|Reports: Pats sign former Texans RB Cierre Wood, former Ravens WR LaQuan Williams||11.05.13 at 12:34 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots have added depth to their corps of running backs by signing free agent Cierre Wood, according to a report from NESN.com.
The running back was spotted at full pads practice on Tuesday morning on the upper practice fields outside Gillette Stadium, one day after working out with the team, according to ESPNBoston.com. Wood was cut by the Texans for violating team rules two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun and Field Yates of ESPNBoston.com, the Patriots also signed former Ravens wide receiver LaQuan Williams. Williams was on the field Tuesday, wearing No. 16.
The team also worked out Justin Francis and Jake Ballard, both of whom were cut at the end of the summer.
Francis was waived/injured, then signed an injury settlement to become a free agent. He suffered an ankle injury during the preseason. Ballard signed with the Cardinals after his workout with the Patriots. The tight end struggled with rehab from ACL surgery during the summer with the Patriots.
He was active for 10 games and had three sacks. The Patriots also brought wide receiver Greg Orton and linebacker Marcus Dowtin for workouts. Orton has most recently spent time with the Broncos. He went undrafted out of Purdue in 2009. Dowtin went undrafted out of North Alabama in 2012. He was previously with the Bills.
|Five thoughts on the first wave of cuts the Patriots made on Friday afternoon||08.30.13 at 4:00 pm ET|
1. As we wrote in our final preseason edition of “What We Learned,” the decision to cut ties with Daniel Fells and Jake Ballard wasn’t a big surprise, given the fact that they were on the field late into Thursday’s contest against the Giants. If you look at the totality of Ballard’s work since he stepped on the field this spring, it was clear that he was still hampered by the knee problem he sustained in Super Bowl XLVI as a member of the Giants. He had his moments, but they were few and far between. Look for him to sign elsewhere, and soon.
2. As for Fells, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him on the Deion Branch Plan — that is to say he could be that veteran who is cut shortly before the start of the regular season, only to return a week or two into the regular season in an attempt to give the Patriots some financial flexibility (his money for the 2013 season isn’t guaranteed) and some roster flexibility as well. When it comes to Fells, it wasn’t so much that he struggled over the course of the summer, but in some cases, when all things are equal when it comes to the on-field product, the team is almost always more inclined to go with the cheaper alternative. In the end, I’m not saying Fells wouldn’t have potential suitors, but his age, value and financial situation certainly make him a candidate to be a part of the shadow roster.
3. You can’t talk about the release of Fells and Ballard without mentioning what it all means for Rob Gronkowski. For what it’s worth, I still believe that Gronkowski will take roughly a half-season to round back into his old form — as I wrote here the other day, it’s not so much the injury at this point, but the rehab and recovery process, as well as the fact that he still needs to get back to his playing weight. There’s also the possibility that the Patriots make some sort of deal for another tight end between now and the start of the season. (They’ve made a few trades at this time of the year.) Ultimately, it’s important to remember that even though New England has released Fells and Ballard, it’s still a position that’s in a state of flux at this point in the summer, and can change before the start of the regular season.
4. Defensive lineman Marcus Benard was a guy who flashed very positively through the initial stages of training camp, and played well in the first preseason game against the Eagles. And while the Patriots shuffled him a bit along their defensive front — he played his natural position as a pass-rushing defensive end, but also gave him a shot as an interior pass rushing presence — he ultimately didn’t show the consistency needed to survive in the NFL. His release likely bodes well for some of the other backup defensive end types on the roster, including Jake Bequette and Michael Buchanan, the latter of whom played very well in the preseason finale Thursday night against the Giants.
5. Of the guys who were cut loose on Friday, the one most likely to land on the Patriots practice squad is Matt Stankiewitch, an interior offensive lineman out of Penn State. He’s one of a handful of guys in that situation who have practice squad eligibility, and depending on what New England decides to do with Marcus Cannon, the Patriots could be looking for more depth at guard and center going into the regular season. His time with former Patriots offensive coordinator Billy O’Brien at Penn State proably doesn’t hurt either.
|Confidence game: Measuring Tom Brady’s comfort level with his pass-catchers||08.20.13 at 7:15 am ET|
“By mid-training camp, we should know who I’m most comfortable throwing to.” — Tom Brady on WEEI, May 23, 2012
We covered Brady’s amazing preseason, made all the more impressive by the fact that he’s doing it (mostly) with a group of all new pass-catchers. On Monday, he talked a little about their progression, as well as the fact that they have gotten a ton of opportunities this summer.
“Much more opportunity than some guys get in certain years when you have a lot of veteran players at certain positions,” Brady said. “[But] the more opportunity, the better you get. They had a lot of opportunity the other night, [Kenbrell Thompkins] and Aaron [Dobson] and Josh [Boyce] at the receiver position, with Danny [Amendola], what Julian [Edelman]’s been able to do coming back from his injury, and [Zach] Sudfeld — he’s had a lot of opportunity. Guys are trying to make the most of it.”
Ultimately, when you’re talking about the relationship between Brady and the new options in the passing game, it all comes down to comfort and chemistry. And so, armed with that statement he made this past spring on WEEI — and at the midway point of the preseason — here’s a confidence/comfort check when it comes to Brady and his pass-catchers. We’ll rate each of the skill position players and their relationship with Brady on a scale of 0 (Taylor Price) to 100 (Wes Welker).
