|5 most important Patriots not named Tom Brady||08.26.14 at 12:00 am ET|
There’s no need to debate who the most important member of the Patriots is — quarterback Tom Brady has been the single most integral part of New England’s football success on a week-in, week-out basis for the last decade-plus. But who makes up the rest of the nucleus? With the 2014 regular season looming, here are the five most important Patriots not named Brady — in no particular order:
Wide receiver Julian Edelman — Edelman has emerged as Brady’s go-to target of choice over the last year-plus. The former college quarterback topped the 100-catch mark last season, becoming just the third pass-catcher of the Brady Era to come away with at least 100 catches in a season (Troy Brown and Wes Welker were the other two.) Over the course of the summer, he displayed an almost creepy level of chemistry with the quarterback — the two were in sync over the course of the summer. In two preseason games, Edelman has showed that regardless of what happens with Rob Gronkowski‘s health in 2014, he will be one of the fundamental elements of the New England passing game — in two preseason games this summer, Brady has targeted Edelman 10 times, and the receiver has caught all 10 passes.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski — Gronkowski is the difference-maker, the sort of offensive option who can help New England get to its ultimately goal. The only question is his health — the big tight end played in his first 46 straight games in the NFL, but since his forearm snapped blocking on an extra point against the Colts in 2012, he’s only played in nine of a possible 26 games. It’s important to note that the Patriots looked like they learned to survive without him down the stretch and into the postseason last year: according to Football Outsiders, the Patriots averaged 32 points per game and 5.94 yards per play with him from Weeks 7 through 14 with him. Without Gronkowski (from Week 15 through the end of their postseason run), New England averaged 30.8 points per game and 5.82 yards per play. It was a dropoff, but not the dramatic dip that some may have anticipated. At the same time, the real struggles in other areas (red zone presence, blocking) have created an environment where it’s simply not sustainable to think the Patriots could hope to win a Super Bowl without him.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis — Revis has only been a part of the New England roster for a few months, but he already figures to be a vital part of any success the Patriots have in 2014. Even for a future Hall of Famer, it can be an occasionally dicey proposition joining a new team, but he’s managed to fit in seamlessly. As a new face, he has managed to walk a fine line between being deferential to the established veterans who were already on the roster, but at the same time, he’s managed to carve out a leadership position of his own. He was the guy who led a group of defensive backs out to Arizona for offseason workouts with his trainer, and the younger defensive backs (including Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon) have confessed to picking his brain on more than one occasion. He hasn’t played a ton in the preseason (we had him at 36 snaps — with penalties — through the first three games of the preseason, and has one pass completed in his direction in that time), but it certainly appears he’s not hampered by any of the knee woes that managed to keep him sidelined for almost the entire duration of the 2012 season.
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|Jimmy Garoppolo on starting Thursday night: ‘I’m excited about it. … It’s going to be fun’||08.25.14 at 1:08 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Jimmy Garoppolo is pumped up about getting his first NFL start in the Patriots’ preseason finale Thursday night against the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
“I’m excited about it,” Garoppolo said in front of his locker Monday after being tabbed the starter by Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “It’s a good opportunity to get out there and get some quality reps. It’s going to be fun.
“I came in with mindset that I’m going to practice and study as if I was the starter. If you want to be a successful player in this league, you have to take the mental reps, the physical reps and take advantage of your opportunities.”
Garoppolo has thrown four touchdown passes in the first three preseason games, including at least one in each of the contests. He said Monday that he’s been able to get into a rhythm with his offensive teammates.
“Just get in a rhythm with the offense,” Garoppolo said. “I have a great group of guys around me who have really made my job a lot easier. So, just week in and week out, just improve and if you do that, it’s makes your job a lot easier.
“You always want to come in with a good attitude and thinking that you’re going to succeed in everything. Having that mindset really helped out a lot.”
“I’m still a rookie so I have a have a long way to go and a lot to learn still,” Garoppolo said. “That playbook is pretty thick so it’s just one of those things that if you keep learning, day in and day out, then you’re on the right track.
“That’s just part of being a rookie. Each day if you keep improving and learning the system that much more, things will just gradually slow down for you.”
|Chandler Jones on MFB: ‘I take every game seriously’||at 1:03 pm ET|
Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones and wide receiver Julian Edelman stopped by the WEEI studio at Gillette Stadium on Monday for a visit with Middays with MFB’s Christian Fauria and guest host Danny Picard. To hear the interviews, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
The Patriots are coming off a strong effort in their third preseason game, a rout of the Panthers. But Bill Belichick is known for not allowing the team to accentuate the positives very long.
“Coach is very consistent with his coaching. He’s going to coach you the same way if we win or if we lose. And that’s what makes him such a great coach,” Jones said. “He’s going to pick out the things we did wrong, and he’s going to tell you about the things you did right. A lot of that is being a professional athlete — you know when you did good or you did bad. You’ve been playing the sport for this long, you know.”
Many people look at the third preseason game as the most important, but Jones insists that he doesn’t value one more than another.
“See, I don’t look at it that way,” he said. “A lot of different people look at it differently. I take every game seriously, like it will be the last game of the season. I know some people say, ‘It’s just preseason,’ but this is an opportunity for our team to go out there and get better week in and week out. I’m excited. I’m excited for this team to go forth into Week 1.
“As far as the preseason games, some people call it the dress rehearsal, but I take every game seriously.”
Neither play knew what to expect in terms of participation in the final preseason game against the Giants.
