|Reports: Wes Welker suffers concussion, status for Patriots game in doubt||11.18.13 at 1:03 am ET|
Wes Welker reportedly sustained a concussion in Sunday’s Broncos game. The former Patriots receiver, in his first season with Denver, took a serious hit going over the middle on a fourth-quarter pass play against the Chiefs, and left the game later in the second half as the team announced he was being evaluated for a concussion.
However, reports surfaced after the game that he did indeed suffer from a concussion, which would certainly throw his availability for next Sunday’s Patriots-Broncos game in Foxboro in doubt — going forward, Welker won’t be able to practice or play without separate clearances from an independent neurologist.
In his first season with the Broncos after six seasons with New England, Welker has 61 catches for 648 yards and nine touchdowns.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|How return of Rob Gronkowski will affect Patriots offense||10.18.13 at 12:19 pm ET|
FOXBORO — While the reports Friday that Rob Gronkowski has been medically cleared to play do not necessarily mean he’s going to be back to his 2011 self, his mere presence on the field would change the face of a Patriots offense that has struggled at times over the first six games of the regular season.
Here are five ways things will change for the Patriots with the return of Gronkowski to the lineup.
1. New England will again be able to rely on the tight ends to carry a sizable burden in the passing game.
Through the first six games of the 2013 season, Michael Hoomanawanui, Matthew Mulligan and Zach Sudfeld (before he was cut loose) primarily were utilized as blockers, and only intermittent parts of the passing game, rising up to chip in as needed. Mulligan caught a 1-yard touchdown pass against the Falcons, while Hoomanawanui had a career-high four catches (on four targets) for 57 yards in last Sunday’s win over the Saints. Through the first six games, the group had nine catches on 15 targets. By way of comparison, through six games last year the Patriots found the tight ends 45 times on 68 targets. Expect those targets to the tight ends to increase.
2. Accordingly, the offensive opportunities for the rest of the offensive skill-position players will decrease.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman has caught 41 passes through the first six games — that’s 30 percent of Tom Brady‘s total completions. (He’s already set a career mark for receptions in a season, and there’s still 10 games left on the schedule.) While it shouldn’t necessarily be taken as a symbol that Brady’s confidence in him is waning — after all, there are only so many passes to go around — his numbers likely will take a hit. The same is true for rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. There also may be fewer chances in the running game. Again, the inclusion of a talent like Gronkowski means that there will be fewer chances for everyone else across the board.
3. While there might be fewer opportunities in the ground game, the running backs should get a clearer path with Gronkowski back in the lineup.
Provided there are no ill effects from the forearm issue, Gronkowski’s blocking style will be a welcome addition along the New England offensive line. Hoomanawanui and Mulligan have done yeoman’s work, but a healthy Gronkowski would change the face of the Patriots running game. According to Pro Football Focus, last year the Patriots ran the ball 68 times off tight end for 311 yards. Contrast that with this season — through six games, the Patriots have run the ball 19 times off tight end and have picked up 34 yards. In addition, while the rest of the pass-catchers might not be able to have the same number of opportunities, Gronkowski’s presence will open things up for them. The master of the seam route, he can draw double coverage down the field, allowing things to open up underneath in that small sliver of real estate between the defensive line and the linebackers for Edelman and Danny Amendola.
|Adam Schefter on D&C: Broncos ‘an unstoppable force’ like 2007 Patriots||09.30.13 at 9:56 am ET|
Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the indomitable Broncos and a couple of injured Patriots.
Denver won a showdown of possibly the two fastest, most lethal offenses when the Eagles and new coach Chip Kelly visited the the Mile High City. The Broncos won in the fashion that they’ve won every game this season: a blowout. Denver moved to 4-0 with a 52-20 win and pushed its point differential to an NFL-high plus-88.
Schefter likened the Peyton Manning-led offense to the 2007 AFC champion Patriots.
“Just think back to what you saw in 2007, you saw an unstoppable force, you saw a team that you knew was going to chew up and spit out the opposition every single Sunday, you saw a team that could not be stop, could not be slowed, a team that was going to put up numbers, stats, yards, everything, and Denver is the same kind of offensive outfit right now,” Schefter said.
Manning already has accumulated 1,470 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions in just four games, throwing the ball to a variety of playmakers including wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker along with tight end Julius Thomas.
“It looks like right now they can’t be slowed down,” Schefter said. “Now, again, somebody at some point will be able to take them on, I’m sure, circumstances change, the year goes on, injuries happen, dynamics change, but right now they look unbeatable.”
Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork reportedly suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in Sunday night’s 30-23 victory over the Falcons, leading to speculation about who the team might bring in to fill the void.
