Ups and downs for the Patriots

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- At an initial glance, and without the benefit of film review, a look at which New England Patriots players are "up" and those who are at the opposite end of the spectrum in Sunday's game against the Raiders:

Patrick Chung -- Safety seemed to be utilized as a matchup option against fullback Marcel Reece and was effective in the role.

Julian Edelman -- Receiver was the most consistent option for quarterback Tom Brady once again.

Matthew Slater -- Special teams captain could put on a clinic when it comes to covering punts.

Offensive line -- From a low shotgun snap by center Dan Connolly to missed blocks by right guard Jordan Devey, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, left tackle Nate Solder and left guard Marcus Cannon, this was a step back for a group that had bounced back last week.

Josh McDaniels, offensive play-calling and time management -- Three straight passes to open the game against the NFL's worst-rated run defense foreshadowed a day in which the Patriots seemed to outsmart themselves at times and also didn't execute well in situation-based football at the end of the first half.

Darrelle Revis -- Cornerback was excellent last week against Minnesota's Greg Jennings, but didn't seem to have the same blanket coverage this week, mostly against James Jones.

Rapid Reaction: New England Patriots

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few thoughts on the New England Patriots' 16-9 victory against the Oakland Raiders:

What it means: When it comes to style points, the Patriots don't get many for this one. It was ugly and produces more questions than answers about the team. But the end result is this: The Patriots are 2-1.

Offense sputters in a big way: Quarterback Tom Brady figures to be grumpy again after this one, as the offense continues to struggle. The problems are across the board, starting with poor protection from the offensive line, extending to questionable play-calling (three throws to open the game against the NFL's worst run defense), time management issues in the red zone at the end of the second quarter, and limited pass-catching options outside of Julian Edelman. We could go on, but the bottom line is that the offense is not in a good place right now. What are the solutions? That is the hot-button question.

Gronkowski not yet at full participation: Tight end Rob Gronkowski is still working his way to top form, as evidenced by his limited playing time. It took him five games last year upon returning from his forearm injury to be playing every snap, and this being his third game this year, it's no surprise he was on for 42 of a possible 73 snaps (including penalties but not kneel-downs).

Game ball: Julian Edelman. On a day in which the offense struggled, he was one of the few players who produced. It was reminiscent of how Wes Welker often delivered in situations like these. This was Edelman's fourth career game with 10 or more receptions.

Where's Dobson? Wide receiver Aaron Dobson, a 2013 second-round draft pick who is the team's best deep threat, was a healthy scratch in favor of Brandon LaFell, Kenbrell Thompkins and Danny Amendola. Dobson played in his first regular-season game last week in Minnesota (Thompkins was scratched) as the Patriots are playing some musical chairs at receiver, trying to find the right combinations. That Dobson wasn't part of the mix Sunday is a surprise.

Injuries to monitor. Starting defensive tackle Sealver Siliga left the game in the first quarter with a foot injury and did not return. Second-year player Chris Jones took his spot next to Vince Wilfork. This could lead the Patriots to consider a waiver claim on rookie defensive lineman Bruce Gaston, who was previously with the club but was waived by Miami on Saturday.

Stat of note: The Patriots are now 12-1 in home openers at Gillette Stadium, which opened in 2002.

What's next: The Patriots visit the Kansas City Chiefs on "Monday Night Football." It is their first trip to Arrowhead Stadium since the 2005 season. The Chiefs visit the Miami Dolphins during Sunday's late afternoon slate.

Fourth-quarter analysis from Mike Reiss

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21

Sharing Patriots halftime thoughts

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots sputtered through the first half against the Oakland Raiders in a disappointing 30 minutes. They are fortunate the Raiders aren't a very good team and haven't been able to capitalize on their sluggishness.

The sequence before the Patriots' first touchdown was notable, as the team didn't initially have tight end Rob Gronkowski on the field. Quarterback Tom Brady, for whatever the reason, called a timeout.

With that break in the action, the Patriots inserted Gronkowski into the game and he caught the touchdown pass out of a spread look.

