the drill — he was beaten in pass protection by Tavon Wilson — the second-year running back made a nice cut and catch to beat Dowling.
Ridley appeared to take the most reps with the first team in red-zone runs, rushing the ball between the tackles for a few scores during the drill. On one play, Ridley skipped over a fallen lineman and scampered ten yards through the middle of the defense for a score.
Besides Ridley, Brandon Bolden has continued to impress during training camp, as he took the ball to the end zone a few times during second-team red-zone rushes. His best run came on a counter play that fooled the defense enough to give him plenty of space for the score.
|Dan Connolly got paid like a starter, but he’s still looking for a full-time gig||06.11.12 at 12:13 pm ET|
There are parts of the Patriots offensive line that are in a state of flux (or soon will be), but even though he’s not locked in on one position, you have to figure that Dan Connolly is going to be part of the mix in some form or fashion.
Connolly, who will turn 30 in September, started 11 games at center last year when Dan Koppen went down in the regular-season opener against the Dolphins with a season-ending injury. But even if Koppen returns to the position in 2012, Connolly will likely figure into the mix at one of the guard spots (presumably backing up either Logan Mankins at left guard or Brian Waters — if he does return — at right guard) he has plenty of experience there as well, with many of his 17 regular-season starts in 2009 and 2010 at guard as well.
Connolly said he doesn’t care where he’ll line up in 2012.
“I don’t know if I have a preference,” said Connolly, who played 986 offensive snaps last season, according to Pro Football Focus. “I’ve been playing them all and I enjoy whatever I play when I’m playing it. So whatever it is, that’s what it is.”
Even if he doesn’t open the year as a starter, he’s certainly getting paid like one. In the offseason, the 6-foot-4, 313-pounder signed a three-year deal with the Patriots that includes base salaries of $1.25 million (2012), $2.25 million (2013) and $3 million (2014). That’s starter money. But at the same time, Connolly isn’t going to assume anything just because he landed a big payday.
“No, I don’t look at it that way,” he said when asked about his new deal and whether that improves his chances of landing a starting job. “I’m looking at it as earning a spot on the team every year and just competing. The money is something completely separate.
“I don’t know where I’m gong to be as far as position-wise,” he added. “I’m just out here competing, and I’ll fit into the spot that’s best for me and best for the team.”
2013 PATRIOTS DRAFT PICKS
2013 NFL DRAFT
- New England Patriots Links 5/20/13 - Brady Better Than Ever; OTAs Begin
- Dwight Freeney Signs With Chargers; Pats Showed 'Last Minute Interest'
- USA Today: Gronkowski Dealing With Back Issue, Could Face (Another)...
- Patriots Sign Second-Round Pick Jamie Collins
- New England Patriots Links 5/17/13 - Hightower Understands Work Ethic...
- Rapoport: Gronkowski Forearm Surgery 'Imminent'; Likely To Be Monday
- Kyle Love Claimed By Jaguars; Joins Brandon Deaderick