“Around here they keep you on your toes with everything,” Edelman said. “They don’t tell you how long you’re going to play, this, that. It’s like everything’s a test. Every week you don’t know how much you’re going to be playing, this, that, and you kind of have to just prepare every day, every week, even in the preseason you’re going to be playing a lot. Because they might say you’re not playing one week or something, and they throw you in there at the last minute, probably just to try to get a test of your mental toughness or something like that. That’s huge over here with the situational and the mental aspect of the game.”
Edelman, coming off a 105-catch season last year, acknowledged he’s reached a new comfort level with Tom Brady, but he’s wary of what can happen once the real games begin.
“Yeah, it’s probably the most confident I’ve ever been. With that said, it’s a lot different circumstances from the years in the past with how things are going and how things are now,” he said. “We’ve had some good plays and we’ve had some bad plays. There’s a lot of things that we have to work on that will get exposed in the regular season. We still have a week, two weeks, to try to get that done.
“When we go out there — we’ve got the Giants this week, we play Miami, a divisional game, first game of the year. Things always on opening day, as Christian can second, it doesn’t always go the same way, everyone’s kind of new, there’s always a crazy play here or something’s going on, it’s the start of the season. So you’ve really got to get ready for those situations and being able to adjust like that.”
But in a bit of an eyebrow raiser, rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will get the starting nod, according to multiple reports.
Garoppolo, the Patriots’ second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois, has played in each of the first three preseason games, and came in for Brady last Friday against the Panthers in the middle of the third quarter. Garoppolo has thrown four touchdown passes so far in the preseason, including at least one in each game so far.
Garoppolo was 9-of-12 for 105 yards and a quarterback rating of 128.8.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 25, 2014
Even with Jimmy Garoppolo starting Thursday night, Patriots have not yet decided who will be their No. 2 QB.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 25, 2014
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning and talked about his confidence in the team’s offense, NFL injuries, doing brain exercises and more. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The Patriots offense struggled at times last season as Brady got used to a new group of receivers. There remains concern that this offense has some issues that will limit its effectiveness, but Brady said the Patriots continue to tune out criticism from outside Gillette Stadium.
“Truthfully, we’ve never really paid attention to the external voices that are out there,” he said. “We just try to focus on what we need to do, what our job is. Because the only people that can really affect what we do are the people that are inside that offensive meeting room.
“We have high expectations. We’ve had some great offenses over the years, and our expectation is to go out there and be a great offense, and that’s one that doesn’t turn the ball over, one that plays physical and smart, makes great decisions and plays great situational football. I think we did a great job of that — we’ve always done a great job of that over the years.
“Coaches talk a lot about situational football, making the plays when it really counts. There’s a lot of games that are decided by three points or less, and the teams that are the ones that win those games — the ones that are three points or less — those are the ones that are the ones that you’ve got to look out for. Teams that really find a way to win, teams that find a way to lose — hopefully we’re one of those offenses that finds ways to win when we have the opportunity.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that have made contributions thus far over the course of the OTAs and the preseason games. We’re going to need that over the course of the year, because it’s a long year. All the guys that are active in that skill group are going to need to be performers for us at whatever level, whatever role they make for themselves. Hopefully we can be one of the top offenses in the league. But we’ve got to go out there and earn it. No one’s going to make it easy for us.”
One of the keys to the Patriots offense clicking early is the players staying healthy, something Brady noted has been a positive in the preseason.
“We’ve done a really good job over the course of the preseason. I think one of the most important things we’ve done is that we’ve all been out there practicing. I think there’s guys that have really made a great commitment over the offseason to get ready and prepare themselves to be out there every day to make the improvements,” Brady said.
“All the skill guys, the receivers have all been out there almost every day practicing, had a lot of opportunities over the summer to work, and the spring, and it’s the same thing. Hopefully we can get some other guys who haven’t been out there back in the mix so that they can incorporate themselves into the offense and we can really see where we’re at — guys like [Aaron Dobson] and [Rob Gronkowski].
“It is fun for all of us to go out and execute well. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
|How does Tom Brady’s preseason stat line from this year stack up to last decade?||08.23.14 at 8:00 am ET|
If Tom Brady is done for the preseason — and after Friday’s performance, it seems like it’s a safe bet — here’s a look at how his preseason stats from this year stack up to his work over the last decade-plus.
2 games: 25-for-31 (81 percent), 285 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 0 sacks
3 games: 34-for-44 (77 percent), 357 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks
2 games: 17-for-27 (63 percent) 157 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 3 sacks
3 games: 28-for-50 (56 percent), 379 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 3 sacks
4 games: 37-for-50 (74 percent), 476 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks
3 games: 26-for-42 (62 percent), 307 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks
3 games: 32-for-48, (67 percent), 346 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs, 2 sacks
3 games: 35-for-54 (65 percent), 404 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 1 sack
2 games: 18-for-33 (55 percent) 232 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (no sack information available)
3 games: 34-for-44 (77 percent), 374 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT (no sack information available)
|Mike Petraglia, Chris Price on Tom Brady, Shane Vereen, Chandler Jones and a big Patriots preseason win||at 1:00 am ET|
FOXBORO, Mass. — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price assess the performance of Tom Brady, Shane Vereen, Chandler Jones and the Patriots in their 30-7 preseason win over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers Friday night at Gillette Stadium. Brady was 17-for-21 passing with two touchdowns and 204 yards passing while Jones had two sacks and six tackles in containing one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
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