|Wes Welker appears to be still playing ‘at a very high level’||11.19.13 at 12:43 pm ET|
Upon landing back in New England early Tuesday morning, the Patriots coaching staff immediately turned their focus to the Denver Broncos. And for defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, that means finding ways to deal with a player they know a lot about.
Wes Welker is in his first year with the Broncos after accepting a two-year, $12 million offer to play with Peyton Manning.
Welker hasn’t disappointed. He leads the Broncos with 61 receptions through 10 games. He is averaging 10.6 yards per catch and his nine touchdowns tie him with Demaryius Thomas for second on the team behind the 10 of Julius Thomas.
“Certainly when you see the film, Wes obviously is very productive in their offense and the system, where obviously Peyton Manning does a great job of running the offense, running the system, and getting the ball around to all the receivers,” Patricia said during a conference call Tuesday. “But [you] certainly see Wes do the things that he does well: be able to use his quickness and get open on the shorter and intermediate routes, and [we’ve] also seen him push the vertical also, and get downfield and see some balls that have been thrown downfield to him also.”
Whether Welker actually plays against his former team Sunday night at Gillette is in doubt. Welker went to one knee after taking a big hit in Sunday’s 27-17 win over the Chiefs in Denver. He sustained a concussion after a 20-yard run-and catch in the fourth quarter, a trademark of the receiver during his days in New England.
He is undergoing concussion tests and protocol this week and won’t practice until Friday at the earliest.
“All the good things that he does he appears to still be doing, and doing them at a very high level, so certainly [he] is a huge challenge for us, good player like that when they get him in the slot and be able to try to take advantage of whatever coverages you’re playing against him and allow him to really use some of his quickness to work off leverage and just try to get open,” Patricia said.
Added Bill Belichick, “I think Wes looks like Wes, like the player we’ve seen. Most of the time he lines [up] in the slot and he plays like we’ve all seen him play around here for the time he was here.”
|Matt Patricia on loss of Vince Wilfork: ‘The next guy has to step up and perform’||10.01.13 at 4:02 pm ET|
Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said Tuesday that when it comes to replacing veteran defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, the team will rely on the “next man up” approach to pick up the slack.
“Certainly, he’s someone that we rely on heavily,” Patricia said on a conference call with the media Tuesday afternoon. “But like in all situations and cases, the situation is what it is and the next guy has got to step up and perform to the best of his ability and go out there and obviously execute whatever it is we’re asking him to execute.
“Certainly injuries are an unfortunate part of the game of football, but that is what it is, and we’re obviously going to expect whoever’s out on the field to perform to the highest level of their ability. But certainly Vince Wilfork is a phenomenal player for us and certainly someone who we rely on week in week out to really attack each opponent at a truly very professional level.”
The loss of Wilfork will be felt on and off the field. The Miami product, in his 10th season in the league, is one of the most well-respected players in the New England locker room. The 31-year-old All-Pro brings a certain level of work ethic, leadership and gravitas that few can match.
“Obviously, first and foremost, Vince is just a phenomenal player both on and off the field for us,” Patricia said. “Defensively — from his leadership to his ability to his work ethic, which is such an incredible example, all of which all of our guys look at and try to model themselves after. Certainly from that standpoint, he’s phenomenal as a professional and someone that takes his craft very seriously and works extremely hard to improve himself every day. It’s a great work ethic for everyone to see, whether you’re a younger player or an older player that’s maybe just gotten to our program to really take a look at and obviously see someone like Vince prepare himself week in week out.”
Here are some of the highlights from the rest of Patricia’s Q&A with the media:
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|Matt Patricia on Matt Ryan: ‘This guy is really cerebral’||09.24.13 at 4:17 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots aren’t facing Peyton Manning this week, but ask defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and he’ll tell you they’re up against another quarterback who can beat you with his brain alone if you’re not prepared.
The Patriots take on Matt Ryan and the 1-2 Falcons this Sunday night in Atlanta. The Falcons have lost to the Saints and Dolphins on the road, a pair of 3-0 teams to start the season. Ryan is completing 68.1 percent of his passes, has thrown seven touchdowns, been intercepted twice and has a quarterback rating of 100.4 in three games.
“Obviously you are talking about a tremendous quarterback here, who is showing great poise and leadership out there running the offense,” Patricia said. “This guy is really cerebral, very smart quarterback and player who is able to go out, diagnose the defense and get the ball to the proper people. [He can] handle the offensive scheme and the check system down there where he can change the play at the line of scrimmage based on the defensive look.”
