|In short span of time, Dion Lewis has made himself into integral part of Patriots offense||09.28.15 at 7:18 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Ivan Fears knew the Patriots had something in Dion Lewis before most anyone else realized it.
The longtime Patriots running backs coach said Monday there were flashes of what Lewis was capable of over the course of the spring and summer workouts leading up to training camp.
“We knew there was something there — we had a feeling there was something there, and we let it play out,” Fears said. “He took advantage of preseason games and practice sessions and he’s done a good job. Like all the guys, he’s [carved] out a little role for himself.”
He added: “He’s got exceptional quickness and he’s got the vision to go with it. He’s got the Kevin Faulk-type of vision. He sees a lot, but he can make things happen because of his feet and his ability to change directions. So, we’ll see what happens. He was hurt when he first came into the league. He was not as productive. He had some injuries, and now he’s had a year since that injury, so he was ready. His body responded, and he’s ready to go.”
After being signed to a future contract by the Patriots late last season, Lewis has responded with an impressive start to the 2015 season. Through three games, he leads the Patriots in rushing (30 carries, 146 yards, two touchdowns), but has also become a vital part of the passing game (15 catches — good for third on the team — for 179 yards). While his two fumbles (one lost) have stood out, he managed to display some nice mental toughness when it comes to bouncing back after making errors.
One thing that’s really stood out for Lewis over the course of the first three games is not just his quickness and dependability as a pass catcher out of the backfield, but his willingness to get tough yards between the tackles. Despite the fact that’s not a usual part of the responsibilities for a third-down back, Fears isn’t surprised the 5-foot-8, 195-pounder managed to display some toughness while grinding out some of that tough yardage.
“That was his MO at Pitt when he was in college,” Fears said. “He was a very productive every-down back. He’s not unfamiliar with running in between the tackles, so we just let him do what he does. We try to feature the strong points of each one of those guys when they’re out there and Dion is an exceptional runner. That was his strong suit in college, and he’s kind of proven to us he can do more than that.”
Lewis joins an impressive lineage of offensive options who have lined up at third-down back for the Patriots over the last decade, a group that includes Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen. According to Fears, Lewis has a lot of Faulk in his game.
“He’s very similar to Kevin — Kevin, of course. played at LSU, and was a hell of an every-down back,” he said. “The only limitation that these guys have had is the size factor. Everybody just knocked them because of it. But believe me, they’ve proven a lot of people wrong.
“Dion has still got a lot of work to do. We’re not giving him any crown right now. We’re just saying he’s been very good through three games and we look forward to see what he can do for us in the future.”
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|Danny Woodhead ‘loves’ San Diego, but ‘had 3 great years’ with Patriots||12.06.14 at 10:30 am ET|
Even though he stands just 5-foot-8, it was hard not to miss Danny Woodhead as a member of the Patriots, as the shifty running back made a name for himself in New England and became a fan favorite over his three seasons with the team.
After not being re-signed following the 2012 season, Woodhead latched on with San Diego. This season wasn’t kind to him as he suffered a broken fibula in Week 3 and is out for the season, so he won’t be playing against his former team Sunday night. Woodhead did take some time to reflect on his three years in New England and what life is like with the Chargers.
“It’s been a great experience,” Woodhead said via phone on Friday. “We love it out here, my family and I. It’s been a great time for the last two years now. Like any other job I’ve had — New York, New England — I’m just trying to take advantage of what I got and that is the opportunities I’ve got. That’s what I am trying to do.”
Woodhead, 29, broke out as a player with the Patriots. After barely playing from 2008-10 with the Jets, he was released on Sept. 14, 2010. Just four days later, the Patriots signed him — one day before the two teams played in Week 2. He finished the year playing in 14 games and had 97 carries for 547 yards and five touchdowns, while adding another receiving.
In 2011 and 2012 he continued to be the dependable shake-up back in the Patriots backfield, with the ability to catch the ball as well. He had just one touchdown in 2011, but seven in 2012, including four on the ground. Woodhead was not re-signed following the 2012 season as the team had a crowded running back group.
The running back did admit it was tough to leave the organization he was with for three seasons, one which gave him the opportunity to break out as an NFL player.
“Definitely. I mean, when you’ve been at a spot for — I mean I was there for three years, it was my longest stop,” said Woodhead. “It’s obviously going to be an adjustment, but since day one I’ve been out here I’ve been welcomed in my this organization and I feel very, very blessed to be here. I love the organization, the coaches, the players. It’s been a great fit for my family and I.”