Some other thoughts:

Amendola not a factor: Could this be the start of Danny Amendola being closer to inactive than a lock on the 46-man roster? That was one thought that came to mind as the Patriots have run some three-receiver sets with Brandon LaFell, Kenbrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman on the field. We counted Amendola with 12 offensive snaps in the first half.

Curious play-calling to open: The Raiders' defense entered the game having given up 400 rushing yards in two games. The Patriots, after re-establishing control of the line of scrimmage last week with a strong running performance, opened the game with three straight passes. A bit of a head-scratcher.

Brady's off the mark: It's always difficult to tell if a missed connection is on a quarterback or his pass-catcher, but it sure looked like it was Brady's mistake in overthrowing Gronkowski in the second quarter on a play that could have gone for big yardage. Brady, who was lighting into the sideline at one point during the half, wasn't on his game for most of the first 30 minutes.

Edelman the new Welker: Though the Patriots' offense was stagnant for most of the half, it wasn't because of the effort of Edelman. When Brady has a got-to-have-it throw, he's usually going to Edelman, just as he used to with Wes Welker.

Slow starts remain a concern: The Patriots have started slow in each of their first three games this season, which remains one of the concerns of the coaching staff.

Patriots' DT Sealver Siliga injures foot

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots starting defensive tackle Sealver Siliga left Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders with a foot injury in the first quarter. Siliga walked to the locker room under his own power for further tests and has not returned to the sideline.

The 6-foot-2, 325-pound Siliga, whose big-bodied presence helped the Patriots play stronger inside against the run last week, was paired with Vince Wilfork in the middle for Sunday's game against Oakland.

In his absence, second-year player Chris Jones stepped in.

The Patriots have officially listed Siliga's return as questionable.

UPDATE: It has been announced that Siliga will not return.

Jonathan Kraft recalls tuck rule, Al Davis

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- We all remember the infamous 2001 AFC divisional playoff game between the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders -- known as the “tuck rule” game -- that propelled New England to its first Super Bowl win in franchise history.

In Jonathan Kraft’s weekly pregame interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub, Kraft was asked about the late Raiders owner, Al Davis, which led to a discussion about the tuck rule.

“I think of roughing the passer and the Snow Bowl and even that divisional playoff game in ’86, which got us to the AFC Championship Game and then you have to think of Al [Davis],” Kraft said. “And this is the first time playing the Raiders since Al passed away.”

When asked about the “tuck rule game,” Kraft laughed and told a story about Davis’ son and current Raiders owner Mark Davis.

“Today it would be [a fumble] because the tuck rule doesn’t exist, but back then it wasn’t,” Kraft said.

“Mark Davis was up with us in the office beforehand and he looked at the Super Bowl XXXVI trophy and it’s up there and Mark said, ‘You know, that’s our trophy.’”

Kraft laughed about the story and said Mark was light-hearted about seeing the Vince Lombardi Trophy that slipped through his father’s hands back in 2001.

“Al wouldn’t have come up, Mark is a great guy,” Kraft said. “Al was a unique and special guy that I really feel privileged to have had the chance to know a little.”

Kraft also recalled a couple of Al Davis memories, calling Davis a special guy who was great for the football community.

“When I got married back in 1995, Al called me that week to congratulate me and asked where I was going on the honeymoon and I said, ‘We are going to Asia,’” Kraft said. “And he said, ‘Are you stopping over in L.A.’ -- they were still the L.A. Raiders -- he said, ‘How long is your layover?’”

“I said, ‘We have about six hours.’ He said, ‘I’m sending a driver to come pick you and your wife up, come have dinner with me in my office.’”

“So we drove -- a guy picked us up in a white Raiders jumpsuit and it wasn’t Al. Drove us in a white Cadillac. We had dinner in Al’s office. It was steak. That was it. There were no choices. It was classic Al. But it was a wonderful way to spend our first night as a married couple.”

Another memory was a game in Oakland after Kraft’s mother, Myra, passed away.

“We played out in Oakland after my mom had passed away and they were kind enough to have a moment of silence for her,” Kraft said. “Al was a special guy and if you love football and you had the privilege to know him, you feel fortunate.”

