New England Patriots: Jarvis Green
The Broncos, under former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, run a Patriots-like system so it's little surprise that Green is attractive to them.
The Broncos have focused on the defensive line early in free agency, already agreeing to a deal with Baltimore's Justin Bannan. They also visited with Baltimore's Dwan Edwards, although he left without an agreement. San Diego nose tackle Jamal Williams is also reportedly visiting Denver.
With rookie receiver Julian Edelman the third quarterback, if he plays before the fourth quarter that would mean that Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer – the top two quarterbacks – are ineligible to play. So it will be a limited role for Edelman (forearm injury) tonight.
Meanwhile, running back Sammy Morris is active for the first time since injuring his knee Oct. 18 and defensive lineman Jarvis Green is active for the first time since undergoing knee surgery during the bye week. That should help the Patriots in the run game -- offensively and defensively.
A couple of more points of analysis from the Patriots’ inactive players:
1) Linebacker Junior Seau, whose pre-game speeches have motivated players in recent weeks, is inactive for the first time since signing with the team. That thrusts Eric Alexander one notch up the depth chart behind Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton at inside linebacker.
2) With defensive backs Kyle Arrington and Shawn Springs inactive, the Patriots have Jonathan Wilhite, Leigh Bodden, Darius Butler and Terrence Wheatley as their top corners. Wheatley gets the nod over Springs because of his special teams contributions (e.g. kickoff returns).
As mentioned in an earlier post, the Saints are without starting cornerbacks Jabari Greer (groin) and Tracy Porter (knee), which is a major development against the Patriots' 1-2 combination of Randy Moss and Wes Welker.
Former Patriot Randall Gay and rookie Malcolm Jenkins are expected to start.
The Patriots figured to spread the field and test the Saints' depth at corner regardless, but this could lead them even more so in that direction.
And one that's been a long time coming, no less.
The Patriots haven't played in New Orleans since their 20-17 triumph over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI on Feb. 3, 2002. They haven't played the Saints since Nov. 20, 2005, a game played in Foxborough. The Patriots last met the Saints at the Superdome on Oct. 4, 1998.
Both Faulk (drafted the year after that last regular-season visit to New Orleans) and Green (drafted the year after the Super Bowl victory) expressed excitement in returning home, but admit their cell phones haven't stopped buzzing with family and friends looking for tickets.
"Whoever's doing the schedule, I must tell them thank you," Faulk said with a smile. "That's just a joke, that's all. No, that's something that goes on, we can't control it, so why complain about it?"
Sidelined after undergoing knee surgery in late October, Green said it would be nice to return to the field in his home state, but that he's not looking that far ahead yet.
"I've got to see how I practice first," said Green, who had a purple and yellow LSU sweatshirt hanging in his locker. "It would be good, but let's just see how things go. One day at a time."
While joking the Patriots' visit to the Big Easy happens to come the year the Saints are 10-0, both players said the team's success is great for the community, particularly as the area continues to rebound from Hurricane Katrina.
"It's good for the whole state, just to see them coming along as a team. The state has been looking for this for a while," said Faulk. "You can tell by the fans, the backing they have and the sold-out game. That's how fans feel about [the Saints]. They've always had good fans, they just didn't have enough to cheer about."
Added Green: "It's good after what they went through a few years ago. It's something special down there. Like anything else, the city supports each other. It's huge for the city, it keeps them stronger."
1. Starting right guard Stephen Neal (head) is out, with four-year veteran Dan Connolly the projected fill-in. Rookie Rich Ohrnberger is active for the first time and he is the top backup at center/guard.
2. Left tackle Matt Light (knee) is inactive, meaning that rookie Sebastian Vollmer is slated to start for the fifth straight game. Mark LeVoir is once again the swing tackle.
3. While defensive end Jarvis Green (knee) is out, fellow defensive end Ty Warren (ankle) will play after missing last Sunday’s game. Mike Wright projects to start in Green’s place, with rookies Myron Pryor and Ron Brace the next linemen on the depth chart. Strong line play figures to be crucial against the physical Jets and their No. 1-rated rushing attack.
