|Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson on Patriots secondary: ‘They make plays when they need to’||11.07.12 at 6:06 pm ET|
FOXBORO – Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson acknowledged Wednesday that the Patriots don’t have the best secondary in the league, but “they make plays when they need to … for the most part.”
“They win games,” Johnson said of the New England secondary. “We all know about the offense, but it still takes the defense to make plays and hold opponents off. They have done that. I cannot say they are the greatest, but when it is time to play, they definitely step up when needed. They’re a good bunch.”
In a conference call with the New England media, the Bills’ top wide receiver — who was held out of practice Wednesday with what he called “a thigh bruise” — said that if he had to choose between the Patriots and Texans for the top team in the AFC, he’d go with New England.
“I’m just going to have to say the Patriots because the first quarter (against the Texans) I was feeling pretty good about it from my perspective,” said Johnson, who has 35 catches for 416 yards and four touchdowns this year. “I was feeling pretty good about it. and then I ended up getting the thigh injury and I really couldn’t do too much. I played the game against the Patriots with pretty much no injury and they still put a whooping on us. So I am going to give the nod to the New England Patriots.”
The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Johnson has engaged in a couple of memorable touchdown celebrations at Gillette Stadium, including pretending to fire the musket of one of the end zone Minutemen. (He also revealed a unique fashion sense last season when he scored a touchdown against New England in a New Year’s Day game and pulled up a T-shirt that had “Happy New Year!” written on the front. The stunt earned him a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct and some time on the sidelines.)
This time around, he said he has no celebrations planned.
“That happened in the middle of the game,” he recalled with a laugh when he was asked about the musket celebration. “The Patriots scored, the musket went off and scared me on the sideline. I was like ‘OK, I got something for them.’ This year, no. I pretty much just want to get in the end zone and keep my team ahead. Whatever happens is going to happen. I do not have anything planned though.
“All those gun days are done with Stevie Johnson.”
He did have some good things to say about Rob Gronkowski’s recent celebration in the Patriots-Rams game in London that saw the big tight end act like one of the palace guards.
“I like Gronkowski. He’s good,” he said. “And it was well worth doing, being in London.
“I think it is we put in this work from Monday all of the way to Sunday. You know how hard it is to get in the end zone. Just to get there is like, ‘Man, I did it.’ Just want to celebrate a little bit,” he added. “I think it should be legal to celebrate at least with your teammates. You put in a lot of work throughout the week to get in the end zone, and when you get there, you feel like you can’t even do anything. We understand there are certain things you cannot do. I know I have done some things that you should not be able to do, but for the most part if it is a simple celebration. I think that should be good with any team.”
Here are a few other highlights from his Q&A with the media:
|Eagles slap DeSean Jackson with franchise tag||03.01.12 at 5:01 pm ET|
Cross one possible free-agent wide receiver off the Patriots’ wish list.
DeSean Jackson, the occasional mercural pass-catcher, was hit with the franchise tag by the Eagles on Thursday afternoon. Jackson was the first player franchised in the available window that runs between now and March 5. While it’s expected that the two sides will continue to discuss a long-term deal, the tag means the 25-year-old Jackson is now currently under a one-year contract with Philadelphia at the franchise tag rate, which is roughly $9.4 million.
“We want DeSean to be an Eagle for the long haul and this is a step in the right direction to accomplish that,” Eagles GM Howie Roseman said of Jackson, who finished last season with 58 catches, 961 yards and four touchdowns. “DeSean is a talented player and a proven playmaker in this league and we look forward to him continuing his career in Philadelphia. It’s our understanding that he has the same desire. We will continue our efforts on getting a long-term deal done with him.”