The Patriots are 3-0 themselves but the combined win-loss record of their opponents is 3-6. Patricia’s defense is second in the NFL this season behind Seattle in points allowed, giving up just over 11 points per game. They will be up against their stiffest challenge in containing Ryan and his receiving corps of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas.
“[They] get the ball to the running backs, get the ball to the tight ends, out to the wide receivers,” Patricia said of Ryan. “He really uses the audible system if he has to along with just the whole tempo of the offense in general. The guy is just a really good, phenomenal quarterback. [He is] really accurate, has good arm strength, like I said, recognizes defensive coverages very well, and I think just a really tough guy. A competitive, tough player who can stand in the pocket and make those hard throws if pressure is in on him. If he gets hit, he can still stand in, get the read, get the proper route progression and get the ball where it has to go. So, he’s just a very, very talented quarterback.”
As for the stats that show the Patriots as the second stingiest defense in the league in the all-important points allowed category, Patricia says that won’t mean a thing when they step on the field against a Falcons offense that is heads and shoulders above the Bills, Jets and Buccaneers.
“Well I think for us, we approach every week just trying to get better and improve,” he said. “It’s the very beginning of the season, and we don’t pay attention to a lot of those things except for trying to win the ball game and putting our team in the best position to win every time we go out on the field. That’s all we’re really trying to do. We’re trying to get better than we [were] last game, play better than we did last week, and obviously this week is a huge challenge for us with Atlanta and the different problems that they present. They’re a very well coached offense, great quarterback, excellent running backs, good players both at the wide receiver and tight end positions, along with a big offensive line up front, which does a great job of protecting the quarterback and running the ball. They’re just a very well coached team with head coach Mike Smith, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. It’s just a very big challenge and we’re just trying to improve every week to get better.”
|Geno Smith is no dummy||09.09.13 at 10:21 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When it comes to the Patriots, Geno Smith has done his homework.
A week after Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson displayed an alarming lack of knowledge about the New England secondary — saying Patrick Chung still played for the Patriots when he was with the Eagles — the Jets rookie quarterback proved Monday he knew the type of opponent he was up against this week.
Asked on a conference call by the New England media what stands out for him about the New England defense, the rookie out of West Virginia proceeded to rattle off 10 of the Patriots 11 starting defensive players, including minor tidbits along the way, like how linebacker Dont’a Hightower came out of Alabama and safety Steve Gregory was with the Chargers before signing with New England before the start of the 2012 season. (The only starter he didn’t mention was new defensive tackle Tommy Kelly.)
It seems like a relatively minor point, but when rookie quarterbacks routinely forget who was in which division (hello, Ryan Tannehill) and players like Johnson forget who suits up for that week’s opponent, it was a sign — no matter how small — that the youngster has an appreciate for the challenge that lies ahead.
Smith — who was taken 39th overall this past spring by the Jets — said the New England defense is more than just a collection of individuals.
“They’re a very well coached defense,” Smith said. “They obviously present mismatches for anybody, so it’s going to be tough for us. We just have to continue to stay smart.”
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|Patriots defense winning spring skirmishes in Foxboro||06.05.13 at 1:24 pm ET|
In spring training, the pitchers are ahead of the hitters. This spring in Foxboro, the defense is ahead of the offense. Granted, the media has only been granted a small peek this spring — one OTA session a week — and will get more next week when mandatory minicamps commence. But it’s clear at this point that the defense appears to be running the show.
There are a lot of reasons as to why this could be the case: One, the defense knows just about everything the offense is going to run, and has no problem jumping a route or breaking up a play (even if its just to make quarterback Tom Brady upset). Two, with so many familiar faces, the offense is still a work in progress. Throughout the OTA sessions, Brady has none of the same wide receivers he had last season — Danny Amendola, Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones and Aaron Dobson — and has been without some familiar faces in Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.
And three, the defense could simply be better than it has been the last few seasons. The numbers were certainly trending in the right direction toward the end of the season — at least until the Patriots were beaten at home in the AFC title game by the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens. And it’s entirely possibly that could carry over into 2013, particularly when you consider that New England not only didn’t lose anyone of consequence on the defensive side of the ball in free agency, they added a potential impact player in safety Adrian Wilson.
