|Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard banged up in Tuesday OTA session||06.04.13 at 1:05 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard appeared to suffer a left shoulder or collarbone injury late in New England’s OTA session, and had to be carted off the field before practice came to a close.
Dennard, a seventh-round pick out of Nebraska last season, had 35 tackles (34 solo), seven passes defensed and three interceptions for the Patriots last season. Along with Aqib Talib, the 5-foot-10, 200-pounder projects as one of New England’s two starting cornerbacks in 2013.
Dennard, running back Stevan Ridley and tight end Jake Ballard were three players who appeared to get banged up over the course of the session, which ran for nearly two hours on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. Ridley suffered a right hamstring pull roughly halfway through the practice session and sat out the rest of the workout, while Ballard — who sat out all of the 2012 season because of a knee injury — appeared to come down awkwardly on his left foot or ankle relatively early on, and was sidelined for the rest of the outing.
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|Deconstructing Patriots roster by age||05.28.13 at 7:30 am ET|
On the heels of this comprehensive piece from Mike Sando of ESPN on the average age of projected starters around the NFL — right now, the Patriots project to have the sixth-oldest group of starters, according to Sando — I decided to take a look at a few age-related pieces of information when it comes to the New England roster. With the understanding that the numbers will change between now and the start of the season — the roster currently sits at 90, and has to be at 53 before Week 1 — here are five things that jumped out at me.
• As it stands right now, the average age of the 90-man roster is at 25.3 years old. The oldest average age group is at quarterback, where the three signal-callers average 28 years old (that group includes the oldest player on the roster in Tom Brady). In addition, the linebackers and offensive line have an average age of 26. Meanwhile, the specialists, receivers, offensive line, defensive line, tight ends and defensive backs all average 25 years old. The youngest average position is at running back, where the group averages 24 years old.
As for the age difference between 2012 and 2013 when it comes to position, right now the biggest difference is at wide receiver — at this time last year, that group had an average age of 28. (That ballooned to 30 when you look at the regular-season roster.) Now, it stands at 25. The rest of the positions haven’t much changed — for example, last spring’s quarterback group also averaged 28 years old, while last year’s offensive line averaged 27, the linebackers were at 26 and the running backs averaged 25.
• Tight end Aaron Hernandez is one of the more unique athletes on the Patriots roster for several seasons, not the least of which is the fact that when he was drafted by New England in the spring of 2010, the Florida product was just 20 years old. As a result, Hernandez, who was born on Nov. 6, 1989, is barely older than many of the rookies or second-year players currently on the roster. For some comparison, rookie wide receiver Josh Boyce, who was drafted in the fourth round this spring, was born Jan. 22, 1990, which makes him just two-plus months older than Hernandez. (In that same vein, tight end Colby Fleener, who was drafted in 2012 by the Colts out of Stanford, is almost a full year older than Hernandez — he was born on Sept. 20, 1988.)
• Hernandez certainly has spent a lot of time as one of the youngest guys in the New England locker room, but right now the honor of youngest player falls to rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson, who won’t turn 22 until July 23. For some perspective, that means Dobson was 10 years old when Brady and the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI against the Rams in New Orleans. The Patriots currently have 31 players on their roster who are 23 years old or younger.
• There’s always the possibility that there might be some changes in the roster between now and the start of the season, but at this point, for the second straight year, Brady figures to be the oldest guy on the roster. Brady, who was born on Aug. 3, 1977, will turn 36 before the start of the 2013 season. When it comes to quarterbacks 35 and older who won the Super Bowl, if he does win another ring, Brady would be in rare company indeed. Only four other quarterbacks have won Super Bowls after their 35th birthday: Johnny Unitas (37 when he led the Colts to a win in Super Bowl V), Roger Staubach (35 when the Cowboys won Super Bowl XII), Jim Plunkett (36 when the Raiders won Super Bowl XVIII) and John Elway (37 and 38 when he led the Broncos to Super Bowl XXXII and XXXIII titles). In all, the Patriots have 11 guys 30 or older, including Brady. New safety Adrian Wilson is 33, while defensive lineman Tommy Kelly and special teamer Niko Koutouvides are both 32; offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Will Svitek and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork all are 31.
