FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones has a hip injury that will sideline him for "about a month," according to a Boston Globe report. This cuts deep for the Patriots, as Jones is a three-down defender who seldom comes off the field.
Some key points with this situation:
Injury appeared to come in second quarter versus Jets: Jones played all but three snaps in Thursday's win over the Jets, but appeared to injure the hip with 10:02 remaining in the second quarter when he chased quarterback Geno Smith, who scrambled around right end for a 7-yard gain on third-and-5. Jones came out of the game for two plays after that, and he was seen stretching out his hip at times on the sideline for the remainder of the game.
Team previously showed replacement plan: Jones is the team's best pass-rusher, most often lining up at right defensive end and rushing against the opponent's left tackle. When the Patriots played Jones in a limited role Oct. 5 against the Bengals, using him only in sub situations after he had injured his right shoulder the week before, rookie Dominique Easley started in his place. Easley ended up hurting his shoulder in that game, but he's healthy again and is viewed as one of the top candidates to fill in at that spot. At 6-foot-2 and 288 pounds, Easley doesn't have the same length as the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Jones, as his ideal role is more as an interior penetrator. But Easley, in limited work on the edge this year, has set a hard edge in the running game at times.
Depth was already taxed: Second-year player Michael Buchanan would have been another candidate to help step in, but he was placed on season-ending injured reserve Oct. 6. The 2013 seventh-round draft choice had filled in for Easley in the Bengals game when Easley left with the shoulder injury. This has bumped rookie Zach Moore (sixth round, Concordia) into Buchanan's spot, with the defensive end depth chart looking like this: Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Easley and Moore.
Ayers acquisition timely: In acquiring Tennessee Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers (pending a physical), the fourth-year veteran also projects to Jones' spot as an end-of-the-line player.
Practice squad considerations: The Patriots also have Darius Fleming (6-2, 255) and Jake Bequette (6-5, 265) on the practice squad as possibilities.
Jones, the Patriots' top pass rusher who was absent from practice on Tuesday, played 84 of 87 defensive snaps in Thursday night's 27-25 win over the New York Jets.
Throughout the season, Jones has dealt with a shoulder injury that has kept him on the team's injury report.
Patriots won't have an easy task in replacing Jones, who has made numerous key plays including a blocked field goal that he returned for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings.
On the season, Jones has 4.5 sacks and 21 total tackles as well as a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Jones also has been the main defensive end opposite Rob Ninkovich as Jones has played 414 of 478 defensive snaps this season (86.6 percent).
Rookie defensive lineman Dominique Easley, the Patriots' top pick from the 2014 draft who has battled shoulder and knee injuries this season, projects as a potential fill-in for Jones.
Another player on the roster who could see increased time in Jones' absence is rookie defensive end Zach Moore, a sixth-round pick out of Concordia- St. Paul. Moore is considered a long-term project player with high upside.
Ayers' knee injuries. Ayers underwent surgery on both knees this offseason to repair his patellar tendons. John Glennon of the Tennessean had detailed those surgeries in a June article, and that is important background when considering the deal is pending a physical.
Where Ayers possibly fits. One NFL executive projected Ayers to a strong-side linebacker role in New England. If Ayers emerges in a front-line role, which isn't a given, it could provide more flexibility to move Dont'a Hightower to the middle to help fill the void created by Jerod Mayo's season-ending right knee injury. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Ayers has experience playing both on and off the line of scrimmage and had been used as a designated pass-rusher at times in the NFL and at UCLA. Such athleticism and versatility is often appealing to Bill Belichick. As for why the Titans are moving on, Ayers was buried on the depth chart and might have gotten caught up in a scheme change with a new coaching staff.
Addresses area of limited depth. The Patriots were thin at linebacker before Mayo was lost for the season, and this move adds a more experienced option to the mix as he appeared in all 16 regular-season games in each of his first three seasons in the NFL (43 starts). After top on-the-line players Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich and off-the-line players Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, the Patriots had very little experience. Ayers changes that, with the Patriots hoping a change of scenery brings out the best in the 2011 second-round pick who had fallen out of favor in Tennessee and is in the last year of his contract.
