|Jerod Mayo on M&M: ‘Fourth-down conversions were huge for us’||09.23.13 at 11:50 am ET|
Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to discuss New England’s dominant defensive performance in the team’s 23-3 win over the Buccaneers.
The Patriots moved to 3-0 on the season thanks to a defensive unit that sacked quarterback Josh Freeman three times and forced him into 19-of-41 passing with one interception.
New England’s third- and fourth-down defense was superb. Tampa Bay went just 5-for-14 on third down, and the Bucs failed on all four fourth-down attempts.
“Anytime we can get the ball back into our offense’s hands, it’s always going to be huge, we call it stealing possessions,” said Mayo, who recorded a team-high nine tackles and added a sack Sunday. “And like you said, those fourth-down conversions were huge for us, and they turned into points for our offense.”
With an offense that features a number of rookie wide receivers, and no healthy go-to tight end, the unit needs time to work out the inevitable kinks. The defense has bought the offense that time, even though Mayo says his group is not concerned with the offense’s development.
“Coach always tells us as a defense, our job is to keep people out of the end zone no matter what our offense is doing,” Mayo said. “We never really think about that, we always just think about stealing possessions and getting the ball back to those guys.”
In addition to shutting down Freeman, the defense kept second-year running back Doug Martin at bay. The shifty 5-foot-9 back ran for 88 yards on 20 carries.
“Anytime you got a guy like that running behind 6-6 guys, it’s difficult to find him,” said Mayo. “He’s a very explosive runner, but I think the guys did a good job getting 11 guys to the football and bringing him to the ground.”
|Chandler Jones: ‘Hopefully we can just keep doing that every week’||09.22.13 at 10:09 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Sunday’s 23-3 win over the Buccaneers may have been the Patriots’ best performance yet as they didn’t allow a touchdown for the first time all season and kept the Bucs off the scoreboard for the final 46 minutes, 47 seconds of game action. The defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown since there were just over five minutes left in the third quarter against the Jets on Sept. 12.
“It felt good,” defensive end Chandler Jones said of keeping the Bucs out of the end zone. “It felt really good as a defense and hopefully we can just keep that going. You know, it felt good. We held their offense down to a few points today, and hopefully we can just keep doing that every week.”
Against the Jets it was the secondary leading the way as they forced four turnovers, including three interceptions, but Sunday it was the front-seven, as they combined to hold Buccaneers star running back Doug Martin to just 88 yards rushing, this after a 144-yard performance in Week 2 against the Saints. They also sacked Freeman three times and between the second and third quarters allowed the Bucs across midfield twice.
“We’re doing good as a defense overall, not just the [defensive] line,” said Jones, who had one of the three sacks. “Those sacks, a lot of the stuff you don’t see, a lot of those sacks are coverage sacks. Our secondary is doing an outstanding job of jamming receivers up or just covering guys up and the quarterback has no one to throw to.”
The game plan against the Bucs was much different from last week as the team stayed away from their newly unveiled 4-2-5 scheme, primarily because there was more of a focus on stopping the run. This allowed their line backing core to shine as Jerod Mayo led the way with nine tackles, followed by Brandon Spikes with seven. Second-year player Dont’a Hightower also had a strong game finishing with three tackles.
The defense also extended their streak of forcing a turnover in 30 straight games with Aqib Talib’s interception at the end of the second quarter, which set up a Stephen Gostkowski field goal as time expired in the first half. It was Talib’s third interception of the season.
“We had a good idea of the concepts they like to run in the two-minute [drill] before the end of the half,” Talib said. “[Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia] called the perfect play for what they like to do and we made the play.”
|Jerod Mayo on M&M: ‘By any means necessary, we’re going to win these games’||09.09.13 at 11:43 am ET|
Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to recap the Patriots’ 23-21 victory over the Bills.
Mayo walked off the field alongside Tom Brady after Sunday’s win, a game that was much closer than many anticipated.
“We didn’t talk about too much,” Mayo said with a laugh. “I pretty much let him know that, hey, by any means necessary, we’re going to win these games. It doesn’t matter what the score is. If it’s 42-43 or 3-0, we’ve just got to find a way to win. Yesterday was a tough game. We were on the road against a division opponent. They always play us tough. That was a good win for us.”
Added Mayo: “It’s hard to win in this league. You’ll take a win over a loss any day. We’re happy to get the win. Obviously we see where we need to improve. But it’s only one game. We have a long way to go. We’ll take it one day at a time. I think the guys are positive but at the same time realize that we have a lot of improvements to make in every phase.”
Even when the Patriots squandered an early double-digit lead and were trailing in the fourth quarter, the Patriots stayed focused on the task at hand and pulled out the win with a last-minute field goal.
