|Tom Brady on JJ Watt: ‘He’s been pretty remarkable’||11.29.13 at 10:22 am ET|
FOXBORO — Despite the fact that the Texans are in the throes of a miserable nine-game losing skid, the continued high level of play from defensive lineman J.J. Watt offers a sizable beacon of hope for Houston.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Watt is a transformative presence, capable of ruining an afternoon for a quarterback. Through 11 games, Pro Football Focus has him credited with 10 sacks (tied for the top spot among all 3-4 defensive ends), 24 quarterback hits (best at his position) and 26 quarterback hurries (fifth at his position).
The fiery Watt, who wears his emotions on his sleeve, acknowledged it’s been a difficult season for the Texans, a team many anticipated would be in the thick of the playoff chase after reaching the postseason in 2012 but are 2-9 and playing for next year.
“Obviously, [we] came into the year with very high expectations. [We’ve] been on obviously an extremely rough stretch here. It’s been tough, to say the least,” Watt said. “We have guys who have a lot of pride in their play and take a lot of pride in their game, so we’re going out there and we’re playing as hard as we can play, and obviously we’re trying to get a win. It’s been far too long since we’ve had a win.”
For its part, the Houston defense has posted some good numbers to this point in the season. In their 11 games, only four passers have gone over 200 yards against Houston (Andrew Luck tops the lost with 271 passing yards), and the Texans are in the Top 10 in several major passing defense categories, including total passing yards allowed (first, 1,890), completion percentage against (seventh at 58.1) and yards per attempt (eighth, 6.7).
At the same time, the Texans have yielded an average of 26.3 points per game, tied for the sixth-highest total in the NFL entering the weekend.
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|NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: UCLA DE Datone Jones||03.28.13 at 7:04 am ET|
WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that might be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2013 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.
Position: Defensive end
Weight: 283 pounds
Achievements: 2012 All Pac-12 second team, 2008 All-Pac-10 freshman team
What he brings: Jones is an intriguing prospect who falls under the ‘tweener’ label for interior defensive linemen. With solid burst, hands and technique, the UCLA product is a great athlete who even made appearances at tight end for the Bruins.
Depending on how you look at it, Jones is fast and strong enough to play both tackle and end or too small and slow to excel at either position in a 4-3. Meanwhile, he’s perfect as a 5-technique in a 3-4. In the Patriots’ case, though, Jones would provide a versatile piece long their defensive front who could play off of a premiere nose tackle in Vince Wilfork and a budding pass-rusher in Chandler Jones.
Instead of the ‘hair on fire’ defender that the defense just sends after the quarterback, Jones brings a more balanced game along the defensive line that presents a threat to disrupt a play regardless of formation is dialed up or where he’s placed along the line. Jones can be used to play at end on run downs and in the A-gap on passing downs, allowing the defense to place him in positions to succeed on a given play.
While the UCLA product can be utilized well in the right scheme, Jones isn’t the sort of plug-and-play defender who is going to lay the foundation of a dominant defense. Instead, he’s likely to be the piece that moves around the building blocks of a front seven unit to help the defense as a whole. In terms of pure ceiling, Jones has the potential to be a disrupter all along the defensive line like J.J. Watt (though maybe not that disruptive). Meanwhile, his floor would be more along the lines of former Patriot Jarvis Green, a complementary player who is a piece in a good defense.
Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1
Notes: Jones is a likely candidate to come off of the board at the end of the first round, where the better teams in the league may have higher values for him. Because he’s not a top-flight pass-rusher or run-stuffer that defenses can build around, he’s unlikely to go to a team that needs a huge boost. But for a team like the Texans, Vikings or 49ers looking to add a versatile chess piece to a scheme that’s already in place, Jones presents a very valuable target to help bolster a defense.
The Seahawks were heavy favorites to target Jones at No. 25 before shipping the pick off to Minnesota. However, each of the teams in the 23-28 range have been projected to be in the hunt for him, lowering the possibility that he falls to the Pats at No. 29.