Bruschi has put together his own formula on how best to measure defense, and it goes back to five core principles he was taught as a player:
- Don't let them score (points per game; only on offensive plays from scrimmage)
- Take the ball away (the importance of turnovers)
- Get off the field (third-down conversion rate)
- Situational defense (red-area efficiency)
- Disrupting the franchise QB (sacks)
By rating each NFL team in these categories, it produces a league-wide defensive index that purposely overlooks yards allowed as a measure to gauge the effectiveness of a defense. Why no yards? With more spread offenses and prolific passing attacks in today's NFL, Bruschi views yardage rankings as overrated because many teams have the ability to go from 20-yard line to 20-yard line on a regular basis.
Thus, Bruschi's "defensive index" places a heavier emphasis on the growing importance of "situational" football.
Through seven weeks it's notable to see the Detroit Lions at No. 1 and the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks at No. 32.
The deal is pending a physical, the source said.
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Ayers has been inactive for five of the Titans' seven games this season.
The Titans liked the idea of getting bigger when they drafted him in the second round out of UCLA in 2011. In the 4-3 defense run by the previous coaching staff, he was an outside linebacker the team constantly talked of using as a pass-rushing end.
He seemed likely to be a better fit for the 3-4 defense installed by Ray Horton, who changed the defensive front after he was hired by Ken Whisenhunt. But Ayers ranked behind Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley and Shaun Phillips coming out of camp. The team added Quentin Groves on Sept. 1, and he also got work ahead of Ayers.
The Patriots lost linebacker Jerod Mayo to a season-ending knee injury in Week 6.
A reporter asked Vereen if Brock had ever landed any football hits on him.
“I have not been hit by my brother,” Vereen said. “Not in pads.
“I definitely think he is looking forward to [hitting me]," he said. "So am I.”
The Vereens' family and friends will be piling in to Gillette Stadium on Sunday to watch the brothers play.
“Yeah [my parents] are coming,” Vereen said. “There is going to be a lot of family here.”
When asked about whether his family would be wearing Patriots or Bears’ colors, Vereen laughed.
“Yeah, last time I spoke to my mother she said she was wearing neutral,” Vereen said. “She would be wearing no colors. But we will see, I think that’s going to change.”
One reporter joked that Vereen wouldn’t let his mother receive the ticket if she was wearing the Bears’ colors. Vereen said “we will see, she might switch it up on me.”
As the Patriots' lead running back after the season-ending injury to Stevan Ridley, Vereen is likely to receive a large sum of carries and offensive snaps Sunday, as he played 48 of 60 snaps in Thursday night’s win over the Jets. With Shane’s increased workload, Brock will have more than enough opportunities to get his first hit and then some on big brother Shane.
While Shane is looking forward his first game against his brother, he is focused on the offense improving, especially on the ground, after the team struggled against the Jets. The Patriots were beat out in time of possession as the Jets controlled the football for 40:54 -- with the Pats at just 19:06.
“I think that as an offense we would like to have more control of the football,” Vereen said. “A lot of that comes into the run game, which we are going to have to do a very good job with this week.
“The Bears have a good defense and we are going to have to hold onto the ball offensively and give our defense more of a spell.”
BOSTON -- Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez remains on track for a May trial on two murder charges.
His lawyers and prosecutors agreed Tuesday to another pre-trial hearing on Nov. 25 during a brief court appearance in Suffolk Superior Court.
The lawyers largely talked privately with Judge Jeffrey Locke at the bench, out of hearing range from the courtroom audience.
Hernandez, who did not attend the hearing, is charged in the 2012 killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.
Prosecutors say Hernandez shot the two men after one of them accidentally spilled a drink on him in a Boston nightclub.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty in those killings and in the 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player whose body was found in an industrial park about a mile from Hernandez's North Attleborough home.
Lloyd had been dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee. That trial is scheduled for January in Fall River.
