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As far as veterans are concerned, rookie QB Jimmy Garoppolo making the grade 06.09.14 at 6:00 am ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo was taken in the second round out of Eastern Illinois. (AP)

Jimmy Garoppolo was taken in the second round out of Eastern Illinois. (AP)

FOXBORO — It’s only been a handful of OTA sessions, but to this point, the Patriots veterans have been impressed with the work of rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

The consensus seems to be that he’s not only delivering the goods on the practice field — albeit in limited snaps behind Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett — but he’s fully aware of his place in the locker room hierarchy as a rookie.

“I’ll tell you, he shocked me, man,” running back Stevan Ridley said after last Thursday’s workout. “He came in [and] he seems confident. He is a rookie, though. Everybody’s going to make mistakes, but he’s quiet, and he has been working hard.

“I didn’€™t know too much about him, but as I watched him, I liked him the more I watched him,” Ridley added. “He’€™s what we expect out of a quarterback. You don’€™t say too much — you just take it in and do your job.’€

In last Thursday’s practice session, the first action for Garoppolo in full view of the media, there were some good throws and some bad throws, including an interception on a ball picked off by linebacker Chris White. All in all, a rookie performance in the rain that was probably about par for the course for a young quarterback at this time of the offseason.

Garoppolo wasn’t made available to the media after the session, but some of the other offensive veterans acknowledged they have been impressed with the rookie, who has managed to emerge as an early leader among the first year players.

“The guy is pretty good — he’s got a lot of talent,” said wide receiver Brandon LaFell. “He’s a rookie, so he has a lot to learn. But he has a lot of potential. If he continues to work, he’ll be a good quarterback in this league.”

Wide receiver Danny Amendola had the chance to work out briefly with Garoppolo prior to the draft, and said that the rookie out of Eastern Illinois has impressed him as a “smart” player.

“He’s a smart player,” Amendola added. “I don’t know if they ran the same offense in college, but he’s picked up the system really well. I know he’s been putting in his time and his work getting in the books. He’s been doing good so far.”

In addition, Amendola added that Garoppolo has shown a nice command of the huddle, at least to this point.

“That’s huge. It’s one thing to throw the ball and make the plays on your feet. But to actually control 10 other guys and get them to where they need to be is a huge part of playing the quarterback position. He’s learning from the best [in] Tom and Mallett. He’s doing well.”

Read More: Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Mallett
Tom Brady poses for photo with Mexico soccer coach Miguel Herrera 06.06.14 at 9:56 am ET
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While the Patriots are in offseason workouts, the Mexican national soccer team also is in Foxboro preparing for the World Cup, as it plays Portugal in at friendly at Gillette Stadium on Friday night.

As Mexico was finishing practice Wednesday, the Patriots were about to take the field, but not before a brief photo session with Tom Brady and Mexican coach Miguel Herrera, even if the two didn’t know one another at first.

All we know is that someone is a big fan.

“He asked me for a photo. I don’t know who he is nor whether he has won something but I made the kid’s day,” Herrera joked (we assume) in Spanish on his Twitter account.

Herrera’s over 4,700 retweets made Brady a trending topic in Mexico Wednesday night.

Read More: Miguel Herrera, Tom Brady,
In Focus: Predicting Brady’s ‘decline’ using 2013 numbers misses big picture 06.04.14 at 12:39 pm ET
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Tom Brady struggled at times in 2013, but to say he's in decline because of those issues misses the whole picture. (AP)

Tom Brady struggled at times in 2013, but to say he’s in decline because of those issues misses the whole picture. (AP)

By now, we all know about the recent column that said Tom Brady‘s career is in decline because of what happened over the course of the 2013 season.

A disclaimer: I like Sam Monson — I’ve leaned on him for his football wisdom on several occasions in the past. I even had him on my podcast. But here are four reasons why he was off-base when talking about Brady.

1. Measuring Brady’s career arc — that is to say, indicating the end is near based on what happened last year — using the context of the 2013 season is shortsighted at best and foolish at worst.

In many ways, the 2013 season was the most challenging of Brady’s career. Stripped of so many veteran targets over the course of the offseason (Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Danny Woodhead), he worked with new faces, many of them with precious little experience at the NFL level. For the first time in his career, he opened a season with three rookie wide receivers on the roster. Gronkowski didn’t return to full strength until late October. Another receiver who was expected to pick up the slack, Danny Amendola, missed four games. And the multidimensional Shane Vereen (one of a handful of running backs capable of pulling off a 40-catch/40-carry season) missed eight games because of a wrist injury.

Brady was bad at times. There were plenty of occasions when he was unable to jump-start the offense in the early going, leading to first-half deficits that forced the Patriots to operate from behind. The occasional sideline fits made him appear small and petty. His performance in a monsoon in an early-season loss to the Bengals — when he missed a bunch of throws — was one of the worst of his career. And he missed at least three passes in the early stages of the AFC title game against the Broncos that ultimately doomed New England.

