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Packers, Panthers highlight Patriots 2015 preseason slate 04.09.15 at 4:08 pm ET
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The Patriots have announced their opponents for the 2015 preseason schedule. While times and dates — as well as potential joint practices — have yet to be announced, here’s the list of opponents.

Week 1: vs. Packers. New England will open the 2015 preseason at home against the defending NFC North champions. The Patriots have played Green Bay in the preseason 13 times with the most recent game played at Green Bay in 2005.
Week 2: at Saints. The Patriots last played New Orleans in the preseason in 2012 when the Saints and Patriots held joint practice sessions prior to playing the first preseason game of the season at Gillette.
Week 3: at Panthers. The Patriots and Carolina will meet in Week 3 of the preseason for the second straight season. Last year, New England hosted Carolina in Week 3, with the Patriots taking a 30-7 win.
Week 4: vs. Giants. The Patriots and Giants will play each other in the preseason finale for the 11th straight season and for the 25th time overall, the most frequent preseason opponent for New England.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, new orleans saints, New York Giants
Report: Giants have ‘very serious’ interest in Shane Vereen 03.10.15 at 7:26 am ET
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The Patriots are expected to have two free agent running backs by the time 4 p.m. rolls around Tuesday afternoon, and it appears at least one of them is already getting “very serious” interest.

According to the New York Daily News, the Giants have “very serious” interest in running back Shane Vereen. The report added it was possible a deal could get done soon after the market opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Vereen has played four seasons in the league, all with the Patriots, after the team selected him in the second round of the 2011 draft. Known for his pass catching ability out of the backfield, Vereen has caught 107 passes for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns over the course of his career, while adding seven rushing touchdowns.

The Patriots currently have LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, James White and Tyler Gaffney as running backs already signed to the roster. Stevan Ridley is also set to become a free agent as well.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: New York Giants, NFL free agency 2015, Shane Vereen,
Ray Ventrone returns to Patriots as special teams assistant coach 03.03.15 at 10:11 am ET
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Bill Belichick is happy to bring back Ray Ventrone as a special teams coach. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick is happy to bring back Ray Ventrone as a special teams coach. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bubba is back.

The Patriots announced Tuesday that Bill Belichick has hired Ray Ventrone to serve as assistant special teams coach. Belichick was the first coach to give Ventrone a chance to play in the NFL. Now it will be Belichick who gives Ventrone a chance to coach.

Ventrone will fill the spot of Joe Judge, who was promoted to take over as special teams coach for Scott O’Brien when O’Brien retired on Feb. 3, two days after the Patriots’ win in Super Bowl XLIX.

Ventrone spent four years with the Patriots after originally joining the team as a rookie free agent out of Villanova in 2005. Ventrone played nine NFL seasons as a player with New England (2006-2008), the New York Jets (2007), Cleveland Browns (2009-2012) and the San Francisco 49ers (2013-2014). During his NFL career, he was primarily used as a special teams player, registering 57 total tackles, including a season-high of 12 in 2009 with the Browns.

Ventrone was originally signed by New England as a rookie free agent out of Villanova in 2005. After spending the 2005 season on the Patriots’€™ practice squad and the 2006 season on injured reserve, he split the 2007 season between the Jets and the Patriots practice squads before being signed to the New England 53-man roster in November.

Ventrone played in two regular-season games and in Super Bowl XLII that year. Ventrone laid out Domenik Hixon while covering a kickoff.

Ventrone played the entire 2008 season with the Patriots before playing four years in Cleveland and the last two seasons in San Francisco.

His brother Ross, also a product of Villanova, also played for the Patriots and played in Super Bowl XLVI, a loss to the Giants in Indianapolis.

Read More: Andy Talley, Bubba Ventrone, Joe Judge, New England Patriots
Free Agent Snapshot: Hakeem Nicks 02.10.15 at 11:58 am ET
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Logan Ryan makes a play on Hakeem Nicks in the AFC championship game. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Logan Ryan makes a play on Hakeem Nicks in the AFC championship game. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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, and this series will continue over the coming days and weeks.