Offensive starters for Patriots

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Offensive starters for the Patriots in their home opener against the Raiders:

LT: Nate Solder
LG: Marcus Cannon
C: Dan Connolly
RG: Jordan Devey
RT: Sebastian Vollmer
TE: Rob Gronkowski
QB: Tom Brady
FB: James Develin
RB: Stevan Ridley
WR: Brandon LaFell
WR: Julian Edelman

The Patriots came out with run-based personnel but opened with three straight passes on a three-and-out first drive. On the offensive line, it's the same group that started last week and played until the middle of the fourth quarter when the game was in hand and the coaches gave rookie Bryan Stork and Josh Kline time.

Defensive starters for Patriots

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Defensive starters for the New England Patriots in their home opener against the Raiders:

DE: Chandler Jones
DT: Sealver Siliga
DT: Vince Wilfork
DE: Rob Ninkovich
LB: Dont'a Hightower
LB: Jerod Mayo
LB: Jamie Collins
CB: Darrelle Revis
CB: Logan Ryan
S: Patrick Chung
S: Devin McCourty

No major changes for the Patriots from last week, other than Collins back in the lineup after missing last week with a thigh injury.

The first time the Patriots went to their sub package, defensive backs Kyle Arrington and Duron Harmon, along with defensive tackle Dominique Easley came on the field. They replaced Chung, Collins and Siliga.

RB Vereen active; WR Dobson inactive

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Analysis from the New England Patriots' inactive players Sunday against the Raiders: WR Aaron Dobson, CB Alfonzo Dennard, RB James White, S Don Jones, C Ryan Wendell, G Josh Kline and DE Zach Moore.

Vereen is active. One question mark leading into the game was how running back Shane Vereen's shoulder injury would affect his availability. He is active, and with the Patriots making White inactive for a third straight game, it reflects that they view Vereen as ready for whatever they need in this game.

Dobson the odd man out in WR corps. Last week, Kenbrell Thompkins was a healthy scratch as the Patriots managed their excess numbers at receiver. This Sunday, it's Dobson, which is a bit of a surprise. Dobson is healthy, so this is a coach's decision that Thompkins, Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell fit best in the game plan, with LaFell's special-teams contributions a factor in his favor. Didn't see that one coming, as the view from here is that Dobson (second round, 2013) has the highest upside of the group of receivers after Julian Edelman.

Collins returns after missing Week 2. Starting linebacker Jamie Collins went through tests before the game to test his injured thigh and obviously passed them based on him being active. Along those same lines, reserve defensive end/core special-teamer Michael Buchanan is active for the first time since injuring his ankle in the preseason finale.

Back to seven offensive linemen. After going heavy with eight offensive linemen on their 46-man game-day roster last week, the Patriots are back to the standard seven this Sunday. That could mean we see less of offensive tackle Cameron Fleming (28 snaps) as a blocking-based tight end.

Ryan's chance to solidify his spot. With starting right cornerback Alfonzo Dennard out for the second straight week with a left shoulder injury, it's a chance for second-year player Logan Ryan to further solidify his hold on the starting spot. Ryan is coming off a strong performance last Sunday in Minnesota.

QB Matt Schaub
RB Maurice Jones-Drew
CB Chimdi Chekwa
LB Sio Moore
LB Nick Roach
G Tony Bergstrom
OT Matt McCants

Live: In-game updates and analysis

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
Mike Reiss checks in from Foxborough with in-game updates and analysis from today's New England Patriots-Oakland Raiders game (1 p.m. ET, on CBS). We'll kick things off at noon for a little pregame flavor as well. Join us then ...

Welcome to Gillette Stadium

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
Gillette StadiumESPN
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Welcome to Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots host the Oakland Raiders in the home opener (1 p.m. ET):

Weather conditions. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-70s by kickoff with significant humidity. Winds are anticipated to be around 10 miles per hour, with cloudy conditions and the chance for thundershowers closer around 4 p.m. ET.

Series history. This is the 34th meeting between the Patriots and Raiders. The Patriots lead the all-time series 17-15-1, including a 2-1 postseason record.

Patriots to wear blue. After wearing white jerseys at home throughout the preseason, the Patriots will be back in their standard blue jerseys today.