“There were no heads hanging or anything like that. Guys knew what we had to do,” Mayo said. “Our job is to keep them out of the end zone and get the ball to our offense’s hands as many times as possible. That was the mindset of the guys. There was no finger-pointing or anything like that. Guys just knew, hey, we have to go out here and make a play and get the ball back. Fortunately, we were able to do that.”
The Jets visit Foxboro on Thursday, leaving the Patriots little time to celebrate their first win of the season.
“The Jets have a good team. They’re 1-0 as well,” Mayo said. “We enjoyed the Buffalo win the length of that flight [home] yesterday. We’re moving on. All of our focus now is on the Jets.”
Added Mayo: “I love playing against the Jets. It’s always a good game. They play football the way it’s supposed to be played — power running scheme. They have a new quarterback now that can run around a little bit. So, we’ll see what they bring in.”
|Jerod Mayo on M&M: ‘We’re moving on’ from debacle in Detroit||08.26.13 at 11:54 am ET|
Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo and offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer checked in with Mut & Merloni as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday and talked about the team’s disappointing preseason performance against the Lions on Thursday, a 40-9 rout.
“We go into every game expecting to win, wanting to go out there and execute the game plan. Obviously, we didn’t do it last week,” Mayo said. “But we’re moving on. We have to continue to get the Patriots better, practice hard and get ready for the Giants.”
Said Vollmer: “It doesn’t matter if it’s practice, preseason, regular season, playoffs, it doesn’t matter. Your always supposed to do your job. If you don’t do it, it’s not a good thing. You’d better improve, learn from it, watch film and move on and do better.”
The Patriots offense was the biggest culprit, with the offensive line struggling and the team turning over the ball on four of its first five possessions.
“You never want that to happen. You’re striving for the perfect game. You never want Tom [Brady] to get hit and all that,” Vollmer said. “But you know, you can go two ways from this. You can go in the tank and think you’re not a good player or whatever it is, didn’t have a good night, or you learn from it. You watch the film — the other teams see that, too — you’d better get to work and just become better. Whatever the mistake was, physical or mental, it doesn’t really matter. You just fix it.”
The Patriots had looked solid in their first two preseason games before the woeful performance Thursday, which gave coach Bill Belichick plenty of things to critique.
“After the game, everyone’s dreading the next day when you have to come in and watch a film like that, a performance like that,” Mayo said. “We try to go out there each and every week not only to win the game, but to win handily just so we don’t have to go through those speeches.
“A game like that, you have to learn from it,” Mayo continued. “You have to learn from it. Because if you don’t, it was for nothing. And that’s not the way we want to play.”
Cutdown day is Tuesday, when all NFL teams must trim their rosters to 75. Mayo said he’s not looking forward to finding out who gets waived.
“It’s tough. Throughout the preseason and throughout training camp, you become a family,” Mayo said. “Everyone’s putting in work, everyone’s out there sweating and bleeding together, the camaraderie’s there. And then you know when the cut time comes that it’s going to be a tough couple of days for guys. It’s like you’re losing a family member. But at the same time, we know what it is. Like you’ve said, I’ve been around it quite a few years now.
“It is tough. But at the same time, we have to move forward and play with the guys that are here.”
|Which Patriots should expect a call from the Hall?||08.03.13 at 11:10 pm ET|
The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted the class of 2013 on Saturday night, with Bill Parcells, Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Dave Robinson, Warren Sapp and Curley Culp honored in Canton. The most recent round of inductions got us wondering: What members of the Patriots over the last decade-plus could eventually end up being fitted for a yellow jacket? Here are 13 possibilities, with their Patriots careers in parentheses.
Bill Belichick (head coach, 2000-present): Regardless of how his career ends, whenever Belichick decides to retire the hoodie, five rings (three as head coach, two as a coordinator) are certainly enough to land a spot.
Tom Brady (2000-present): At the age of 36, with three Super Bowl titles and two MVPs, Brady is already a no-brainer. Can’t imagine that there would be much debate over his candidacy.
Wes Welker (2007-2012): We wrote this column at the end of the 2012 season, and stand by it: Welker needs another 100 catches and another 1,000 receiving yards, and if he gets it, he’ll be at the center of a great debate when he does decide to hang them up. That would give him almost 900 career receptions and close to 10,000 career receiving yards, which would put him in the heart of a discussion that once included Carter (1,101 catches, 13,899 receiving yards and 130 touchdowns, inducted this year) and now will focus on Andre Reed (951 catches and 13,198 receiving yards and 87 touchdowns, not in) and Tim Brown (1,094 catches, 14,934 yards and 100 touchdowns, not in). One thing that would help his candidacy would be at least one ring.
