AFC East: New England Patriots

Kelly
Former New England Patriots defensive tackle Tommy Kelly has signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals, it was announced on Wednesday.

This has two trickle-down effects on the Patriots:

1. Kelly no longer a post-Week 1 option. When the Patriots released Kelly on Sunday, one line of thinking was that he could return after the first week of the season when his contract wouldn't be guaranteed, similar to what happened with veteran defensive lineman Gerard Warren in the past. While that was always a possibility, the Patriots obviously knew there was no guarantee he would be available and weren't counting on it as they turn to a younger group of linemen. That's the way it unfolded, as the team's early release of Kelly helped him land a new job perhaps quicker than had the Patriots waited until the final cutdown on Aug. 30.

2. Cap relief from Sopoaga could be lost. The Cardinals had previously signed defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga to a one-year contract, and if he makes their roster, the Patriots will receive an $855,000 credit on their 2015 salary cap. The credit would be a result of the contract the Patriots inherited when they acquired Sopoaga from the Eagles last season, which included a $1 million guarantee for this season. Now that the Cardinals have signed Kelly, it could impact if Sopoaga sticks on the roster and if the Patriots receive their credit.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As the initial shock of the Logan Mankins' trade to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers subsides, let's focus on some of the offensive linemen on the New England Patriots' roster most affected by the move:

Josh Kline (6-3, 295). The second-year player from Kent State has lined up at both guard spots, and was the first option to step in to Mankins' spot Dec. 22 against the Ravens when Mankins was moved out to tackle. Kline entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent and quickly won over teammates with his flat-line approach. Prior to the Mankins trade, he was a contender for the starting right guard spot, and also was being used as a blocking tight end. Kline would be our choice as the most likely candidate to step into Mankins' left guard spot.

Jordan Devey (6-6, 317) -- The first-year blocker from Memphis played more than any Patriots offensive lineman through the first three preseason games (203 of 219 snaps), lining up at both guard spots and also left tackle. Bill Belichick previously cited his improvement from 2013 when he was on the team's practice squad. The 6-foot-6, 317-pound Devey could now make the roster and potentially compete for a valuable role.

Dan Connolly (6-4, 305) -- The nine-year veteran has shown he's capable at center, right guard and left guard. Entering training camp, one line of thinking was that his $3 million base salary could put him in jeopardy of losing a spot on the roster, but there would be an added risk for the Patriots to go that route now after losing Mankins.

Marcus Cannon (6-5, 335) -- The four-year veteran has played both tackle spots and right guard, and to our eye, looks more comfortable at tackle. But Mankins' departure, and some other potential moving parts, could warrant another look at right guard.

Ryan Wendell (6-2, 300) -- The team's center the past two seasons, he has been engaged in a competition with Connolly and fourth-round draft choice Bryan Stork for the top job this summer. With Mankins no longer on the club, and the potential for Connolly to move back to guard as Stork still recovers from an undisclosed injury that has sidelined him since July 29, it could strengthen his chances to stick.

OTHERS TO MONITOR: Second-year guard Chris Barker, first-year center Braxston Cave, rookie guard Jon Halapio.

Several missing from Patriots' practice

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
2:42
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Cornerback Jemea Thomas, undrafted rookie linebacker Cameron Gordon, defensive tackles Ben Bass and Chris Jones, and offensive lineman Chris Martin were not spotted at the start of the New England Patriots practice on Tuesday.

Patriots starting left guard Logan Mankins was also not at practice likely because he was traded to Tampa Bay.

Gordon was seen in full pads at Monday’s practice for the first time since participating in the first six practices of training camp.

Bass missed his second practice in a row, while Martin remains on the non-football injury list.

With the first roster-cut deadline looming at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday, wide receivers Wilson Van Hooser and Derrick Johnson, defensive back Travis Hawkins and linebacker Deontae Skinner, who were all reportedly released, were not seen at practice.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick detailed his thinking for giving rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo the start in the preseason finale Thursday against the New York Giants.

Garoppolo
"It's just an experience that he needs to go through -- to feel like he’s going to start the game [and] he’s going to be in the game for every situation -- second down, third down, goal-line, red area, two-minute, whatever it is, he has to be prepared for everything and handle whatever it is that comes up,“ Belichick said Monday during his weekly appearance on sports radio WEEI in Boston.

