Jerod Mayo's absence not injury-related

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Starting linebacker Jerod Mayo's absence from Wednesday's practice was not injury-related, but the New England Patriots had a longer list of players showing up on their first injury report of the week.

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who missed Sunday's game, is now on the report with a shoulder injury; it's his left shoulder and he was limited in Wednesday's practice. Meanwhile, No. 1 receiver Julian Edelman (back), starting center Dan Connolly (knee) and running back Shane Vereen (shoulder) are new additions to the injury report, as all were limited in practice.

Safety Don Jones, who is tied for the team lead with three special teams tackles, missed the entire practice with a hamstring injury.

The players who were on the injury report last week remain limited in practice -- linebacker Jamie Collins (thigh), tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee), backup center Ryan Wendell (knee), backup defensive end Michael Buchanan (ankle) and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga (left hand).


ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss previews New England's Sunday matchup against the Oakland Raiders and sits down with Dan Connolly in this week's edition of Mike Reiss' P.A.T.

The NFL Live crew make their picks for Oakland at New England.

With Ridley, Pats' attack more than passing

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots are preaching balance on offense this week.

Most of the attention is on quarterback Tom Brady and the desire to spread the ball around to skill players other than wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski.

[+] EnlargeStevan Ridley
AP Photo/Jim MoneStevan Ridley had a team-high 101 yards on 25 carries against the Vikings as the Patriots made it a point to establish the running game.
But running back Stevan Ridley brought attention back to a balanced Patriots offense highlighted by a consistent ground attack.

“I just know that when we have a more balanced attack that we are a better offense and that’s what we are striving for this season,” Ridley said. “But, it’s still early in the season. We don’t have all the kinks worked out right now.

“We just have guys that are new in positions and guys that haven’t played a lot. We are just trying to figure it out as a team, but I think it is a group effort and we are working together and I think that they have improved week to week. From Miami to Minnesota, I think they have made a drastic improvement.”

Ridley understands the value of the run game, especially in its ability to chip away at a defense.

“It’s not always going to be there early in a game, eventually a defense is going to wear down and the creases will come,” Ridley said. “So, you can’t really try to go for the home runs early, you have to keep grinding it between the tackles and finding the tough yardage -- giving [the offensive line] some time to figure out the defense that they are playing.

“If that’s what you have to do is take the tough yardage, then eventually you will break it and get some big runs. But until then, be consistent. Be a smart player. And keep the ball out there. The offense will keep moving the chains and keep rolling.”

Ridley, who carried the ball 25 times for 101 yards and a touchdown, credited his performance to the offensive line’s ability to keep attacking the defense.

“It was good that they stuck with me late in the game,” Ridley said. “Really that is the coach’s call. However I get [carries], I just go out there are run hard.

“Over the course of a game you get [the defense] to wear down -- that [Minnesota] defense was tired. And that’s why we have all the big boys up front that we have to see if they can sustain our offensive line over four quarters. And so we felt good about how we were attacking them toward the end and that’s how we kept moving the ball.

“Some days it is going to be through the air. Some days it is going to be on the ground, but it is the defense’s job to figure us out. But as an offense we have to do what we do and as a unit we are going to keep marching the ball down the field game in and game out -- that’s the goal.”

Ridley is looking forward to seeing the progress of the offensive line and the Patriots’ balance on offense. He is also ready to play in front of New England fans in the home opener against his father’s favorite team, the Oakland Raiders.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Ridley said. “Personally, my dad’s old favorite team was the Raiders, but I of course became a Patriot. ... Family is going to be here. It’s going to be an exciting atmosphere to come back to Foxborough and get in the home stadium.”

Don’t worry. Ridley said his father will be wearing a No.22 Patriots jersey on Sunday.

Brady, Patriots not in Spurs-like form

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In a training camp chat with Sirius XM NFL Radio, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady talked about his desire to lead an offense that was like the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA.

