|Bill Belichick ramping up for another pressure-packed attack from Mike Zimmer||09.09.14 at 6:48 pm ET|
If there’s one silver lining of Sunday’s blitzkrieg of the Patriots offensive line, especially in the second half, it’s that the Patriots will likely see more of the same this week in Minnesota and have another chance to prove that they can handle the pressure.
As Bill Belichick pointed out Tuesday, new Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer and Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle worked together for Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati for four seasons (2008-11) when Zimmer was the defensive coordinator and Coyle was the defensive backs coach.
There, Zimmer and Coyle came up with a defensive scheme that was considered one of the most aggressive in the NFL, using heavy pressure packages, including blitzes, along with building a bruising defensive front that could bring pressure on its own.
Move the quarterback off the spot in the pocket and make him uncomfortable. In 2009, it produced a division championship. In 2011, the Bengals with a new quarterback in Andy Dalton, but the Zimmer-Coyle defense still in place, went back to the playoffs as a wild card.
Now, Zimmer is in charge of the entire Vikings program and he brings with him another aggressive approach, and a defensive that generated an NFL-leading five sacks in Week 1, led by two from defensive end Everson Griffen.
“I’d say their defense looks quite a bit like the Cincinnati defense,” Belichick said. “I think there’s quite a bit of carryover from what they did in Cincinnati, especially when you get to their sub third-down packages. Yeah, I think there’s quite a bit of carryover.”
Josh McDaniels understands why the Patriots’ offensive line has been under fire since the 33-20 loss to the Dolphins in Sunday’s season-opener.
New England’s offensive coordinator, who spoke with reporters on a conference call Tuesday, said the breakdowns in protection weren’t necessarily traceable to one thing. Instead, it was across the board — and a good performance by the Miami front — that led to four sacks and six quarterback hits by the Dolphins on Brady.
“I don’t think there was one thing in particular,” McDaniels said. “I think you have to do a good job of being technically sound in terms of your protection to avoid pressure on the passer, obviously. Give credit to Miami; they deserve it. They did a good job, not only with their personnel and what they did in their rush schemes, but just the effort they played with.”
You could argue that one of the reasons Brady and the Patriots were under pressure Sunday against the Dolphins was because of their play-calling. New England attempted 56 passes on the afternoon — the most pass attempts for the Patriots since Brady has 65 pass attempts in a Dec. 2012 loss to the Niners. That included just three designed runs over the course of the fourth quarter, even though it was a three-point game after three quarters.
You drop back more often, and you’re going to give the opponent more of a chance to get after the passer. That’s a recipe for trouble, regardless of how good the offensive line is.
“I thought we had definite stretches where we did a good job [avoiding pressure], and then there was certainly an element of the game in the second half that we’d love to stay away from, which is we’re not looking to go into any game and throw the ball 50-plus times,” acknowledged McDaniels. “We’ve got to do a better job in general, coaching, playing, managing the game and putting ourselves in better positions than what we did in the second half, because we didn’t do much of anything to help ourselves.”
McDaniels addressed the statements from Belichick saying that the plan throughout the game was to rotate at every position, and that included the offensive line. Understandably, McDaniels wouldn’t commit to a set game plan along those lines going forward, but it sure sounds like there could be more of that in the coming weeks.
“I think each week will be different,” McDaniels said of a possible rotation. “We’ll look at the personnel situation that we have and the health of our team obviously would affect that, and just what we feel like is the best thing for us going forward.
“Certainly on opening day down in Miami, it was hot. I believe every offensive player for us contributed offensively, and obviously a lot of those guys had to play in the kicking game, too. I think that will be a week-to-week thing and we’ll try to make the best decision that hopefully gives us a chance to play well on Sunday.”
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|Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels ‘really impressed’ by TE Tim Wright||09.02.14 at 2:01 pm ET|
One player who certainly opened some eyes in the preseason finale was newly-acquired tight end Tim Wright. Acquired two days before the fourth preseason game against the Giants as part of the Logan Mankins trade, he was thrown out there without much seasoning and didn’t look overwhelmed while playing more than 40 snaps with his new team.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday that he was “really impressed” with the work of Wright in his preseason debut with New England, which ended with Wright registering four catches for 43 yards.
“We just got him, and he was able to come in here and learn enough to be able to go out there and play for us in a preseason game for fortysomething some snaps or whatever it was,” McDaniels said of Wright, a Rutgers product who caught 54 passes last season with the Bucs.
“He’s working hard [and] certainly a bright kid, and has some talent that hopefully we can utilize,” McDaniels added. “He just seems to fit in good and has a good attitude and work ethic. I’m just excited about seeing what we can do going forward. It’s very early, and we’ve only really had one practice. Hopefully we can build on his start and try to add a little here and there to what he knows of our offensive system and get our guys comfortable working together.”
|Jimmy Garoppolo is ready to be ‘consistently good, not occasionally great’||06.17.14 at 5:11 pm ET|
The rookie quarterback out of Eastern Illinois was as sharp Tuesday in the opening of minicamp as he has been in the 10 previous practices during OTAs, connecting with Jeremy Johnson on a long touchdown pass late in the workout.
“It was a good read,” Garoppolo said before cracking a smile of confidence. “It was just one of those things, you see safeties rotate, you get your eyes in the right place and you have to have efficient eyes. I did that on that play.
“It’s a day-by-day process. I went out there and had a good day today,” Garoppolo said.
Garoppolo is obviously working behind Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett. But for the second straight week, Garoppolo got all of the second team snaps as Ryan Mallett was off the practice field and inside the field house while the team help minicamp practice outside in the heat. As for the heat of battling for the back-up job behind Brady, Garoppolo said things couldn’t be going much better.
“Without a doubt, Tom does a great job of just going out there,” Garoppolo said. “Guys look to him as a coach on the field and that’s what you want in a quarterback. So, just watching and learning, not so much what he tells me but just watching his mannerisms, I’ve learned a lot.”
Garoppolo said he is, by no means, thinking of being Brady’s heir apparent several years down the road.
“It’s just one of those things that you can’t really focus on that,” he added. “If you’re focused on that, you’re focused on the wrong thing. My main focus was coming out here and being very consistent, day in and day out. It’s a grind. You have to do good each and every day.”
Garoppolo said he’s excited to be working with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
“It’s awesome. Josh, he’s just like me,” Garoppolo said. “He’s just an energetic guy, loves the offense, loves football and he’ll go out there and have a great time every day.”
As for comparing this to workouts and practices at Eastern Illinois, Garoppolo said it really doesn’t.
“I don’t know if you could even compare the two,” he said. “It’s night and day. We come out here. It’s gorgeous out today, had a great day of practice. What else would you rather be doing?
“It’s a process, for sure. It’s just one of those things you have to take it day-by-day. Each day is different and you have to be consistently good, not occasionally great. You have to come out here and do your best every single day and let the coaches see what you can do. It’s very fast but that’s what Coach Belichick wants it to be. He wants to have great tempo in and out of the huddle and moving from station to station. I think we did a good job of that today.
|Free agent snapshot: Eric Decker||01.30.14 at 9:36 pm ET|
When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. Over the next two weeks — with the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag – we’ll look at 10 possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that these guys aren’t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class – instead, they are players we think would be a good fit in New England. We started our series with looks at Anquan Boldin, Emmanuel Sanders and Dennis Pitta. Today, it’s Eric Decker.
Position: Wide receiver
Age: 26 (will turn 27 on March 15)
Weight: 214 pounds
The skinny: You want to get back at a conference rival for swiping your elite-level pass catcher in free agency? Swipe theirs! OK, so it wouldn’t be as easy as that, but the idea of New England inking Decker a year after the Broncos picked up Wes Welker would be interesting, to say the least. Decker — who was taken three spots before the Patriots drafted Taylor Price in 2010 — finished the 2013 season with a career-best 87 catches for 1,288 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, and will hit the market at the perfect time, particularly if he’s able to help Denver win on Sunday. He’s durable (he hasn’t missed a game the last three years), has some positional versatility (he’s lined up at both the X and the Z while with the Broncos), and he has some value as a special teamer (he worked as a punt and kick returner relatively early in his career with the Broncos before the job was given to Trindon Holliday).
By the numbers: 63. Of Decker’s 87 catches in 2013, 63 of them went for first down, a rate of 72.4 percent and good enough for ninth in the league. Decker was also in the top 10 in receptions of 20 yards or more (19, tied for ninth) and receiving touchdowns (11, tied for eighth overall).
Why it would work: Several reasons: One, the Broncos have several expiring contracts — 17 unrestricted free agents, to be specific — and would be hard-pressed to retain them all, including Decker. (In that same vein, it appears unlikely Denver would be interested in franchising him.) And two, Decker’s background with Josh McDaniels (McDaniels was his head coach with the Broncos when he was drafted by Denver) could create a nice comfort zone for the receiver. In good cases and bad, McDaniels has brought several pass catchers with him from stops in Denver and St. Louis — Decker could be the next McDaniels import to sign with New England.
Why it might not work: Money. A distinctly lackluster class of free agent wide receivers could drive up Decker’s asking price, and right out of the Patriots’ price range.
Quote: “He did draft me, and I’m very thankful that he gave me the opportunity to be playing in the NFL, especially with such a great organization like Denver. I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a coach. He’s a brilliant mind, offensively. I’m sure, like any coach, he’s excited and he’s happy for the guys that he drafted.” — Decker, speaking this week about the impact McDaniels had on his career
Our take: It seems like something of a long-shot — after all, a guy who has had 216 catches over the last three seasons will draw plenty of interest on the open market, especially when you consider that it’ll be something of a depressed year for receivers’ contracts. Throw in the fact that the Patriots aren’t expected to have a ton of dough under the cap this spring, and it feels like Decker is a little out of their range. But Decker clearly has an affinity for McDaniels, and the Patriots offensive coordinator has managed to find a way to get many of the guys he favored at previous stops to Foxboro the last few years, a group that includes Brandon Lloyd, Michael Hoomanawanui, Daniel Fells, Danny Amendola and Greg Salas. It’ll be interesting to see that if the Patriots are going to be involved in the pursuit of Decker, how much of an influence McDaniels could have.
|Once considered a failure in Denver, Josh McDaniels can find small measure of redemption in Broncos’ success||at 12:43 pm ET|
This has to be a strange week for Josh McDaniels.
On Sunday, the Patriots offensive coordinator will sit and watch the Broncos face the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. And while he’s still remembered around the Rocky Mountains as the guy who drafted Tim Tebow — and inspired some of the strangest Photoshop jobs of all-time — he’s also responsible for putting many of the pieces together for the current AFC champs.
In 2009 and 2010 drafts, McDaniels and the Broncos front office were responsible for the drafting or signing of several key players who remain on the roster. Wide receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, running back Knowshon Moreno, defensive end Robert Ayers, offensive lineman Zane Beadles and punter Britton Colquitt were all brought in on McDaniels’ watch, and all have played a sizable role in helping Denver reach the Super Bowl.
In all, of the 53 players on Denver’s active roster, 10 of them were acquired while McDaniels was head coach. That includes a major part of the passing game — three of Peyton Manning‘s top 5 targets this season were acquired by Denver while McDaniels was head coach. In all, 239 of the 461 passes completed by Manning this year went to McDaniels’ draft picks in Thomas (92 catches), Decker (87 catches) and Moreno (60 catches).
“He did draft me, and I’m very thankful that he gave me the opportunity to be playing in the NFL, especially with such a great organization like Denver,” Decker said of McDaniels. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a coach. He’s a brilliant mind, offensively. I’m sure, like any coach, he’s excited and he’s happy for the guys that he drafted.”
Beadles has been a Pro Bowl offensive lineman, and played a major role in helping clear the way for Moreno, a back who has been a work-in-progress over much of his first five years in the league. The 12th overall selection in the 2009 draft, he struggled in 2011 and 2012 before enjoying a career renaissance this season, where he posted his first 1,000-yard season. He ended the year with 241 carries for 1,038 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.
This week, he paid tribute to McDaniels for taking a chance on him when he recalled what things were like for him on draft day.
“That was a special moment, just to be able to celebrate that with my family and friends. We were all there hanging out watching it on TV, so just for them to experience that definitely meant a lot to me,” Moreno said. “Just for Coach McDaniels giving me the opportunity to play in the league and try to fight for a position. Even though you make it, even though you get drafted or whatever it is, maybe you’re not drafted, you’ve still got to compete. You’ve still got to get better each day just to have a spot on the team. I’m really thankful to (have gotten) the opportunity.”
McDaniels had more than his share of missteps while in Denver. He clashed with quarterback Jay Cutler, as well as wide receiver Brandon Marshall, and was the first champion of the Tim Tebow Experiment. But even in many of those instances, he was able to make something positive out of a bad situation: With one of the picks he acquired in the trade of Cutler to the Bears, he acquired Ayers, a defensive end who had 5.5 sacks this past season with the Broncos.
Ultimately, McDaniels tenure in Denver had more negative than positive, as he finished with an 11-17 mark and was fired midway through his second season as head coach. And the fact joshmcdanielssucks.com is still up and running, as well as a “Fire Josh McDaniels” Facebook page (with 323 likes) is still operational, speaks to the level of dislike there is out there in the Rockies for McDaniels and his time with the Broncos. But if Decker, Thomas and Moreno are among those celebrating amidst the confetti at MetLife Stadium on Sunday night, the man who made it possible for them to be with the Broncos in the first place needs to be acknowledged, at least with a new Photoshop.
|Browns hire Bills DC Mike Pettine, which means Josh McDaniels will stick with Patriots||01.23.14 at 4:03 pm ET|
The Browns officially named Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine on Thursday, which puts an end to the possibility — at least for now — that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will leave New England.
McDaniels was interviewed for the job earlier this month, but turned down Cleveland. However, news over the last few days indicated that after being spurned by several other parties, the Browns had refocused their attention on McDaniels. That was apparently put to rest of Thursday when Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam announced the hiring of Pettine.
New England had already lost three coaches since its loss in the AFC title game, as offensive line coach Dante Scarneccha, linebackers coach Pepper Johnson and tight ends coach George Godsey have all announced they will leave the organization.
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