“This is also a week that he’ll have to deal with the media, deal with the production meeting before the game, I’m sure the fans will have plenty of insults for him when he walks out on the field. It’s an away game. It’s all the things that a quarterback eventually will do as a starting quarterback. Whenever that happens, I have no idea, but whenever it does happen, at least he will have done it once before. I think there is something to be learned here. Ryan [Mallett] has been here three-and-a-half years and Tom’s done it a couple hundred times. This is an opportunity for Jimmy to get that experience and I’m sure he’ll learn from it.”

A few other notable soundbites from Belichick:

One of the best days of practice. It was a hot, humid practice for the Patriots and Belichick was pleased with what he saw. "I thought the guys really worked hard. I thought this was probably one of our better practices of the whole camp," he said. "Give them a lot of credit -- they knew what it was going to be and they pushed through it."

Cutting veterans early to give them a chance to catch on. Asked about the timing of releasing veterans Tommy Kelly, Will Smith and James Anderson, Belichick said, "I think that does help them a little bit from that standpoint. Some of those players probably wouldn't have had a big role in this game anyway and we wanted to make sure we got a look at some of the younger players that we do want to see that maybe have played a little bit less."

Following up on green-dot communication. Belichick touched on how Jamie Collins, Steve Beauharnais and James Morris handled the responsibilities of leading the huddle and being the primary communicators with the green got on their helmets in Friday's game, which included making on-field adjustments. Belichick called their work in that area "pretty solid" before adding, "I thought Jamie Collins really did a good job of taking over part of that role in terms of handling the defense from the inside, the linebacker position, not only playing well but helping the people around him play aggressively and make sure they were in the right position."

LaFell has made a positive impression. Belichick seems to like what five-year Brandon LaFell has brought to the team, saying, "He's really picked things up well in this training camp and he's done an excellent job, all the way around, both in the passing game, the running game as a blocker [and] the kicking game -- he had a couple big blocks on the returns last week that Julian [Edelman] had. So he's shown up and helped us in a number of areas."
Examining the New England Patriots' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Might be the best quarterback depth chart, from top to bottom, in Bill Belichick's 15 years as coach.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The Patriots are always good for a surprise, and we've had our antenna up at this position since early July. If there's a surprise, we'll play a hunch at this spot with Stevan Ridley, whose low snap total Friday (11 snaps) in a "dress rehearsal" game caught the eye. Meanwhile, Roy Finch lands on the practice squad.

FULLBACKS (1)

The Patriots are relying on him a lot, given their shortage at tight end.

TIGHT ENDS (2)

A position to monitor on the waiver wire and in free agency to see if any options present themselves, similar to last year with Matthew Mulligan.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Last week, we had Brian Tyms making the club but not counting against the 53-man roster because of his four-game suspension to open the season. But the fact he hasn't received any playing time with Tom Brady has me rethinking that scenario. I wonder if Boyce could generate any trade interest from teams who might have been high on him in the 2013 draft. Assuming there's nothing there, it feels generous to keep him based on his training camp and preseason performance, but the depth might be needed, especially with a thinner tight-end situation. But one thing to consider is that he is practice-squad eligible.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)

The feeling here is that the Patriots' best line to start the season is the one they finished with in 2013, which isn't probably the way they planned it to go, in part because of Stork's injury that has sidelined him since the fifth day of training camp. Sixth-round pick Jon Halapio would wind up on the practice squad in this scenario, which would make this writer look foolish for declaring him a sure-fire lock back in July. The hope would be to have him clear waivers and land on the practice squad.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Veteran Will Smith is one of the odd men out in this scenario, while the Patriots would have a potential coup if Jerel Worthy clears waivers and ends up on their practice squad, now that he's eligible. I don't think Moore would get through, based on his unique physical traits and high ceiling.

LINEBACKERS (5)

A little thin at this spot. We wouldn't be shocked if veteran James Anderson somehow isn't part of the initial roster because he isn't showing up on many top special-teams units and projects to more of a niche coverage-type role. Banking on Steve Beauharnais clearing waivers and landing on the practice squad.

CORNERBACKS (6*)

Because Browner is suspended for the first four regular-season games, he won't count against the initial 53-man roster limit. But he is included here because he is obviously a significant part of the team's overall planning for the 2014 season. Butler, an undrafted free agent from West Alabama, is the surprise story of the preseason.

SAFETIES (4)

The toughest decision was between Chung and Tavon Wilson, and perhaps they both stick -- or both go. The reason Chung gets the nod is that there's a chance Wilson could still stick on the practice squad if he clears waivers, based on new eligibility rules.