• We’ve written about this before, but when you’re talking about age, it’s important to take note of the 2012 season that running back Stevan Ridley had. The LSU product — who was drafted a year after Hernandez in 2011 but is almost a year older than him, having been born on Jan. 27, 1989 — had one of the best seasons for any running back before the age of 24. He finished with 1,263 rushing yards, the fourth-best single-season mark in franchise history. The only back in Patriots history who had a better season before the age of 24 was Curtis Martin, who ended up with 1,487 yards in 1995 at the age of 22. (At the age of 24, Jim Nance had 1,458 rushing yards with the Boston Patriots.)
|Stevan Ridley: No lingering effects from head injury in AFC title game||05.02.13 at 5:43 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For Stevan Ridley, a terrific season ended on a sour note when he was knocked out of the AFC title game against the Ravens. The running back — who rushed for 1,263 yards in the regular season — suffered a head injury which left him sidelined in the waning moments of the loss to Baltimore.
In the wake of the injury, Ridley says he’s been able to shake off any lingering effects of what happened and move full into the offseason.
“None at all, man,” he said Thursday when asked if there were any lingering effects from the head-to-head collision. “Just good sleep and trying to get back on the field. I thank the Lord that I’m healthy and brought me back. All I can do now is move forward from that. But it was a nice hit that I took. Just got to shake it off. Comes with the game.
“It wasn’t pretty at all. It was one of the worst [hits] that I took in my life, [but] it comes with the game,” he added. “I love the game and I love football. I mean, it’s going to happen sometimes. But you got to roll with it. Adjust it. Make sure you’re squared away with your doctor, squared away with your team. I’ll be out here this year ready to go.”
Ridley finished the season seventh in the league in total yardage, and came within 10 carries of becoming the first Patriots running back to hit 300 carries since Corey Dillon in 2004. That sort of workload helped bring some real balance in the New England offense, but also meant that Ridley needed to make sure that he caught up on his rest over the last couple of months.
“It’s always good to get a break,” he said. “For us, being in the playoffs the last few years, our break is a little bit shorter than others. But when you take that time, you have to take at least three or four weeks to take time for yourself and visit your family — step away. Once you get back up here it’s 24/7. We’re back on the clock. Once we’re back up here, we’re excited to be here and excited about a new year and a fresh start. So, some time off doesn’t hurt anybody, but we know it’s time to get back to work now that we’re here.
Coming off his first 1,000-yard season, Ridley is looking to build some consistency, and become the first running back Bill Belichick has ever had that’s been able to string together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
“I’m just still grinding. I’m happy,” he said. “Some things went well for me and the team. It worked out for me. But for the future and what’s coming up, you just gotta keep working. You know you can’t just do it one year. You’ve got to keep … be consistent with your production. We’re just gonna keep working hard. I’m gonna keep following my teammates and challenging each other and trying to put us in the best shape we can be in.”
One thing that will be different for the Patriots’ ground game in 2013 is the removal of popular veteran Danny Woodhead (who signed a free-agent contract with the Chargers) and the arrival of veteran LeGarrette Blount (who was acquired in a draft weekend deal with the Bucs).
Ridley was clearly sad to see Woodhead go, but eager to get the chance to work with someone like Blount.
“Oh, man — I’ve talked to Woody I’d say three or four times since he left here. You hate to see the guy go like that, but it was the best move for him. It was him and his family. But we’ll stay in touch and we can get across the country and see each other when we need to,” he said of Woodhead.
“You’re looking at a guy who is 260 pounds, a powerful runner,” he added when asked about Blount. “You’re looking at a guy who is coming in here to a stable of backs. We just had lunch, just talked a little bit, and now we’re excited about it. … The job is not going to be given to anybody, you got to work to get it. With us four in there, I think all four of us can contribute.
“We’ve got a group of guys that are working hard here, and some younger guys and guys that are hungry to play. So, we’re excited about it. Each year holds a new thing and for us, this year we lost a leader but we’ll battle back and just work hard and stick together.”
|Patriots players offer support, prayers after Marathon tragedy||04.15.13 at 7:40 pm ET|
Several members of the Patriots took to Twitter Monday afternoon in the wake of the deadly Boston Marathon bombing to express their condolences and offer support and prayers.