"You watch the Spurs this year in the championship, and whoever the ball got kicked out to was going to make the shot," Brady said at the time. "I think that’s what makes an offense. It’s not, 'Throw it to one guy and see if he can create something.' It’s pass, pass, pass, pass, pass until you get your best look and then, boom, that’s when the ball goes in. That’s what we want to be on offense."

Through two games, the Patriots aren't there yet. Not even close.

Brady clearly has a nice rapport going with receiver Julian Edelman, and he also hasn't been shy in feeding tight end Rob Gronkowski. But it's mostly been a struggle after that.

"I think that’s definitely a big part of what we’re trying to do offensively to make us hard to defend is to be able to throw the ball to everybody. And you’re right, those guys have seen a majority of throws, and I’ve got to do a better job finding the other guys because it’s a lot of good routes, they’re big targets, guys are working really hard to get open," Brady said Wednesday.

"So hopefully it shows up this week in our pass game. We’re going to work hard this week to see if we can all be on the same page more often."

Brady has targeted Gronkowski or Edelman on 42 percent of his throws this season, completing 61 percent of those passes. In his 45 targets of all other Patriots pass catchers, Brady has completed 53 percent of his passes.

The numbers are skewed, in part, because of game-plan considerations. For example, the Patriots ran 28 of their 67 offensive snaps against the Vikings with offensive tackle Cameron Fleming as an eligible receiver even though he was always staying in to block, so they essentially took away a capable pass catcher to beef up at the line of scrimmage and focus on the running game.

That also meant fewer three-receiver packages and less time for receiver Danny Amendola (19 snaps), who doesn't seem to have the same connection with Brady as Edelman does.

"I have a lot of trust in Danny," Brady insisted. "He battled through some injuries last year and has had a great spring, great training camp, and he’s been out there quite a bit. It’s my responsibility to get him the ball, and there were a few catches that got [called] back, a few big plays that would extend drives."

Whether it's Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson or Brandon LaFell, Brady knows the current results must improve.

"I don’t think our passing game has been really stellar to this point, so it’s hard to sustain much over the course of the game and get those guys the ball when we’re not doing as good a job as we’re capable of," he said, perhaps considering the club's 10-of-31 success rate on third down (28th in the NFL).

"We’ve got to keep going after it, and guys get more opportunities to get balls, and I need to do a better job finding those guys when they’re open and running the routes that we talk about all week. That’ll go a long way to help us win."

Collins returns to practice; Mayo absent

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins (thigh) returned to the practice field on Wednesday, but another important linebacker was missing.

Jerod Mayo, who played all 68 defensive snaps in Sunday's 30-7 win against the Minnesota Vikings, was not seen during the stretching portion of practice. It is unknown why Mayo was absent from the start of practice, and it is something that we will monitor when the team releases its injury report on Wednesday afternoon.

Collins had missed Friday's practice and did not travel with the team to Minnesota. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard also returned to practice Wednesday after being a surprise scratch on Sunday (left shoulder).

Linebacker Darius Fleming, who is now on the practice squad, was back to wearing his No. 58 jersey. New practice squad members Caylin Hauptmann and Kona Schwenke were at practice. Hauptmann was wearing No. 68 and Schwenke had on a No. 97 jersey.

There was also a player wearing a No. 41 jersey.

The Patriots give black jerseys to the practice players of the week, which signify the players who best prepared the team leading up to a victory as determined by the coaching staff. Tight end Tim Wright, wide receiver Josh Boyce, running back Jonas Gray, defensive lineman Joe Vellano and linebacker Ja'Gared Davis all wore black jerseys Wednesday.

Why did Tom Brady wear a glove?

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the things we wanted to follow up on with quarterback Tom Brady, after reviewing the tape of Sunday's win over the Vikings, was why he wore a glove on his non-throwing hand after not doing so in the season-opener.

As noted Monday:
It's probably not a big deal -- quarterbacks sometimes wear gloves on both hands to help with grip, and perhaps the weather had something to do with it -- but any time a player who focuses on fine details as much as Brady changes routine it's more than just a passing note.