SPECIALISTS (4)

Things are looking settled here as specialists had a highlight Friday with Gostkowski's 60-yard field goal.

Key areas for Patriots vs. Panthers

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
7:30
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the New England Patriots host the Carolina Panthers in preseason action Friday night, here are some key areas for the team based on what has unfolded in the first two games:

Conditioning and possibly playing into third quarter. The overall conditioning of the team has been a high priority for head coach Bill Belichick in training camp, with an eye toward what figures to be a sweltering Sept. 7 season opener in Miami (1 p.m. ET kickoff). Quarterback Tom Brady said Belichick has told the players to expect a heavy workload, which could mean playing into the third quarter, which is often the case in the third preseason game. It's all tied to conditioning.

Good test for run defense. One of the themes of the week has been how facing an athletic quarterback such as Cam Newton, and a downhill power running team, presents a nice contrast to the spread-it-out Philadelphia Eagles offense from last week. So it's more good work for the starting front seven in the 3-4 alignment, which was solid against the run last week against LeSean McCoy & Co. Our eyes will be on linebacker Jerod Mayo and if he plays for the first time this preseason.

Following up with Stevan Ridley. The four-year veteran played 16 snaps last Friday as the Patriots focused heavily on the run game. Ridley's final snap was ruled a fumble, which was a close play but nonetheless brought a hot-button topic -- Ridley's ball security -- back to the forefront. In a game in which the starters are expected to play extensively, how Ridley responds bears monitoring.

Competitions on interior of O-line. Center and right guard are the spots to continue to monitor, with Dan Connolly (center) and Josh Kline (right guard) looking like the front-runners at this point. But incumbent center Ryan Wendell is still in the mix, and the coaching staff has also taken a long look at first-year blocker Jordan Devey, who has played every snap this preseason. Four-year veteran Marcus Cannon is also a possibility at right guard, although our feeling is that he looks more comfortable at tackle.

Malcolm Butler and sustaining his play. The undrafted free-agent cornerback from West Alabama has been one of the surprise stories of training camp, as he's not only practiced well, but has shown up in games with ball disruption and strong coverage. Can he sustain it?
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- If recent history is any indication, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and other top players will see extended action in Friday's preseason game against the visiting Carolina Panthers. That's Brady's expectation.

Brady
"Coach told us we're going to get a lot of work," Brady said Wednesday after practice. "What that means, I don't know. I don't think anyone ever knows with him. But we'll be prepared and ready to go for 60 minutes and hopefully it's a good 60 minutes. We've had a couple doozies in the third preseason game lately. It would be nice to have a good one."

Brady was referencing last season's 40-9 loss to the Lions in the third preseason game, as well as a 34-10 loss to Detroit in the third preseason game in 2011.

In the past, coach Bill Belichick has discussed the value in having top players remain in the third preseason game into the third quarter, so they can go through the experience of making halftime adjustments. Another benefit is conditioning-based.

"We've done a bunch of that," Brady said Wednesday. "This a good game to really gauge where you're at. ...You have to get out there and play and get your mind working, and get into the situations and concentrate for extended periods of time. Certainly we're going to be asked to do four quarters of that in three weeks [in the Sept. 7 opener at Miami].

"So hopefully we're in good enough condition to play a half, and hopefully we'll play a lot more than that."

A few other soundbites from Brady:

Develin draws praise. Asked about fullback James Develin, Brady lauded him as a selfless player and great teammate. "I don't think there's a better fullback in the league," he said. "He brings so much in terms of his toughness, his attitude; it's that one position on offense that can really bring a lot of toughness. You get it out of that fullback position. I can't say enough good things about him."

Cadence as a point of emphasis. After Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III was penalized twice for a false start on Monday night because of the combination of his hand movements and voice infliction, Brady was asked about a point of emphasis on the NFL rule about simulating a snap count. "I guess you can't … the shoulders, the head, and the hands [with] the voice, they talk about calling that quite a bit," Brady relayed. "Sometimes it's just a natural [thing]; you try to inflict your voice and the movement of everything gets you going. But we have to be cautious about it, because I was warned a bunch by [referee] John Parry, who was here last week about doing that. In practice, he said, 'Look, I'm OK with it, but there are other refs who probably won't be.' So I think you just have to make the changes. Whatever the rules are, we have to adjust to them."

