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Tom Brady faces a defense ‘with an edge’ in practice 08.01.14 at 12:27 am ET
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Tom Brady talks about the physical Patriots defense in practice. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Tom Brady talks about the physical Patriots defense in practice. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — The Patriots defense answered the bell big time Thursday in the team’s last practice on grass before heading for Richmond and three practices in the heat of Virginia against the Redskins.

The way Tom Brady looks at it, a good physical challenge from a hard-hitting defense is just what the doctor ordered Thursday.

“They are a physical defense,” Brady said of the blue shirts. “I think all of those guys are veterans. They know how to get away with certain plays. Like holding for example ‘€“ it happens every play, so if you look close enough you’€™re going to find holding. There is an edge that you can always push it to.

“If you look at the offensive line, there’€™s holding on every play. That’€™s just the way football is. You’€™ve just got to do it in a way where the refs don’€™t see it and don’€™t call it. But that same thing goes for the defensive backfield. If there is a way to gain leverage on a particular route then you’€™re going to use it. The veterans know how to do it better; they know right where the limit is.”

Holding or not, the Patriots defense, led by Chandler Jones, Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich got the better of the Patriots offensive line on Thursday. One such example came when Jones and Ninkovich came blasting through to stop Stevan Ridley for a loss on a rush inside the 5.

On the outside, it was Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis leaving their mark, including a pick-6 on Brady. But beyond the interception, what impressed Brady was the physical pounding the defense was laying his receivers, forcing them to toughen up during practice. Brady thinks the physical challenges his receivers see in practice can only pay dividends when the games roll around.

“Absolutely, I think that’€™s what defenses do,” Brady said. “We’€™ll go into games and say, look, these guys hold on every play. They grab you, they clutch you, they hold you, but we still have to figure out a way to get open. It’€™s not flag football. Their hands are going to be on you, and the refs, they’€™re only going to call it when you pass the limit of where they think the limit is.

“That’€™s just part of football, and I think the best defenses I’€™ve ever played against ‘€“ they get their hands on you, and they don’€™t let you get into your route, and they disrupt the timing. Our corners, Kyle Arrington, and linebackers in coverage do a great job of that, too. But we’€™ve got to learn to be just as physical. We’€™ve got to learn to push off in the right way and get our leverage because that’€™s how it’€™s going to be when it matters.”

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Read More: 2014 training camp, Brandon Browner, Darrelle Revis, New England Patriots
Fantasy Football: Quarterback rankings 07.31.14 at 3:06 pm ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2013_hdr_v6

Last week we took a look at the top 50 wide receivers. This week we will get into the signal callers and break them down into tiers as we did with the receivers. Jim Hackett and I will get even deeper into the quarterbacks in our weekly podcast that will be posted tomorrow. I am also pleased to announce that Jim and I will be hosting a new show on WEEI 93.7 called “The Fantasy Football Hour.” Our first episode airs Aug. 10 at 7:30 a.m., and we’ll be on every Sunday throughout the NFL season. If you missed my article on high-value targets, give it a read. It points out some nice value opportunities based on average draft position.

2014 features perhaps the deepest group of fantasy quarterbacks I’ve ever seen. For years, Rotobahn has been preaching patience when drafting passers — and never has that approach been more prudent than it is for this season. There simply is no way you can get shut out at the position. Sure, some outcomes are better than others, but you are not taking a big risk by waiting on a quarterback because, quite simply, they will not be depleted unless you are playing in a league that allows teams to start more than one quarterback.

If you are looking for more information on any particular quarterback or player, go to rotobahn.com and check out our top 400. If your player isn’t listed there, you should strongly consider getting him off of your redraft board.

Tier 1 (1)

Peyton Manning, Broncos

Yes, for fantasy purposes he’s all alone. If there is a valid argument for taking an early quarterback, it’s Manning’s scoring gap over second place. Even though I expect a mild statistical regression, there’€™s still Manning and then everybody else. Yes, he lost a very reliable option when Eric Decker signed with the Jets, but the Broncos added Emmanuel Sanders and drafted Cody Latimer. Latimer has a skill set that ultimately could make Denver fans forget about Eric Decker. Check out Latimer’s Rotobahn scouting report if you haven’t already.