Jackson was one of several receivers who were free-agent possibilities this offseason for New England, a group that includes Reggie Wayne, Marques Colton, Dwayne Bowe, Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd. (In addition, New England’s Wes Welker and Deion Branch are slated to become free agents, but it’s expected that Welker will also be slapped with the franchise tag between now and March 5.)
|Free Agent Snapshot: Vincent Jackson||at 1:06 am ET|
We continue our look at 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason with a breakdown of wide receiver Vincent Jackson. With the understanding that the NFL’s franchise tag window is from now until March 5 (which means some of these players we list could ultimately be retained by their team) here are some players worth keeping an eye on that might be a fit in New England when free agency begins March 13:
Position: Wide receiver
Weight: 230 pounds
If he somehow shakes free of the Chargers — that is to say, if San Diego doesn’t franchise him (which is still a serious question between now and the March 5 deadline) — Jackson appears to be the biggest name available among the free agent wide receivers. Big, strong and fast, Jackson has topped 1,000 yards three of the last four seasons, including 60 catches for 1,106 yards and nine touchdowns for San Diego last year. (According to Pro Football Focus, his 18.4 yards per catch was fifth in the league for wide receivers who played at least 50 percent of their teams snaps.)
Recent reports indicate that Jackson could be on the Patriots’ short list. In addition, there was plenty of talk about a Jackson-to-New England trade when he was going through his latest contract flap in San Diego in 2010. Jackson is also used to playing with an elite tight end (Antonio Gates), and has been a key part of a high-powered passing game for the last several years.
Jackson has always done well against the Patriots. In last year’s Week 2 matchup, he finished with 10 catches for 172 yards (both season highs) and a pair of touchdowns. In his three career games against New England, he has 19 catches for 359 yards (tops for any opponent he’s faced outside the AFC West) and three touchdowns).
Why it might not work: If the Chargers franchise him, he’ll stick with San Diego for another year. But if he does hit the open market, he’ll likely draw top dollar for free agent wide receivers, which could ultimately leave the Patriots looking elsewhere. It’s going to be a fluid market for wide receivers, and depending on who gets tagged, it could create some market uncertainty for elite receivers like Jackson, Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne, DeSean Jackson, Marques Colton, Dwayne Bowe, Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd, who are all still possibilities to hit the open market.
|Free Agent Snapshot: Brandon Lloyd||02.16.12 at 10:03 pm ET|
We continue our look at 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason with a breakdown of wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. With the understanding that the NFL’s franchise tag window is from February 20 to March 5 (which means some of these players we list could ultimately be retained by their team) here are some players worth keeping an eye on that might be a fit in New England when free agency begins March 13:
Position: Wide receiver
Weight: 188 pounds
On the surface, this seems to be the best free-agent fit of the offseason for New England. Even if the Patriots do manage to retain veterans Wes Welker and Deion Branch in free agency, Lloyd would be that long-elusive offensive option New England has been missing since Jabar Gaffney left following the 2008 season — another pass catcher who is not a tight end who can get you 50 or so receptions a season.
The Patriots need to build some depth at the position, they have had trouble developing young receivers, and Lloyd is on record as saying he’d be willing to follow Josh McDaniels to the ends of the earth. McDaniels helped turned Lloyd from a JAG who never topped 30 receptions over the first seven seasons of his career into a stud who has averaged 74 catches a game the last two years. In all, with McDaniels as the St. Louis offensive coordinator, Lloyd had 51 catches for 683 yards and five touchdowns last year in 11 games with the Rams. That’s on the heels of 77 catches for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010 with Denver … a portion of which happened in McDaniels’ final season as head coach of the Broncos. (McDaniels coached 12 games that year in Denver.)
“I can’t even lie about that,” Lloyd told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in late December when he was asked about McDaniels. “I’m tied to McDaniels. He uses me differently than other offensive coordinators used me in my entire career. He uses me as an every-play receiver. The short game, mid-range game, gimmick passes, deep balls.
“I do everything in this offense as opposed to other coordinators who would just run me off as the deep guy; run me off into double coverage and then say I’m not open. So I really like how Josh uses me within the offense. … I want to be used in ways where I feel comfortable and I can be successful and Josh knows how to do that.”