In the Boston case, prosecutors say Hernandez and a friend followed the two men in their car after the chance encounter at the nightclub. They said Hernandez fired at least five shots into the car while it was stopped at a red light, killing the two men and injuring a third.
The men were killed about six weeks before Hernandez signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Patriots. He was not indicted until May 2014.
Prosecutors said that in the months leading up to the shooting, Hernandez had become increasingly convinced that people had been disrespecting him when he went to nightclubs.
Hernandez was released by the Patriots after he was charged in Lloyd's June 2013 killing.
Jones, who has been dealing with a right shoulder injury, played in 84 of 87 defensive snaps for the Patriots in their win over the Jets on Thursday night. Meanwhile, Revis showed no signs of an injury during the win against his former team and talked with media after the game.
With an extra practice this week, it's possible the Patriots are giving Jones and Revis an additional day of rest.
Meanwhile, the club received a boost on the health front with the return of three players on the offensive line. Starting left guard Dan Connolly (concussion), rookie center Bryan Stork (concussion) and rookie offensive lineman Cameron Fleming (finger) were participating in practice.
Fleming has missed the past three games, Stork the past two, and Connolly the win over the Jets.
Fleming seemed to have a larger black brace/cast on his right hand.
Also, core special-teamer and safety Nate Ebner (finger) returned to practice after missing the past three games. Ebner was wearing a black cast on his right hand that covered his thumb.
Practice squad wide receiver Josh Boyce was wearing a black practice jersey, signifying that he was a practice player of the week in the preparations for the win over the Jets.
Players were wearing sweats and shells.
1. The Patriots preparing for the toughest part of their schedule.
2. Concerns with the defense and its ability to shut down top teams, including tight ends.
3. Formulating a defensive plan with Matt Forte and the Bears in mind.
4. First-year running back Jonas Gray and shades of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, circa 2008.
5. Thoughts on Ryan Wendell, Patrick Chung and Kyle Arrington, among others.
6. Will lack of depth at linebacker hurt the Patriots?
With the Chicago Bears coming to town, it's a good week to highlight the importance of turnovers because the Bears give the ball up almost as much as any team in the NFL. Only the Jaguars (15), Redskins (15) and Eagles (14) have more giveaways than the Bears' 13.
Meanwhile, the Patriots' 14 takeaways are tied for most in the NFL.
So given the Patriots' success in this area, why is this falling into the "must fix" category this week?
Because New England is coming off its second game of the season without producing a turnover, and we saw what a struggle it was against the New York Jets, with the Pats fortunate to escape with a 27-25 victory. The other game in which the Patriots didn't have a takeaway was their Sept. 29 blowout loss in Kansas City.
Also consider this Bears stat: Since quarterback Jay Cutler joined Chicago, the team is 21-5 in games in which he starts and does not throw an interception. When he throws multiple interceptions (as he has done three times this season), the Bears are 4-18.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots are 5-2, have a 2-1 record in division play and are right there with the leaders in the AFC. Yet it doesn't necessarily feel that way when reading many of the questions submitted to the weekly mailbag. Concerns are aplenty after the team's fortunate escape Thursday against the Jets. Let's dive right into it:
Q. Mike, Jay Cutler, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers. These are the quarterbacks the Patriots defense has to face over their next six games. Given how the season has unfolded so far, can you think of a much tougher seven-week grind (thank goodness for the bye!)? If the Patriots go 3-3 in these games, will that be considered lucky? Thanks! -- Tim (Chicago)
Patriots broadcast pairings
at Dolphins: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Evan Washburn (CBS)
at Vikings: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Jenny Dell (CBS)
vs. Raiders: Gumbel, Green, Washburn (CBS)
at Chiefs: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters (ESPN)
vs. Bengals: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (NBC)
at Bills: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa (Fox)
vs. Jets: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson (CBS)
vs. Bears: Rosen, Lynch, Oliver (Fox)
Leftover, Part I, from the Patriots-Jets broadcast, via Simms (on Jonas Gray and the running backs): "I saw exactly what I thought I might see -- a guy that is powerfully built and runs hard and is looking for contact. They believe in that committee [at running back] -- have a role, fit into it, and do it well."