“I was given an opportunity to do what I do and that is to play football,” he added. “Obviously I met a lot of great people and played for great coaches, played with great teammates. There’s a lot of things you can take from it. I had three great years there and I am very thankful for it. I am onto a new part of my career and I am obviously loving where I’m at right now.”
|Mr. Consistency: TE Tim Wright setting new standard for reliability in Patriots passing game||11.26.14 at 10:26 am ET|
FOXBORO — Tim Wright is in some rarefied air.
In his first season with the Patriots, the tight end has proven himself to be an eminently reliable part of the passing game — he has 23 catches on 26 targets. Even with the understanding that one of the targets was a throwaway by quarterback Tom Brady (an uncatchable ball), that’s an 88 percent catch rate, the best on the New England roster when it comes to players who have been targeted by Brady at least 20 times.
If he continues at his current rate, he’ll set a new standard for the Patriots. Since 2006, no member of the Patriots who has been targeted at least 20 times has a reception rate of better than 80 percent.
Of course, none of this is particularly new for Wright — last season with the Buccaneers, he proved equally sure-handed, as he caught 71 percent of the passes (54 receptions on 76 targets) that were thrown his way. But his target numbers this year — combined with his six receiving touchdowns (second on the team to fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski), have made him one of the surprise success stories when you’re talking about the 2014 Patriots offense.
Part of Wright’s success is rooted in the fact that most teams are solely focused on stopping Gronkowski, and have usually dedicated at least two defenders per play in hopes of trying to slow down the big fella. But it’s another thing altogether to take advantage of the opportunities when they’re presented to you, and Wright has done just that.
“Every time we throw to him it’s a touchdown — we’ll try to find him more down there,” Brady said after Wright’s two-touchdown performance against the Lions. “He does a great job in the coverage and finds the open spots.”
While the touchdown ratio is impressive — more than one-quarter of his catches have resulted in touchdowns — his work as a reliable target has really distinguished him from the rest of the field. Since 2006 — when targets were first tallied, on five different occasions, a New England pass catcher who was targeted at least 20 times caught 77 percent of the passes that were thrown in his direction. The latest high-level connection came in 2010 when running back Danny Woodhead caught 34 of the 44 passes that were thrown his way.
Prior to that, veteran running back Kevin Faulk did it three times: Faulk caught 58 of the 75 passes thrown his way in 2008, while both wide receiver Wes Welker (112-of-145) and Faulk (47-of-61) hit the 77 percent mark in 2007. And Faulk caught 43 of the 56 passes thrown his way in 2006 to reach the same plateau. (While Welker was targeted more than any other receiver between 2007 and 2012 and was consistently over 70 percent between 2007 and 2011, he never topped the 77 percent mark.)
According to Wright, the key to being a good target is simple.
|Danny Woodhead: ‘If people are shocked, they’re shocked’||01.05.14 at 6:01 pm ET|
CINCINNATI — So many times in New England, Danny Woodhead was the silent little engine that could.
On Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, Woodhead – as he did so often in Foxboro – let his feet and hands do the talking in a 27-10 Chargers win over the Bengals that put Woodhead into familiar territory.
For the fourth straight season, the former Patriot finds himself in the AFC divisional playoffs. He figures to be another big weapon for Philip Rivers and the Chargers when they take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos next Sunday.
Sunday, he set the tone early with a five-yard TD run right up the middle, putting San Diego up, 7-0, and sending a message that the team that came within a bad call on an overtime field goal by Kansas City last week had come to Cincinnati with every intention of winning. The 11-5 Bengals, champions of the AFC North, were favored by a touchdown on their home turf in the rematch of the iconic “Freezer Bowl” in the 1981 AFC championship.
“We practiced all week with the idea of coming in here to win,” Woodhead said. “We were underdogs. If people are shocked, they’re shocked. There’s nothing we can do about that. Our job was to go out there and execute.”
That’s exactly what Woodhead, Rivers and the Chargers did against a Bengals team that didn’t lose all season at home before Sunday. The Chargers committed no turnovers in 56 snaps. Woodhead carried the ball 15 times for 54 yards and gained another 14 on two catches.
The Patriots let him go after the 2012 season and he signed a two-year, $3.5 million contract with the Chargers in March, a deal that included a $1 million signing bonus. The Chargers wanted a threat in the backfield that would be hard to account for in open space. He was that and more Sunday as he cut through big holes his offensive line established.