Wow can’t believe what just happened at the Boston Marathon. Praying for everyone down there.
— Rob Gronkowski (@RobGronkowski) April 15, 2013
Ain’t much left to do but pray.
— Stevan Ridley (@StevanRidley) April 15, 2013
Praying for everyone in Boston right now.
— Danny aiken (@Danny_Aiken) April 15, 2013
Prayers go out to everyone that has been affected by this awful event.
— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) April 15, 2013
Saddened by what happened today in Boston. Thoughts and prayers go out to all affected.
— Dan Connolly(@63Connolly) April 15, 2013
|Resetting depth chart in Patriots backfield||03.19.13 at 2:10 pm ET|
We hit the reset button on the Patriots’ defensive back depth chart the other day, and with a few changes over the first week of free agency at the running back spot, we’ll do the same thing now for the New England backfield. With the understanding that things can change dramatically between now and the start of the season, here’s a look at the Patriots’ depth chart at running back as it stands right now.
Stevan Ridley: After finishing the 2012 season with 290 carries, 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns, if he stays healthy the LSU product figures to be the closest thing to a lead back again for the Patriots in 2013.
Shane Vereen: Displayed enough of a multidimensional flair late in the year to render Danny Woodhead expendable (Woodhead signed with the Chargers as a free agent). Vereen figures to take over many of the responsibilities that fell to Danny Woodhead over the last few seasons, particularly when it came to serving as the third-down and changeup back.
Leon Washington: More of a third-down back and option in the passing game than a traditional between-the-tackles runner, Washington — who projects as more of a special teamer at this point — will likely provide depth for Vereen, at least as things stand right now.
Brandon Bolden: The undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss had one terrific game (he rushed for 137 yards in Buffalo against the Bills), but wasn’t used much late in the season for several reasons, including a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. He finished the season with 56 carries for 274 yards, and right now, projects to be Ridley’s backup as the big, between-the-tackles back.
Jeff Demps: A bit of a wild card at this point because of his reported interest in working part-time in track and field (we got into his situation here), he could serve as a multipurpose threat in the same mold as Washington if he does end up sticking around.
James Develin: The Brown product was a fringe guy last season, spending time with both the Patriots and Bengals before being added to the New England practice squad in September and the active roster in December. At 6-foot-3 and 251 pounds, probably more of a fullback type.
Tony Fiammetta: The fullback was just reinstated to the active roster on Monday after spending all of 2012 out of the game.
|Stevan Ridley knows full well Pats ‘can’t have’ his turnovers||01.11.13 at 6:13 pm ET|
FOXBORO — One of the highlights of media availability in the last week has been the Patriots working on ball security, especially Stevan Ridley. Bill Belichick has had Ridley carry a ball in each hand with a defender on each side trying to pry the ball loose. He has been the only Patriot spotted with such focus on taking care of the ball.
Of course, there’s good reason for that. There were the two fumbles at the end of the 2011 season, including in the divisional rout over the Broncos. Then there were the two fumbles in back-to-back games this season against the Texans and the 49ers. His fumble on the first drive of the game against Houston could’ve been costly but Aaron Hernandez raced over and recovered it before the Texans could pounce. He wasn’t as lucky the next week against the 49ers. He hasn’t fumbled since in 38 carries.
“Can’t have it, can’t have it,” Ridley said Friday. “It’s crunch time, man. And turnovers, however they come — fumbles, interceptions, drops, whatever — we can’t have that.”
Then, he turned the focus on himself.
“I don’t want to be that guy that they’re pointing the finger at, and saying, ‘My bad.’ I’m trying to play solid football and play perfect football,” he said.
Of course, if Ridley and the Patriots are going to have offensive success against the Texans Sunday, they need to replicate what they did to J.J. Watt the last time, when they held the All-Pro without a sack or a tackle for a loss.
“He’s a playmaker,” Ridley said. “For us, whether it’s in the backfield, catching him on the way out, running routes, whatever we have to do, we have to get away from him, put two hats on him, make sure he’s blocked, make sure he’s covered up because he’s the leader of their defense. If he get momentum, we’re going to have trouble all night.”
