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What to watch for in Thursday’s Patriots-Giants preseason finale 08.28.14 at 7:30 am ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo

Here are seven things we’ll be looking for Thursday night when the Patriots meet the Giants in the preseason finale for both teams.

WHO DOESN’T PLAY

When it comes to the preseason finale, it’s just as important to figure out who doesn’t play as opposed to who does play. As we detailed here, if you’re a starter — or even a veteran — and you find yourself on the field for anything more than 10-15 snaps on Thursday night, it’s a bad sign. (The only area where this might be an exception is along the interior of the offensive line, for reasons we will address shortly.) Based on the work the Patriots were able to put in last week against the Panthers when they looked mostly razor sharp on both sides of the ball, don’t expect many of the starters to see the field against the Giants, despite the fact that we know New York is going to roll out its starters for between 15-18 snaps.

THE ROOKIES

A good chunk of this relates back to the first point — we know quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is going to start and get the bulk of the snaps. But given the fact that history tells us those who don’t play are likely to have a secure roster spot, we’ll be keeping an eye on a few first-year players and monitoring their playing time. Cornerback Malcolm Butler and running back James White have been among the rookies who have played well enough to land a roster spot over the course of the summer — if they end up sitting Thursday night, it’s a good bet they’ve made the roster.

JIMMY GAROPPOLO

Thursday will be the first professional start for Garoppolo, and he’€™ll get a chance to show what he can do against a No. 1 defense for the first time in the preseason. The New England coaching staff will be interested in seeing him in as many different situations as possible: two-minute, end-of-half, under pressure from a steady rush, as well as a potential four-minute offense situation. Everything is on the table when it comes to evaluating Garoppolo. From this viewpoint, Ryan Mallett still is the No. 2 quarterback on the roster, but the rookie will get his opportunity to show what he can do come Thursday evening in North Jersey.

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Read More: Brian Tyms, Bryan Stork, Dan Connolly, James White
QB Tom Brady talks about butts 08.14.14 at 7:30 am ET
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Tom Brady has a lot of respect for his centers.

The quarterback talked Wednesday about just how much he’s appreciated the work of Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell over the last few seasons and the chemistry he’s enjoyed with them. The result was an out-of-context smirkfest.

“I’€™ve got confidence in those guys,” Brady said. “I love both Dan and Wendy. I love those guys. They work so hard.

“The center-quarterback relationship is a pretty special one. I’€™ve got my hands on their butts probably more than their wives, so it’€™s a pretty unique trust and relationship you have.”

Clearly, we’ve reached the dog days of training camp.

Read More: Dan Connolly, ryan wendell, Tom Brady,
Centers of attention: Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork all in spotlight 08.04.14 at 7:00 am ET
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One of the more interesting positions over the first week-plus of Patriots training camp has been center, where Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly and Bryan Stork have all gotten plenty of work.

Wendell enters the 2014 season as the incumbent, having served as the No. 1 center for the better part of the last two years. A favorite of both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, he’s played almost more snaps than anyone else in the league since the start of the 2012 season.

It’s been a long journey for the 28-year-old Wendell, who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008, got his first series of starts along the interior in 2010 and moved into the starting center position in 2012.

“When Ryan first got here, he couldn’€™€™t even make our practice squad,” Belichick recalled earlier this summer when asked about the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Wendell. “He was a camp player [and] wasn’€™€™t on our practice squad at the beginning of the season. We brought him back to the practice squad during his first year.

“€œI’€™€™d say it’€™€™s been about as big of a progression as really any player could have, any player I’€™€™ve had or any player could have — maybe Steve Neal. But it’€™€™s the same kind of thing — guys [who] weren’€™€™t even on the practice squad that eventually became starting players in the NFL. That’€™€™s a pretty big jump. It took a lot of time, a lot of hard work and he’€™€™s certainly done his part and worked hard. He’€™€™s a very smart football player, and doesn’€™€™t have many missed assignments.”

At the same time, he figured to be pushed by the 23-year-old Stork, a rookie with a peerless college resume — he won the Rimington Award last year as the best center in college football in 2013, and was a captain for the national champions from Florida State.

“Bryan was a pretty durable player,” Patriots personnel chief Nick Caserio said of the 6-foot-4, 313-pound Stork, who started 41 games as a collegian with the Seminoles. “He played a lot of football. He played against good people.

