|What to make of: Miami Dolphins||07.22.15 at 1:05 pm ET|
With Patriots camp opening up on July 30 at Gillette Stadium, WEEI.com takes a quick look at each of the Patriots’ rivals in the AFC East, their additions, losses and what each team needs to accomplish in camp.
2014 finish: 8-8, 3rd in AFC East
Key additions: DT Ndamukong Suh, WR Kenny Stills, WR DeVante Parker (R), TE Jordan Cameron, DT CJ Mosley
Key losses: DL Jared Odrick, LB Dannell Ellberbe, LB Jonathan Freeny, S Jimmy Wilson, TE Charles Clay, RB Daniel Thomas
Camp goals: Keep Suh fresh, healthy and happy, find reps for new wide receivers who will have to find rhythm with franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill, develop some type of killer instinct and focus to close out games.
What to make of the Dolphins: While the Dolphins made a huge splash in the offseason by signing the biggest name defensive tackle on the market, it will be fascinating to see if the sum of the parts equals the whole when it comes to pad-crunching time.
There’s no doubt the Dolphins are getting one of the best in the game in Ndamukong Suh along the defensive line. He became the highest paid defensive player in NFL history, when Miami signed him to a six-year deal worth roughly $114 million, with nearly $60 million fully guaranteed.
Like the Bills and Jets, the Dolphins have stacked up on defensive linemen and edge rushers, with the hope of getting to Tom Brady atop the division. Suh joins a crew that already includes C.J. Mosley, rookie Jordan Phillips, Derrick Shelby, Olivier Vernon and Cameron Wake.
But they lost defensive lineman Jared Odrick (Jaguars), linebackers Dannell Ellerbe (Saints) and Jonathan Freeny (Patriots) and safety Jimmy Wilson (Chargers). To shore up their receiving corps, the Dolphins traded their third-round selection (No. 78 overall) and Ellerbe to the Saints in exchange for wide receiver Kenny Stills.
The other huge financial commitment the Dolphins made this offseason was to their quarterback. On May 18, 2015, Ryan Tannehill signed a four-year contract extension with the Dolphins through the 2020 season worth $77 million. It includes a $11.5 million signing bonus, $45 million guaranteed, and an average annual salary of just over $19 million.
They also brought back veteran backup Matt Moore behind Tannehill, so the Dolphins have that going for them.
|Don Shula: ‘We didn’t deflate any balls’||05.10.15 at 11:09 am ET|
Speaking as a guest of honor at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Miami Dolphins, Shula said his Dolphins of the early 1970s that went to three straight Super Bowls, won two back-to-back Super Bowls (1972, ’73) and posted the only perfect season NFL history did things the right way.
In his speech, he took a clear shot at the Patriots, drawing laughs from the crowd.
“Our record in those 50 years was always done with a lot of class, a lot of dignity, a lot of doing it the right way. We didn’t deflate any balls,” Shula said.
Afterward, he was asked by local reporters to expand upon his comments.
“I coached for 33 years and I’ve never once in that 33-year period of time ever even talked or heard anyone talk about the air in the football,” Shula said. “So I’m not going to start talking about the air in the football.”
Shula’s comments comes days after the release of the Ted Wells report, detailing the investigation into alleged illegal tampering with game footballs before and during Patriots’ 45-7 win over the Colts in the AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium.
Punishment of Tom Brady is expected to be announced this week by the NFL.
|Report: Patriots in on Brian Hartline, possibly to replace Danny Amendola||03.05.15 at 3:55 pm ET|
The Patriots are considering all of their options when it comes to their wide receivers, and one of them may be veteran Brian Hartline.
According to Cleveland.com, the Patriots are among a group of four teams seriously considering making a bid for the 28-year-old veteran of five NFL seasons and may have already made a preliminary offer. Hartline hit the market after playing just two of the five seasons in his contract he signed with the Dolphins in March 2013. Miami signed him for five years and $30 million, with $12.5 million guaranteed and a $7 million signing bonus.
Amendola, 29, signed a similar contract at the same time, inking for five years and $28.5 million with $10 million guaranteed and a $6 million signing bonus. Amendola’s production picked up in the second half of this season and he played a key role as a kick returner. He had five catches for 48 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl win over the Seahawks. He also had two touchdown receptions in the playoff win over the Ravens.
