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Adam Schefter on MFB: Patriots ’rounding into form’ 12.12.14 at 12:42 pm ET
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Adam Schefter

Adam Schefter

ESPN’s Adam Schefter made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB and talked about the Patriots’ prospects in the AFC as they head into the home stretch of the regular season. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Schefter said it clear the Patriots are “the favorites in the AFC, for whatever’s that worth.”

“I think this team is rounding into form,” Schefter said. “It’s getting better. It’s adding parts like Akeem Ayers and Jonathan Casillas and Alan Branch and LeGarrette Blount — guys that were essentially on the scrap heap that they’re pulling off, utilizing, making them shine in roles they did not have with other teams. it has enabled this team to get better. Chandler Jones come back at some point here, they should obviously benefit tremendously from that. I certainly would not pick them to lose a game from this point on.

“They’ve lost two straight games to the Miami Dolphins. Does anybody think that the Miami Dolphins are going to beat New England for a third straight time in Foxboro on Sunday? I don’t. I don’t. And so if this team just continues to take care of its business and do what it’s been doing, I don’t mean to sound like a coach, but good things will happen.”

Added Schefter: “Good luck to the team that has to come into New England and try win there in January when the winds are whipping and the fans are yelling and temperatures are dipping. That’s going to be a tough assignment to do — not that it can’t be done, because we’ve seen the Baltimore Ravens do it — but it’s going to be a tough assignment for somebody to come in there in January and beat a Patriot team that seems to be improving.”

Offensive lineman Marcus Cannon agreed to a reported two-year, $9 million extension Thursday. This raised some eyebrows because of how it might affect the team’s other linemen.

“It gives New England options,” Schefter said. “You’ve got a situation where Nate Solder‘s deal’s coming up, [Sebastian] Vollmer‘s in a situation. Interestingly enough, Vollmer and Solder have the same agent as Wes Welker and as Shane Vereen. I could be wrong here, but I don’t know if they’ve had any negotiations of any players and any deals since the Wes Welker experience. So these would be the first.

“Now, obviously you’d have to think both sides are going to be smart enough to put previous differences behind them and move forward and do what’s best for both. … But there is a history there. And it will be interesting to see if that history plays into these deals at all and impacts the negotiations on the clients that these two sides have dealt with before.”

Looking at the situation in New York with the Jets, Schefter said he expects owner Woody Johnson to clean house after the season, firing coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik.

“I don’t think that they’re related in any way,” Schefter said. “I don’t think Rex Ryan will be back in New York, I don’t think John Idzik will be back in New York. I think both will be released at the end of the season and I think the Jets will chart a new course and a new direction. That’s the direction it certainly sounds like the franchise is heading. They’ve got to make decisions and make things official, but based on everything I’ve heard, I would be surprised if either guy was back.”

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots. For more from Schefter, including his thoughts on Rob Gronkowski‘s kitten photos, Johnny Manziel and the Ray Rice situation, listen to the interview at the MFB audio on demand page.

Read More: adam schefter, John Idzik, Marcus Cannon, Rex Ryan
Bill Belichick on Marcus Cannon: ‘It’s always good to have him on the field’ at 11:00 am ET
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Marcus Cannon

Marcus Cannon

FOXBORO — The way Bill Belichick sees it, a two-year, $9 million extension for Marcus Cannon is money well earned. The Patriots coach made that much clear Friday morning, hours after the extension was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Cannon showed his biggest value in 2013 when Sebastian Vollmer went out with a broken leg against the Dolphins in October. He took over at right tackle and helped stabilize the offensive line.

“Last year, he had an opportunity to play a lot,” Belichick said of the 26-year-old offensive lineman out of Texas Christian. “I thought he played well. This year, he gives us a lot of depth at a key position. It’s always good to have him on the field.

“He works hard and is very athletic guy, tough.”

This year has been a bigger challenge for Cannon, who has struggled at times on the left side of the offensive line. He started the first three games at left guard, as the Patriots searched for a replacement for the traded Logan Mankins. But he seemed to find a more comfortable role in the tackle-eligible role when the Patriots went with their jumbo sets.

“Marcus works hard. He’s done a lot of different things for us. He’s improved a lot,” Belichick said.

Belichick would not specifically confirm the new deal for Cannon, focusing instead on the upcoming opponent this weekend at Gillette Stadium.

“I don’t really talk too much about contracts. Just right now worried about Miami,” Belichick said.

Cannon was due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season after signing his four-year, $2.338 million rookie contract with New England in July 2011.