4. Running back Sammy Morris (knee) is out, so that leaves just three rushers -– Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Maroney projects to be the lead back.
5. With receiver and special teams captain Sam Aiken (hip) inactive, the Patriots figure to lean more on Isaiah Stanback and Julian Edelman as a No. 3 receiver, while rookie Pat Chung projects to take over some of Aiken’s special teams duties.
6. Linebacker Rob Ninkovich (knee) is out, so the Patriots lose a backup sub rusher and special teams player. Eric Alexander (groin) is back in the lineup to help fill that void.
7. Cornerback Shawn Springs is out for the second straight week. This seems tied in part to the team calling on Kyle Arrington (four special teams tackles the last two games) and Terrence Wheatley (kickoff returns) on special teams.
8. Outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain (rib, groin) is active for the game. He is the Patriots' best pass rusher.
Jarvis Green on his return to practice. Defensive end Jarvis Green was hurrying out of the locker room to get a haircut, but stopped briefly to discuss his return to practice for the first time since undergoing knee surgery over the team’s bye week. “That was no dog and pony show,” he said, hopeful that he will be able to suit up Sunday. In addition to Green, outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain expressed similar optimism on his potential availability after suiting up for parts of practice Friday.
Moss hears Revis chatter. Veteran receiver Randy Moss responded to Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, telling Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald: “I don’t feed into talking and all that crazy stuff. I’m a 12-year vet. So that stuff don’t bother me. My biggest thing is, when you talk like that, you better back it up. So, we’ll see. We’ll see what goes down."
Best practice squad in 10 years. Asked a question about the team’s practice squad by Andy Hart of Patriots Football Weekly, coach Bill Belichick took the opportunity to praise his personnel men, Nick Caserio (director of player personnel), Jason Licht (director of pro personnel) and Jon Robinson (director of college scouting). He called the practice squad probably the best group he’s had in his 10-year tenure as coach. He also pointed out rookie free agent Brian Hoyer, late-round draft picks like Julian Edelman, and free agent Rob Ninkovich as examples of how the personnel staff has done a good job finding players this year.
Maroney compares running backs to “Voltron” cartoon. Drawing a large media crowd at his locker, running back Laurence Maroney talked about the team’s running back corps returning to full health. He compared the situation to Voltron, the cartoon character in which five pieces connect together to form one large robot. Sammy Morris went through a full week of practice for the first time since injuring his knee Oct. 18, and Fred Taylor is apparently making progress in his recovery from ankle surgery on Oct. 8.
Neal was knocked out of last Sunday's loss to the Colts with a head injury. He has not taken part in any practices since.
If Neal can not play Sunday against the Jets, his starting right guard spot would most likely be filled by four-year veteran Dan Connolly. It also would likely result in rookie Rich Ohrnberger -- a center/guard -- being active for the first time this season as the top interior backup.
The Jets blitz more than any team in the NFL, so pass protection and overall rhythm in the passing game will be key for the Patriots. Neal's status ties into that, and will be something to monitor leading up to kickoff.
Linebacker Rob Ninkovich (sprained knee) and running back Fred Taylor (right ankle) were the other players not spotted at the media-access portion of Friday's practice. With defensive lineman Jarvis Green at practice for the first time since undergoing knee surgery during the team's bye week, it is a sign that he is close to a return. Outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain (rib, groin) was also on the field for the first time since being knocked out of Sunday's loss to the Colts.
1) Without Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour, many questions have been asked about filling a leadership void on defense. This was the adversity-filled week to find out, and second-year linebacker Jerod Mayo officially declared that a big part of the torch has been passed his way with his strong remarks Thursday.
2) After playing all but two plays in a sub package against the Colts, this week's game should feature more of a return to the base 3-4 alignment against the Jets' No. 1 ranked rushing offense. The outside linebacker spot opposite Adalius Thomas will be important to watch. If Tully Canta-Cain isn't healthy enough to play, it could thrust Pierre Woods back into the lineup. Woods hasn't played on defense in the last three games.