So Brady was asked the question at his weekly news conference (we took some friendly ribbing from fellow reporters afterward) and this was the response:

"It was pretty dry up there in Minnesota. It was nice and humid and sticky down there [in Miami]. So it helps your grip. Quarterbacks like sticky footballs, nice and grippy. You don't really get that in the winter months here, so that's why you see the glove a little more often."

Game-time temperature Sunday in Minnesota was 58 degrees.

Game-time temperature in the season-opener in South Florida was 89 degrees with 61 percent humidity.

And that's today's glove story. Carry on.

Belichick touches on Raiders ... and T-Birds

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick covered everything from the Oakland Raiders to the T-Birds, his middle school football team, during his Wednesday press conference.

Experienced Raiders team: Belichick knows the Raiders, who are the NFL’s second-oldest team as it relates to opening-day rosters, have a valuable asset: experience. “A lot of familiar faces, but guys we are used to seeing in different uniforms,” Belichick said. “The thing that jumps out about the Raiders is how experienced they are -- how many veteran players they have.”

Raiders are "where we were a week ago:" The Raiders are 0-2 after a rough 30-14 loss at home to the Houston Texans, but Belichick is not looking past them. “With the leadership they have out there with the veterans on this team, guys that are used to winning, guys that they brought in that have been in all those playoff games, Super Bowls, I mean, look, this is where we were a week ago,” Belichick said. “This is the same thing we heard in here last Wednesday after the Miami game. I’m sure the way they feel after the Houston game is the same way we felt after the Miami game. Last week doesn’t mean anything in the NFL, it’s what happens this week. That’s all we can focus on is what we need to do to get ready for this game.”

A different coverage look: Unlike the Patriots' previous two opponents, the Raiders like to play close to the line of scrimmage, especially against wide receivers. “Play more man-to-man, more press coverage,” Belichick said when asked about how the Raiders’ defense is different from others. “They mix their mans and their zones and they make some pressure in there. ... I’d say more man-to-man than we have seen in the last couple weeks.”

Like the Raiders of many years ago: The dominant Raiders teams that played in the 1970s and 1980s were known for size and speed. Belichick said the 2014 Raiders return to the historical look of the franchise. “I think that this team looks like the big, fast team that the Raiders have been known for,” Belichick said. “They are big at every position -- their line is big, the receivers are big, the backs are big, defensive line is big, secondary is big, kicker is big. I don’t how many guys they have under 4.45, but it has to be a dozen, maybe more than that. They are fast at linebacker. DBs are all fast, even the safeties are fast.”

Reece, the matchup dilemma: It’s rare that fullbacks receive a lot of attention, but in the case of Raiders fullback Marcel Reece, his versatility has caught Belichick’s eye. Belichick called Reece, who is a former wide receiver turned fullback, a “matchup player,” meaning it’s difficult to find the right way to contain a player with his skills. “You put a big guy on him, he’s probably going to have a hard time matching up with Reece’s speed and quickness,” Belichick said. “Put a smaller guy on him, he might match up with his speed and quickness, but it would be hard to match up with his size. I’d say that’s a dilemma. Who do you have that has the same skill set as Reece?“

Professor Belichick: The press conference ended with Belichick giving a 10-minute crash course on unbalanced lines, the single-wing formation and his eighth-grade football days for the T-Birds in Annapolis. It was as though Belichick was reciting chapters from a book like his dad, Steve Belichick’s “Football Scouting Methods.”

Chandler Jones earns AFC defensive honor

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after turning in one of the best games in his three-year career on Sunday against the Vikings.

Jones finished with eight tackles and two sacks in the 30-7 win, and added a blocked field goal that he scooped up and raced 58 yards for a touchdown.

Technically, the blocked field goal doesn't factor in to Jones' defensive honor, but it was reflective of his overall excellent day of work, as he gave Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil fits.

