|Alan Branch could have a huge impact, along with Sealver Siliga vs. Jets||12.19.14 at 1:40 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It’s not just Vince Wilfork‘s job to plug the middle anymore.
For years, the Patriots run defense hinged on the ability of the veteran nose tackle to stay on the field, sometimes for the whole game.
With the emergence of Sealver Siliga last year and the addition of Alan Branch this season, the Patriots have some big bodies backing up the big man along the Patriots defensive line.
And with the Jets on deck Sunday at MetLife Stadium, the Patriots have picked a good time to get healthy in the middle of the line where New York loves to run Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson behind Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold.
“I’d say the combination of getting Alan and Siliga back,” Belichick said. “It was two weeks ago, right? Well, Branch was longer than that, Siliga and even Chandler [Jones] last week. Those players have definitely given our line more depth and more versatility really.
“Branch is a big guy, Siliga is a big guy, Chandler is more of an edge guy, but when you put them all together, it looks a little different than it did a few weeks ago. The guys that are coming back like Siliga and Branch [has] now been here going on two months, but they have improved. Just like Chandler, his timing and some of the things that he does this week will probably be fundamentally a little better than they were last week.”
Branch, released by the Bills after an August DUI, was considered a project when the team signed him to a one-year deal Oct. 29 after being claimed him off the waiver wire. But now, he is playing on short yardage and early down situations, seeing 16 snaps on Sunday.
“Alan has done a good job. He’s had some versatility,” Belichick said Friday. “He’s got length, but he’s also got size. He’s very athletic, [he] runs five flat or whatever. He has good quickness and can move. So, he has the versatility to play some different spots and do some different things along the defensive front.”
But just because he’s playing short yardage and on first and second down doesn’t mean Belichick would hesitate to leave him on the field. Read the rest of this entry »
FOXBORO — Chandler Jones had no hesitation in returning to game action last Sunday, playing 55 of 78 snaps in a 41-13 win over the Dolphins.
But more to the point and more importantly, Bill Belichick saw no hesitation in his game. His seven combined tackles was third highest on the team and his 1.5 sacks led a revitalized Patriots pass rush that got after Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
A coach can never be certain a player is ready to return, especially after Jones missed six games with a hip injury. But Belichick said Friday he had a pretty good idea.
“I think you usually get a pretty good indication of it in practice, but there’s no substitute for game evaluation. I think that’s where you really can highlight it. A guy can look good in practice, you could feel like he’s ready to go and then you watch him perform in the game and maybe it’s not quite what you thought it would be, or maybe it is.
“I think that’s when you really know. Some of that is just confidence too. You go out there and a guy hasn’t played for a while and he kind of goes out there and tests it a little bit and then as he feels more confident then he becomes more aggressive.”
Jones was subbed in early on in the first half of last Sunday’s game but after watching the way he was playing, Belichick and the coaching staff gave the green light for him to play almost the rest of the way.
“I’d say in Chandler’s case, I think he didn’t have much of a tentative aspect to his game,” Belichick said. “I thought that he really went out and right off the bat, as soon as he got on the field, his playing style was similar to what it was before. I’m not saying that’s the case for him, but until you actually see it, the player himself might be a little ‘need to see it,’ and the coach might need to see it, too.”
FOXBORO — For a second straight day, the Patriots had perfect attendance on a cold, gray day on the lower practice field outside Gillette Stadium.
The 11-3 Patriots are preparing for Sunday’s game against the 3-11 Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Edeman played in the final minutes of Sunday’s win and spoke postgame, leading to speculation that the injury occurred during Wednesday’s practice. Having him present at the start of practice on Thursday and again on Friday is a good sign for his availability Sunday.
The team worked out in sweats and shells.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
Continuing a theme of wanting to play hard for their coach and showing they can compete (at least for a day) with the big, bad Patriots in the AFC East, Jeremy Kerley has thrown down the gauntlet.
“This game is personal,” Kerley told New York’s Newsday on Thursday. “It’s as big as people want it to be, or it’s as small as people want it to be. But for us, it’s personal.”
The reason, according to Kerley, is that there is a sense in the Jets locker room and in the building in Florham Park, New Jersey that no one up in Foxboro respects the Jets.
“You can’t give respect to someone who doesn’t respect you,” Kerley told Kimberly Martin of Newsday. “If you don’t give me any respect, I don’t care what you’ve got. I’m coming for you.”