Why it might not work: Historically, Lloyd’s agent Tom Condon doesn’t have the best working relationship with the Patriots, having initially drawn their ire when it came to the Ben Watson negotiations. And as was the case with Reggie Wayne, the market for receivers this offseason is a fluid one, with Wayne, Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Marques Colston, Stevie Johnson, Dwayne Bowe and Welker all on the market. Depending on how the market trends, this could be a good thing or bad thing for the Patriots. The Patriots could also choose to try and find a young receiver in the draft, as this year’s crop is considered to be better than average.
|Free Agent Snapshot: Reggie Wayne||02.14.12 at 1:58 pm ET|
Today begins a series on 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason. With the understanding that the NFL’s franchise tag window runs from February 20 to March 5 (which means some of these players we list could ultimately be retained by their team) here are some players worth keeping an eye on that might be a fit in New England when free agency begins March 13:
Position: Wide receiver
Weight: 198 pounds
It certainly appears that Indy, with a new coach and GM, is looking to break up the band, so it should come as no surprise that Wayne has said the Colts haven’t reached out to him regarding his future. He has made it known — at least through a third party — that he’d be open to playing for the Patriots, as the Boston Herald reported that he told Willie McGinest that he’d welcome a chance to play in New England. He’d be a welcome alternative to Chad Ochocinco — he’s a similar size (Ocho is 6-foot-1, 198 pounds) and is almost a year younger. And even on short money, Wayne would be a better fit with the Patriots than this guy.
In 2011, Wayne had his worst season statistically since 2003, as he finished with 75 catches for 960 yards and four touchdowns. (I’ll let you think about that for a second — it might be the only time you see the words “worst” and “960 yards” in the same sentence.) The drop in numbers could very well be because Manning was sidelined for the bulk of the season and Wayne had to make do with the likes of Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins throwing him the ball. Despite that, he still managed to lead Indy in receptions and receiving yards.
Unless he gets knocked sideways by a ridiculous offer, he’s not going to go somewhere and start all over again. He also passes what might best be described as the Rosevelt Colvin test: in 2002, before a game against the Bears, Belichick waxed rhapsodic about Colvin’s greatness. In 2009, Belichick was effusive in his praise of Wayne, saying after the infamous fourth and 2 game (a contest where Wayne had 10 catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns), “I can’t say enough about Reggie Wayne. That guy’s the best receiver we cover every year. It seems like he just keeps getting better. I thought the routes he ran and the catches he made were nothing short of spectacular — the go-route, the two touchdown catches, the third-down conversion on the corner route in front of our bench. He’s a tremendous receiver.”
Why it might not work: As is the case with Moss, the Patriots need to get younger at wide receiver, and signing a 33-year-old like Wayne isn’t a good way to do that. While on the surface, he would appear to be a good fit in many respects, New England isn’t likely to pony up multiple years and a ridiculous signing bonus to get him — he’d probably have to take less money to come to the Patriots. It also depends on how the rest of the market shakes out. This is a very good year for high-end wide receivers: Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Marques Colston, Stevie Johnson, Dwayne Bowe and Wes Welker. And then, there’s the Peyton Factor. With the two of them having spent more than a decade together, some reports indicate that Wayne would follow Manning wherever the quarterback decided to land.
|Five reasons why Randy Moss won’t be back with the Patriots||02.13.12 at 4:51 pm ET|
Randy Moss announced Monday morning that he hopes to return to the NFL in 2012. While he will inevitably be linked to the Patriots when it comes to a possible return to the NFL, here are five reasons why Moss won’t be walking through that door in Foxboro any time soon:
1. Moss’s skills have declined: Moss had a combined 28 catches for the three teams he played for in 2010 (nine for the Patriots, six for Tennessee and 13 for Minnesota). For most receivers in their thirties, that sort of stat line is a red flag, and that was more than a year ago. And history tells us that any time a player on the other side of 30 takes that much time away from the game, the skill set just isn’t there when they return. In his prime, Moss was a freakish athlete who did things on a football field that almost no one had ever seen before. (His 2007 season was one of the best of all time.) But the 35-year-old Moss isn’t going to be the same guy after a year away. It remains to be seen how he’d come to terms with his diminished skills (and role), and whether or not be accept a different job other than designated deep threat.
2. The Patriots offense has changed: When Moss was traded in October 2010 to Minnesota, it was the first step in a complete overhaul of the New England offense. Prior to that, the Patriots passing game could stretch the field and taking their shots deep. Now, the Patriots are more of a horizontal passing game, with slot receiver Wes Welker one of the best in the league when it comes to going over the middle, and tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski now a complementary set of tight ends the likes of which the league has never seen. Deion Branch is not the receiver he once was (he no longer has the kind of wheels that he used to have), but has managed to get by on smarts and dependability. Even if Welker and/or Branch do not return, it seems unlikely the Patriots would try and reintroduce Moss into the offense. Remember — the Patriots had their opportunity to re-sign Moss last year. When they needed another receiver, they went for Tiquan Underwood instead of Moss, which should tell you all you need to know about where they think of Moss’ skill set at this point.