RB Shane Vereen: 85. Vereen, who is heading into his third season with the Patriots, has an excellent shot at becoming a multidimensional breakout star in this offense. He will not only be asked to pick up some of the slack left by the departure of Danny Woodhead, he also will figure into New England’s overall plans when it comes to replicating the work of Welker and Aaron Hernandez in the passing game. He’s certainly off to a good start — he’s touched the ball 13 times in two preseason games and come away with 105 yards from scrimmage — a whopping average of eight yards per attempt. (That includes four catches for 46 yards on Friday against the Bucs.)
WR Danny Amendola: 82. Amendola has far and away been the best receiver in camp, and has displayed a really nice connection with the quarterback over the course of the summer. It’s not fair to compare the Brady-Amendola relationship to the QB’s history with Welker, but it certainly appears to be on its way. Amendola had six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown on Friday against the Bucs, with the score coming on an artfully executed 26-yarder that looked an awful lot like a route run by old No. 83.
|Bill Belichick says Jake Ballard ‘keeps improving’ on road back from ACL surgery||08.19.13 at 3:02 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When the Patriots claimed Jake Ballard off waivers from the Giants, they knew they would have to be patient with the tight end.
Bill Belichick says it’s a move that is paying off so far in camp this summer.
“Jake’s been pretty consistent all through camp,” Belichick said Monday. “He’s been dependable on a day-to-day basis. He’s got some experience. Big guy, long, he’s got good blocking skill. He’s done a good job in the passing game. I think with him, it’s just keeping it day by day.”
With the Giants, Ballard tore his ACL in the Super Bowl XLVI win over the Patriots in Feb. 2012. He was waived by the Giants as they tried to sneak him through waivers so they could temporarily clear a roster spot. The Patriots took advantage and saw his name on the wire and claimed him.
Now, with the Patriots without their top two tight ends from the last three seasons to begin 2013, Ballard has a chance to contribute. His production in the first two preseason games has been limited. Ballard has started both preseason games but has yet to catch a pass.
“He keeps improving, gains more confidence and he gains more experience, builds up his overall stamina and conditioning,” Belichick said. “He’s in good condition but just playing football, playing condition. I think we’ve had a good pace with him and he’s been able to have steady improvement through the entire course of camp, which has been good.”
Belichick also touched on the 1-for-7 performance of Tim Tebow Friday night, which including a 0.0 QB rating.
Does Belichick look beyond the stat line at the big picture and see positive steps for Tebow?
“Yeah, definitely,” Belichick said. “I think if you look at the entire week last week that it will look different than the game did. In some cases, the game looked better for some players; in some cases, the game didn’t maybe look as good as some things during the week. We’ll just have to try to take all that into consideration.”
Tebow is 5-for-19 in two preseason games, passing for just 54 yards and compiling a 17.7 QB rating.
“I think the passing game is still the passing game,” Belichick said. “All players have different skill sets and some guys do some things better than others. You have to look at the total package and what they’re able to do in all areas of the game. I think we see a lot of good quarterbacks in the NFL. They aren’t all maybe the best passers, but their ability to run and pass and make plays, however they make them – design plays, scramble plays, whatever it is – makes them a high level player. I don’t think there’s one specific style you have to have or don’t have to have. In the end it’s about production and being able to do enough things to be successful.”
|Report: Jake Ballard removed from PUP list||07.23.13 at 10:04 pm ET|
Tight end Jake Ballard and defensive back Kanorris Davis both passed their physicals and were removed from the physically unable to perform list and non-football injury list, respectively on Tuesday, according to Field Yates of ESPN.
Each are now eligible to participate in practices when camp opens on Friday.
Ballrd was on the shelf for all of 2012 because of a knee injury he suffered in Super Bowl XLVI while playing for the Giants against New England. He is expected to have a sizable role in the 2013 offense, as the Patriots are expected to be without Rob Gronkowski (who was placed on the PUP list himself earlier in the week) as he continues to recover from offseason surgery on his back and forearm.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Jake Ballard and receiver Julian Edelman have been placed on the active/physically unable to perform list, which means they are not cleared to practice for the start of training camp.
In the case of all three players, it wasn’t a surprise. Gronkowski has undergone several surgeries this offseason on his forearm, as well as one on his back. Ballard was on the shelf all last season because of a knee injury, while Edelman has had foot issues and was spotted this offseason wearing a walking boot.
They all can removed from PUP at any time during camp. If they were placed on PUP at the start of the regular season, they would be ineligible for at least the first six weeks of the season.
In addition, offensive lineman Nick McDonald was placed on the active/PUP list, while defensive lineman Armond Armstead was placed on the non-football illness list and rookie safety Kanorris Davis and rookie center/guard Matt Stankiewitch were assigned to the non-football injury list.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard banged up in Tuesday OTA session||06.04.13 at 1:05 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard appeared to suffer a left shoulder or collarbone injury late in New England’s OTA session, and had to be carted off the field before practice came to a close.
Dennard, a seventh-round pick out of Nebraska last season, had 35 tackles (34 solo), seven passes defensed and three interceptions for the Patriots last season. Along with Aqib Talib, the 5-foot-10, 200-pounder projects as one of New England’s two starting cornerbacks in 2013.
Dennard, running back Stevan Ridley and tight end Jake Ballard were three players who appeared to get banged up over the course of the session, which ran for nearly two hours on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. Ridley suffered a right hamstring pull roughly halfway through the practice session and sat out the rest of the workout, while Ballard — who sat out all of the 2012 season because of a knee injury — appeared to come down awkwardly on his left foot or ankle relatively early on, and was sidelined for the rest of the outing.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
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