Randy Moss (2007-2010): Moss drew some flak this past January when he said he was the “greatest receiver ever to play,” But he’s not too far off. Moss’s 156 receiving touchdowns are second only to Rice’s 197, and his 15,292 yards are third behind Rice’s 22,895 and Terrell Owens’ 15,934. (For what it’s worth, if Moss could have hitched his wagon to Brady for more than three-plus seasons, he might have been able to catch Rice.) Like many of the guys on this list, his candidacy would be considered truly ironclad if he came away with a ring, and I’m not sure if that’s possible at this stage of his career. But his stats should be more than enough to get him to the Hall. That induction speech will be an all timer.
|Countdown to Camp: Linebackers||07.17.13 at 2:29 pm ET|
As training camp approaches, we’ll offer a position-by-position breakdown of the 2013 Patriots. We started with a look at the special teamers and specialists. Now, it’s the linebackers.
Depth chart: Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, Brandon Spikes, Jamie Collins, Dane Fletcher, Steve Beauharnais, A.J. Edds, Niko Koutouvides, Mike Rivera, Jeff Tarpinian.
Overview: The Patriots have made considerable strides over the last few years getting younger at linebacker, and as a result, they have built an impressive nucleus at the position, particularly with the Mayo-Hightower-Spikes combo. Mayo has emerged as a true leader and one of the steadier and more consistent players in the league, while Hightower will be asked to make the leap after showing flashes of brilliance as a rookie. As for Spikes — who is going into a contract year — he’s already one of the most feared run-stuffers in the league but is looking to become more proficient in coverage. Expect Collins and Fletcher to work primarily as backups. Both could see time as coverage linebackers, if they show an ability in pass defense. (Their playing time might hinge on Spikes’ ability to stay on the field on passing downs.) The rest of the group should provide depth, as well as special teams value.
THREE THINGS WE KNOW
1. Jerod Mayo is the second-most important defender on the team, and one of the best middle/inside linebackers in the league. Vince Wilfork still is the most important defensive player on the roster — and closing in on a possible Hall of Fame career — but the 27-year-old Mayo isn’t far behind. His football IQ, skill set, pain threshold (his teammates speak of his ability to overcome injury in awe — he’s missed just four games in five years) versatility (he can play all three linebacker spots in the 4-3) and relentless pursuit to the ball make him invaluable to the New England defense. The man is a tackling machine, and not in the “pile-jumper” sense — he’s finished with at least 95 tackles in each of his five seasons, and finished the 2012 season with 147 tackles (fourth in the league) to go with a career-best four forced fumbles and three sacks. When Wilfork eventually decides to hang ‘em up, this will be Mayo’s defense.
2. New safety Adrian Wilson is more of a linebacker than defensive back. Acquired as a free agent, Wilson stands 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds. (Physically, he actually compares favorably to the 6-foot-2, 242-pound Fletcher.) Our friends at PFF gave Wilson a +2.6 when it came to pass coverage in 2012, which is down from a remarkable +15.4 in 2011. It remains to be seen how much of the drop is due to age or scheme — some believe the dropoff was because Wilson hit a wall, while others believe he wasn’t be utilized properly with the Cardinals. Ultimately, if the 33-year-old proves he still play on a regular basis, Wilson could fill the “money” position — a safety/linebacker hybrid that often takes over for a linebacker when the Patriots move into dime coverage.
3. One linebacker will make the 53-man roster because of his special teams skills. As we explained with the special teamers, the Patriots will keep at least one linebacker around for depth, as well as special teams value. In years past, that job has been filled by Fletcher, Koutouvides, Rivera and Tracy White. This time around there’s a handful of possibilities, including Tarpinian and Edds (who both have had stopovers in Foxboro before), as well as Beauharnais, a no-nonsense rookie taken in the seventh round out of Rutgers.
1. Can Spikes be a three-down linebacker? Spikes is universally accorded as one of the best run defenders in the league, and he showed great improvement last year when it came to working in pass coverage. Somehow, he finished the 2012 season with seven passes defensed, although as we have said previously, that could be because opposing offenses threw in his direction so much because they believed he was a liability in coverage. Regardless, seven passes defensed is pretty impressive, particularly when you consider the fact that he was tied for third on the team with starting cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. If Spikes can stay on the field on passing downs, it will have a considerable impact across the board on the New England defense.
