AFC East: Mark Levoir

Rapid Reaction: OT Matt Light

August, 1, 2011
The Patriots have agreed to terms on a contract with left tackle Matt Light, a key re-signing that helps answer one of the club's biggest question marks entering training camp.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter confirms the agreement, which was first reported by The Boston Globe. The Globe reports it's a two-year deal.

The left side of the offensive line could have been completely overhauled in 2011. Instead, the Patriots will have stability with Light and left guard Logan Mankins, who erased any doubt early about his plans by signing the franchise-tag tender.

The Patriots have to be thrilled.

This now creates a scenario where first-round draft choice Nate Solder, the left tackle from Colorado, can be groomed without the pressure of having to step in immediately. It was going to be a major challenge for Solder to make an impact in this post-lockout environment (he has yet to see a playbook), and Light serves as a bridge until he's ready, probably in 2012. Solder remains unsigned.

From Light's perspective, it made sense to see what type of market developed in free agency. The sides had negotiated during the 2010 league year and couldn't come to terms, with the Patriots letting Light know they still had interest if he didn't find what he was looking for on the open market.

The Patriots' willingness to walk away, a discipline that has generally served them well, set up a scenario in which Light's return would be dictated by other teams' interest. It looks like the market didn't blow Light away.

On the field, the Patriots have been working with third-year man Sebastian Vollmer at left tackle in training camp, with five-year veteran Mark LeVoir (2 career starts) at right tackle. Light's return allows them to flip Vollmer back to the right side, where he was a second-team All-Pro in 2010.

Quick hits from Patriots practice

July, 30, 2011
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few quick-hit thoughts from Patriots training camp practice:

1. Linebacker Brandon Spikes made an impression. On one play, he blew up offensive tackle Mark LeVoir, charging downhill with force. I was curious to see how Spikes looked coming into this camp after the momentum he built as a rookie was stunted with his late-season four-game suspension. He caught my eye today.

2. Remember when Rodney Harrison first came to the Patriots and he put a hard hit on Troy Brown in practice? That was one of those moments where a player practices a certain way and has to learn how to adapt to a new team's way of doing things. There was a similar moment this morning with Chad Ochocinco, who caught a pass up the left side, and as Patriots defenders often do, they kept going after the ball as he finished his route. It's the way the Patriots practice, always looking to get the ball out, while stressing to receivers the importance of security all the way through the play. Ochocinco seemed a bit surprised that linebacker Jerod Mayo was still trying to pry the ball away about 20-25 yards downfield and the two had some playful pushing afterwards.

3. Ochocinco is right into the mix and it's what one would expect. Smooth routes and good hands. When looking at the receiver depth chart, I think it's going to be tough for second-year man Taylor Price to break through.

4. Crowds are light. For the first weekend of training camp, on a beautiful day, I was really surprised at how many empty spots there were in the bleachers and on the hill around the practice fields. Part of it might be the "lockout effect", another part of it might be the fluid nature of the schedule and how the session wasn't announced until late Friday.

Jets scratch Brad Smith; Hernandez to play

January, 16, 2011

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New York Jets have scratched Brad Smith for Sunday's playoff game against the New England Patriots.

Smith was the Jets' top kickoff returner, bringing back two for touchdowns in the regular season. He also is a potent weapon in the run game as an option quarterback in their Wildcat-style offense.

Newsworthy for the Patriots is that tight end Aaron Hernandez is active after missing the last two regular-season games with a hip injury.

Here are the rest of Sunday's scratches:

New York Jets

New England Patriots

Jets at Patriots inactives

December, 6, 2010
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Here are the inactives for Monday night's game between the New York Jets and New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium.

New York Jets
New England Patriots

Brett Favre will start, plus inactives

October, 31, 2010
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It's official. Brett Favre will start for the Minnesota Vikings against the New England Patriots on Sunday, extending his record streak to 292 games.

Here are the inactives:

Minnesota Vikings
New England Patriots

Ravens at Patriots inactives

October, 17, 2010
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Here are the inactives for Sunday's game between the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium:

Baltimore Ravens
New England Patriots

Your Ravens-Pats primer

January, 10, 2010
CINCINNATI -- You'll notice that the word in all caps to the left doesn't look anything like FOXBOROUGH, Mass.