Related articles: LA Times: UCLA’s Datone Jones smiles through sad times
Video: Here’s a compilation of highlights from Jones’ games against Rice and Nebraska in 2012.
|Stevan Ridley knows full well Pats ‘can’t have’ his turnovers||01.11.13 at 6:13 pm ET|
FOXBORO — One of the highlights of media availability in the last week has been the Patriots working on ball security, especially Stevan Ridley. Bill Belichick has had Ridley carry a ball in each hand with a defender on each side trying to pry the ball loose. He has been the only Patriot spotted with such focus on taking care of the ball.
Of course, there’s good reason for that. There were the two fumbles at the end of the 2011 season, including in the divisional rout over the Broncos. Then there were the two fumbles in back-to-back games this season against the Texans and the 49ers. His fumble on the first drive of the game against Houston could’ve been costly but Aaron Hernandez raced over and recovered it before the Texans could pounce. He wasn’t as lucky the next week against the 49ers. He hasn’t fumbled since in 38 carries.
“Can’t have it, can’t have it,” Ridley said Friday. “It’s crunch time, man. And turnovers, however they come — fumbles, interceptions, drops, whatever — we can’t have that.”
Then, he turned the focus on himself.
“I don’t want to be that guy that they’re pointing the finger at, and saying, ‘My bad.’ I’m trying to play solid football and play perfect football,” he said.
Of course, if Ridley and the Patriots are going to have offensive success against the Texans Sunday, they need to replicate what they did to J.J. Watt the last time, when they held the All-Pro without a sack or a tackle for a loss.
“He’s a playmaker,” Ridley said. “For us, whether it’s in the backfield, catching him on the way out, running routes, whatever we have to do, we have to get away from him, put two hats on him, make sure he’s blocked, make sure he’s covered up because he’s the leader of their defense. If he get momentum, we’re going to have trouble all night.”
Ridley was then asked about Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and the suggestion that Wes Welker is not the “physical” receiver that A.J. Green is and may not require Johnathan Joseph to cover him.
“I have no idea that he said anything about that but Wes Welker is a very important part of our offense,” Ridley said laughing. “We need everybody we can get, and that’s somebody who’s been on the field for the Patriots for a long time, somebody we depend on in crunch situations so I don’t know about his size or whatever that is but Wes gets the job done and I’ll be looking be looking for ’83’ on Sunday.”
|Logan Mankins on his 2012 season: ‘Of course, it’s been tough’||01.10.13 at 6:25 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Logan Mankins laughed at the mere mention of the question.
Has this year been difficult for the big, bruising starting left guard for the Patriots?
“Physically? Yeah. I’ve missed some games; of course it’s been tough,” Mankins said Thursday. “You’d like to be healthy for the whole season, but it just doesn’t always go that way.”
To be specific, Mankins missed six games this season with various injuries. He missed Sept. 30 in Buffalo with a sore hip. He missed the Jets game at home the Rams game in London with a recurrence of the hip issue along with a bad calf. Then, he came back against the Bills at home on Nov. 11, only to turn his left ankle, forcing him to miss the next three games before starting the final four of the season.
But a little perspective reveals that a bum hip, ankle and calf isn’t about to stop a man who played with torn ACL and MCL in his right knee last season.
“I feel a lot better,” Mankins said when asked to compare how he feels now to 12 months ago. “Last year at this time I had a torn MCL and a torn ACL. So I feel a lot better.”
Mankins was one of those who really needed the bye week to get extra rest for the playoffs. Does he feel like a new man this week?
“Well I was until the last three days of practice,” he said with a smile. “You know you always feel pretty good after a bye, after a couple of days off. Not having a game, you freshen up a little. So yeah, I feel pretty good.”
Is the bye particularly beneficial for the offensive line given the physical nature of the position?
“Yeah, if you make the most of it,” he said. “If you get a few good lifts in, some good running and get off your feet when you go home, it’s always beneficial, if you use it to your advantage.”
But now, the task gets tougher – a lot tougher. J.J. Watt and the Texans defensive line will certainly try to find different ways to pressure the Patriots offensive line Sunday afternoon.
“Well it’s going to be really tough,” Mankins said. “You have probably the best D-lineman in the league in J.J. Watt and then you’ve got Antonio Smith, another very good defensive lineman. So those two together are very tough and then you put all four of them out there at one time and they’re a tough matchup for anyone. You see the problems they give teams every week. Cincinnati scored six points on offense, so that says a lot right there, to hold a team to six points in the playoffs.”