Cannon’s deal gives the Patriots some tackle insurance on the offensive line as Nate Solder is facing an upcoming fifth-year option of $7.43 million. With Cameron Fleming having missed eight of the last nine games with finger and knee injuries, that role has fallen primarily to Cannon.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Marcus Cannon, Nate Solder, New England Patriots
Report: Marcus Cannon receives 2-year, $9 million extension from Patriots 12.11.14 at 8:15 pm ET
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Marcus Cannon

Marcus Cannon

The Patriots didn’t want Marcus Cannon hitting free agency.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the fourth-year lineman out of Texas Christian and the Patriots have come to an agreement on a two-year, $9 million contract extension. He was due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season after signing his four-year, $2.338 million rookie contract with New England in July 2011.

Cannon is being rewarded for his versatility and the depth he provides on the Patriots’ offensive line. But the bigger factor could be the upcoming fifth-year option of $7.43 million potentially due left tackle Nate Solder. Cannon started the first three games of the season at left guard before moving to his current role as third tackle and tackle eligible, a role he shares with Cameron Fleming. With Fleming having missed eight of the last nine games with finger and knee injuries, that role has fallen primarily to Cannon.

The Patriots drafted Cannon in the fifth round of the ’11 draft, with the 138th pick, acquired in a trade from the Houston Texans. Cannon was diagnosed with a non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the pre-draft process. His value dropped, allowing the Patriots to take a chance on the big lineman. At TCU’s pro day in March 2011, Cannon was measured at 349 pounds. Although he played offensive tackle throughout his TCU career, the Patriots listed Cannon as an offensive guard when announcing the pick.

Weighing in at 358 pounds at the NFL Combine, Cannon was the heaviest player ever drafted by the Patriots, and the second-heaviest player in team history after nose tackle Ted Washington.

Cannon began the 2011 season on the Non-Football Injury list as he recuperated from his chemotherapy treatment, which took place during the NFL lockout.

Cannon was activated to the 53-man roster after the Patriots’ Week 10 game against the New York Jets, and saw his first snaps in the NFL at right tackle on the Patriots’ final drive against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11. Cannon was selected as the Patriots’ recipient for the Ed Block Courage Award.

After Sebastian Vollmer went on injured reserve in late October 2013, Cannon started the rest of the season at right tackle.

This season, Cannon has provided even more depth on the exterior of the line, serving as a tackle eligible when the Patriots got into their “jumbo” sets.

Read More: Marcus Cannon, Nate Solder, New England Patriots, non-hodgkin's lymphoma
Cameron Fleming (ankle/finger) misses Patriots practice, Julian Edelman (thigh) limited 11.19.14 at 4:47 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Some new injuries have appeared on the injury report for the Patriots in advance of Sunday’s meeting with the Lions at Gillette Stadium. This comes following Wednesday’s practice, which was held indoors inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse and was a walkthrough.

Julian Edelman (thigh) popped up on the injury report for the first time this season, and was limited in the practice. Edelman landed awkwardly on his side during the first quarter of last Sunday’s game, and has taken a beating all season long, so it really seemed like a matter of time before his name appeared. The injury did not seem to phase Edelman as he missed just a few plays.

Offensive lineman Cameron Fleming (finger/ankle) missed the practice in its entirety. Fleming injured his ankle late in Sunday’s game and did not return, while he suffered the finger injury Week 4 in Kansas City — the injury has been on the injury report since that game. Last Sunday was Fleming’s first action since Week 4.

Finally, offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (hip) was limited. It was the first time he’s appeared on the injury report this season. Cannon saw limited action Sunday as a substitute offensive lineman.

Chandler Jones (hip) once again did not practice and Matthew Slater (shoulder) was removed from the injury report. Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga returned to practice for the first time since being placed on injured reserve designated for return after injuring his foot in Week 3. The Patriots have 21 days to decide whether or not to add him to the active roster or shut him down.

For the Lions, wide receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle), defensive lineman Nick Fairley (knee) and running back Joique Bell (ankle) did not practice.

Here is the full Patriots practice report:

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Cameron Fleming, chandler jones, Julian Edelman, Marcus Cannon
Patriots reportedly set to shake up offensive line 09.29.14 at 2:42 pm ET
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Bryan Stork

Bryan Stork

The Patriots are expected to shake up the offensive line on Monday night, moving rookie Bryan Stork to the role of starting center, while installing another rookie — Cameron Fleming — at right guard and slotting the versatile Dan Connolly at the other guard position.