All of this despite Bill Belichick insisting on Wednesday and again on Friday that this will be a very difficult challenge for the 11-3 Patriots, who desperately need the win to stay out in front of the Broncos for top seed in the AFC.
The 3-11 Jets are battling for position atop the NFL draft order in the spring.
Whether it’s this season’s records or the fact the Patriots have utterly dominated the series in the Bill Belichick era in Foxboro (21-8), the Jets are playing the disrespect card to the hilt.
“They don’t honestly respect us as a franchise,” Willie Colon said. “It just doesn’t seem like we get any respect. And maybe it needs to be earned. Respect is earned, it’s not given.”
Except for a shocking playoff loss in Jan. 2011, the Patriots have made life miserable for Rex Ryan, winning eight of the 12 meetings between the two since Ryan’s tenure with the Jets began in 2009. There has been plenty of speculation that the 13th meeting will be the final episode in the drama, as Ryan could be given his walking papers after the season.
“Is it special to beat the Patriots? They’re the ones that you try to beat,” Ryan said. “Even though the year hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to, sure you want to beat them, without question.”
As for Colon, he acknowledged that the Patriots are “the top dog every year,” but added, “I don’t like ‘em and it is what it is. Listen, I don’t take anything from New England. They win with whatever they have. So you’ve got to be able to respect them.”
FOXBORO — On a day when Boston, New England and the basketball world is talking about Rajon Rondo heading to Dallas, Bill Belichick heaped a huge amount of praise upon Rondo’s new rival in the Western Conference.
On Friday, Belichick accepted the praise and returned the favor.
“It’s flattering he would say that,” Belichick said of the five-time champion Spurs coach. “It means a lot coming from his stature and given the amount of respect I have for him and our organization has for that organization because I think it extends well beyond me. That’s a very flattering comment.
“Tremendous respect for Gregg. I think the consistency they’ve had there, the level that they’ve played at. I love the way he coaches that team. I love to watch that team. He’s really good, really good. It’s not like I watch a hundred basketball games a year or anything like that but I think he handles himself and his team, I admire it. I really do.”
Belichick has often interacted with other coaches in Boston, like former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, ex-Celtics coach Doc Rivers, Bruins coach Claude Julien and Boston College hockey coach Jerry York. In some cases, he’s even invited them into Gillette to speak to his team.
It’s not quite at that level with Popovich, at least not yet.
“We’ve had a lot of indirect conversation. Put it that way,” Belichick said.
Reminded that Popovich’s job just got a lot tougher with Dallas acquiring Rondo in a trade with the Celtics Thursday night, Belichick showed that single-minded focus he shares with Popovich.
“Right now, I’m really worried about the Jets. I can’t worry about everybody else’s team and what their challenges are and all that,” Belichick said. “I’m sure every team has a lot of challenges. We have a big one and that’s really my job to deal with that one.”
|Tom Brady appreciates the ‘amazing’ Darrelle Revis and ponders what makes up an MVP||12.17.14 at 9:58 pm ET|
Brady had no such restrictions on him when he was asked his impressions of what Revis has meant to the Patriots’ defense and the team overall.
“He’s a phenomenal player and I’ve loved playing with him,” Brady said. “I’ve hated playing against him, and I’ve had my fair share of those opportunities. He’s a great teammate. He’s a phenomenal player. I think the thing that I’m so impressed with is his coverage skills without getting penalties.”
Avoiding penalties has certainly been a challenge, not only for the Patriots but everyone across the NFL. Flags are up around the league at the rate of two more per game. But Revis has been able to avoid the laundry being heaved in his direction. He has been hit with just two accepted penalties this season, both for defensive holding. Brady sees that as remarkable considering officials have been on higher alert for illegal contact beyond the line of scrimmage.
“That’s a rare thing to be backpedaling when the guys who are some of the best athletes in the world are running at you as fast as they can with the size and speed of the way the receivers are, and to be able to cover those guys like he does is pretty amazing.”
Brady also spoke of the growth he’s seen from Rob Gronkowski in the five years he’s spent with him. In Brady, Gronkowski and Revis, it could be argued that the Patriots have three players putting up MVP-type seasons. So, what is the difference between a valuable football player as opposed to an outstanding one?
FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price preview the Week 16 battle between the 11-3 Patriots and 3-11 New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. With a win against the Jets and a Denver Broncos loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Monday night in Cincinnati, the Patriots will clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.