“I think you have to do something there if indeed Vince Wilfork is out for the year, and I don’t know if it’s true, but I’m sure it is if The Boston Globe is reporting it,” Schefter said. “Assuming that he’s done for the year, I think you’ve got a case there where you’ve got a major hole there.”
|Peter King on M&M: ‘Lucky’ Patriots benefit from ‘very advantageous schedule early’||09.13.13 at 1:12 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King joined Mut & Merloni on Friday to talk about the Patriots’ ugly 13-10 victory over the Jets on Thursday night.
Said King: “As far as lucky schedules in NFL history, to open with two rookie quarterbacks, one of them on a short week, and then follow that with a long week and then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home, I don’t know what lucky star Robert Kraft‘s been under, but he used it. He used a few of his nine lives this week, to mix metaphors there. The Patriots are lucky that they have a very advantageous schedule early. They’ll pay for it a little bit later. I think they have Atlanta, Cincinnati, New Orleans in the three after that, so that’s not going to be very easy.
“Last year I remember when [Cardinals quarterback] Kevin Kolb went into Foxboro and beat Tom Brady, and everybody is thinking, ‘Is this is for the Patriots? They finally have reached the nadir.’ To me, I kind of look at that and I say you’re never going to be the same in September and December. Tom Brady has a chance to see that Kenbrell Thompkins can turn the right way on a pass route, that Aaron Dobson gets the point about if he’s going to run a 12-yard curl it’s got to be 12 and not 11½ or 13. I’m sure those are the problems that are happening right now.
“You just have to go by history. And there’s two things in the Patriots’ favor. Number one, [Bill] Belichick and Brady have been a winning combination over the last 12 seasons. And two, the AFC East, as usual, stinks. And it stinks out loud, so that’s what they’re fortunate to be in with. And they’re fortunate that the best of the three teams, Miami, they don’t have to play right now. Because their pass rush would really kind of get to Brady and really hurt them.”
Wide receiver Danny Amendola, coming off a gutsy performance in Sunday’s opening victory over the Bills as he played through a groin injury, missed Thursday’s game. That has led to renewed criticism of the Patriots for allowing the durable Wes Welker to leave as a free agent and sign with the Broncos.
“This was a bad decision on the Patriots’ part to let Wes Welker go. It was in March, it is in September,” King said. “Wes Welker games missed since the start of 2011: zero. Danny Amendola: 21 and counting. Part of being a good player is showing up and being there, we all know that. …
“[Amendola] turned in one of the great, Audie Murphy performances on Sunday. When he starts grabbing his upper leg in the end zone in Buffalo the other day, in the second quarter, I said, ‘Well, that’s it, he’s gone for six weeks.’ And he shows up in the second half and I think catches seven balls. Just a fantastic, very courageous performance by Amendola. But the human body can only take so much. And Amendola is evidently one of those guys whose body fights back, because it certainly has in the last three or four years.”
|Mike Mayock on Patriots offense: ‘With youth comes growing pains’||09.11.13 at 12:59 pm ET|
Mike Mayock agrees with Tom Brady.
This isn’t necessarily because Mayock is a smart guy — there are few football analysts who spend more time watching tape than Mayock, a former Boston College defensive back who played for Bill Belichick with the Giants and now works for the NFL Network. (He’ll be part of the broadcast team for Thursday’s Patriots-Jets game.)
But after watching the Patriots in the regular-season opener against the Bills last week, he echoes the opinion of the New England quarterback: when it comes to the Patriots offense — and the passing game in particular — it’s a work in progress.
“With youth comes growing pains,” Mayock said when asked to dissect the New England offense and how it operated against the Bills. “That’s just the way of the world in anything. I think what they are betting on is that over time, these guys are younger, quicker, faster, and will develop into better playmakers down the road. You might lose a little bit early — and by the way, I thought there were several disconnects between Brady and his young receivers in the game [Sunday]. And I think that’s something you’re going to have to live with for a little time.”
One player who caught his eye over the course of the preseason was rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, who was targeted 14 times and had four catches against the Bills. Mayock said that Thompkins “has an ability to separate and get open,” but reiterated that it will take some time for Thompkins and the rest of the rookies to adjust to the pro game.
“Now, when [Rob] Gronkowski gets back, I think a lot of that gets better more quickly because he’ll draw so much coverage. But I think Thompkins has an ability to separate and get open. Dobson, who didn’t play, I think has big time ability in size,” Mayock said. “I think what you’re looking at, and the reason they did this is my guess, is that over time, they are going to get better. And Tom Brady is the kind of guy that can get them a win like yesterday when they had all they could handle and more, but they still got the win, and try to allow these guys time to develop.”