“Smart guy, tough, good playing strength, had a good playing style, good demeanor. He did a lot of good things, and there was a lot to like about him.”

However, one player who has really emerged has been the 31-year-old Connolly, a part-time center who has really made his bones the last few years as the starting right guard. When Stork went down with an undisclosed injury — he’s missed three of the eight practices this summer as a result — the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Connolly stepped in as the backup, while Marcus Cannon took many of the reps at right guard. The move appeared to be a chance to take some of the reps from Wendell and give the starter a bit of a rest. But to this point, Connolly has performed well, and has added some more spice to the mix.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bryan Stork, Dan Connolly, Jon Halapio
Bill Belichick says he’s seen ‘a lot’ of improvement from Ryan Wendell 07.29.14 at 9:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — To many who paid close attention to the Patriots offensive line in 2013, it was not a season to remember for Ryan Wendell. His quarterback – Tom Brady – was sacked 40 times in 2013, one shy of his career high of 41 in his first full season of 2001. Many of those pressures came over center where Wendell is not only responsible for calling out protections but helping to protect the middle of the line.

Even Wendell, a man of few words, acknowledged as much Tuesday when asked about it after the team’s third padded practice this summer.

“There’€™s always room for improvement,” Wendell said. “There’€™s more than two things, but I think you need to ask coach Belichick about what I need to improve on.”

Bill Belichick obliged Tuesday.

“I think every year you start all over again,” Belichick said when asked about Wendell’s 2013 season. “We all do. Within any year certainly we all have our moments that are good and we have some that aren’€™t so good that we’€™d like to have back. So, I’€™m sure you could find good and bad plays from all of us that have participated ‘€“ players, coaches, every position, every year.

“I think when you look at the overall performance, the overall projection of where you think the player is going to be based on whatever ‘€“ his age, his experience, his work ethic, his training or age, whichever way it’€™s going, there’€™s a certain projection there but you wait and let it play out. I think that’€™s where we are in training camp now for really all the players. They’€™ve all trained, they’€™ve all been through the spring. They’€™ve all worked to put themselves in this position. Now we go out there and let them compete and see how it unfolds. I don’€™t know how it’€™s going to happen.

“Certainly if we would have projected Ryan Wendell and Steve Neal their rookie years; none of us would have thought [Tom] Brady for that matter. His rookie year, he didn’€™t do anything either. None of us would have thought that those guys would be the contributors they ended up being. That’€™s why we go out there and have training camp. That’€™s what competition is about. Sometimes you find out things differently.”

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Read More: 2014 training camp, New England Patriots, nfl, ryan wendell
Takeaways from our Thursday morning talk with Logan Mankins 04.17.14 at 1:49 pm ET
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FOXBORO — In addition to his dismissal of Brandon Spikes, here are three things we gleaned from our Thursday morning chat with Logan Mankins.

1. He sounds optimistic about the upcoming transition period for the New England offensive line.

For the first time since shortly after the earth cooled, Dante Scarnecchia will not be coaching the Patriots offensive line. It’€™ll be an interesting stretch for Mankins, who will be losing the only position coach he’€™s known at the professional level. However, Mankins said new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo “seems like a great guy, and I look forward to working with him.”

“€œIt’€™s going to be a big change,”€ Mankins said when asked about moving on from Scarnecchia. “I was lucky enough to have him for nine seasons. I wish that could have continued. But he put in his time and he earned the right to retire. Last time I talked to him, he was enjoying life right now and he’€™s staying busy. But it will be a lot different. That’€™s the only o-line coach I’ve known for quite a while now, so, it’€™ll be a bit of a change.”

What does Mankins want out of a new coach?

“€œPersonally, I just want a coach that’€™s fair, he’€™s going to treat everyone the same — there’€™s no one on a pedestal,”€ he said. “I think I learned to appreciate that from Dante. He was a hard coach, but he was a fair coach. We always knew he had our backs. He demanded a lot of us, but I think that’€™s what made a lot of us good players. That’€™s why he was such a successful coach and lasted so long.”

2. He’€™s been working a lot with fellow guard Dan Connolly this offseason.

According to Mankins, for the first time in several years, both Mankins and Connolly aren’t dealing with any sort of offseason rehab for surgery. As a result, the two have been working together in the area to ‘€œget after it’€ for a few hours every morning. He said

“€œIt’€™s been a good partnership right now,”€ Mankins said. “In years past, I had surgeries, he had surgeries, we had the whole lockout thing. We used to (train) a long time ago until certain things changed that, so this year was nice to get back together.