Ridley was then asked about Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and the suggestion that Wes Welker is not the “physical” receiver that A.J. Green is and may not require Johnathan Joseph to cover him.
“I have no idea that he said anything about that but Wes Welker is a very important part of our offense,” Ridley said laughing. “We need everybody we can get, and that’s somebody who’s been on the field for the Patriots for a long time, somebody we depend on in crunch situations so I don’t know about his size or whatever that is but Wes gets the job done and I’ll be looking be looking for ’83′ on Sunday.”
|Patriots finish regular season with a flourish, blanking Dolphins, 28-0||12.30.12 at 7:23 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots took advantage of the opportunity presented to them by the stumbling Texans, crushing the Dolphins, 28-0, Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Their win, combined with Houston’s loss to Indy, allowed them to shoot past the Texans and into the No. 2 spot in the AFC playoff picture. As a result, New England won’t have to play next weekend, and will host a divisional playoff game the weekend of Jan. 12-13.
New England took a 21-0 halftime lead and never lost control, as the Patriots used a 9-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Wes Welker and a pair of touchdown runs from Stevan Ridley (one from one yard out and another from two yards out) to take command early. Meanwhile, Miami struggled offensively, and ran just five plays from scrimmage in New England territory over the first two quarters.
It was the same story in the second half, as the Patriots cruised to the win, improving to 12-4 for the season. Brady led the way for the New England offense, finishing 22-for-36 for 284 yards with two touchdowns. Ridley ended up with 20 carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns, and Welker had eight catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. Rob Gronkowski caught two passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in his first games back since breaking his forearm against the Colts. He played a total of 24 offensive snaps.
The Dolphins dropped to 7-9. Miami, which looked like it mentally checked out midway through the third quarter after Reggie Bush fumbled just before the New England end zone, was led by Ryan Tannehill (20-for-35 for 235 yards with one interception) and Brian Hartline (five catches, 69 yards).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
• The Patriots were able to get consistent pressure on Tannehill throughout the afternoon, finishing with a season-high seven sacks while playing much of the game with an combination of different personnel up front. Rookie Justin Francis had three sacks, while Trevor Scott, Vince Wilfork, Derrick Martin and Brandon Deaderick each had one sack on the day. With uncertainty surround the health of Rob Ninkovich, Francis has done a good job over the last few weeks making his case for more playing time.
• The Patriots were able to put together a pair of impressive drives at the start and finish of the second quarter. The first drive of the second — which began at the end of the first — ended for the Patriots when Ridley snuck in underneath the pile from a yard out (on a fourth-down play) to make it 14-0 with 10:26 left in the quarter. It was a drive that took 7:28 — the second-longest of the season for the New England offense, and one that looked an awful lot like the one that took 7:18 and closed out the Dolphins back on Dec. 2. (The longest of the season was 7:39, on Thanksgiving against the Jets.) The Patriots put the capper on the first half with another impressive sequence. Brady engineered a 14-play, 69-yard drive for New England that took 5:24 and was finished off by Ridley (this time from two yards out) and was highlighted by a 14-yard pass play to Danny Woodhead to make it 21-0 with a minute left in the second quarter.
• The Patriots were able to get a good look at a cross-section of players who were questionable heading into the postseason, and leading that list was Gronkowski. The big tight end played for the first time since suffering an arm injury in the waning moments of a Nov. 18 win over Indy, and saw significant snaps. He appeared tentative at times, but played in all four quarters. He was at his best in the fourth when he caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Brady to put the Patriots up 28-0 with 9:20 left in the fourth quarter.
WHAT WENT WRONG
• A second-quarter injury to linebacker Rob Ninkovich — he went down with a hip problem midway through the second and wasn’t seen on the sidelines for the rest of the afternoon — could be serious for the Patriots if it is a long-term problem. Ninkovich has proven himself to be one of New England’s most important defenders, and would be difficult to replace.
• The Patriots missed out on a pair of marks. First, Ridley finished the season with 290 carries, 10 shy of the 300 mark. (He missed out on becoming the first New England running back to hit the 300-carry mark since Corey Dillon did it in 2004.) In addition, Welker finished the season with 118 catches on the year — he missed out on tying his own franchise record for catches in a season by five. (The mark is 123, which he set in 2009.)
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