Tier 2 (2-3)

Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Drew Brees, Saints

Just about all of Rodgers’ arrows are pointing up. As long as he avoids another season-ending injury, he’s about as safe as it gets as a performer and his receivers are talented and deeply immersed in the Green Bay offense. Brees is the definition of consistency. That’s why he’s an elite option, and that’s why people overdraft him in most leagues. Though he’s showing some signs of age, that should be counter-balanced by the influx of young receivers. We are very high on Kenny Stills, who played 60 percent of the offensive snaps as a rookie, and this year’s first-round selection, Brandin Cooks. This could give Brees the kind of shot in the arm that Manning got from Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in 2012.

Tier 3 (4-7)

Matt Stafford, Lions
Andrew Luck, Colts
Nick Foles, Eagles
Robert Griffin III, Washington

By my math, you have three very secure options at the top of this tier. Stafford, Luck and Foles all are in very good situations and they’re all big strong-armed passers with quality targets. Griffin also has quality targets, and we like new head coach/offensive coordinator Jay Gruden‘s offense in terms of its flexibility. Griffin is the lottery ticket of the group. He is one of the few players who could outscore everybody, but the injury risks are obvious and real. If you do choose to roll the bones on RGIII, you’ll want to back him up with a strong option, ideally from the next tier.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, Fantasy Football
Tom Brady gets picked by Darrelle Revis and chalks it up to good competition at 2:28 pm ET
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FOXBORO — What’s a little competition to Tom Brady, even if it comes in training camp?

The Patriots held their third straight day of padded practice Thursday on the grass fields outside Gillette Stadium and it was a big day for the defense.

Darrelle Revis intercepted Brady on a pass over the middle intended for Kenbrell Thompkins as the offense worked on being backed up against their own goal line. Brandon Browner and Devin McCourty broke up a Brady pass intended for Brandon LaFell in the end zone.

“They’€™re both great players, so when you make a mistake, they make you pay, and I think that’€™s the mark of a really good corner,” Brady said of Revis and Browner. “As a quarterback, you’€™re always trying to find the weak link in the defense, and neither of those guys are weak links. Sometimes, we’€™ve got to go after them, [and] we’€™ve got to try to see if we can make a play. But like I said, if you miss a little bit, they end making the play. It’€™s great work for us, and you understand what you’€™re up against.”

It wasn’t just the secondary showing off. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich helped stop Stevan Ridley for a loss on a red zone run inside the 10, causing Devin McCourty and the rest of the defense to celebrate jubilantly.

Brady says its all part of camp.

“There are a lot of competitions out there, so every drill, a coach pits the offense against the defense, and when we review the film at night there’€™s one side that’€™s getting praise and the other side is getting the opposite. You want to be the one who gets praised all the time, but in situations like this, it all kind of balances out. The defense makes a lot of good plays out there and we make our fair share. Hopefully when we play a different opponent, both of us are clicking the way we need to.”

The Patriots will return to practice Friday inside Gillette Stadium for a workout for season ticket holder and residents of South Walpole and Foxboro.

Read More: 2014 training camp, Brandon Browner, Darrelle Revis, New England Patriots
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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Ryan Wendell looks to be someone Tom Brady can lean on again in 2014. (AP)

Ryan Wendell looks to be someone Tom Brady can lean on again in 2014. (AP)

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
Laps and lessons for Jimmy Garoppolo in first NFL training camp 07.26.14 at 1:34 pm ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo is getting his first feel of the NFL. (AP)

Jimmy Garoppolo is getting his first feel of the NFL. (AP)

FOXBORO –€” Jimmy Garoppolo can either be frustrated or determined, and he’€™s choosing the latter with a smile.

In his first few days of training camp, the second-round pick has looked like exactly what he is: a rookie quarterback who has a lot to learn.