“€œWe meet every morning at a certain time and get after it for a few hours then go home. It’€™s always nice to have someone to work out with, especially at your own position, that you are working on the same things,” Mankins said. “We’€™ve been pushing each other and it’€™s been working out well.”

Right now, Mankins said it’€™s just “€œthe big boys throwing around weights.”€ That will transition to the start of the offseason program on Monday, where coaches can get involved. At that point, it’€™s expected that more cardio will be worked into the mix. Mankins said center Ryan Wendell has also been present since re-signing about three weeks ago, while youngsters Jordan Devey and Chris Barker have also been present.

(For what it’€™s worth, Mankins also sounded an optimistic note on the state of right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who went down in October with a season ending leg injury. “€œHe looks good right now, too. I don’€™t know his whole update right now, but he looks good and I know he’€™s working hard,”€ Mankins said of Vollmer. “There’€™s good promise there.”€)

3. There’€™s something to be said for continuity.

If everyone returns healthy, the Patriots will have a chance to utilize the same five starting offensive linemen they had at the beginning of the 2013 season — Vollmer (right tackle), Connolly (right guard), Wendell (center), Mankins, (left guard) and Nate Solder (left tackle).

“œIt’€™s always good,”€ said Mankins when asked about continuity. “We know what were doing, (but) it always comes down to making the right blocks and doing a good job. We like the group we have. We like the guys in that room. They’€™re all hard working guys and they try very hard and they work hard. I think we could have a good season together.

“€œI look forward to seeing everyone get back and everyone getting to work together finally,”€ he added. “€œIt’€™s always exciting, kind of like your first day back at school, I guess. You get to see everyone after the break, get to catch up with some friends you haven’€™t seen too much of lately, and get to work together, push each other, and see if other guys have been working as hard as you have.”

Read More: Chris Barker, Dan Connolly, Dante Scarnecchia, Dave DeGuglielmo
Resetting list of Patriots and their own free agents 04.09.14 at 1:04 pm ET
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With Matthew Mulligan agreeing to a deal with the Bears on Tuesday, here’s an updated look at the Patriots 2014 free agent class. If you’re scoring at home, of its 12 free agents, New England has retained four and lost five, while three remain on the market.

Long snapper Danny Aiken: Signed a one-year deal to return to New England.
Running back LeGarrette Blount: Signed a two-year deal with Pittsburgh.
Defensive end Andre Carter: Free agent, but has expressed an interest in returning.
Wide receiver Austin Collie: Free agent.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman: Signed a four-year contract to return to New England.
Linebacker Dane Fletcher: Signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay.
Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui: Signed a two-year deal to return to New England.
Tight end Matthew Mulligan: Singed a one-year deal with Chicago.
Linebacker Brandon Spikes: Signed a one-year deal with Buffalo.
Offensive lineman Will Svitek: Free agent.
Cornerback Aqib Talib: Signed a six-year deal with Denver.
Center Ryan Wendell: Signed a two-year deal to return to New England.

Read More: 2014 nfl free agency, Andre Carter, Aqib Talib, austin collie
Resetting latest on Patriots and their own free agents 03.20.14 at 3:53 pm ET
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Just over one week into free agency, here’s a status update on each of New England’s free agents:

Long snapper Danny Aiken: Signed a one-year deal to return to New England.
Running back LeGarrette Blount: No updates.
Defensive end Andre Carter: Carter has left the door open for a possible return — he expanded on his feelings in a recent interview with ESPN — but he remains in limbo, at least at this point.
Wide receiver Austin Collie: No updates.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman: Signed a four-year deal to return to New England.
Linebacker Dane Fletcher: Signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay.
Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui: Signed a two-year deal to return to New England.
Tight end Matthew Mulligan: No updates at this time, but a league source has expressed to WEEI.com some optimism the Maine product could return to the Patriots in 2014.
Linebacker Brandon Spikes: Signed a one-year deal with Buffalo.
Offensive lineman Will Svitek: No updates, but like Mulligan, league sources expressed a belief that the Patriots would welcome him back at a fair market rate.
Cornerback Aqib Talib: Signed a six-year deal with Denver.
Center Ryan Wendell: No updates.

Read More: 2014 nfl free agency, Andre Carter, Aqib Talib, austin collie
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