Morelli gets the call. Veteran referee Pete Morelli has been assigned today's game. Morelli's crew has been near the bottom of the charts in terms of calling penalties through two weeks.

Wilfork on GameDay cover. Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork is on the cover of the GameDay magazine being sold at Gillette Stadium today.

Stat of note. The Patriots are 11-1 in home openers at Gillette Stadium, which opened in 2002.

National anthem. Performed by jazz and soul singer Morgan James.

Color guard. Bristol Police Department honor guard, from Bristol, Rhode Island.

Quick-hit thoughts around NFL, Patriots

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the New England Patriots:

[+] EnlargeChandler Jones
Ann Heisenfelt/AP PhotoNew England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones sacked Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel twice during their Week 2 game in Minneapolis.
1. After Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones turned in arguably the best game in his three-year NFL career last Sunday in Minnesota, the club will continue to explore different ways to use him as a Darrelle Revis-type chess piece along the defensive line. The idea is to exploit potential favorable matchups with a top talent and don't be surprised if we see something along those lines today with Jones flipping from right to left end in a 1-on-1 matchup against Raiders right tackle Khalif Barnes. It's something to watch for as we continue to see growth from a budding star.

2. At this time last week, I didn't think NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would be in jeopardy of losing his job unless sponsors started dropping out. Now I'm not so sure about Goodell's fate after Friday's news conference and ESPN's “Outside the Lines” report on how the Ravens, and the NFL, handled the Ray Rice investigation. There simply has to be some form of accountability for Goodell, and if it's not his job, what is the accountability? If Goodell ultimately does survive and there aren’t major changes in his role in the disciplinary process, the feeling here is that his credibility, and thus the credibility of every ownership group that employs him, is significantly compromised.

3. One observation since the Patriots' surprising Aug. 26 trade that shipped captain and locker-room spokesman Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers is that Nate Solder has stepped up to fill some of that off-the-field void. Although maybe not always comfortable in the media-based spokesman-type setting, Solder has seemed to go out of his way to answer on behalf of the offensive line -- and taking personal accountability -- in showing a new level of leadership in his fourth season.

4. Three games into the regular season, one wonders if the Buccaneers might be having some second thoughts on the Mankins trade. They are 0-3, with issues that look greater than guard play, and have the following three-game set before their Week 7 bye: at Pittsburgh, at New Orleans, versus Baltimore. The Buccaneers shipped a fourth-round pick and tight end Tim Wright to New England in the trade, which isn't a major haul, but is still significant. It's only natural to wonder if general manager Jason Licht maybe overrated his roster when consummating that trade.

5. With the Raiders coming to town today, the past week has been spent getting familiar with their roster and team-building process under third-year head coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie. The regime inherited a difficult salary-cap situation, took some lumps in 2012-13 while cleaning it up, and set things up for 2014 to be the turning point. But from afar, the addition of so many later-career veterans this year looks like a panic move that almost aborts what they were trying to build.

6a. Did You Know, Part I: The Seahawks-Broncos game today marks the first time there has been a Super Bowl rematch of the game the following season since 1997 when the Packers and Patriots played after meeting in Super Bowl XXXI. One common link between the games is the presence of head coach Pete Carroll on the sideline. You're a hard-core Patriots fan if you remember what unfolded that day -- the Patriots led 10-7 in the second quarter before the Brett Favre-led Packers -- with Dorsey Levens and Mark Chmura scoring touchdowns -- ultimately recorded a 28-10 "Monday Night Football" victory at Foxboro Stadium.

6b. Did You Know, Part II: NFL Insider Field Yates passes along these two nuggets with a Patriots-Raiders twist -- Tom Brady (2000, sixth round) and Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski (2000, first round) have had the longest uninterrupted run with their current team of any player in the NFL, and Brady and Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson represent just two of three NFL players this season who are 37 years old (Cardinals long snapper Mike Leach the other).

7. Watching Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt line up as a goal-line tight end and catch a 1-yard touchdown pass in last Sunday's win against the Raiders made me think that first-year head coach Bill O'Brien is utilizing Watt the way Bill Belichick once did with linebacker Mike Vrabel. O'Brien, of course, is a former Patriots assistant who has hired Vrabel as his linebackers coach in Houston. Not surprisingly, it turns out it was Vrabel who was a significant voice in suggesting to give Watt a chance in the role.