“I just try to take advantage of every opportunity I’m given. Our offensive line was great today and set the tempo early,” Woodhead said. “We ran and ran and we just build momentum.”
Woodhead was there so many times on Sunday like he was in New England. Every time Rivers needed a big play to put the game away in the second half, it was Woodhead’s number that was called. He carried the ball three times on San Diego’s opening drive of the third quarter, which ended in a touchdown that put the Chargers ahead for good.
Now, as was the case in New England with Tom Brady, Woodhead is into the second round with a playoff-proven quarterback. Rivers was spectacular only in his efficiency Sunday, throwing just 16 passes and completing 12 for 128 yards and a touchdown and a 118.8 quarterback rating.
“Philip is a great quarterback who has done it in the past in the playoffs,” Woodhead said. “Everybody knows he’s a great quarterback. We went about our business and just executed today.”
|Fantasy Football: Week 6 waiver wire||10.08.13 at 10:52 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 6 waiver wire. As always, these are strong pickup options in typical 10-team leagues. Obviously, they are even better options if they happen to be available in larger formats. The ownership rates have been obtained from Yahoo! and represents ownership rates in all its leagues. If you are looking for more obscure talent, you should head on over to Rotobahn.com, where we cater to those who play in larger leagues. I’ll be adding talent throughout the day as I continue to work through the Week 5 games. I’ll be back on Friday with my starts and sits column and the Fantasy Football Podcast with Jim Hackett. If you need any last-minute lineup help, feel free to join our Sunday morning chat here at WEEI. It’s all sponsored by our friends at Mohegan Sun.
Jay Cutler, Bears
He’s still unowned in 41 percent of leagues, and he should be owned in almost all leagues. The new offense has allowed Cutler to post fantasy-viable numbers even in defeat. With Alshon Jeffery starting to establish himself, the Bears are becoming very hard to defend on the outside.
Terrelle Pryor, Raiders
He’s playing well and he’s over his recent concussion. You can still add him in 71 percent of leagues, and I’d be adding him if I needed more upside at quarterback. Pryor is getting it done with his arm and with his feet.
Sam Bradford, Rams
He’s not perfect, but he can post very good numbers when the matchup is right. Bradford has the 10th-most points in fantasy football among quarterbacks. He makes a nice QB2 for sure, especially if he has a nice matchup when your QB1 has his bye week.
Joe Flacco, Ravens
You can get him in 40 percent of leagues, and he has a home start against Green Bay this week. That’s a decent fantasy play if your starter is on the bye or if you were starting Michael Vick.
Nick Foles, Eagles
If you own Vick and all else fails, you can turn to Foles and get decent play. Foles looked up to the task last week when he filled in for the injured Vick, and that’s expected to continue in Week 6. In fact, if Foles plays well enough, he could steal the gig.
|Fantasy Football: Week 5 waiver wire||10.01.13 at 11:11 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 5 waiver wire. A lot of last week’s hot names have been snatched up, so the inventory of targets is not what it was as we hit the second week of byes. Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Washington will be resting this week. As always, I will be doing my expanded waiver wire over at Rotobahn.com. If you play in a league with 12 or more teams, we’ve got you covered. The players listed here represent the best available talent based on percentages derived from Yahoo’s database and should meet your needs if you play in leagues with 10 teams or less.
Jay Cutler, Bears
He played a poor game in Week 4, but he was still a fantasy asset. That’s the benefit of having improved weapons and protection, not to mention an improved scheme. Cutler should be owned everywhere, yet he is available in 42 percent of leagues.
Matt Schaub, Texans
He’s available in 45 percent of leagues and he’s a fantasy asset. He held up against Seattle better than most quarterbacks have and his schedule gets better from here on out. Schaub can help you if you lack a second option at quarterback.
Terrelle Pryor, Raiders
He’s available in 78 percent of leagues and he has a lot of weekly upside. I like him a lot as a matchup play due to his high-end athleticism and his penchant for picking up extra fantasy points with his feet. He should be over his concussion for Week 5.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
He’s a available in 78 percent of leagues. The coaching staff is letting him throw it a ton. He can help you if you need a QB. He’s a matchup play, so check his schedule against your QB1’s bye week.
|Danny Amendola pokes some fun at himself in new commercial||05.26.13 at 9:00 am ET|
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