Garoppolo was intercepted three times during Saturday’€™s practice and a mistake during goal-line work caused him to a run a lap for a second straight day. Yet speaking after Saturday’€™s practice, he spoke of the “next play mentality” that he’€™s learned from Tom Brady. Think less of an I’€™m-struggling mindset and more I’€™ve-got-this.

“€œJust picking up the offense one day at a time, really,”€ he said of the early going of camp. “€œLittle bits and pieces here and there. It’€™s a process. There’€™s going to be bumps along the way, but you’€™ve just got to learn and improve on that.”

Those bumps are common for any young quarterback, but there’€™s a difference between getting to know a new league and system (which would describe Garoppolo’€™s situation) and appearing physically incapable, which also happens (2010 seventh-rounder Zac Robinson come to mind).

It’€™s clear that, despite the misplaced passes and laps run, Garoppolo doesn’€™t feel incapable. It’€™s hard now, but with improvement it will be easier. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Mallett, Tom Brady,
Saturday notes: Danny Nickerson celebrates belated birthday with Patriots at 12:34 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots held their third training camp session of the summer Saturday, practicing for roughly two and a half hours in pads.

Here are a few notes on the session:

- The highlight of the practice came at the end, with Foxboro resident Danny Nickerson coming onto the field for a belated birthday celebration. Nickerson, who turned six on Friday, has an inoperable brain tumor and received 100,000 birthday cards from around the world.

- Defensive lineman Tommy Kelly was on the field in pads, meaning the veteran was activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list.

- Saturday appeared to be Julian Edelman appreciation day, as he was thrown several deep balls and received major cheers with each catch. Edelman reeled in four deep passes from various quarterbacks on the day. He also had a diving catch in double coverage later in the practice.

- It wasn’€™t all good for Edelman, however, as he and Tom Brady fell victim to Darrelle Revis multiple times. Revis intercepted Brady on a pair of passes that were intended for Edelman during drills in addition to breaking up passes.

- Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garappolo threw three interceptions and ran the only lap of the session with an unknown flub (it was on the other end of the field; likely a fumble or botched snap) during goal line work. Two of the second-round pick’€™s interceptions were tipped before being snagged, with the other one being a clean pick on a deeper pass. Garappolo got a break from the crowd when he connected on a deep pass with tight end Justin Jones.

- It wasn’t the prettiest day for Kenbrell Thompkins, who had a pair of drops. The second-year receiver dropped a pass over the middle from Brady during 7-on-7 work and later failed to secure a pass along the sidelines during passing drills.

- Defensive back Malcolm Butler was beaten by a pair of receivers in 1-on-1 drills. First he was burned by Josh Boyce on a deep pass from Brady and then he was shaken by Edelman on an intermediate route.

Read More: Julian Edelman, Tom Brady, Tommy Kelly,
Julian Edelman on MFB: ‘Around here we ignore noise’ 07.25.14 at 12:39 pm ET
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Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman checked in with Middays with MFB on Friday from training camp in Foxboro. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Edelman is looking to build on a breakout 2013 season, as he caught 105 passes for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns.

“What happened last year happened last year; what happens in the future happens in the future,” Edelman said. “I’m just kind of worrying about the present right now, taking advantage of coming out here each and every day and trying to improve and work on my fundamentals and earn my spot.”

Tom Brady was the focus of some criticism in the offseason for his alleged decline in play. Edelman said that kind of talk won’t be a distraction to the team.

“Around here we ignore noise, and we don’t believe the hype,” Edelman said. “You’d have to ask Tom on that. I’m sure he can answer that. I tell you right now, I’m glad that we have 12 as our quarterback. I wouldn’t want to have any other guy.”

Asked what it takes to succeed with Brady and the Patriots system, Edelman said: “Through my experience it’s just being consistent. You can’t make a mistake twice. You have to be able to take things from the classroom, translate that to drills, translating that to practice. When you do it in practice it becomes a game execution. Just going out there and being consistent, not having up and down days, staying on top of your stuff, being focused in the classroom. Consistency is pretty much the main thing.”

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Read More: 2014 training camp, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady
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