8. Two years ago, then-Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes stayed away from voluntary team activities in hopes of doing away-from-the-team work that proved he could become a three-down linebacker. At least that's the way it was framed by some close to Spikes. It didn't unfold that way in New England and it looks like the Bills view Spikes the same way after he played just 15 of 79 defensive snaps last Sunday. Spikes is what he is: A downhill, two-down, run-stuffing linebacker who plays with infectious energy and still has value to a team; just not three-down value because of his struggles in coverage.

9. We don't see much of them in New England on a regular basis, but the Arizona Cardinals are one team that has impressed me through two weeks of the season. Despite losing multiple key players on defense, and then traveling to face the Giants last weekend without starting quarterback Carson Palmer, they're 2-0 entering their Week 3 home tilt against the 49ers. That reflects well on second-year head coach Bruce Arians.

10. One of the more surprising personnel-related storylines with the Patriots is what has unfolded at the safety spot next to Devin McCourty. At one point in training camp, I remember watching the tandem of McCourty and Duron Harmon working alongside cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, and it was easy to draw the conclusion that Harmon -- the No. 3 safety on the 2013 Patriots -- was part of the top group. But the 2013 third-round draft pick hasn't been the choice, as Patrick Chung (84 snaps) and Tavon Wilson (35) have both played more than him (29 snaps). When Chung signed this offseason, he wasn't viewed as the projected starter. Meanwhile Nate Ebner has played 14 snaps in the dime package as the Patriots have mixed and matched with Chung the top option in the base defense.

Projecting Patriots' inactives vs. Raiders

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
Before the New England Patriots play a game, we'll attempt to predict the team's inactive players.

Our best guess for Sunday's game against the Raiders:

Michael Buchanan -- Defensive end and core special teamer missed the season-opener with an ankle injury (sustained Aug. 28) and might not be ready to return.

Jamie Collins -- Linebacker missed last weeks game with a thigh injury and perhaps the Patriots are thinking there is no need to rush him back.

Don Jones -- Special teams ace showed up on the injury report this week (hamstring), not practicing Wednesday.

Brandon LaFell -- Last week, receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was the odd-man out in the receiving corps; maybe it's LaFell this week.

Zach Moore -- Rookie defensive end was inactive last week after playing two special teams snaps in the opener.

Ryan Wendell -- Reserve center missed last week's game with a knee injury and might not be ready to return.

James White -- Rookie running back was inactive for the first two games and with so many receivers, tight ends and a fullback to account for on the 46-man game-day roster, going with just three running backs looks like the right fit.

ACCOUNTABILITY CHECK: With four correct inactives, it was a better showing than the 2-for-7 opening week. We missed on Chris Jones' return, didn't expect Dennard to be inactive based on his absence from the injury report, and missed on Josh Kline being active as an eighth offensive lineman when the Patriots have usually entered a game with seven.

Patriots football journey: Zach Moore

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots rookie defensive end Zach Moore has taken the path never traveled before to make it to the NFL. He is the first player in the history of Division II Concordia-St. Paul to be drafted.

So it’s no wonder when he was asked to sum up life as a Patriot, he responded this way: “It’s the greatest job in the world.”

[+] EnlargeZach Moore
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesThe Patriots liked what they saw of Zach Moore at Concordia and the NFL combine, drafting him in the sixth round.
Moore, whose striking resemblance to Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert has earned him the nickname “Roy” among teammates, was one of the Patriots’ three sixth-round picks (198th overall). He played in the season opener at Miami as part of the punt-return unit, before he was a healthy scratch last week in Minnesota. He is viewed as a high-upside prospect who should grow with behind-the-scenes development based on the Division II level of competition he is coming from.

The engaging Moore shared his “football journey” this week:

When he first started playing organized football: “At the age of 15, freshman year of high school at Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, Illinois, South Side.”

Why he first started playing: “The crazy thing about it was that I was originally supposed to play basketball there, with Derrick Rose there, I was fortunate to go to school with guys like him. But I just decided to play football because it fit my personality better.”