Hakeem Nicks
Position: Wide receiver
Age: 27 (Jan. 14, 1988)
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 208 pounds

The skinny: Nicks is coming off a disappointing and underachieving season in Indianapolis, where he signed a one-year, $5.5 million free agent contract last March. Since his breakout seasons of 2010 and ’11, Nicks has fallen off the map in terms of production. In 2010, just his second season, he had 79 catches for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns. The next season, he was a key part of Giants Super Bowl championship run, hauling in 76 catches for a career high 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns. It was that production that opened the door for Victor Cruz to break onto the season for the Giants. But in the three seasons since then, Nicks has a total of seven touchdowns and hasn’t broken the 900-yard plateau.

By the numbers: In the Week 17 game against the Titans, Nicks had 3 receptions for 46 yards, putting him over 5,000 receiving yards for his career. But he finished his first season in Indy with just 38 catches for 408 yards and four touchdowns. In his last three seasons, Nicks has managed yardage seasons of 692, 896 and 405 respectively.

Why it would work: Nicks could be a viable and relatively cheap option to bring into camp to push Aaron Dobson and Brian Tyms and add depth to the receiving corps. Nicks could be looking for that one bust-out season to show that 2010 and ’11 were not just flashes in the pan. He is playing for one more big contract. He also could be very well motivated to work with Tom Brady (who wouldn’t be?) as Brady aims for a record fifth Super Bowl title. Bill Belichick knows Nicks’ game very well from preparing for him twice in 2011, including the Super Bowl against the Giants, and twice last season against the Colts, including the AFC championship. Nicks caught 10 passes for 109 yards in Super Bowl XLVI and had a nice touchdown pass on a fade route against the Patriots in the November meeting. Belichick knows you can’t have enough veteran savvy players and Nicks certainly qualifies as both. He is considered a very intelligent player who is capable of making adjustments in-game and in-route. That is a must with Tom Brady. Nicks also has a history of posting huge games: 12 catches vs. Houston, Oct. 10, 2010 and 199 receiving yards vs. Tampa Bay, Sept. 16, 2012 and three touchdowns against Carolina, Sept. 12, 2010.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 Free Agent Snapshot, Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots
Bill Belichick goes deep on why Pats ‘lucky to have’ Jamie Collins, references Lawrence Taylor 12.31.14 at 12:18 pm ET
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Jamie Collins has been an impact player for the Patriots since he landed in Foxboro. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Jamie Collins has been an impact player for the Patriots since he landed in Foxboro. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — It’s not often that Bill Belichick throws out compliments and makes comparisons to hall of fame players he’s coached.

But in Jamie Collins’ case Wednesday, he did both in a way.

The second-year linebacker has played a significant role in allowing Belichick to modify his defense to different alignments and schemes. On Sunday, he single-handedly blew by the Bills offensive line, strip-sacked Kyle Orton and recovered the fumble in the second half.

In the early 80s, Belichick was able to use Lawrence Taylor to help revolutionize the outside linebacker position and disrupt defenses by moving him around on the edges and forcing offenses to account for him on every play.

With Collins, Sunday’s strip-sack was the kind of play Taylor repeated time after time in his career.

Defenses have been continually evolving to counteract offenses. Belichick was asked Wednesday if Collins could be a prototype of defensive players in the future, where there are fewer linebackers and more players flexing between the second and third levels of the defense.

“Look, Jamie Collinses don’€™t ‘€“ it’€™s not like there’€™s two or three dozen of them in the draft every year,” Belichick said. “We’€™re lucky to have one. Was Lawrence Taylor a prototype outside linebacker? Where’€™s the next Lawrence Taylor? Those guys don’€™t grow on trees. So, I don’€™t know.

“I think that’€™s part of building your team is trying to anticipate where your team is going and to a certain extent where, especially defensively because you have to react to what they put on the field. Defensively you have to be able to defend those things. How do you construct the defense so you can handle the different challenges that you have?”