3) The Patriots need to be more efficient in the red zone, but their 25th ranking in that area is a bit misleading when considering the Buccaneers are the NFL's top red-zone offense. Would you rather be the Buccaneers (12 TDs in 17 trips) or the Patriots (18 TDs in 40 trips)?
4) With Jarvis Green (knee) unlikely to play and Ty Warren with a nagging ankle injury, and with the physical Jets running game to stop, this could be the week the Patriots call on rookie Ron Brace more along the defensive line. Brace saw his first action since Week 2 when he was on the field for the final two goal-line plays Sunday in Indianapolis.
5) Nine games into the season, the Patriots have already had five different players as a primary kickoff returner because of injuries: Laurence Maroney, Julian Edelman, Kevin Faulk, Brandon Tate and Matthew Slater. That hasn't helped them in the field-position game. The team's average drive start is the 24.9 yard line -- 13th in the AFC and 22nd in the NFL.
In addition to Warren, receiver Sam Aiken also increased his workload. After not practicing Wednesday because of a hip injury, he took part in limited team drills Thursday.
Did Not Practice:
OLB Tully Banta-Cain (groin/rib)
DE Jarvis Green (knee)
G Stephen Neal (head)
LB Rob Ninkovich (knee)
RB Fred Taylor (ankle)
WR Sam Aiken (hip)
LB Eric Alexander (groin)
TE Chris Baker (shoulder)
NT Ron Brace (ankle)
WR Julian Edelman (forearm)
C Dan Koppen (knee)
LT Matt Light (knee)
RB Sammy Morris (knee)
DE Ty Warren (ankle)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)
CB Shawn Springs (knee)
TE Benjamin Watson (back)
LB Gary Guyton (illness) and WR Randy Moss (not injury related) were removed from the participation report.
On the Jets' side, LB Vernon Gholston (hamstring) and S Jim Leonhard (thumb) did not participate for the second day in a row, DE Shaun Ellis and WR Brad Smith (quad) were limited for the second straight day, and LB Bryan Thomas (toe) once again had full participation. Long snapper James Dearth (not injury related) was removed from the report.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Is Vince Wilfork playing the best football of his career?
That was one of the questions posed to the Patriots defensive lineman, one week after he shifted to defensive end for the first time since his rookie season and helped the Patriots topple the Dolphins 27-17.
"My thing is, I just do what I can do to help my teammates," said Wilfork, who has 22 tackles in seven games this season. "If that's getting better each week, I try. Lord knows I try my best. What I put out there on the field, I want my teammates to feed off that. I lead by example. I'm not a big talker. My work speaks for itself."
Wilfork said coach Bill Belichick approached him during the week about making the move outside. He enjoyed the challenge of being matched up against Dolphins tackle Jake Long.
"Getting back to my roots, the last time I was out there was probably my rookie year," Wilfork said. "It's a little different out there. We got through it and we'll move on from there."
The Patriots didn't just get through it; they thrived in limiting the Dolphins and their Wildcat offense to 109 yards rushing, nearly half of which came out of a surprise option attack with backup quarterback Pat White (6 carries, 45 yards).
"There're some things I wish I could take back -- a couple tackles, I wish I had them back," Wilfork said. "I just try to work hard every day, try to be at a level of consistency."
Now Wilfork is focused on the Colts and wouldn't mind getting his first sack of the season against Peyton Manning.
"It's tough; it's like he's in a three-step drop every time, but he's not," Wilfork said. "It's just the timing. He's so great with the timing to his receivers or the running backs. Sometimes you come scot-free and the ball's out, so we just have to keep doing what we do. Keep pressure on him."
Thomas Williams: Seau knows my name!
Linebacker Thomas Williams, a former fifth-round pick (155th overall) of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2008 draft who signed to the Patriots' practice squad Monday, is getting comfortable in New England with the help of fellow University of Southern California alumnus Junior Seau.
"It was kind of cool, he knew my name," Williams said. "A guy like that, someone I've been watching since I was a kid, said 'Thomas, you can sit right there' and pointed me to a seat [in meetings]. He seems great, helping me out. I'm going to be a sponge to him however long I'm here; just sit next to him, ask questions. He's got so much knowledge."