2. Can Fletcher bounce back from a year on the shelf? Fletcher spent all of 2012 on the sideline after going down with a knee injury in the preseason. When healthy, the Montana State product does a nice job offering depth on the inside, but in the past Fletcher has shown an occasional ability to be someone who could contribute on passing downs. At the end of the 2011, he fundamentally took over the coverage job that was held for a few seasons by Gary Guyton — he averaged more than half the defensive snaps played over the final four games of the 2011 regular season — and while he didn’t reinvent the position, he certainly showed enough to be considered when you’re talking about coverage linebackers in New England in 2013.
3. Can Hightower make the leap from Year 1 to year 2? Belichick has said on several occasions that the biggest transition for a player isn’t so much the move from collegian to rookie year, but going from his first to his second year in the league. Everyone now knows who you are, and you’re not sneaking up on anybody. Hightower certainly showed flashes of potential greatness in his first season, and because of his versatility likely was asked to do more than your average rookie. But in 2013 he has to make the move from rookie to dependable and consistent veteran. He’s one of the players who bears watching closely this summer to see if he can make that transition.
By the numbers: According to Pro Football Focus, Jerod Mayo was second on the team in defensive snaps played last season with 1,226 snaps. (Mayo trailed only defensive back Devin McCourty, who had 1,251.)
Key new player: Jamie Collins. The rookie out of Southern Mississippi who was taken 52nd overall has freakish athletic skills, and his college coach believes he could step in and become a coverage linebacker in the NFL. (He started his college career as a safety.) As previously stated, much of his playing time could be tied to Spikes — if Spikes can stay on the field on passing downs, the Patriots might have to find something else for Collins to do. The good thing? The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder previously shown enough versatility where he might be able to handle that role. In the end, that versatility is a big part of what attracted the Patriots to him. Belichick noted this spring that he could follow the same path as the similarly versatile Hightower last season by simply throwing him out there and seeing what he’s best at.
The skinny: While there was plenty of drama on the rest of the roster, the linebackers were steady this offseason, which is good news for the Patriots defense. While Wilfork remains the centerpiece of the New England defense, this group will form an absolutely key part of the Patriots in 2013, and if one of the players can emerge as a serious contributor in coverage, the linebackers certainly should be able to build on a successful stretch run in 2012.
|The Patriots and their continuing search for coverage linebackers||04.09.13 at 1:37 pm ET|
The Patriots have been looking for coverage linebackers for the last year-plus. Veteran Bobby Carpenter had a brief audition last season but didn’t click. Jeff Tarpinian has been on and off the roster the last couple of years, and while Rob Ninkovich can still drop into coverage — he has four career picks — he’s transitioned more into a pass-rusher at this point in his career.
While Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower have shown an ability to run with tight ends and running backs in coverage the last few years, the Patriots still could use a linebacker who could work in coverage in space, specifically in nickel packages on passing downs. (Going back and rewatching the AFC title game, while the injury to cornerback Aqib Talib affected New England’s pass defense, it’s clear the Patriots also struggled to defend the middle of the field against the Ravens passing game.)
As prep work for the 2013 season begins this month, here are four possibilities for the Patriots to keep in mind when it comes to coverage linebackers.
1. One player who wasn’t available in 2012 but could provide a boost in 2013 is Dane Fletcher. The 6-foot-2, 242-pound linebacker went down with a season-ending knee injury in August, but in the past he has shown an occasional ability to be someone who could contribute on passing downs. At the end of the 2011, he fundamentally took over the coverage job that was held for a few seasons by Gary Guyton — he averaged more than half the defensive snaps played over the final four games of the 2011 regular season — and while he didn’t reinvent the position, he certainly showed enough to be considered when you’re talking about coverage linebackers in New England in 2013.
2. For what it’s worth, Spikes did improve over the course of the season — remarkably, he finished with seven passes defensed, although that could be because opposing offenses threw in his direction so much because they believed he was a liability in coverage. Regardless, seven passes defensed is pretty impressive, particularly when you consider the fact that he was tied for third on the team with starting cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. He is never going to be confused with Ty Law when it comes to working in pass defense, but if he continues to show improvement, he could become a legitimate three-down linebacker in 2013.
(One other thing to remember about Spikes — the linebacker is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and if he continues to trend upward — particularly when it comes to working in coverage — and stay healthy, he could end up costing the Patriots more money than they may have initially anticipated.)
While Mayo has consistently shown an ability to work well in coverage over the course of his career (he had three passes defensed and a pick in 2012), the one to really watch this year could be Hightower. Although he had his rookie moments, he did show enough over the course of his first season in the NFL that could lead you to believe that he can contribute on a regular basis. To that point, Pro Football Focus had him at +3.1 in pass coverage as a rookie — that was second-best among all New England linebackers in 2012, trailing only Mayo’s +5.6.
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