Meanwhile, Marcus Cannon and Jordan Devey, who have seen the bulk of the work at guard for the first three games, will apparently sit, at least for now. In addition, Ryan Wendell will move to a backup role. The moves come in the wake of some struggles up front over the course of the first three games of the season, a stretch where the team has had issues when it comes to pass protection.

Stork, who stepped in at center in the late stages of last week’€™s win over the Raiders, arrives at the NFL level with a peerless resume, having played some guard before moving to the pivot, where he eventually won the Rimington Award last year as college football’€™s best center. A captain and three-year starter at Florida State, he was a part of last season’€™s national championship team.

“€œHe’€™€™s really a football guy; loves football, works really hard at football,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Stork on Saturday. “He wants to be a football player and he’€™€™s dedicated himself to it; all those qualities that you love in any player but especially an offensive linemen. He’€™€™s got strength; he’€™€™s got a good frame for a center. He’€™€™s got good length and height. He played in a good program, he’€™€™s well coached, pretty good fundamental player. I thought he was as good as any center that we saw this year, the last couple years.”

Fleming played right tackle over the course of his career at Stanford — he said he got some work at right guard in college “as a joke” — but took some reps at right guard this week in practice. In his relatively brief NFL career, he has shown himself to be a steady and dependable blocker, mostly working as an extra tight end/tackle eligible in running situations.

As for Wendell, he could be in the mix now to serve as a backup at either guard or center going forward.

“He’€™€™s played both for us,”€ Belichick said of Wendell, who has fundamentally been the starting center in New England since 2012. ‘€œRyan’€™€™s a really smart player. He’€™€™s one of the smartest players that we have, that we’€™€™ve had. He really understands everything that we’€™€™re doing, including all the communication with the quarterback and so forth.”

The news was first reported by Shalise Manza-Young of the Boston Globe.

Read More: Bryan Stork, Cameron Fleming, Dan Connolly, Jordan Devey
Bill Belichick hints at offensive line rotation to fill shoes of Logan Mankins 09.05.14 at 10:49 am ET
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Could Josh Kline be the replacement for the departed Logan Mankins? (Getty Images)

Could Josh Kline be the replacement for the departed Logan Mankins? (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Ever since Logan Mankins was dealt away to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there’s been constant speculation as to who might replace the six-time Pro Bowl starting left guard.

Well, Bill Belichick hinted Friday that it might take more than one person to fill that void.

“We know how we’re going to play the game. Like anything else we do, we always have contingency plans if something happens to somebody. I think we have a lot of good players at that position on the offensive line. We’ll see how we end up playing them but we could end up playing more than five.”

Josh Kline, who started at left guard last Dec. 22 in Baltimore, was given the job in the preseason finale. He was bull-rushed twice against the Giants and allowed a sack. But against the Ravens last December, he kept Tom Brady clean and the Patriots offense rolled to an easy win.

There’s also been speculation that Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey or even Sebastian Vollmer could get looks along the interior line at some point. The projected starters along the line right now figure to be Nate Solder at left tackle, Ryan Wendell at center, Dan Connolly at right guard and Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle.

With Cannon, Kline and Devey available, one can easily see why Belichick sees an O-line rotation in New England’s future.

“We have five linemen so we’ll plan the way we think will give us the best chance to win,” Belichick said Friday.

Read More: Jordan Devey, Josh Kline, Logan Mankins, Marcus Cannon
5 things you have to know about Dolphins 09.01.14 at 9:35 pm ET
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Ryan Tannehill will lead the Dolphins against the Patriots in the regular season opener. (Getty Images)

Ryan Tannehill will lead the Dolphins against the Patriots in the regular-season opener. (Getty Images)

Here are five things you have to know about the Dolphins, who are looking to break the Patriots’ 10-game winning streak when it comes to regular-season openers Sunday in South Florida.

1. They are going to look to push the pace offensively.

Miami imported former Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor to serve as its new OC, and in an attempt to give the offense a jolt, he’s expected to bring a little Chip Kelly-style flair to the proceedings. That means faster football, and given the fact that the Patriots will be entering into what’s expected to be sweltering South Florida heat, the Dolphins will try and use a quicker tempo to their advantage. For what it’€™s worth, Miami has been a little quicker than the average NFL team over the last two years under Joe Philbin. Measured using situation-neutral offensive pace — a formula from Football Outsiders that eliminates things like two-minute drills and late-game clock-killing situations to get a truer idea of the offense’€™s intentions when it comes to offensive pace — the 2012 Dolphins were ninth overall at one play every 29.23 seconds, and last year, on average, they ran one play every 30.08 seconds, 14th quickest in the NFL. Of course, it’€™s debatable how effective the uptempo style will be. But it’€™s important to remember that Lazor played a sizable role in the growth and development of Nick Foles in Philly’€™s fast scheme last year, as Foles went from backup quarterback to SI cover boy in the span of a few months and the Eagles went from worst (4-12 and last in the NFC East) to first (10-6 and a division title) under Kelly. It’s clear Miami is hoping that Ryan Tannehill and the rest of the Dolphins offense can respond the same way in 2014.

2. They are all-in at wide receiver.

The Dolphins have really gone above and beyond when it comes to giving Ryan Tannehill enough options. With the cap hit for Mike Wallace ballooning to $17.25 million this year, the Dolphins are spending a whopping $29.6 million on their 2014 wide receivers’€”by far the most in the league, according to a June study by CBS Sports. Wallace, Brian Hartline, Rishard Matthews and Brandon Gibson are joined by rookie Jarvis Landry to form a relatively deep group of wide receivers, one that will serve as a nice challenge for a revamped New England secondary at the start of the season. (Some believe Lazor will try and use Wallace in much the same manner the Eagles did with DeSean Jackson, which is an intriguing concept.)

3. The interior of their offensive line is vulnerable.

The Dolphins have struggled with their offensive line dating back to last year — from a pure football perspective, the Incognito-Martin imbroglio simply shone a light on things. Miami allowed a league-high 58 sacks of Tannehill last season, 10 more than the second-place finish (Baltimore’s Joe Flacco was sacked 48 times) and tied for 10th most all-time in a single season. (For some perspective, Houston’s David Carr was sacked an astounding 76 times in 2002, the all-time mark.) Here’s a highlight reel of all 58 sacks, a sequence that lasts almost 10 minutes.

In all, Tannehill has been sacked 93 times in his first two years in the league. (We haven’t even mentioned the fact that the Miami running game was 26th in the league last season — a sizable portion of the blame for those numbers can also be attributed to the offensive line.) And so it was no surprise the Dolphins made offensive line a priority this offseason. They stabilized their left tackle spot with the addition of Branden Albert, while they used their first round pick on Ja’Wuan James, who appears to be the Week 1 right tackle for Miami. But things are still very rough along the interior, as center Mike Pouncey continues to work his way back from offseason hip surgery (Samson Satele will get the start in his place), while guard play has been questionable at best over the course of the summer. Bottom line? If you want to attack this offense, your best bet appears to be up the gut.

4. Their pass rush will test the New England offensive line early.

Left defensive end Cameron Wake (8.5 sacks last year) and right defensive end Olivier Vernon (11.5 sacks last year) combine to form a very nice set of bookends, and are likely the top priority when it comes to pass protection for the Patriots. (Per Football Outsiders, Wake notched at least 20 hurries and 20 quarterback knockdowns for the fourth year in a row.) While the Dolphins are very good off the edge, it would ostensibly be a strength-on-strength matchup against right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and left tackle Nate Solder. Miami could have an edge if it finds a way to get pressure up the middle, as the interior of New England’s offensive line has some personnel questions, particularly if Marcus Cannon is utilized more as a backup swing tackle than one of the two available guard spots. But many of the questions people have had about the overall fitness of the Patriots offensive line will be answered against a pretty good front seven in the opener.

5. They are ready for Rob Gronkowski … if the big tight end does play.

The Dolphins hardly sounded shocked at the proclamation from Gronkowski that he was good to go for Week 1. Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle was asked about Gronkowski’s statement that he was going to play, and he responded with a simple, ‘€œWe assumed that he might.’€ In Gronkowski’s career, the Patriots are 6-0 against Miami when he’s in the lineup, but for what it’s worth, the Dolphins have actually done a pretty fair job at containing Gronkowski over the years: In six career games against Miami, he’s averaged four catches, 56 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game, some of his lowest per game averages against a regular opponent. (In his last two games against Miami, Gronkowski had only only four catches.) It remains to be seen if Gronkowski actually plays, and if he does, how many snaps he’ll take. (His overall football fitness remains in question, and Bill Belichick has said on numerous occasions that you just can run around a track a few times and be ready to play.) But history tells us that the Dolphins have found a way to not stop him completely, but at least slow him down to a point where he not the runaway offensive force he’s been against most teams when he’s been healthy. “He’s an excellent player,” Philbin said Monday when asked about Gronkowski. “He’s been a very, very productive player throughout his career. We’ll have a good plan in place, but he’s certainly an important part of their offense, and a productive part of it. We’ll be ready for him, for sure.”

Read More: Brandon Gibson, Brian Hartline, Cameron Wake, Joe Philbin
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