That means I'm not in Gillette Stadium for Sunday's playoff game between the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots. I was on the scene for the New York Jets' first-round victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

We'll see if the AFC East can go 2-0.

I'll be filing dispatches from my hotel on the bank of the Ohio River. But ESPN has a team of reporters in Gillette Stadium. Of course, you need monitor the updates and observations Mike Reiss and Chris Forsberg will be posting at Senior writer Len Pasquarelli will be writing on the Ravens-Patriots, too.

Also, and perhaps most importantly, you can join our live in-game chat. I will join Reiss, Forsberg and Scouts Inc. analyst Jeremy Green.

Here are the inactives from Foxborough, dispatched via Cincinnati:

Baltimore Ravens

New England Patriots

Check out dispatches from London

October, 25, 2009
Posted by's Tim Graham

Check out Mike Reiss' blog at to find out what's transpiring in London before, during and after the New England Patriots' match with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Wembley Stadium. Be sure to have "Fanfare," aka the "Masterpiece Theater" theme, playing in your head as you read.

Reiss has a look at the tailgating scene, the activations of return man Brandon Tate and offensive lineman Mark LeVoir, a pregame scene-setter with a nice photo of the Wembley pitch and some other observations.

Light will be on hand against blitzing Steelers

November, 26, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

DAVIE, Fla. -- New England Patriots fans can exhale now. Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Light wasn't suspended for his role in an embarrassing altercation with Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder on Sunday.


Each player was fined $15,000. A suspension would have been significantly more painful for the Patriots. While Crowder is a starter and a top tackler, the Dolphins will play the St. Louis Rams this week in a game they should win.

The Patriots, meanwhile, will host the Pittsburgh Steelers, who boast two of the NFL's top five sackmasters. Outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley have a combined 22.5 sacks.

Mark LeVoir, who has two career NFL starts in his three season, likely would have replaced Light. LeVoir finished Sunday's game at left tackle. His starts came in Weeks 7 and 8 after right tackle Nick Kaczur injured an ankle.

Light spoke to reporters Wednesday morning for the first time since he grabbed a helmetless Crowder by the braided hair and repeatedly delivered punches to the back of his head after a fourth-quarter field goal. Both were ejected.

"You know what, honestly, I think that matter is kind of a closed deal now," Light said, according to Boston Globe reporter Mike Reiss. "It was what it was. Obviously, I'm not happy with what my actions were and I don't think that was the way to go.

"In my mind, it's a closed deal now. They've made a decision on it and we're going to move forward and get ready to play a good Steelers team. I think that's where everybody's concentration should be right now, and that's definitely where mine is at this point."

I'll try to get Crowder's reaction after the Dolphins open their locker room to the media at 2 p.m.

Patriots' swinging season continues

October, 21, 2008
 Jim Rogash/Getty Images
 Randy Moss caught a pair of touchdown passes Monday night.

 Posted by's Tim Graham

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For at least one game and one night, the New England Patriots rediscovered the joys of domination.

"We had a lot of things to hang our hats on tonight coming from all three units," Patriots receiver Randy Moss said. "We put it together. I think that when we put all three of those together this team is very, very scary. "

The inconsistent Patriots maintained their back-and-forth ways Monday night with a no-doubt 41-7 victory over the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium.

Who saw that coming? The Patriots were coming off a game in which the San Diego Chargers turned New England's secondary to cinders. The Broncos showed up with the NFL's third-ranked passing offense but might as well have scheduled an autumnal New England drive instead of a football game.

A loss would have dropped the Patriots two games behind the first-place Buffalo Bills, but they ended up winning their first home game since the season opener.

Bill Belichick, so robotic he packs WD-40 in his shaving kit, surprised his players in the two days before the game by telling them to have more fun.

"In the four years that I've been here, I've never heard Bill say 'Go out there, cut it loose and have some fun,' " cornerback Ellis Hobbs said. "We were jumping around, slapping each other, this and that. That's a great feeling out there. That's a great look out there. We had fun tonight."

There was a lot for a Patriots fan to be excited about. But there was also plenty of cause for concern.