Still, Amendola’s targets and catches were down drastically in 2014, his second season in New England, catching just 27 passes for 200 yards and only one touchdown on 42 targets. He caught 54 passes for 633 yards on 83 targets in 2013. His biggest impact came on kickoff returns, returning 20 kicks for an average of 24.1 yards.
Cleveland.com reports that the Patriots could be willing to cut Amendola and replace him with Hartline if it clears cap space and gives them more flexibility.
The Patriots are reportedly in the mix with the Texans, Browns (Hartline went to Ohio State and is from nearby Canton, OH), Bears and possibly the Colts. The Dolphins have already not ruled out making a run again at the receiver, who was a fourth-round pick of Miami in 2009 and has played his entire six-year career in South Florida. Hartline caught 298 passes for 4,243 yards and 13 touchdowns. In 2012 and 2013, he became just the fifth receiver in Dolphins history to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Last season, Hartline was relegated to a back-up, grabbing only 39 passes for 474 yards and two touchdowns.
If he chose his hometown Browns, he could help fill the void left by Josh Gordon, who’s serving a minimum one-year ban for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
|Free Agent Snapshot: Charles Clay||02.13.15 at 11:59 am ET|
When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that all of these guys aren’t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they’re players we think would be a good fit in New England. We already featured C.J. Spiller, Hakeem Nicks, Torrey Smith and Pernell McPhee. Here is a look at tight end Charles Clay:
Position: Tight end/Fullback
Age: 26 (Feb. 13, 1989)
Weight: 250 pounds
The skinny: In the words of Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, Clay “has size and can run.” The versatile Clay is also one of the best receiving “H-backs” in the game, proving to be a very reliable catching tight end and an effective blocking fullback when he is kept in to for extra pass protection. Clay, who has transitioned to more of a traditional tight end role, is regarded so highly around the NFL that he earned a spot at No. 89 among the NFL’s best players on a recent NFL.com poll. Two years ago he had a career year with 69 receptions for 759 yards and six touchdowns. That was when Clay’s value was at his highest. However, Clay battled through knee and hamstring injuries last season. In addition, under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, Clay’s numbers dropped as he wasn’t featured as much in the play-calling. If the Dolphins go with the cheaper in-house option of backup Dion Sims, Clay could hit the open market.
By the numbers: Clay’s best season came in 2013 when he had career highs in receptions (69), yards (759) and touchdowns (6). This past season, he had one game where he showed that kind of explosiveness and production, grabbing six catches for 114 yards in a Week 16 37-35 win over the Vikings.
Why it would work: If the Patriots feel they could make a significant upgrade over James Develin and/or Michael Hoomanawanui. Hooman is signed through 2015 and is due to make $800,000 with a $1.58 million cap hit for next season. Clay is coming off a down year where he fought through a season-long knee injury. It should help lower his price on the open market if the Dolphins let him get there. Clay is one of the more versatile tight ends in the league with the ability to line up in the backfield.
|Tom Brady is tired of close calls vs. Jets, wants to see Pats play 60 minutes ‘for once’||12.17.14 at 12:42 pm ET|
FOXBORO — He understands the records are what they are heading into Sunday’s Week 16 showdown, but Tom Brady doesn’t want to see the Patriots biting their nails heading into the final minute if they can help it. Brady recalls, of course, the 27-25 escape against the Jets on Oct. 16 at Gillette Stadium, when Chris Jones saved the day with a blocked field goal at the end.
He also recalls last year at MetLife Stadium when the Patriots raced out to a 21-10 halftime lead, only to allow the Jets back in the game and lose in overtime when Jones was called for an illegal play at the line of scrimmage on a field goal attempt.
This year, Brady is hoping for something a little different. More like the “Butt Fumble” game of Thanksgiving 2012 when the Patriots feasted on Rex Ryan‘s Jets, 49-19.
Brady is taking no comfort in New York’s 3-11 record or the fact they’ve lost by two touchdowns in five of their 11 losses.
“I don’t know why those scores go the way they do against other teams,” Brady said. “Against us, they always seem to be close. You just don’t want to go down there and have a bunch of poor execution like we’ve done in the past. I think we really have to focus on our execution and try to go out there and play good for once. I think that’s kind of what we’ve been talking about, playing our style of football for 60 minutes and see what that looks like because we haven’t done a great job against the Jets doing that.