How Collins is deployed is up to Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. What makes Collins so valuable is not just his play-making impact but his flex quality between base and “sub” defensive sets. Belichick gave some insight Wednesday in how using him in “sub” or nickel packages might different from 3-4 and 4-3 bases. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Jamie Collins, Lawrence Taylor, New England Patriots
First half thoughts: Aaron Dobson debuts with TD, Tom Brady plays (as holder), Tim Wright catches on 08.28.14 at 8:59 pm ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo stands in the pocket and fires a pass Thursday night at MetLife Stadium. (Getty Images)

Jimmy Garoppolo stands in the pocket and fires a pass Thursday night at MetLife Stadium. (Getty Images)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Some quick takeaways from the first half between the Patriots and Giants, which ended in a 10-10 tie at MetLife Stadium.

Jimmy Garoppolo started as expected and stuttered a bit at first on the opening two drives. But then he found his rhythm in the second quarter, leading the Patriots on an impressive 82-yard drive, capped by a perfect 33-yard lob down the left sideline to Aaron Dobson, who went high in the air to haul it down. Dobson was making his preseason debut and looked comfortable in his first 30 minutes of play.

While Tom Brady was not expected to play a single down in the game, he did see action, as he was the holder after Dobson’s touchdown. He held without any incident.

Also making a debut Thursday night was tight end Tim Wright. He started the game for the Patriots and was targeted twice in the opening three series. He caught his first pass early in the second quarter, a short nine-yard screen.

Wright then caught a pass of 11 yards that set up Stephen Gostkowski‘s 37-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the first half, tying the game, 10-10. The snap was high on the field goal but Brady was not the holder for the field goal but rather Ryan Allen, the normal player at the position.

Earlier in the drive, Garoppolo also connected for 29 yards to James White on a wheel play out of the backfield, very similar to the route that Tom Brady and Shane Vereen run so successfully. Then he took a sack on the next play, pushing the Patriots back to the Giants 30.

Garoppolo finished the first 30 minutes completing 11-of-19 for 163 yards and the one touchdown. Garoppolo did have a moment he wishes he could have back, throwing inside on a route that Josh Boyce broke out on. Garoppolo was picked on the play by Zack Bowman at the Patriots 39. It set up a field goal, with some help from a 38-yard run by former Boston College star Andre Williams. Dobson caught two passes on three targets for 51 yards while Tim Wright was also targeted three times, catching two for 20 yards.

As for the starting left guard spot, Josh Kline, as will likely be the case in the season opener, got the call in the first game since the trade of Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay. Kline was the only projected offensive line starter on the field to begin the game. Jordan Devey got the call at left tackle, Bryan Stork was the center while Chris Barker was the right guard and Cameron Fleming started at right tackle.

James Morris, the rookie undrafted linebacker out of Iowa, had to be helped off the field late in the second quarter with a right knee injury. His return is questionable. Morris has impressed the Patriots coaching staff in training camp and got the start at middle linebacker on Thursday night.

Brandon Browner was one of the projected starters to play a majority of snaps in the first half, in part because his four-game suspension begins at the start of the regular season. Receiver Brian Tyms is in the same position, as he will miss the first four games (if he makes the squad) due to a PED violation for testing positive for Adderall.

Read More: Aaron Dobson, Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots, New York Giants
Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer, Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower among Patriots not dressing at 7:22 pm ET
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Patriots are expected to give most of the playing time to second and third-team units Thursday night here at MetLife Stadium.

Several starters dressed but are not expected to play, such as quarterbacks Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett, Darrelle Revis, Julian Edelman, Vince Wilfork, Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell.

There were nine players not spotted in uniform for warmups.

Running back: Brandon Bolden

Linebackers: Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower

Tight ends: Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui

Offensive lineman: Sebastian Vollmer

Defensive linemen: Dominique Easley, Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga

New tight end Tim Wright did dress and is wearing No. 81. He could see playing time in the preseason finale.

Read More: New England Patriots, New York Giants, Rob Gronkowski,
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