One of the key factors for Jones' explosion was returning to more of an end-of-the-line role after playing mostly 3-4 defensive end in the season opener.
New England Patriots reporter Mike Reiss talks about the minimal impact tight end Rob Gronkowski had in the victory against Minnesota and what to expect with his progress.

Don Jones & Patriots special teams

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
When the New England Patriots claimed Don Jones on waivers from the Dolphins prior to the season-opener between the teams, some viewed it as an intelligence-gathering move. But two weeks later, it now seems clear that the Patriots' intentions weren't intelligence-based as much as performance-related.

Coaches have credited Jones with three special teams tackles, which ties for the team lead with safety Nate Ebner through two games.

Jones was part of all four core special teams units in Sunday's win over the Vikings, playing on the punt team (gunner), kickoff coverage, kickoff return and punt return unit.

Here is a look at which Patriots players factored in most on those units, which helps provide a feel for the value certain players have on the 46-man game-day roster:

Four units
S Nate Ebner
LB Chris White
S Don Jones
LB Deontae Skinner
WR Matthew Slater
S Tavon Wilson

Three units
RB Brandon Bolden

Two units
S Patrick Chung
FB James Develin
CB Logan Ryan

One unit
CB Kyle Arrington
OL Marcus Cannon (wedge)
WR Julian Edelman
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (wedge)
WR Brandon LaFell
S Devin McCourty
DE Rob Ninkovich
TE Tim Wright

Catching up with former Patriots, Week 2

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
Every Wednesday, we'll lead off the day with a look at some notable former Patriots and their production. This is who we will be following at the start of the season.

LB Brandon Spikes (Bills) --Played in just 15 of 79 defensive snaps in a home win over the Dolphins and was credited with an assisted tackle. Has now played in 67 of 153 defensive snaps and has seven tackles and one quarterback sack.

TE Matthew Mulligan (Bears) -- Started, played 11 of 60 snaps, but didn't register on the stat sheet in a road win over the 49ers, then was released on Tuesday. He played in 25 of a possible 134 snaps over two games.

RB LeGarrette Blount (Steelers) --Had three carries for 8 yards in a road loss to the Ravens, as he played in eight of 59 offensive snaps. He now has seven carries for 15 yards on the season.

QB Brian Hoyer (Browns) -- Directed a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter as the Browns upset the visiting Saints; he finished 24-of-40 for 204 yards, with one touchdown and no interception to improve to 1-1 on the year.

CB Aqib Talib (Broncos) --Played 83 of 86 defensive snaps in a home win over the Chiefs, and totaled two tackles and one passes defended. He has played 155 of 160 defensive snaps on the season, with four passes defended and six tackles.

WR Wes Welker (Broncos) -- Veteran receiver is suspended for the first four games for using amphetamines, but would be reinstated if a new drug policy is reached, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter and Chris Mortsensen.

G Logan Mankins (Buccaneers) -- Started at left guard and played all 57 offensive snaps in a home loss to the Rams, after being limited to 10 snaps before leaving with a knee injury in the season-opener.

LB Dane Fletcher (Buccaneers) -- Played 36 snaps on defense in a home loss to the Rams after not playing on D in the season opener. He finished with two tackles and a forced fumble, while adding a special-teams tackle in his nine snaps in that area.

DL Tommy Kelly (Cardinals) -- Started and played 54 of 72 defensive snaps in a road win over the Giants, totaling three tackles and a pass defended. Has now played 101 of 133 defensive snaps over two games.

RB Danny Woodhead (Chargers) -- Is active with eight carries for 32 yards and four receptions for 28 yards in a home win over the Seahawks, playing 38 of 82 offensive snaps. He has now played in 67 of 143 offensive snaps, and has 14 carries for 37 yards and five catches for 34 yards.

QB Ryan Mallett (Texans) -- Donning the same No. 15 jersey he had in New England, he served as the No. 2 quarterback behind Ryan Fitzpatrick in a road win over Oakland and came on late in the fourth quarter of a blowout and handed off three times and took a knee.

LB Jeff Tarpinian (Texans) -- Played 18 snaps on defense and another 16 on special teams in a road win over the Raiders. He didn't register on the stat sheet.