3. The Patriots must get younger at wide receiver: New England needs to go in the other direction at the receiver position. Branch (32), Welker (30) and Chad Ochocinco (34) are all closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. While the Patriots are a relatively young bunch at all of the other skill positions, they are starting to show their collective age at wide receiver, and the return of the 35-year-old Moss does nothing to make them younger. The free-agent market for wide receivers also doesn’t help Moss — it’s a group that includes Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, Stevie Johnson, Dwayne Bowe and Welker, all of whom are younger than Moss.
4. His return would impede the progress of young pass catchers like Hernandez and Gronkowski: In 2012, the two young tight ends combined to form one of the most dynamic offensive options in the game. With Moss on the scene, that would mean fewer chances in the passing game for both Hernandez and Gronkowski, which would certainly set their development back.
5. The Patriots know that with Moss, you’re always living on borrowed time, and most of the time, on his terms: Since the end of the 2007 season, the Patriots knew they were in for a short marriage with Moss, one that ultimately came to an end early in the 2010 season following a much-discussed incident with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. At some point along the way, Moss transitioned from someone who was clearly interested in putting the team first to someone who was worried about himself and his numbers. (Remember this?) With the Patriots having spent the better part of the last two years meticulously building a positive infrastructure in the locker room, it would be a risk to reintroduce a historically combustible individual like Moss back into that environment.
Moss is still beloved by many in New England. He showed up to owner Robert Kraft’s house as Kraft sat shiva following the death of his wife, and Kevin Faulk told NESN in an interview that Moss was waiting for him in his driveway a week ago when the running back returned from the Super Bowl. In addition, Patriots Bill Belichick — who has had plenty of opportunities to publicly lambaste Moss — continues to have nothing but good things to say about the receiver. Meanwhile, Moss has taken every chance to tell everyone how much he loved his time in New England with Tom Brady and Belichick.
But even with all that, don’t look for Moss to rejoin Brady and Belichick. The bottom line is that Moss needs the Patriots more than they need him. And considering the New England passing game has enjoyed unparalleled success since he was shipped out of town 16 months ago, at this point in Moss’ career, the risk far outweighs the reward.
|At least DeSean Jackson didn’t have as bad a day as Stevie Johnson||11.27.11 at 11:56 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — There were no mock firings of a glock into one’s leg following a touchdown celebration. So, at least DeSean Jackson knows he won’t draw the ire of the NFL office this week before Philly’s next game Thursday in Seattle. But like Stevie Johnson in Buffalo, Jackson was the biggest single goat for the Eagles in an ugly 38-20 loss to the Patriots that all but ends their playoff hopes.
This is Philadelphia, and fans here would reply with something along the lines of: “Yo, you have to actually CATCH the ball in the end zone to have a celebration!”
Not once but twice did Jackson literally drop the ball against the Patriots on potential touchdown throws from Vince Young. The first came in the second quarter with the Patriots leading 21-10. A TD makes it 21-17 and it’s suddenly a ball game just before halftime. But no, Jackson had the ball go through his hands and the Eagles settled for a chip-shot field goal.
The second came in the third quarter. Jackson blew right by safety Sergio Brown — who tried to commit pass interference but missed. Jackson was behind everyone in the end zone and had the ball perfectly thrown to him by Young but he dropped it. The collective moan from the Lincoln Financial Field crowd was deafening.
“Yeah, things happen sometimes,” Jackson said. “As a player, I am upset about it. It wasn’t one of my best games. As far as a couple of plays, I thought I could’ve had them, but at the end of the day, I didn’t come up with them.”
Coach Andy Reid, who heard loud chants of “Fire Andy!” from the crowd in the fourth quarter, benched Jackson after the second drop.
“He has to do a better job,” Reid said.
As for those not-so subtle hints from the typically angry Philly fans?
“I really don’t hear much down [on the field]. I didn’t hear it. The way we played, I can understand,” Reid said.
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