However, his four-game stretch between Nov. 3 and Dec. 1 was as good a stretch of play as I have ever seen from Brady. Against the Steelers, Panthers, Broncos and Texans, he went 115-for-164 (70 percent) for 1,443 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions — a razor-sharp per-game average of 29-for-41 for 358 yards, 2.5 TDs and 0.5 INTs. (November 2013 was one of the finest months of his career.) In the end, despite all the personnel changes, he was able to work the controls of an offense that outscored the high-octane Broncos over the second half of the regular season.

And this doesn’t even begin to take into account his penchant for dramatics. While it shouldn’t define his 2013 season — and doesn’t excuse the fact that he was at least partially responsible for digging those holes to begin with — it has to figure positively on his resume. Pro Football Reference has him down for five fourth-quarter comebacks/game-winning drives last season alone, including last-minute victories over the Saints, Browns and Bills and an overtime win against the Broncos. It was tops in the league in 2013, and tied with 2001 for the tops in his career in a single season (As defined by PFR, a game-winning drive is an offensive scoring drive in the fourth quarter or overtime led by the quarterback that puts his team ahead for good.)

There’s no denying that Brady had problems over the course of the year. But to use a half-season of woe as an indication he will soon slip into the depths of mediocrity because he struggled with pressure — in a year when the Patriots essentially asked him to hit the reset button in the passing game — misses the big picture.

2. Brady wasn’t listed among the five best quarterbacks in the game, but you’d be hard-pressed to name four other quarterbacks who could manage the personnel changes and seismic shifts in offensive philosophy that the 2013 New England offense endured and still be a legitimate part of the MVP discussion into December.

Because of week-to-week game-planning, injuries and the emergence of some relatively surprising offensive faces (LeGarrette Blount, Julian Edelman), the Patriots used 14 different starting lineups in 2013, third most in the league. Key players like Gronkowski, Vereen, Amendola and Sebastian Vollmer all missed significant portions of the season, which forced New England to turn to relative unknowns like tight end Matthew Mulligan, wide receiver Austin Collie and offensive lineman Steve Josh Kline. And among the final four teams left in the 2013 postseason (New England, Seattle, Denver and San Francisco), the Patriots had the lowest percentage of plays featuring the most common lineup at 2.45 percent.

In 2013 the offensive evolution of the Patriots went through three phases: Weeks 1 through 4, when they were still sluggish as they searched for an identity; Weeks 5 through 12, when they clearly were a pass-first bunch powered by one elite tight end (Gronkowski) and one elite receiver (Edelman); and Week 13 through the postseason, when there was a renewed focus on the running game. Through it all, the stat lines for Brady and the rest of the team ebbed and flowed, but it was good enough to get them to a 12-4 mark and the AFC title game.

Ultimately, there were are a lot of reasons why the 2013 Patriots — who ended the year with ALMOST $28 MILLION worth of contracts on injured reserve — were able to overachieve over the course of the season. But if an experienced veteran with a deep background in that offense is not under center for that team, there’€™s no way it gets as far as it did. The numbers weren’t there like they were in 2007 and 2010 (Brady had four games when he tossed for fewer than 190 yards, including the AFC divisional playoff win against the Colts), but no other quarterback was able to handle the constant personnel shifts, radical changing of the week-to-week game-planning and mentoring of young pass-catchers like Brady.
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Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson on D&C: ‘[Tom] Brady’s decline has been in action for a while now’ 06.03.14 at 11:48 am ET
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Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday to explain why he wrote that Tom Brady is no longer a top-five quarterback. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Tom Brady will meet Peyton Manning and the Broncos in the AFC title game Sunday in Denver. (AP)

Tom Brady‘s stats were down in 2013, although he still led the Patriots to the AFC championship game. (AP)

Monson wrote in an ESPN piece on Tuesday that Brady has been on a significant decline in recent years and no longer belongs in the upper echelon of elite quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.

“I think he’€™s in the group with Russell Wilson, with Ben Roethlisberger, with Andrew Luck now,” Monson said.

Monson said that he took into account Brady’s relatively ineffective receiving corps and offensive line in his analysis, but said his decline was inevitable regardless of the players he was surrounded by.

“I think the receivers definitely doesn’t help,” Monson said. “When you have a receiving corps that’€™s depleted, you’€™re obviously going to struggle more. But I think the point I was trying to make was that Brady’s decline has been in action for a while now and all the receivers did was make it look worse than it would’ve done already.

“The point is though, at this stage in his career, Brady needs protection from the offensive line more than he ever has, and he didn’t get it last year. When you look at his decline over the last few years, even when the offensive line has been strong, he’€™s been struggling under pressure. I think the more pressure he’s going to get over the next couple of years, no matter how long he plays, the worse we’re going to see Brady look. Whether he has receiving options or not, he’s still going to struggle in the face of pressure.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dennis & Callahan, Sam Monson, Tom Brady,
Tom Brady talks Jimmy Garoppolo, future at Best Buddies charity event 05.31.14 at 1:42 am ET
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Tom Brady ditched his football helmet and cleats for a pair of sneakers and a baseball cap — at least for Friday night.