QB Matt Cassel (Vikings) -- Finished 19 of 36 for 202 yards, with one touchdown and four interceptions in a 30-7 home loss to the Patriots. Is now 1-1 as the Vikings' starter (36 of 61 for 372 yards, with 3 TDs, 4 INTs on season).

WR Greg Salas (Jets) -- Played 21 of 70 offensive snaps in a road loss to the Packers and didn't register on the stat sheet. He has played in 31 of 140 offensive snaps on the season and has one catch for 12 yards.

TE Zach Sudfeld (Jets) -- Played seven of 70 offensive snaps in a loss to the Packers and didn't register on the stat sheet. Has now played in 14 of 140 offensive snaps on the season.

TE Daniel Fells (Giants) -- Came on as a reserve and played 20 of 72 offensive snaps and finishing with one reception -- a 1-yard touchdown grab. He has played Played 33 of 132 offensive snaps.

TE Benjamin Watson (Saints) -- Totaled one catch for 4 yards in a road loss to the Browns, playing 34 of 70 offensive snaps. He has now played 62 of 145 offensive snaps, and has two receptions for 4 yards on the season.

CB Darius Butler (Colts) -- Started in a home loss to the Eagles and played 63 of 68 defensive snaps. He finished with five tackles and two passes defended. He has played 103 of 143 defensive snaps and has nine tackles and three passes defended on he year.

(Anyone else you'd like to add to the list? Send a suggestion via Twitter to @MikeReiss).

Following up on Patriots' offensive line

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
One follow-up from the New England Patriots' 30-7 win over the Vikings on Sunday was how the team changed course with its offensive line plans.

After rotating center Ryan Wendell into the mix as a No. 6 option during the season-opener, the Patriots went with the same five linemen for the first nine drives of the game. Then, with the game in hand, the Patriots used it as an opportunity to get younger linemen Bryan Stork (center) and Josh Kline (left guard) some action.

Here are how the snaps broke down (including penalties):

LT Nate Solder -- 67 of 67
RT Sebastian Vollmer -- 67 of 67
RG Jordan Devey -- 67 of 67
LG Marcus Cannon -- 58 of 67
C Dan Connolly -- 55 of 67
C Bryan Stork -- 12 of 67
LG Josh Kline -- 9 of 67

These numbers don't include rookie Cameron Fleming, who was on for 28 snaps as a tight end. As for Wendell, he was inactive with a knee injury.

Patriots lose Quarles off practice squad

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
The New England Patriots lost defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles off their practice squad Tuesday as he was signed to the Indianapolis Colts' 53-man roster.

Presumably, the Patriots had a chance to promote Quarles themselves but elected not to, perhaps deferring to other roster needs.

The Patriots had claimed Quarles on waivers from the New York Giants at the end of the preseason. Part of the interest in Quarles was based on the fine performance he turned in against the Patriots in the preseason finale. New England waived him a few days later and signed him back to the practice squad.

We put together a film study on Quarles at the time, as he looked like a prospect with some of the traits the Patriots generally like -- good size, strength and a solid work ethic.

With Quarles now in Indianapolis, and defensive lineman Bruce Gaston in Miami (inactive for the first two games), the two bigger defensive linemen the Patriots claimed at the end of the preseason have found more permanent homes elsewhere.

Hernandez says he felt 'helpless'

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16

FALL RIVER, Mass. -- Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez says in a court filing that he felt helpless and concerned about his fiancee and their baby when police investigating a 2013 killing questioned him during a search at his home.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder in the June 2013 shooting of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd.

His affidavit released Tuesday is part of a motion to suppress evidence related to his cellphone, which he told police how to access.

Hernandez said: "I felt helpless in the face of the occupation of my house by the police." He said he was concerned about what would happen to his fiancee and baby if he didn't answer police questions during the search, for which they had a warrant.

Hernandez's lawyers say he should have been given a Miranda warning.

(Read full post)