What makes J.J. Watt so special in Mankins’ eyes?
“It starts with he’s got all of the physical tools: he’s big, strong, fast and then he plays relentless,” Mankins said. “He’s a high-motor guy that hustles a lot and he’s got a great playing style, so that’s why he’s good.”
Here’s the rest of Thursday’s interview with Mankins:
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|Josh McDaniels knows the value of a quick start against superstar pass rushers||12.11.12 at 11:58 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots scored the first three times they had the ball Monday night.
How important was getting off to a fast start in a game against a team that was thought to be superior to the Patriots?
“I think it’s always something you’d like to do, is get off to a good start and get ahead in the game,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “You always try to run the best plays you can or put the groupings out there that you think can give you the most success or try to put the players in the best positions to be successful as many times as you can and that starts with the beginning of the game.
“I don’t think that changes based on who you’re playing. You always try to get out there and play well early. And against a really good team as we played yesterday, to go out there and put some points on the board in the first quarter, credit goes to the players. They did a great job of executing some of those things and really made some adjustments there and made some critical plays under pressure that helped us get off to a good start yesterday and play from ahead.”
McDaniels spent all week scheming against – J.J. Watt – one of the most dangerous defensive players in the NFL.
Watt did have three hits of the six hits on Tom Brady, forced a fumble on Danny Woodhead that resulted in a Brandon Lloyd recovery for a touchdown in the end zone. But he did not have a sack and the Patriots were able to throw deep
“He’s a great player and I don’t think we felt like we were going to be able to just [keep] him from making any plays, hopefully you can contain him from making any impact plays, where he tips the ball up in the air and get an interception, which has happened multiple times this year or sack the quarterback, strip-sack the quarterback ‘ all those kinds of plays that he’s making throughout the course of the season that have changed the course of games or the outcome even. That’s what we’re trying to prevent. When you can get help on a special player like that, you can try to, but there’s so many ways to avoid that as the defensive play caller, too.”
Could that help this Sunday against the 49ers‘ Aldon Smith, the only pass rusher who has more sacks (19.5) than Watt?
“We can’t control what other people are saying or what’s being said outside of the building, obviously,” McDaniels said. “The thing we can do is come to work every day. I’ve seen a number of players already in today getting film and treatment and all those things and just prepare and go through our normal process of preparation. I know that’s the best way to focus on our next opponent and control the things that we can control and I think that our guys are really intent on having another good week of preparation as we did last week and just trying to put the best performance we can out there on Sunday night against a really, really talented defense. I mean, this is as good as we’re going to face. We certainly have a great deal of respect for the way they’re coached, the way they way, the style of defense they have. They have great players at all three levels of their defense, Pro-Bowl caliber players. This will be a tremendous challenge for us. Really, we’re going to have our hands full with just the preparation and getting ourselves ready to play against a really, really special defense.
“We’re just getting ready to play them. I’m sure they’re going to come in here and play hard, just like they always do and that’s what we’re going to do, too. Extra this or that, I’m not sure that anybody needs it this time of the year. We’re all fighting to win each and every game that we can and I’m sure they’re going to come in here and play hard and hopefully we can have a great week of preparation and put our best performance out there on Sunday night.”
Petraglia and Price talk about Tom Brady, who threw for four touchdowns, two to Aaron Hernandez, Vince Wilfork as an NFL defensive player of the year candidate and what the win means in the big picture for the 10-3 Patriots going forward in the AFC playoffs.
|What will be the key to the game?||12.10.12 at 5:46 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The 11-1 Texans can all but clinch a first-round bye and close in on a No. 1 seed in the AFC while the 9-3 Patriots can take a huge step toward locking up a first-round bye with a victory on Monday night football.
The Patriots have the No. 1 offense in the NFL and have scored at least 20 points in 11 of their 12 games this season.
The Texans have NFL defensive player of the year favorite J.J. Watt, who enters with 16.5 sacks, second to Aldon Smith.
In addition to Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, the Patriots will have another running back weapon at their disposal, as Brandon Bolden was added to the 53-man active roster. He hasn’t played since injuring his knee on Oct. 14 and is coming off a four-game suspension for violation of the NFL PED policy.
So many variables. What will be the biggest?