Three reasons the Patriots have figured it out

1. Revitalized running game: The Patriots have problems at running back, but they figured out a way to churn out rushing yardage anyway.

Before the game they ended Laurence Maroney's season by placing him on injured reserve with a bum shoulder. A calf injury has sidelined LaMont Jordan two straight games.

So, old pro Sammy Morris had the best game of his nine-year NFL career, and he didn't play a down in the second half. Morris rushed for 138 yards, the Patriots' highest first-half total since Robert Edwards amassed 166 in December 1998.

And when Morris went out of the game with a knee injury of indeterminate severity, the Patriots kept plowing onward. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (65 yards) and Kevin Faulk (50 yards) broke off several nice runs.

The Patriots finished with 257 rushing yards, their most since December 1985.

"We knew we could run on them," guard Logan Mankins said. "We assumed we could. We saw other teams do it, and we feel we can run the ball on most nights. The backs hit the holes hard. You give them a little crease, they're going to hit it."

2. Cassel, Moss connect: For only the second time in his last 31 games without Tom Brady as his quarterback, Moss had two touchdowns. The only other time it happened in that stretch was in the 2005 Oakland Raiders' season finale. Kerry Collins was the quarterback.

Matt Cassel had his first three-touchdown game. He completed 18 of 24 passes for 185 yards and no interceptions for a 136.3 passer rating.

"I'd like to think that I continue to grow each and every week," Cassel said. "The more you run this offense, the more comfortable you become. There's a lot of details that you have to be on top of if you want to be successful."

3. Defense makes big plays: The Patriots' secondary rebounded from a duck-and-cover performance to shut down Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler and two of the NFL's leading receivers, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal.

The Patriots forced five turnovers -- three fumbles and two interceptions.

The Broncos came into the game having given up only two sacks. The Patriots recorded three sacks Monday night.

Cutler finished with a 64.3 passer rating, less than half of Cassel's.

Three reasons the Patriots haven't figured it out

1. Mounting injuries: New England already was down several players. Two talented running backs were out. So were starting right tackle Nick Kaczur and defensive lineman Jarvis Green.

Two potentially devastating losses occurred during the game. We don't know how serious the knee injuries to safety Rodney Harrison and Morris are.

Harrison was carted off the field after medical personnel immobilized his right knee at the end of the third quarter.

Said Belichick: "It doesn't look too good" for Harrison.

"He means a lot," Patriots safety James Sanders said. "He is a future Hall of Famer. He is one of the best to play the game. He has taught me a lot since I've been in New England. He means a lot to me as a football player and a friend.

"I don't know his status now. If he misses time, we will miss him."

2. Too many sacks: The Broncos sacked Cassel six times, drivi
ng up the season total to 25. The Patriots gave up only 21 sacks all last year.

"We still have some problems in pass protection," Mankins said. "We'll get that straightened out. Well, we better get it straightened out, or it's going to be a long year."

3. Tough schedule: The Patriots' upcoming opponents don't provide any easy marks. Next up are the resurgent St. Louis Rams at Gillette Stadium. The Rams, under new coach Jim Haslett, have won two in a row against perceived NFC East powers.

"We all saw what St. Louis did to Dallas this weekend," said starting right tackle Mark LeVoir. "They're back on track. They're a good team. We've got to get ready to go for them."

The Patriots are programmed not to talk about anything beyond the next game, but that won't stop us from listing their opponents. After the Rams, the schedule through November includes the Indianapolis Colts, Bills, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Patriots fall apart in San Diego

October, 13, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

SAN DIEGO -- What a glorious opportunity Sunday night for the New England Patriots to declare they would not fade away, that they very much remain viable contenders.

The Patriots resurfaced from their Week 4 bye to defeat the San Francisco 49ers in a game that brought much relief to their fretting fans. Next up were their cross-country rivals, the San Diego Chargers.

No, this wasn't the same matchup it has been in recent years, but it was a convergence of two teams eager to make a statement.

To carry out that analogy, the Chargers went on a filibuster with a loud and rambling 30-10 victory in Qualcomm Stadium.

The Patriots either couldn't get a word in edgewise or simply had no response at all. Their only touchdown came in garbage time.