Happy for Hoyer. Brady wasn't aware that his former backup, Brian Hoyer, had been named the Browns starter earlier on Wednesday. When told of the news, he smiled. "I love Brian. He's such a great guy, a person, a friend. We've always kept in touch. So I'm proud of him. He's fought through some tough circumstances over the years -- getting released here, going to Arizona, getting a little bit of an opportunity there -- and really has taken advantage of the opportunity in Cleveland. It's great for him. He's a great player. I'm very happy for him."
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tuesday's news conference with Bill Belichick had a "Football 101" type of feel to it. Belichick was the professor at the front of the room, going in depth on special-teams contributions, kick-returning technique and what defines a good training camp.

These are the types of news conferences that Belichick seems to enjoy (or at least tolerate), as it went a bit overtime and threatened his on-time arrival for afternoon practice.

Here were a few notes:

Bonus plays with receivers on special-teams coverage units. When it comes to receivers playing on special-teams coverage units, which Brandon LaFell has done, Belichick called those "bonus plays" because it's more the exception than the rule with pass-catchers. Not including special-teams captain Matthew Slater, who technically is a receiver but plays sparingly at the position, LaFell is the only New England Patriots receiver who showed up on the top kickoff coverage unit in Friday's game against the Eagles. In practice, LaFell has also taken reps as a backup on the punt coverage unit, and his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame is part of what makes him competitive in the coverage role. "Size and strength are big attributes that you have to have to block or take on blockers," Belichick said. "Those are things that kind of work in his favor and he did in Carolina. He’s tough and he’s competitive and he does a good job there. Just another way that he can contribute to the team."

Most important things for kickoff returners. When watching Patriots kickoff returners Friday night against Carolina, consider these remarks from Belichick on what makes an effective returner: "Vision is important. Speed is important because the faster you can get the ball from the goal line or wherever it comes down up into that 15-, 20-yard line area, then the more you can avoid [the unblocked coverage player]. So, speed and then either some combination of quickness and power to break tackles. Somehow or another returners to be good have to be able to make some yards on their own. They have to be able to avoid them or be strong to run through them, as well as have good vision and find the holes." Belichick then added this: "The three things that affect [kickoff returners] the most are the depth of the kick, the hang time of the kick and the posture that he’s in when he catches it." The Patriots have used rookie Roy Finch (3 returns, 25.0 avg.), Josh Boyce (1 return, 25 yards), Travis Hawkins (1 return, 20 yards) and James White (1 return, 19 yards) on kickoffs this preseason, with Boyce entering training camp as the favorite to seize the job.

What defines a good training camp. How does Belichick know a team has had a good training camp? He explained that part of it is seeing how the club responds to adversity. "It’s a challenge for the team -- not just the players but the entire organization -- to handle all the things you have to handle in training camp. You have to be able to show some mental toughness, some ability to block out distractions and focus on your job," he said. "If you can do those over a training camp period of, call it six weeks, then it’s probably a pretty good indication that you have a chance to do it during the year. If you don't, then it’s probably an indication that when the pressure really comes on during the season, which the pressure is going to mount for the team as the season goes, I’d say the likelihood of it all just magically coming together without a legitimate foundation, I haven’t had a lot of great experience with that."

Jerod Mayo, Bryan Stork return for Patriots

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
2:40
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo has returned to practice Monday after missing all of last week for undisclosed reasons.

Mayo's return for a full-pads practice isn't the only good news for the Patriots on the health front, as rookie center Bryan Stork (out since July 29) and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (out since July 27) are back on the field after being sidelined by undisclosed injuries.

Meanwhile, as previously noted, rookie receiver Jeremy Gallon (off physically unable to perform list) and defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Ben Bass are practicing for the first time.

In his Monday afternoon news conference, Bill Belichick was asked about the 6-foot-2, 308-pound Worthy, a 2012 second-round draft pick of the Packers.

"He didn't play very much last year [but] played quite a bit his rookie year. He was a good player coming out of Michigan State, played well in a good conference against good people," Belichick said. "He has some athleticism and he has some size. We'll see how it all fits together for us. I'm happy to be working with him and we'll see how it goes."

While the returns of Mayo, Stork, Hoomanawanui and Gallon, as well as the additions of Worthy and Bass to bolster numbers, two notable absences at practice are starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and starting defensive tackle/end Tommy Kelly.
Examining the New England Patriots' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Garoppolo keeps showing impressive poise and presence, while Mallett played well Friday night as well.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Don't have many doubts that Bolden will be there, but wondering if there is a way Roy Finch might be able to sneak on the roster. In this scenario, he'll land on the practice squad instead.