First positions in football: “I started off as a wide receiver, then I moved to tight end. Then my junior year, I played offensive line and defensive line. Senior year, it was primary on the offensive line at left tackle.”

Favorite memories of high school football: “The homecomings, the pep rallies. High school football is very fun, the ‘Friday Night Lights’, the whole atmosphere. The game I most remember was my senior year, us beating Morgan Park, our rivals in the conference. We hadn’t beaten them in a couple years, and to go out with a win against our rivals was pretty cool.”

Enrolling at Division II Concordia in St. Paul: “I had to take the D-II route [because of eligibility requirements], which I didn’t mind; the overall goal was to get my education, which I got [degree in criminal justice]. Concordia was a nice little quiet atmosphere where I knew I could develop.”

Top memories at Concordia: “We could be here all day. There are so many memories. I’m not sure I could just pick one. Football-wise, my sophomore year, we knocked off a ranked team in Division II -- Minnesota State-Mankato -- at their home. That was the largest crowd I ever played in front of; I think it was maybe 4,000 people there. Individually, the most memorable moments were my very first career interception my junior year and senior year when I blocked a kick for us to win the game.”

When he knew the NFL might be a possibility: “Growing up in high school, every player wants to play in the NFL. You always had that dream in the back of your mind, but I kind of put the league thing on hold when I got to college to focus on academics. I didn’t really think it was going to be a reality coming from a small Division II unknown school. But I guess after my junior year, a lot of teams contacted me, and I talked to a lot of NFL personnel going into my senior year, and it went from there.”

Reaction to being drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round: “I was watching the whole draft as if I wasn’t a part of it, just like a regular fan as I do every year. Then my phone rings, and I see a 508 area code and I’m like, ‘This must be a bill collector or something.’ So then I answered, and it was the Patriots. It was like, ‘This really just happened.’ I graduated one night and turn around the next day and get drafted. That whole weekend, I’ll never forget.”

What he loves about football: “Just the whole competitiveness of it. The team atmosphere; you get real close to the guys in the locker room because you have to be on the same page and strive towards that one goal, which is a win every week.”

Role models growing up: “My No. 1 role model has always been my mom [Carolyn Blackshire] and my dad [Bobby Moore] for raising me to be a respectable, humble young man.”

Favorite football players: “I grew up watching Michael Strahan, Jevon Kearse, Julius Peppers and Mario Williams; those were some of my favorite players to watch – a lot of edge rushers.”

What he prides himself on as a player: “Definitely, [to be] hard-working. I make sure I am out there every day doing what I need to do to get better. In my situation, you have to be alert and ready to go. If the next man goes down, you might receive that call to step into his place.”

Summing up his football journey: “It’s been a long and tough road, playing since 15 and now I’m 24. But I’ve stuck with it, all the adversity that I went through, and came out on top. Now I need to work hard to stay here, and I’m determined to do that.”

Patriots have 4 players in for tryouts

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As has been the case in recent weeks, the New England Patriots continue to work out a variety of free agents as they keep emergency lists and practice-squad candidates up to date. Four players were in for tryouts on Friday, and here is a bit more on each of them:

WR Kevin Cone: A four-year veteran out of Georgia Tech, he was with the Falcons from 2011-2013, playing in 29 games. The 6-foot-2, 216-pound Cone has one career reception and is more of a special teamer. He was with the Dolphins this year and was waived at the final cut and then spent one week on the Cardinals' practice squad.

DE Steven Means: The 6-foot-3, 260-pound former Buccaneer played in 10 games last season under former Tampa coach Greg Schiano, who is a close friend of Bill Belichick. He played in the season-opener this year before he was waived. Means played in college at Buffalo.

RB Rajion Neal: An undrafted rookie from the University of Tennessee, he was with the Green Bay Packers in training camp and flashed at times in the preseason, but ultimately was released with an injury settlement.

LB D.J. Smith: A third-year player out of Appalachian State, he played in 22 games (9 starts) with the Packers from 2011-2012 before appearing in one game for the Texans last season. He was most recently with the Panthers on their practice squad.