Brady addressed the media during halftime of his charity football game Friday at Harvard Stadium. (Conor Ryan/WEEI.com)

Brady addressed the media during halftime of his charity football game Friday at Harvard Stadium. (Conor Ryan/WEEI.com)

The Patriots quarterback was once again under center Friday night at Harvard Stadium for his annual Tom Brady Football Challenge, a charity event benefiting Best Buddies International.

“€œIt’€™s special for me, it’€™s special for my family and all the buddies and their families,” Brady said. “Everyone’€™s really worked hard to put this on. … It’€™s a great weekend for us to … have an opportunity to do this and it’€™s also getting closer to football season, so it’€™s great.”

Best Buddies International is a nonprofit organization, founded by Anthony K. Shriver in 1989, that is dedicated to establishing opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Brady held court with the press during halftime, and while the three-minute media session was brief, the New England signal caller touched on a variety of topics, including the upcoming season, newly drafted quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and, of course, the charity organization that he has volunteered with for the past 13 years.

Garoppolo was taken by the Patriots out of Eastern Illinois with the 62nd pick of the draft earlier this month. It was the highest spot that the Patriots have drafted a quarterback since selecting Drew Bledsoe with the first pick in the 1993 draft.

“He’€™s a really nice kid,” Brady said. “He’€™s a great guy, and all the new guys have really come in and hopefully they can play a great role on our team.”

The Patriots kicked off their OTA schedule earlier this week, with Brady stating that his team will need time to truly start to mesh.

“€œWe’ve got a long way to go,” Brady said. “€œIt’€™s only been a couple of days. We’€™re a long ways from the season and we’€™re going to need all the practices that we can get.”

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Read More: Best Buddies, Jimmy Garoppolo, Patriots, Tom Brady
Josh McDaniels might put Tom Brady on the run more in 2014: ‘We’re adamant about trying to make it better’ 05.30.14 at 4:22 pm ET
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Josh McDaniels spoke about Tom Brady and the ever-improving Patriots offense Friday. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Josh McDaniels spoke about Tom Brady and the ever-improving Patriots offense Friday. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — One of the things that makes Tom Brady a truly great NFL quarterback is his willingness – after 14 seasons – to try anything and everything to get better. On Friday, the Patriots and Brady showed off one aspect of their offense that might change ever so slightly heading into 2014.

Brady and Ryan Mallett spent part of their 100-minute OTA session on the back fields working on rollouts, indicating Brady might be on the run – by design – this season. There were precious few instances of designed rollouts last season as Brady set up shop in the pocket and looked to drive the team down the field.

“Whether it’s footwork, where to put our eyes after the snap, there’s so many things and elements of the quarterback position that you can actually get better at,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “We were moving in the pocket today and then throwing off-schedule throws. That’s not necessarily a strength of our quarterbacks in general but I think that’s something we’ve identified that you know what, it could’ve helped us a time here or a time there. We’re adamant about trying to make it better.”

One example came at the end of the Browns game on Dec. 8 when Brady rolled out to his right and found Danny Amendola for a one-yard TD pass with just over 30 seconds left to lift the Patriots to a 27-26 win at Gillette Stadium.

But in the playoffs, there were limited such designed plays, and it became obvious in the AFC championship in Denver that Brady in the pocket was a target of a defense that could pin its ears back and go after the quarterback.

Brady, according to McDaniels, has already shown a willingness to improve aspects of his game that might make this transition not just possible but effective.

“Yep, I do,” McDaniels said when asked if he sees Brady working hard to improve his game. “It’s hard for me to ever feel like that wouldn’t be the case because any time you have a guy that’s really focused on working on all the weaknesses in his game when there aren’t that many, you can see where there would be room for growth. He listens as good or better than he ever has, in terms of taking coaching, working on things that we’re trying to get better at, and again, I think that’s just a great example for the rest of the guys. And he’s certainly shown that he’s going to work on different aspects of his game to fix them and make them better.

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Read More: Jimmy Garoppolo, Joshn McDaniels, New England Patriots, Ryan Mallett
Deion Branch on MFB: ‘When Tom [Brady] is ready to hang it up, that’s when he’ll do it’ at 2:14 pm ET
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Former Patriots receiver Deion Branch joined Middays with MFB to talk about the state of the Pats. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Branch played a combined seven seasons on two separate occasions in New England with Tom Brady as his quarterback, and won a pair of Super Bowls with him. Since the Patriots drafted quarterback Jimmy Garopolo in the second round of this month’s draft, Brady’s window as signal-caller has been questioned on multiple occasions.

Branch sees no end to Brady’s career anytime soon.

“Tom’€™s window is when Tom is ready to hang it up,” Branch said. “That’€™s being very open and honest about it. Tom is a hard-working guy, and I think when Tom is ready to hang it up, that’€™s when he’€™ll do it.”

Branch does, however, believe that Patriots made a good decision in drafting Garoppolo.

“They have to do what’€™s in the best interest of the organization,” Branch said. “I think that’€™s what they did. To add another quarterback obviously picks up the competition level with [Ryan Mallett] and the young man. I think Mallett’€™s ready to go. I think he’€™s ready to make that next move.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Deion Branch, Middays with MFB, Tom Brady,
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