“It’s a great rivalry. We’ve always had some pretty interesting games against them. A lot of them come down to the wire, especially recently. They’ve got a real good defense. They’re good up front, do a great job against the run. We’re going to have to go out and play really well. I know the records are what they are but we don’t look at it like that. I think it’s a good challenge for us. We lost going to the Meadowlands last year. So, we’re anticipating getting their best game.”
The Patriots, of course, are 11-3 and looking for the top seed in the AFC, which they will get with a win over the Jets and a Denver loss in Cincinnati Monday night. But the Patriots QB knows the offense needs to get back to getting off to fast starts, a trademark during their seven-game win streak.
“It’s frustrating for all of us when we’re not scoring the type of points we’re capable of doing,” Brady said of the struggles against the Dolphins in the first half last Sunday. “I just have to focus on what I’ve got to do better, and I can certainly do better in that area, making better decisions, better throws. We’re going to need it this week against this team because they challenge you in a lot of ways. They’ve got a multitude of things that they do. They’ve always done that. They really test your communication. Certainly, execution is something that we look at all the past games we’ve played against them and think, ‘God, our execution just wasn’t very sharp.’ We have to be very sharp this week.”
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|Rob Gronkowski suffers ‘nothing more than a charley horse’ in running over Dolphins||12.14.14 at 11:22 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It was a hit that brought back many horrible memories for Patriots fans.
On second-and-4 at the Miami 41, Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski on his third big seam route of the second half, good for 35 yards down to the Dolphins 6. But the bigger hit on the play came from Dolphins safety Jimmy Wilson. He came in like T.J. Ward did in Nov. 2013 and hit Gronkowski just above his surgically repaired right knee.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft was one of the first to visit Gronk after the game at his locker. Gronk assured the concerned owner, “It’s just a charley horse,” Gronkowski said in a smiling, assuring manner.
Later, the tight end added to WEEI.com, “it was just a stinger on the thigh. Get them all the time.”
Brady opened the second half with a 34-yard connection to Gronkowski on a seam route. The play was big for several reasons. It was Gronkowski’s first catch. It put Gronkowski over 1,000 yards on the season and it was a play that appeared to finally give the Patriots some offensive rhythm. Gronkowski was held without a catch on just two targets in the first half.
“Just got to start off with just one play, just one play to get the drive going and get the first down and get going and start clicking from there,” Gronkowski said. “It just takes one play at a time, do what you got to do, and just keep on going from there.”
The first offensive play after a interception by Patrick Chung, it was Brady again on a seam to Gronkowski for 27 yards and a touchdown.
“It was a good throw by Tom, good protection, and just a little play action and I just had a seam route, so I just ran up the seam and Tom had a nice pass and we just completed [it] and scored,” Gronkowski said. “It was just good execution as a whole on offense.”
Gronkowski, like everyone else on the field, had an opinion on Brady’s 17-yard scramble on third-and-11 on the first drive of the second half.
“I kind of saw it. I was out there,” Gronk said. “It was a nice run, so you got to give props to him and he made a very nice play to get the first down and we eventually scored on that drive, so huge props to Brady on that run, it was huge.”
Gronkowski said he doesn’t often see Brady take off, even in practice, but he’ll take it.
“Whatever it comes down to win he’ll do, so he saw the opening, he ran, and, what was it for ‘ 17 ‘yards and a first down? That was huge,” Gronkowski said. “Huge props to him and he does anything to win.”
Gronkowski finished with those three catches on eight targets for a touchdown and 96 yards in the 41-13 AFC East-clinching win. It wasn’t a monster game but Robert Kraft and the rest of the Patriots will take the tight end getting through the game healthy as a nice tradeoff.
“It’s always fun to see the Clydesdale run,” Edelman said. “He’s been working hard on his little mobility stuff. He takes that to heart. It always fun to see him get fired up after a run. I call him Brady-Vick. He’s always had unbelievable pocket awareness. It’s always great to seeing the big dog out there moving the chains.”
Told the third-and-11 run was 17 yards, Edelman was incredulous.
“It was 17 yards? That was the slowest 17 yards I’ve ever seen in my life,” Edelman said.
Of course, the first half was no laughing matter. The Patriots were spinning their wheels. They led 14-13 over the Dolphins but couldn’t put a lot of plays together.
“I can’t answer that question, ‘Why it didn’t work in the first half?'” Edelman said. “But I can answer that it was a little better in the second half. We definitely have to go out and work on starting it faster, plain and simple, because now each and every game has a little more value. We’ll definitely have to work on that and I’m sure that’ll be a focus with our coaches.
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