|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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|Dante Scarnecchia: ‘I have to do a better job’ helping offensive line cut down on sacks||11.06.13 at 9:19 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Anyone watching the Patriots this season has noticed a sharp uptick in the amount of pressure and the number of hits Tom Brady has taken in the pocket.
In nine games, Brady has been sacked 26 times. He was sacked 27 times in all of 2012 and 32 times in 2011. As a matter of fact, Brady is on pace to be sacked 46 times. The most times Brady has been sacked in one season is 41 in 2001. There isn’t anyone on the Patriots taking all of this harder than longtime offensive line guru Dante Scarnecchia.
“I think that, yes we have given up more sacks at this point than we did all last season,” Scarnecchia said this week as the team heads into the bye. “Believe me, I understand that. So, what is it? I think that I probably have to do a better job coaching and getting them to do things better. I think our players are working at it very hard and you know sacks are a byproduct of a lot of different things. So, I’ll pretty much just leave it at that and hopefully, as we’ve said, we’re going to try and [be] better doing the things that we’re doing going forward.”
The sacks don’t include the 46 hits he’s taken and the increased pressure in the pocket. Brady has always been good with pocket presence, stepping up to avoid pressure or just moving side-to-side. But this year, he clearly doesn’t have the same confidence or feel.
When defenses attack, where is the pressure coming from? Well, according to the intense research from Pro Football Focus, mostly up the middle. Center Ryan Wendell is having a particularly rough year in pass protecting, rating out at a minus-8.3. Wendell has played all 681 snaps with Brady. The others in the red are the guards Dan Connolly (-6.3) and Logan Mankins (-2.3).
This week, when Mankins was asked about the season he’s having, Mankins allowed for the fact that his game against Miami wasn’t up to par but the rest of the season has been good.
“Mentally I’m better,” Mankins said. “Sometimes physically I’m not as fast as I once was, I don’t think. Just for example this year, I thought I’ve had a good year except for Miami. I played pretty bad that game, got beat a couple times, but every once in a while someone’s got you r number and they had mine that day. So it’s one of those deals.”
“I don’t know. I think that it’s just like anything where we’re at a point right now where the key thing for all of us is that we avoid using the word satisfied,” Scarnecchia said. “None of us should be satisfied with anything. The idea is to improve every day and try to get better every day and be a better football team tomorrow than we are today, so pretty much that’s it. We know where we are, we know what we do, we know how we do it and we’re just going to try and get better as we go forward.”
The Patriots will miss right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who came in at a plus-10.5 rating according to PFF, surpassed only by the 11.5 pass-blocking rating of Nate Solder. Vollmer has been replaced by Marcus Cannon, who has been having a successful season, albeit in 275 snaps.
“It’s the same as it was before we put him in that role. Marcus is our backup tackle and now he is our starting right tackle,” Scarnecchia said. “We feel like he is very capable of doing this job for any team. Right now he is doing it for us and he is doing a great job of it and we’re very pleased with the way he is playing right now.”
Does the 55 points indicate better times ahead for the offense and the line?
“I don’t know,” Scarnecchia conceded. “If you went on the last game you could say, ‘Yeah,’ that would probably be a pretty good thing. We just feel like our goal around here has always been from day one to be better today than we were at the beginning. That’s pretty much it. Whatever it was last week, hopefully it will be the same next week and then if it is next week, then maybe we say, ‘Oh, OK, maybe we do have some rhythm going.’”
Several of the Patriots were Tuesday asked about the situation in Miami. We already covered the comments from special teams captain Matthew Slater, but here are some of the responses from Tom Brady and Logan Mankins.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the situation in Miami. As a captain of this team and a leader, what kind of responsibility do you have to create a respectful atmosphere and not go over the line? “We’ve never dealt with – we have our own locker room and every locker room is different I’m sure. I don’t know really anything that happened down there.”
But I’m asking about your locker room. “We’ve got a great locker room. We’ve got a lot of great guys. Everyone is just trying to do the best they can for the team. We take Coach [Bill] Belichick’s cue and try to go from there. But everyone has a role to play and everybody’s role is important. You can’t do someone else’s job. You show up every day trying to figure out what you can do to help the team win. That’s the most important thing for anybody in our locker room.”
When you look at the camaraderie of your locker room, it seems like a mature group with a simple way of doing things, this is a workplace. Why is it that some places are different? “It’s a tough question, but I think it always starts at the top. When the guy at the top lets you know it’s a business and we’re here to work and everything like that. We have tons of time in there where we’re doing a lot of joking around, messing around. We have a lot of fun with each other, too, but I don’t think it’s ever taken too far.”
Is that something you learned – not to go over a certain line? “Yeah, I think it’s human nature not to take it too far.”
|Great expectations: Logan Mankins knows fate of offense can rest on shoulders of offensive line||10.23.13 at 5:18 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Add Logan Mankins to the list of people concerned about the Patriots’ third-quarter struggles.
Asked about the issues — the Patriots have been outscored 44-9 in the third, and were shutout last Sunday against the Jets on the way to a 30-27 loss — the veteran offensive lineman said it’s a variety of problems.
“I don’t know. I think execution right now,” he said after practice on Wednesday. “You look at those plays that third quarter when we came out. Some bad assignments and some guys just not doing a good job, fundamentally, one-on-one plays. It’s just a combination of everything and that’s really holding us back.”