FULLBACKS (1)

Showed up as a pass-catcher in Friday's game as he continues to round out his skills.

TIGHT ENDS (2)

Sticking with just two, with the thinking that Develin could factor into this mix and players like D.J. Williams and/or Steve Maneri will be on the emergency list.

WIDE RECEIVERS (7*)

Tyms sticks because he won't count against the roster initially as part of his four-game suspension. Boyce hasn't done enough to warrant a spot, but his future potential and the feeling that it's too early to give up on him keeps him on for now.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Time to start paying more attention to Devey, the first-year player from Memphis who spent last year on the practice squad, as a legitimate candidate to earn a roster spot. He takes the place of sixth-round draft choice Jon Halapio in this scenario, with the team's hope that Halapio could land on the practice squad.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Would like to find a way to keep Will Smith, but spots are tough to come by and he hasn't done much to distinguish himself at this point. If Siliga's injury is more of a long-term situation, it could open the door for someone like Jerel Worthy.

LINEBACKERS (6)

The Patriots could explore the waiver wire at this spot, as the depth is a question mark behind the top trio.

CORNERBACKS (6*)

Because Browner is suspended for the first four regular-season games, he won't count against the initial 53-man roster limit. But he is included here because he is obviously a significant part of the team's overall planning for the 2014 season. Butler, an undrafted free agent from West Alabama, continues to make plays.

SAFETIES (4)
Patrick Chung and Tavon Wilson could be part of the emergency list in the event of injury, while cornerbacks Arrington and Ryan could also factor into the mix.

SPECIALISTS (4)

Aiken looks more secure this week after the release of Tyler Ott on Sunday.

Brady on unique QB-center dynamic

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
12:30
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the top training camp competitions for the New England Patriots has been at center, where incumbent Ryan Wendell is facing a significant challenge from nine-year veteran Dan Connolly and fourth-round draft choice Bryan Stork.

With Stork sidelined since sustaining what appeared to be a lower-leg injury on the fifth day of training camp, it’s been Connolly vs. Wendell for the last two weeks, and quarterback Tom Brady touched on why the position is so important to him.

“Center-quarterback relationship is a pretty special one. I have my hands on their butts probably more than their wives,” Brady cracked. “You know, it’s a pretty unique trust and relationship you have.”

Brady added that the switching of Connolly and Wendell in and out of the lineup during training camp has little effect on him. He said he has confidence in both, citing their work ethic.

After starting the preseason opener and playing the first half, Connolly has been taking most of the top reps this week, with Wendell rotating in from time to time.

Checking speed limit on Revis Island

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
10:15
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Cornerback Darrelle Revis' first training camp with the New England Patriots has been a little bit of a getting-to-know-you type of deal. Revis Island has been in full effect at times, while there have been other plays when Revis takes his foot off the gas pedal a bit, such as Tuesday when Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin raced past him for a long score.

Revis
It's all part of Revis' practice approach.

"I've been doing this for a while and sometimes you do that and sometimes you don’t," Revis said of letting up on the practice field. "It depends on how everything is going."

Revis' approach is similar to former Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss, who often chose when to turn things on and off. For his part, Revis stressed he has the situation under control, regardless of when he finishes the play strong or not.

"Even though I’m not maybe running that fast, they are reps and I know what I need to do during that play," he relayed.

A few other sound bites from Revis:

Illegal Contact. With the NFL putting emphasis on defensive holding and penalizing illegal contact beyond five yards, Revis is working to grasp the new rule. He picked up multiple penalty flags while covering Maclin on Tuesday. “I’m trying to learn it just as every other defensive back in the league. We have to do our best job of following the rules. It’s tough, but at the same time we have got to abide by the rules."

On his first training camp with joint practices. Revis missed the first joint practices of his career last season while playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (he was present, but didn't participate), and he now sees the value of taking reps against other teams during the preseason. “I’m just trying to soak it all in and like I said it’s good to get competition from other opponents. We have been going at it for a while as a team -- offense and defense -- so it’s good thing.”

Contract extension already? Asked about the possibility of extending his contract, Revis focused on the present. “No. I’m just here. That has nothing to do with what’s going on right now. I’m here for right now. I’m in this contract and everything I’m trying to do is focus on this year."
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When New England Patriots wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins arrived on the two fields behind Gillette Stadium for a Tuesday afternoon joint practice with the Philadelphia Eagles, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“That was my first time seeing something like that,” he relayed.