Leftover, Part II, from the Patriots-Jets broadcast, via Nantz (on receiver Brandon LaFell): "Brady had a lot of praise for Brandon LaFell. He told us he's been quite a find, like a freight train. 'We have to get him the ball more often.'"
If you answered Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, well done.
Forte's 52 receptions top the charts, and his 448 rushing yards rank fifth in the league. So when starting the process of becoming familiar with the Bears leading into Sunday's game against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, the 6-foot-2, 218-pound Forte is a good place to start. He entered the NFL as Chicago's second-round draft choice in 2008 out of Tulane.
The Bears are coming off an uninspiring 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field on Sunday, which dropped them to 0-3 at home this year and reportedly created some behind-the-scenes fireworks in the locker room. They are, however, 3-1 on the road.
For more on the Bears, below is our weekly primer.
Head coach: Marc Trestman (2nd year)
Offensive coordinator: Aaron Kromer
Defensive coordinator: Mel Tucker
Special teams: Joe DeCamillis
General manager: Phil Emery
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, OFFENSE
1. QB Jay Cutler. The strong-armed 31-year-old is now in his sixth season with the Bears (ninth in the NFL) and he's capable of looking like one of the NFL's best passers one week, and then one of its worst the next. His ball security was not up to an acceptable standard on a costly fourth-quarter strip sack in Sunday's loss to Miami, and he also fired an errant second-quarter interception. He's thrown 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season.
2. WRs Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Marshall and the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Jeffery represent one of the biggest 1-2 receiving tandems in the NFL, and the Bears will throw some jump balls to them to give them a chance to box out defenders. While their size can be an effective weapon, it should also be noted that Miami's smaller cornerbacks -- Cortland Finnegan (5-10, 190) and Brent Grimes (5-10, 190) -- had success against them on Sunday.
3. G Kyle Long. A first-round draft choice out of Oregon in 2013, the 6-foot-6, 313-pound Long has started every game since joining the Bears. A right guard, he plays with an edge similar to his father, former Raiders defensive lineman Howie Long.
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, DEFENSE
1. DEs Jared Allen, Willie Young. The 32-year-old Allen, the longtime Viking in his first year with Chicago, has 1.5 sacks on the season and looks like he's slowed down a bit. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Young signed with the Bears this year after four years with the Lions, and has already totaled a career-high seven sacks (tied for second in the NFL). He'll also drop into coverage, like he did against Miami in almost intercepting a second-half pass.
2. DT Jeremiah Ratliff. The 33-year-old former Dallas Cowboy showed he still has something left in the tank with a 3.5-sack performance against Miami on Sunday. At 6-foot-4 and 303 pounds, he can create penetration up the middle.
3. S Brock Vereen. A 2014 fourth-round pick out of Minnesota, he is the brother of Patriots running back Shane Vereen and is coming off his first career NFL start Sunday against Miami. The Vereen brothers have been envisioning this type of matchup for some time.
EXTRA POINTS: With 13 giveaways, only three teams have more than the Bears. ... Tight end Martellus Bennett was described by Bill Belichick as a big receiver. His 41 catches rank second on the team. ... Santonio Holmes is the primary punt returner. ... Rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller, the team's first-round pick out of Virginia Tech and a starter, sustained a fracture in his right hand Sunday against Miami. His status is uncertain for the Patriots' game. ... Kicker Robbie Gould broke into the NFL with the Patriots in 2005 as an undrafted free agent out of Penn State; the Patriots had the position in good hands (or feet, in this case) with Adam Vinatieri at the time. ... Jeremy Cain, who played at the University of Massachusetts, is the Bears' long snapper. ... Seven-year veteran defensive end Trevor Scott, who played 14 games (2 starts) for the Patriots in 2012 and finished with three sacks, is in his first season with the Bears. ... Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com's NFL Nation and Jeff Dickerson have the Bears blanketed.