"They did a better job than we did," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "I would say that about the players, the coaches, the whole works. The San Diego Chargers were better than the New England Patriots tonight. That's across the board."

The Patriots never had lost two games by 20 or more points in the same season under Belichick. Until now.

Here are five storylines that emerged for New England in their setback.

  Christopher Hanewickel/US Presswire
 New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel is sacked by the San Diego Chargers defensive end Igor Olshansky during the first quarter Sunday.

The Patriots' offense and Matt Cassel failed to follow up.

The Patriots scored a season-high 30 points against the San Francisco 49ers, generating optimism the Patriots just might be able to cope without Tom Brady. In their previous games they managed only 17, 19 and 13 points.

With running backs Laurence Maroney and LaMont Jordan injured, more of the responsibility fell on Cassel's right arm. But the Chargers fell on him, too.

Cassel completed 22 of 38 passes for 203 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He had a 61.6 passer rating. The Chargers sacked him four times.

"He did more moving around than Brady, and with experience he'll become better with that," Chargers safety Clinton Hart said. "He held the ball a lot more than Brady would've. That's inexperience.

"We put pressure on him and gave him looks that I'm pretty sure that he wasn't confident in seeing because we were moving around back there."

The Patriots also failed to get Randy Moss involved. They threw at him, but connected only three times for 26 yards. At halftime, Moss had one catch for 6 yards.

"When you remove the best quarterback in the National Football League, of course, they're [licking] their lips," Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said of opposing defenses. "They're excited because they feel like we lost an integral part or the most important part of our team.

"But we realize that's over and done with. We can't harp on that. This year is totally different than last year. We're not going to score 38 points a game. We're not going to blow people out by 25 points at halftime. It's just not going to happen.

"We don't have that type of team. So we're going to have to go back to ways of fighting, scrapping and just fighting for every single bit of yardage, every single bit of victory that we can get."

(Read full post)

Patriots down two linemen

October, 12, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

SAN DIEGO -- The New England Patriots are getting knocked around by the San Diego Chargers.

The Patriots are down by 10 points and two players. Defensive lineman Jarvis Green is out with an ankle injury suffered on the game's first series. The press box announcement labeled his return questionable.

Starting right tackle Nick Kaczur needed assistance to get off the field with an apparent right ankle injury late in the first quarter. He rolled round in pain and was taken into the locker room. His return also is listed as questionable.

Mark LeVoir, a third-year pro out of Notre Dame with only four previous games to his credit, is filling in for Kaczur.

Pats sign O'Neal among other moves

September, 1, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

The New England Patriots have announced a slew of roster moves, highlighted by the signing of two-time Pro Bowl CB Deltha O'Neal.

O'Neal was brought in because the Patriots were unsatisfied with their CB play through the preseason. They surprisingly cut one of their biggest offseason acquisitions on Saturday when they decided to not move forward with Fernando Bryant. They also released free-agent CB Jason Webster, another newcomer who was supposed to help them replace Asante Samuel.

O'Neal is a nine-year vet who started only 15 games over the past two seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals. Last year, first-round pick Leon Hall beat him out for a starting role. O'Neal didn't fit into the plans of new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer because of faded man-to-man coverage skills and was cut this weekend despite being their No. 1 punt returner in camp.

In an Aug. 8 Cincinnati Enquirer article about how O'Neal had lost a step, he discussed his willingness to accept a lesser role for greater team success. Little did he know then ...

"I'm just looking to add depth this year and help out as much as I can," O'Neal said. "I have a positive look at it. I went to two Pro Bowls. I want a Super Bowl ring. I'm not tired of going [to the Pro Bowl], but given my choice I'd rather go to the Super Bowl." 

The Patriots also added OL Mark Levoir and TE Jason Pociask off the waiver wire, released TE Stephen Spach and signed OL Jacob Bender and TE Tyson Devree to their practice squad.

Pociask and Bender were among the last New York Jets cuts. Levoir spent two seasons on the Chicago Bears practice squad before the St. Louis Rams added him to their active roster in November, but didn't play him. The Patriots released Devree, an undrafted rookie, on Saturday.