Mankins said some of the struggles can be traced back to the offensive line.
“Oh yeah, it’s not all on us, but there’s enough of it on us,” he said. “A perfect example is the other night. Come out in third quarter, sack, sack. A lot of that was on us. Mental assignments. Guys just getting beat. Whenever the line’s not playing good, it’s hard to score for us.”
It’s been a rough stretch for the New England offensive line — while sacks can be an inexact way to measure protection, it’s clear that the group is having some issues. Brady has been sacked 13 times in the last three games. For a group that prides itself on being one of the stoutest in football, Mankins knows it’s not sustainable.
“The expectations start high in our room,” Mankins said. “We expect a lot out of ourselves, and I think that’s why we were disappointed after the game the other night. We thought we played good until the end of the second half there. Third quarter was bad, and then I think we played better in the fourth. But we had that lull right there in the third quarter that hurt us and hurt the team. We can’t just play like that.
“There’s times when we play really good and there’s times when we play really bad,” he said. “Like the other night, the little stretch there was about as bad as you can get. The thing is, everyone in that room wants to be perfect and it’s just not going to happen all the time. We’re playing against good guys. The frustrating thing is when we do things wrong and that’s the reason for our problems. We want to make them earn it and they didn’t earn it every play.”
He knows the line will face another challenge this week in the Dolphins.
“It’s a big division game,” Mankins said. “We let one get away last week, and now we’re facing a team that’s very good, especially on their front seven defense. [Their] front four has good defensive linemen. It’s going to be tough for our offense again this week.”
|Willie Colon: ‘I just hate’ the Patriots||10.16.13 at 3:04 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Willie Colon doesn’t leave much doubt when it comes to his feelings for the Patriots.
“I just hate them,” he told the New York Daily News.
The Jets offensive guard, who was involved in an end-of-game skirmish with New England in the fourth quarter of the Jets-Patriots game in Foxboro in September, said his animosity for New England is unlike any other.
“People respect the Steelers because they play you one way,” said Colon, who played with Pittsburgh for the first six years of his career before joining the Jets this past offseason. “You never hear an excuse about why the Steelers lose. When we lost, we moved on. I think sometimes when the Patriots lose or things go wrong, it seems as if there’s excuses for why they didn’t have a good game. Sometimes that rubs people the wrong way. I feel that way. If you lose, you take it.”
Colon was fined $34,000 for his role in the September fight, which took place in the fourth quarter of the Sept. 12 win over the Jets at Gillette Stadium. A scrum erupted after Aqib Talib picked off a Geno Smith pass and was hit by New York offensive lineman Nick Mangold along the sidelines. Several New England players took exception to the shot, and a few punches were thrown between the two sides. Colon was docked $26,250 for making contact with an official and a $7,875 fine for punching an opponent.
Ultimately, Colon acknowledged New England’s run of success. But that doesn’t mean he’s exchanging Christmas cards with them.
“I don’t like them,” Colon said of the Patriots. “But at the same time you got to respect what they’ve done as an organization. Winning Super Bowls. They’ve built a tradition there where they get it done. No matter what you feel about them personally, you got to respect that they win.”
For their part, the Patriots weren’t interested in firing back at Colon on Wednesday.
“Not much phases me with Jets-Patriots at this point, or Yankees-Red Sox,” said quarterback Tom Brady. “I’ve been around to hear the banter that goes back and forth. It’s a healthy rivalry. It’s because both cities take a lot of pride in winning and we love our sports. It should be an exciting weekend.”
“I don’t know,” said offensive lineman Logan Mankins. “I’m not a big fan of anyone else either, so it doesn’t bother us.’’
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Logan Mankins: ‘I think we really let [the defense] down’||10.06.13 at 7:08 pm ET|
CINCINNATI — No one would blame perennial Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins if he had bad flashbacks to the Super Bowls against the Giants on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals, led by Pro Bowl nose tackle Geno Atkins, disrupted and dismantled the Patriots offensive line all day, resulting in four sacks, five tackles for losses, eight hits on Tom Brady and seemingly countless other hurries. Atkins just signed a five-year, $55 million extension before the season began. On Sunday, the Patriots got a good dose of why Bengals owner Mike Brown invested the money.
“They’ve got a good front,” Mankins said. “Geno Atkins, he’s the real deal, that’s why he’s getting paid a ton. He’s an all-pro guy. You have to do your best against him. They’ve got some good ends. They complement each other well.”
The Patriots defense kept the Bengals out of the end zone with the exception of one 93-yard scoring drive but the offense could never get into gear, something that Mankins said he felt bad about after Cincinnati’s 13-6 win.
“We practice together all week,” Mankins said. “Offensively, it comes down to making plays, the line blocking, backs running, receivers catching, quarterback making good throws and making the right reads. We’re just not getting enough of that right now.
“Today the defense played great, as they have all year. I think we really let them down.”
On the first two drives, the Patriots called play-action passes and both times the Bengals defensive line snuffed it out and sacked Brady.
“I think the first half we ran the ball pretty good,” Mankins said. “The second half, we didn’t really run it very many times. We just threw the ball pretty much. Maybe we just got into the [pass blocking] groove a little bit better there. Some of those pressures in the first half were play-action passes that I think their defense did a good job of scouting those. They played them perfect where we didn’t have a chance to block them in that scheme. They’re getting paid, too. You have to chalk it up to them sometimes.”
|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.
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