All the seats in the bleachers were filled. The nearby hillside was also jam-packed. Then, because the Patriots’ practice facility couldn’t fit any more spectators, the gates to Gillette Stadium were opened so fans could line the ramps overlooking the fields.

 
The Patriots later announced that 25,317 fans attended the practice, which was easily a single-session record.

“It was a tremendous atmosphere, seeing the guys hanging over the stadium and the rooftop,” Thompkins said after the two-hour practice. “It was great energy to come out here and compete and get our adrenaline going. It brought our competitive level up.”

Thompkins’ thoughts were echoed by many, including tight end Rob Gronkowski.

 
The energy brought by the crowd was felt early, as big plays -- such as receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola excelling in 7-on-7 drills -- were met with roaring cheers in the intimate practice setting. Meanwhile, every move was chronicled by an overflowing media crowd. A Patriots official said that 131 media credentials (give or take a few) were issued for the practice, which was more than any day of camp.

Between the fans, the intense media spotlight and the action on the two practice fields, what resulted was a day unlike any other since the Patriots first started holding training camp at Gillette Stadium in 2003.

“To see that atmosphere that we had today was unbelievable,” Thompkins said. “I don’t think there are any fans like we have in New England.”
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Referee John Parry and members of his crew are in town to work with the Patriots, and he's received a message from coach Bill Belichick.

This is what Belichick told Parry: "Throw flags -- put the flag on the ground, so when we put the film on, we can see exactly what the action was. [Then] when the flag is on the ground, communicate with the player -- what did he do wrong? How does he potentially eliminate that action? Communicate with the coaching staff to make sure they know."

 This is a big part of the next two days for the Patriots, and it involves teaching and becoming familiar with some of the NFL's rule changes and points of emphasis.

"You'll see flags on the ground," Parry promised.

Two soundbites from Parry's briefing with media members:

On a point of emphasis about illegal contact. "It's not an easy call to make. The rule hasn't changed. We've been through this before. Points of emphasis are made annually from the competition committee ... and this is the second time in 14 years that defensive holding and illegal contact have been a point of emphasis. It's an offensive game and we want receivers to be able to run a free route. We do not want receivers to initiate contact with defenders to eliminate their opportunity to defend that route. ... But I think what you'll see, last week in the New England game there was maybe 23 penalties. I think we'll see 23, 24, 20 for Weeks 2, 3, 4 [in the preseason]. And the message will be sent that this is a point of emphasis and the players will adapt, the coaches will adapt and the officials will adapt, get on the same page, and Week 1, I don't think you'll see a big difference in the football game."

Working towards consistency between crews. "New York is getting aggressive with new technology. Now referees, every week, we will get every call that was made or not made by a referee. So at least if I'm calling two or three holds, and I can view other holds that were incorrect or 'am I on the borderline?' so we can gap the human side of this. Every game is different. Every player is different. Every coach is different on any given day. We are trying to bridge that gap. We now have coaches [who] are coming to our clinics and teaching us what the teaching technique is to a player. ... We're trying any and all avenues to bridge the gap on consistency. It's a big point for our game."
The New England Patriots have waived undrafted rookie tight ends Asa Watson and Justin Jones and running back Stephen Houston, according to a league source. In corresponding moves, the team has signed a trio of tight ends: veterans Ben Hartsock and Steve Maneri and 2014 undrafted free agent Terrence Miller.

Hartsock, 34, is a 10-year veteran who was originally selected in the third round of the 2004 NFL draft by the Colts. His other NFL stops include the Jets, Titans, Falcons and most recently the Panthers. The 265-pounder is considered a capable blocking tight end. He worked out for the Patriots this offseason.

Maneri has previous experience with the Patriots, as he was with the team back in 2010. He has played both offensive tackle and tight end in the NFL. He was most recently with the Chicago Bears.

Miller, meanwhile, was signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent following this year's draft. He is considered a very good athlete for the position at 6-foot-4 and close to 235 pounds. The Jets released him in June.

The three players waived were all considered longshots to make the team's 53-man roster. The signings reflect a more veteran approach to the tight end position, which has been an area of focus with Rob Gronkowski still working his way back from offseason ACL surgery and Michael Hoomanawanui dealing with an injury.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider