|Patriots acknowledge no one player will be able to fill Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis voids||11.17.15 at 2:41 pm ET|
The Patriots offense suffered another major blow Sunday night when Julian Edelman reportedly suffered a broken bone in his foot that will keep him out 6-8 weeks. (The hope is he will be able to return for the playoffs.)
The immediate thought following the injury was the Patriots will just have receiver Danny Amendola fill Edelman’s shoes, as the two are similar, but not exact in terms of skill-set.
Two days after the game, it seems it might not be as simple.
“I think it’s important to understand that there’s nobody that’s going to go in and just take Julian [Edelman‘s] place, including Danny,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on a conference call Tuesday. “Danny’s role is going to be filled with things we feel good about Danny doing, and then there might be some other people who are going to need to do some things that maybe we haven’t asked a whole lot of them as well.
“So, I think that all our players, Danny included, would understand and respect the opportunity to go in there and maybe carry and handle a little extra burden, but any time that you incur an injury to a player as versatile as Julian or Dion [Lewis], it’s never going to be one person’s responsibility to go in there and make up for that production.”
The Patriots have suffered two major injuries to their offense in the last two weeks — Dion Lewis against the Redskins and now Edelman. The two players have been impactful parts to the Patriots’ offense this season.
Thanks to ESPN Stats & Info, the pair has contributed 34 percent of the team’s total yards from scrimmage, 35 percent of the team’s receiving yards, 39 percent of the team’s receptions and 44 percent of the team’s yards after the catch.
|Bill Belichick: ‘It’s a restarting process’ to beat Bills without Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis||at 10:02 am ET|
Week 2 feels like a lifetime ago for the Patriots. Or at least another season.
On Sept. 20, the Patriots had the services of Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman. Both offensive weapons played big roles in building a 37-13 lead that led to a 40-32 win. Lewis had seven carries for 40 yards and six catches for 98 yards. Edelman was targeted a remarkable 19 times for 11 catches and 97 yards, with two touchdowns.
Lewis is lost for the season with a torn ACL while Edelman could be out until the playoffs after surgery Monday on a broken bone in his foot. Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels have to begin looking for another way to beat Rex Ryan and the Bills.
Belichick began the week-long effort to preach that just because the Patriots handled the Bills in Week 2 in Orchard Park doesn’t mean another win is in store Monday night at Gillette Stadium.
“It’s a restarting process,” Belichick said in his Monday conference call. “You start your preparations all over again. It’s been half a season since we last played Buffalo. A lot of the players that played in that game will play in it again, but there are some new faces and some players that played in it that won’t play in it. And I think you’ve just got to start your preparations all over again. I don’t think you can ever expect games to go the way they did in the past. There is always a new dynamic and a new element and even though you might play the same team two or in some cases you even play a team three times in a season, the games are always different and you just never know how it’s going to go.”
The Bills, left for dead after their loss in London to Jacksonville, are coming off a 22-17 road win against the Jets, putting them back in the AFC wild card race at 5-4 on the season, and tied with the Jets for second place in the AFC East.
|Mike Florio on D&C: ‘I’d be shocked if [Washington] can stay within 25 of the Patriots’||11.06.15 at 8:38 am ET|
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio made his weekly appearance on Dennis, Callahan & Minihane on Friday morning to talk about news from around the NFL, including the surprising decline of Andrew Luck and the Colts. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The Patriots host Washington on Sunday, and it could get ugly — reminiscent of the teams’ matchup eight years ago when the Patriots were rolling to an undefeated season amid the Spygate controversy.
“[A score of] 52-7 in 2007. An apples-to-apples comparison from a couple of middle-finger tours through the NFL,” Florio said. “And I don’t think Washington, even though they are 3-4 and they are in theory in position to win the NFC East, I’d be shocked if they can stay within 25 of the Patriots on Sunday.”
Looking at the situation in Indiapolis, Florio said Luck’s demise is a mystery.
“Nobody really knows, because late in these games the last couple of weeks he’s found the gas pedal and he’s gotten it done. It just hasn’t been enough to win the games,” Florio said. “Early in games he’s not playing well. It just looks like a regression in the fourth year of his career. And a lot of people are pointing out, ‘Well, in Year 4 of Peyton Manning‘s career he regressed, the coach got fired, and then once it went from Jim Mora to Tony Dungy everything was fine again for Peyton Manning. So maybe this is just part of a strangely shaped career arc for Andrew Luck.
“But if he is healthy, there’s something’s wrong. And if he is injured, he’s finding a way to pull it together in the fourth quarter, adrenaline or whatever, and play as well as he should have been playing all game long.”
|Getting WR Brandon LaFell up to speed will make Patriots’ dominant offense even better||10.31.15 at 10:00 am ET|
Through the first seven games of the year, the Patriots offense has been virtually unstoppable, averaging a league-leading 35.6 points per game and scoring 30 or more points in five straight contests.
The scary part is the offense could be getting even better.
Wide receiver Brandon LaFell played a major role in the offense last season in his first year in New England. He caught 74 passes for 953 yards and seven touchdowns. In the postseason, he caught another 13 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
The LSU product returned from PUP last week against the Jets and struggled, dropping six passes and only catching two in all for 19 yards. LaFell was better Thursday against the Dolphins, hauling in four passes for 47 yards, but he said afterwards he isn’t anywhere near where he wants to be.
“It felt a little better today, but still not fully back to myself yet,” LaFell said. “Next week, we’ll have a longer week, more time to practice, more time to get my timing better with Tom [Brady] and go out there and hopefully play a better game next week.”
While LaFell maintains he isn’t fully back to playing he best, he did show he’s doing some things well, as he and Brady connected on a perfectly executed back shoulder route in the second quarter for an 18-yard gain.
This is what LaFell and Brady did best together last year, including the game-winning touchdown in the divisional round against the Ravens.
“When I looked up, that ball was already in the air,” LaFell said. “I was like, ‘I’ve got to make a play on this one because I let one get away from me earlier in the game on the sideline.’ But he put the ball in a good place where I could get it, made the catch, kept the chains moving and it led to another big play.”
LaFell’s best football has yet to come, as offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels noted he has only had three real practices, which occurred prior to the Jets game. This past week before the Dolphins game was just three walkthroughs because of the short week.
|Josh McDaniels has a lot of respect for a ‘tremendous’ Jets defense||10.21.15 at 9:33 am ET|
FOXBORO — Josh McDaniels is getting ready for the biggest challenge he’s faced so far this season.
After five games, the Patriots offense is averaging an NFL-leading 36.6 points per game and is passing for an average of 325.2 yards per game, second-best in the league.
But this week, McDaniels must prepare Brady and the offense for a defense that is allowing league-lows in yards (269.2 per game) and points (15.0). Leading the way is the secondary, which has been re-fortified with Darrelle Revis. The Jets are allowing just 186 passing yards per game.
The front seven is still a force with names like Muhammad Wilkerson, rookie Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson and Quinton Coples up front and David Harris and Calvin Pace anchoring the linebackers.
“This is a tremendous group from front to back at all three levels,” McDaniels said. “They’re extremely well coached. We have some familiarity with some of the guys on their staff. Coach [Todd] Bowles does a tremendous job of putting together the scheme, getting the players to play it the way he wants it played, and they just do a great job of being in position and being aggressive and trying to take away, limit some of the things you try to do well offensively. And that’s why you see them being so efficient on the defensive side of the ball. I mean they’re in the top two or three in basically every single category in the league. The front has obviously got a lot of great players.”
|Patriots finding ways to be successful when teams focus defense on Rob Gronkowski||10.20.15 at 5:44 pm ET|
As one of the best tight ends in football, Rob Gronkowski is becoming the player opposing defenses look to take out of the game when facing the Patriots.
Gronkowski had four touchdowns in the first two games of the season, but in the last three he’s had just one, as teams have made it more of a priority to limit the big tight end’s catches.
In games one and two, he had 12 catches on 21 targets, but in the last three games, he’s had 11 catches on 17 targets.
Teams are making it harder on Gronkowski to get open, but offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels isn’t concerned.
“I think Rob is very unselfish,” McDaniels said on Tuesday’s conference call. “And look, if it comes to him 20 times in a game, he would try to make 20 plays, and if it doesn’t, then he’s going to do his job on each snap. And he did a great job of blocking the other day. He obviously impacted the game in the passing game catching some critical passes for us on third down and down there in the red zone. Certainly, we’re going to keep trying to put him in position to make a huge impact in the game because we know what kind of player he is.”
Gronkowski being covered — sometimes by two players — has freed up other wide receivers, especially Sunday night against the Colts. Danny Amendola caught seven passes for 105 yards and Keshawn Martin and Scott Chandler also made a few big plays in the win.
Besides Gronkowski, six other players have caught touchdown passes over the first five games.
“I think the other night was great. We got a lot of production from other areas also,” Brady said on Dennis & Callahan Tuesday. “Scott Chandler came up big. LeGarrette [Blount] came up big. Danny [Amendola] came up big. Keshawn Martin came up big. It wasn’t necessarily just Julian [Edelman], Gronk and Dion Lewis, it was the other guys. I think if the attention is going to go to the usual suspects, then I think the other guys have obviously shown then can produce as well. That is what it takes over the course of a long season. You just can’t keep going to the same guys over and over and over again. Other guys being able to produce when their number is called was I think a real important reason why we won the other night.”
|Rubbed out: Why do Patriots lead league in offensive pass interference penalties?||10.14.15 at 10:50 am ET|
FOXBORO — While the Patriots have cut way down on penalties this year (at least when compared to last season), New England does lead the league in offensive pass interference calls — the Patriots have been flagged five times through four games.
One of the reasons for the spike is the fact that pick or rub plays are being called more often this season, according to Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Belichick told WEEI earlier this week that it’s a clear point of emphasis this year.
“Sometimes you get those plays and one crew might call them and one crew might not,” Belichick said. “I think this is one of those things — kind of like the defensive rule — that a defenseless receiver, that those hits have gone down. They have diminished over the last couple of years as defenders are more conscious of it, they are more aware of the rule.
“They do it a little bit differently and I think offensively teams — we’re one of them — you have to be more careful about running into guys, where in the past sometimes when you run crossing patterns, you just don’t know where those defenders are going to be sometimes.”
Pick plays and rub routes have been in the spotlight the last few years, as many teams — including the Patriots — have utilized them as a way for pass catchers to gain separation over the middle, as well as when they’re split out wide. Occasionally, a receiver who is new to the New England offense has struggled trying to perfect the art of a well-run pick in hopes of trying to spring another receiver. (Last season, Brandon LaFell picked up three OPI calls at the start of the year as he became fully acclimated into the New England offense.)
It’s important to remember that within one yard of the line of scrimmage, an offensive player can block the defender as much as he wants, regardless of whether or not the ball is in the air. However, beyond the one-yard zone, it is illegal for an offensive player to initiate contact with a defender. And after that, it can get dicey for an official who is trying to determine what is incidental contact between a potential pass catcher and a defender and what might be worthy of a flag.
“I think our guys are always trying to do that the right way, and sometimes when you’re doing things like that, you’re going to incur a few penalties here and there. It’s not much different than any other penalty you end up getting,” he said.
He added: “You’re always trying to give yourself an opportunity to make a good play. Our guys have heard the rules from the officials and we try to coach them as well as we can and they try to execute them the way that we explain it to them. Certainly, we’re never trying to get a penalty and we’ll try to coach it as clean and as best we can going forward to try to eliminate those situations from coming up.”
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