When asked if he was encouraged about the number of plays the New England defense was making throughout the spring OTA sessions, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia wouldn’t take the bait.
“We’re just trying to look at it from a standpoint of getting better,” he said Tuesday. “From what may be visible to one person, we’re going to look at it from a different angle and make sure everything was correct on the play and everything was perfect. We’re really just focused on trying to make sure everything is in the right place.”
|Matt Patricia on the shutout: ‘Obviously, you’re happy with the effort’||12.31.12 at 12:59 pm ET|
FOXBORO — In light of the team’s first shutout in over three years, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was pleased with the 28-0 result Sunday over the Dolphins. But, on Monday, he was even happier for the players.
“I think absolutely you’re always looking for improvement,” Patricia said. “Obviously you’re happy with the effort and excited for the players. They’re the ones who did all the work on the field to achieve certain goals, but certainly when you go back and look at the film, there’s a lot of things we need to do better, improve on and work on and that’s really what we’ll focus on, obviously more so than just the scoreboard there. But, you know, it was a good effort by everybody out there.
“I think guys really tried hard and did things we asked them to do and we’re pleased with that, but there are certainly some areas of improvement that you can really take a look at and say, ‘We really have to do some things better here because they just weren’t good enough.’”
The last time the Patriots blanked an opponent was Oct. 18, 2009 – the 59-0 thrashing of the Titans at Gillette. A lot has been said and written about the lack of defense in the three seasons since. But the team has turned over most of the defensive roster since then, with the notable exception of Vince Wilfork. Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower have become household names.
But Sunday was also a coming out party for rookie defensive lineman Justin Francis, who had a career-best three sacks.
“Coach [Bill Belichick] hit it right on the head as far as the great thing about what we do is obviously a team effort,” Patricia said. “When you look at the bottom line stats and you see one particular player with high numbers, I don’t really think that tells the whole story. If you take a good look at the game and what actually happened during a particular play, you’ll see that there’s a lot of other factors that contribute to maybe a player making a play on that particular situation. You can single out anybody with stat numbers yesterday but if you take a look at the group effort, it was really what we were looking for.
“You can certainly see situations where the guys in coverage in those situations did a really excellent job to allow the pass rush time to get to the quarterback and then you can see situations where the pass rush was able to get to the quarterback, which allowed the cover guys to not have to cover as long. So, I really think it was a good, collaborative effort, along with the same thing for the run game, where one guy may be making a particular tackle or a particular play, but what you don’t see is the other guy that has three guys on him at one time [and is] eating up a bunch of blockers [which] frees up another player. That’s the beauty of the sport and that’s really what we strive for in a team effort so I think that’s what we’re talking about when we have successful plays like that, where we get a good particular play but really there’s a lot of other factors that go into it.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia talks Aqib Talib and prepping for Andrew Luck||11.13.12 at 4:32 pm ET|
Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia has been doing his part when it comes to getting new cornerback Aqib Talib up to speed in the New England defense. Patricia, speaking on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, said he had a chance to meet with Talib on Monday, and they’re taking it day-to-day at this point.
“Obviously, we’re evaluating as the week goes, but we’re excited to get going with this week and get ready for Indianapolis. We’ll certainly see how that goes,” Patricia said. “But as far as getting a chance to get to know him, it was great. Professional, the guy’s been in the league, so no problems there.
“I think we’re just going to have to wait and see and evaluate it as the week goes on. Obviously, like all our players that come in, we expect them to work hard and get on board with what we’re doing as soon as they can and get out there and contribute in any way we feel is positive for the team.”
Getting Talib acclimated to the New England defense is one of Patricia’s big challenges this week. The other is preparing the Patriots for Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, who has impressed over the first nine games of his professional career.
“Indianapolis offensively is doing a phenomenal job,” Patricia said. “You can really tell Andrew Luck is grasping what they’re trying to do, and obviously, coach [Bruce] Arians is doing a great job of getting them in the right situations and they have some excellent players around him. Obviously you know Reggie Wayne, who is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. He has progressed throughout the year and is obviously playing a very high level right now from an offensive standpoint.
“Certainly we understand that [Luck] has the title of a rookie, but we’re well into the season here and he has played quite a few games in the NFL, and he’s really doing a good job of handling that offense and running the offense and putting them in situations to win football games — that’s what you want out of your quarterback. It will certainly be a big challenge for us this week.”
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