|5 most important Patriots not named Tom Brady||08.26.14 at 12:00 am ET|
There’s no need to debate who is the most important member of the Patriots. Quarterback Tom Brady has been the single most integral part of New England’s football success on a week-in, week-out basis for the last decade-plus. But who makes up the rest of the nucleus? With the 2014 regular season looming, here are the five most important Patriots not named Brady — in no particular order.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman — Edelman has emerged as Brady’s go-to target of choice over the last year-plus. The former college quarterback topped the 100-catch mark last season, becoming just the third pass-catcher of the Brady era to come away with at least 100 catches in a season (Troy Brown and Wes Welker are the other two.) Over the course of the summer, he displayed an almost creepy level of chemistry with the quarterback. In two preseason games, Edelman has showed that regardless of what happens with Rob Gronkowski‘s health in 2014, he will be one of the fundamental elements of the New England passing game. In two preseason games Brady targeted Edelman 10 times, and the receiver caught all 10 passes.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski — Gronkowski is the difference-maker, the sort of offensive option who can help New England get to its ultimately goal. The only question is his health — the big tight end played in his first 46 straight games in the NFL, but since his forearm snapped blocking on an extra point against the Colts in 2012, he’s only played in nine of a possible 26 games. It’s important to note that the Patriots looked like they learned to survive without him down the stretch and into the postseason last year. According to Football Outsiders, the Patriots averaged 32 points per game and 5.94 yards per play with Gronkowski in the lineup from Weeks 7-14. Without Gronkowski (from Week 15 through the end of their postseason run), New England averaged 30.8 points per game and 5.82 yards per play. It was a drop-off, but not the dramatic dip that some may have anticipated. At the same time, the real struggles in other areas (red zone presence, blocking) have created an environment where it’s simply not sustainable to think the Patriots could hope to win a Super Bowl without him.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis — Revis has only been a part of the New England roster for a few months, but he already figures to be a vital part of any success the Patriots have in 2014. Even for a future Hall of Famer it can be an occasionally dicey proposition joining a new team, but he’s managed to fit in seamlessly. As a new face, he has managed to walk a fine line between being deferential to the established veterans who were already on the roster, but at the same time he’s managed to carve out a leadership position of his own. He was the guy who led a group of defensive backs out to Arizona for offseason workouts with his trainer, and the younger defensive backs (including Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon) have confessed to picking his brain on more than one occasion. He hasn’t played a ton in the preseason (we had him at 36 snaps — with penalties — through the first three games of the preseason, and has one pass completed in his direction in that time), but it certainly appears he’s not hampered by any of the knee woes that managed to keep him sidelined for almost the entire duration of the 2012 season.
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|Devin McCourty hoping officials let up on throwing flags and let DBs ‘play a little bit’||08.19.14 at 9:21 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Football fans, Devin McCourty feels your pain.
He tried to watch Monday night’s game between the Browns and Redskins just like a fan. And like a fan, he found it really hard to not change the channel with the number of flags thrown, especially on defensive backs.
“I think as a DB, you’re trained to never to look for a flag,” McCourty said. “It’s makes them throw it more. But even [Monday] night, watching the game, it’s just seems like every couple of plays, there’s another flag. It’ll be tough for people trying to watch the game who have work in the morning and stuff like that.”
All joking aside, McCourty has the unique perspective of having started out as a cornerback before transitioning to safety full-time last season. He knows he won’t be able to get away with as much tugging so technique, even for a safety, will be key this season.
“I think it’s a little different but we have some of the same issues as far as how we’re covering guys, too, like guys coming off the line of scrimmage, things that you might have gotten away with you may not get away with [this season],” McCourty said. “But I think it’s hard to try and change your whole game. We don’t want to start to giving up long passes and touchdowns just to say, ‘I didn’t want illegal contact.’ Hopefully, they reduce the [number of] flags and we get to play a little bit.”
“I don’t it’s that much tougher,” McCourty said of watching and playing with new players rotating at safety. “I think a lot of it is putting your rules and what you do as a defense into what they’re doing so it’s just guys just talking about it and seeing stuff the same way and being on the same page. As long as you can do that, you just put your rules toward that.
|Mike Petraglia, Chris Price on Brandon LaFell, Darrelle Revis and ‘game-ready’ Patriots||at 6:55 pm ET|
FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price assess the comfort level of Brandon LaFell, the readiness of Darrelle Revis and the “game-ready” approach the Patriots are taking toward Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in their third preseason game Friday at Gillette Stadium.
|Darrelle Revis says despite not being tested in debut, he was ‘ready at all times’||08.16.14 at 12:52 am ET|
FOXBORO — It wasn’t much of a test for a preseason debut.
Darrelle Revis suited up like he did against the Redskins the week before but this time he actually stepped on the field for game action. He might as well not have.
Whether it was his reputation as the game’s best shut-down corner or wanting simply to test other parts of their offense, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and quarterback Nick Foles didn’t challenge Revis all night long in a 42-35 Patriots’ win that evened New England’s preseason record at 1-1.
With Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper out, Revis was matched up against Arrelious Benn. Revis played on Philadelphia’s first three series (the first series was one play and a turnover) and not a single pass was thrown to Benn.
“I don’t know what their game plan is,” Revis said. “My thing is just to go out there and do my job. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t. But you always have to be ready at all times.”
Perhaps just as impressive is that for all the penalties that were called against both secondaries, not a single yellow cloth landed on Revis Island.
“It’s a new rule in 2014 that they’re emphasizing about illegal contact down the field on plays with the wide receiver and the defensive backs,” Revis said. “Like I said before, we have to do the best that we can by being comfortable with the new rules and trying to do the right things out there on the field. I don’t know how many penalties it was. It was a lot, just watching the game and going through it, but I don’t know. It was a lot, but at the same time, the refs are going to call what they see.”
Of course to Revis, it’s all about the secondary getting better as a unit, with he and Devin McCourty leading the charge. Malcolm Butler started opposite Revis and continued to show progress, stripping a receiver in the second half and recovering the ball. Kyle Arrington even got the starting nod at safety with McCourty.
“We’re getting better every week,” Revis said. “We’re trying to reach our peak by the time Week 1 comes around. We’ve been working hard and we’ve made a lot of great plays out there today on defense so those are the types of things we are looking for. The coaches always stress turnovers to us so we’re just trying to do a good job of that and tonight we did.”
|Vince Wilfork on new points of emphasis enforcement: ‘There were a lot of flags [Tuesday] – it’s kind of different’||08.13.14 at 6:00 am ET|
FOXBORO — For the second time this preseason the Patriots got a first-hand look at how the new league points of emphasis will be called when referees were on hand at Tuesday’s joint practice with the Eagles following last Thursday’s first preseason game with the Redskins.
The referees called drills like they were a game — throwing flags for the penalties they saw. The general theme with the players, coaches, as well as officials is there will be an adjustment period.
“There were a lot of flags today — it’s kind of different, but they are making a point of emphasis of certain things and they are throwing the flags so we had a good look at it today and we have to be better on that end,” defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said.
There were a number of flags thrown at defensive backs for defensive holding and illegal contact during 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s, which was one of the main points of emphasis for the season. This was clearly evident by the number of these types of penalties called in the first week of the preseason. For players who play in the secondary, they understand it is just part of what the game has evolved into.
“I think it’s just the way the league is,” Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty said. “They want to see points scored and if it gets too crazy and they feel like the defense is impeding too much on points being scored then there will be a rule change or point of emphasis on that to try and help the offense score.”
For cornerback Darrelle Revis, he’s just trying to get accustomed to the new rules by the time the regular season hits.
“It’s the beginning. It’s the beginning stages and the only thing we can do is ask questions and learn,” Revis said. “There were a lot of flags out there today, but at the same time, it’s a new rule and we’re just trying to get acclimated and do the best thing we can do by covering receivers in the preseason games and in the regular season.”
|Darrelle Revis on extension talk: ‘Only thing I’m focused on is this year’||08.12.14 at 7:37 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Darrelle Revis did not address last week’s report that said there’s a possibility of a contract extension for him in New England, only saying he’s “focusing on this year.”
Last week, there was a report that a new deal for the cornerback could be in the preliminary stages. However, after Tuesday’s practice, Revis deftly dodged any talk about his future beyond 2014.
“No. I’m just here,” Revis said when asked if he could comment on the report of a new deal. “I’m here, I’m focusing on this year. That has nothing to do with what’s going on right now.”
Revis signed a reported two-year, $32 million deal with the team in March after being released by the Buccaneers. The second year is a team option that includes a $12 million roster bonus, something it’s unlikely the Patriots would commit to.
Asked about potentially signing a long-term deal with the Patriots, Revis reiterated his stance.
“I’m here for right now. I’m in this contract,” he said. “The only thing I’m focused on is this year.”
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|Rob Gronkowski on practice sessions against Darrelle Revis: He’s making me a better player||08.10.14 at 6:30 pm ET|
The tight end, who continues to work his way back from a season-ending knee surgery, has been a regular presence in pads throughout camp. However, he hasn’t engaged in any 11-on-11 work to this point in the summer. Instead, the closest he’s come has been semi-regular work with Brady, catching passes in a series of drills with the quarterback while Revis offers resistance.
“It’s good just to have a defender out there, instead of [me] just running my routes [against] air,” Gronkowski said following practice on Sunday when asked about working against Revis. “To break off a guy right in front of you, just like it’s a game — you have to break off the guy, break off the defender. Having Darrelle out there and having him give me some contact — a little bit, pushing me on my routes — [it's] just making me a better player out there right now.”
The work looks a lot like what Brady and former teammate Randy Moss used to do when the receiver was with the Patriots from 2007 through 2010, with the only difference being that those sessions were used to build communication and a rapport between Brady and Moss. The current work between Brady and Gronkowski is another step in the rehab process for the tight end, as well as a chance for Revis to spend some time working against a bigger target like Gronkowski.
“[It's] basically more of a drill for me, but he’s definitely learning too, I would say,” Gronkowski said. “He’s just breaking a little bit, not going full, full out. He’s just helping me out and getting me back adjusted to having a defender out there in front of me.”
Gronkowski, who did not play in the preseason opener against the Redskins (and missed the three practices leading up to the contest) remains optimistic about the state of his rehab.
“Pretty good. Improving every single week,” Gronkowski said. “No setbacks or anything like that — just going out there and getting better every single time I get out on the field.
“Getting closer every single day to getting in there with the team and getting in there and getting some contact,” he added. “Just talking to the trainers — we don’t have a set date yet or anything. Just taking it day-by-day and we’ll see how tomorrow goes. Just improving every day.”
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