As for the rest of the receiving corps, Mayock praised Danny Amendola, but stopped sort of offering a full endorsement of the decision the Patriots made to go with him ahead of Wes Welker.
“I think that Amendola is a very similar a guy to Welker five years ago — he’s younger, fresh legs, etc., and both are very similar type of players. They both win very quickly,” Mayock said. “That’s what Tom Brady and Peyton Manning love about those kind of players, because when they bring heavy pressure, you trust that this guy is going to win quickly.
“Now the whole thing with Amendola is staying healthy; and [Sunday], watching the game, it looked like he had a groin problem but came back in and obviously made the key catches down the stretch,” he added. “I think when healthy, he’s very comparable to Welker and he’s younger than Welker, which is why I think they made the move. The only caveat I would give you on the kid is that he’s got to stay healthy with his history of injuries.”
|Adam Schefter on D&C: New-look Patriots offense lacks chemistry||09.09.13 at 10:06 am ET|
ESPN’s Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to talk about the Patriots’ 23-21 win over the Bills in Sunday’s opener.
Despite the victory, the Patriots left the game with concerns — namely, the lack of production from Tom Brady’s weapons. Brady targeted starting wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins 14 times, but the rookie was only able to make four catches for 42 yards. Meanwhile, the tight end position collectively had one catch: a five-yard reception from Michael Hoomanawanui.
Schefter explained that with young, inexperienced players at impact positions, it may take some time for the offense to jell.
“To expect them to be great early on, right away, without some of that chemistry is probably unrealistic,” said Schefter. “You don’t just lose these guys and pick up these other guys and think that that machine is going to run the same way.”
One of the bright spots on the offensive side was the play of wide receiver Danny Amendola, whom the Patriots signed this offseason to replace Wes Welker.
Amendola set game highs in catches (10) and receiving yards (104) and converted a pair of key third downs in New England’s game-winning drive. The fifth-year receiver put a scare into the Patriots faithful when he limped off the field toward the end of the first half and sat out the remainder of the period.
Amendola’s groin injury did not force him out of the second half, but Schefter questioned New England’s next step if the oft-injured Amendola, who missed 20 games in the last two seasons, were to suffer another serious injury.
“When Amendola goes out of the game like that, and you know how fragile he has been in the past, you can’t help but wonder, ‘What if he is gone?’ ” said Schefter.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly Patriots Monday appearance with Dennis & Callahan to talk about Sunday’s 23-21 victory over the Bills, as New England overcame some sloppiness to pull out a win with a late scoring drive.
Brady completed 29-of-52 yards for 288 yards and two touchdowns as the Patriots won their 10th straight opener. He went 6-for-6 for 34 yards on a 49-yard drive that ended with Stephen Gostkowski‘s game-winning, 35-yard field goal with five seconds remaining.
The Patriots were mistake-prone Sunday, including a fumble by running back Stevan Ridley that was returned 74 yards for a Buffalo touchdown.
“Football is not necessarily a game of perfection, but I think the big [mistakes], like the turnovers — I thought we did a decent job with the penalties, but the turnovers were the one thing that really held us back from scoring more points, and really allowed them to score their points,” Brady said. “It was a big part of the game. If you take away the turnovers, it’s a different outcome. But that’s pretty much every football game. A lot of the games around the league yesterday, a lot of them hinged on turnovers. Ours was one that we turn it over, we didn’t play great and we really allowed them an opportunity to stay in the game and obviously be ahead in the fourth quarter. We needed to make a lot of good plays there at the end to overcome them.”
Ridley was benched after his fumble, a move that came as no surprise considering Bill Belichick‘s history regarding such mistakes.
“He doesn’t like turnovers, and he lets us know,” Brady said of his coach. “He stresses it every single day, the things we have to do to protect the football and protect the lead. Being smart, being physical, eliminating turnovers is all so important to winning games. We just didn’t do a great job of that.”
Wide receiver Danny Amendola left the game late in the first half after aggravating a groin injury, but he returned to have a huge second half, finishing with 10 catches for 104 yards.
“He was battling all week to get out there, and he fought really hard to do it,” Brady said. “He got out there and it bothered him enough in the first half where he went out. But he really fought hard, showed a lot of mental and physical toughness to get out there to play in the second half. And what a great second half he played. It was just awesome.”
Added Brady: “That’s what Danny’s done since he’s gotten here. He’s been able to find different open spots in zones and catch it, catch the ball in traffic, make diving catches. He’s done such a great job of that. That’s a really positive thing that Danny brings to our offense. The more often that he can do that, the better it’s going to be for us. We’ll see how it goes over the course of the year.”
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