Williams should be honored Seau knew his name, as the 40-year-old linebacker is notorious for calling teammates "Buddy Buddy."
Williams was on the active roster in Jacksonville last year, appearing in six games for the Jaguars, but was waived before the start of the 2009 season. Williams signed to the Seattle Seahawks practice squad but was released in late September. He said he worked out for a few teams before signing with New England when a spot opened with Kyle Arrington moving to the active roster.
"There's 32 teams in the NFL, I'm not going away until I hit every city, maybe once or twice," Williams said. "It's been my dream since I was a kid. God blessed me to stay level-headed and continue to pursue this."
Williams did say the Patriots were "the Yankees of football," referring to their championship pedigree. But kindly reminded he might not want to compare the two in these parts, Williams laughed.
"Well, you know what I mean," he said. "I'm just an average sports fan."
Wilhite feeling better
Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, who missed last week's game due to illness, chatted with reporters and deemed himself ready to get back on the practice field.
Wilhite thinks he caught the bug while taking care of his little sister in Tennessee during the bye week, but said he's never been floored by an illness like this before.
"I've been sick, but I've never had anything keep me out for that long," Wilhite said. "I'm happy to be standing here talking to y'all.
I've been throwing up and sick a lot. Everything's fine now. I'm ready to get back to football."
Wilhite had plenty of support in his corner.
"It was tough, but I had the support of my teammates," he said. "A lot of guys called and checked on me. The best thing was watching them win. That was a good thing & Knowing guys stepped in and made plays."
Light, Green in locker room
Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light, sidelined since injuring his right knee in a Week 5 loss to the Broncos, walked through the locker room without a brace or limp. Light approached his locker stall as media circled, but he simply grabbed a Red Bull from a nearby refrigerator and walked to the weight room.
He didn't give an update on his status but was his normal joking self as reporters asked about his condition.
Later, Jarvis Green, sidelined after knee surgery during the bye week, appeared in the locker room and likewise looked in quality condition.
Praise for Gostkowski
Arrington, who made two special teams tackles on kickoff coverage in his pro debut this past week against the Dolphins, said it was nice to see Stephen Gostkowski earn the AFC Special Team Player of the Week honors and deflected all the credit to the kicker.
"We did our part; we covered fairly well, but it was all Steve," Arrington said. "With three touchbacks and four field goals, he was definitely the catalyst."
Green confirmed that he had the procedure, which was first reported by Comcast SportsNet, in the Patriots locker room on Tuesday. He was walking without a limp.
"It's tough to lose any player on the defense," Patriots defensive lineman Mike Wright said. "We're going to let Jarvis handle his business and we're going to take care of what we can on the field."
Comcast SportsNet reported that, according to an unnamed source, Green could be out until at least early December, but the Boston Globe reported a more optimistic possibility. An unnamed source told the Globe that Green could be back on the field as soon as the Nov. 15 game against the Colts.
Green, an eight-year veteran, is tied for eighth on the team with 23 tackles. He has played right defensive end in both three- and four-man fronts.
The Patriots are likely to turn to the five-year veteran Wright to fill that void, and it could also lead to rookie Ron Brace being active for the first time since Sept. 20 against the Jets.
A look at the game-ball winners from the Patriots' 27-21 victory over the Ravens:
Eric Alexander -- Core special teams player made an immediate impact by forcing a fumble on the opening kickoff
Jarvis Green -- With four tackles, one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit, he played more snaps than any defensive lineman, lining up at end and moving inside in some passing situations.
Brandon Meriweather -- Safety played every snap, led the team with nine tackles and had two deflected passes.
Logan Mankins -- Starting left guard held up at the point of attack against the Ravens' big, physical front
Sammy Morris -- Running back converted in key short-yardage situation again, rushed for a 12-yard touchdown, and added five catches for 35 yards in a versatile effort
Stephen Neal -- Starting right guard held up at the point of attack against the Ravens' big, physical front
Ty Warren -- Defensive end came up with big third-and-1 stop in the fourth quarter, had two quarterback hits, and continued his overall consistent play.
Mike Wright -- Defensive lineman led a pressure-based attack with a strong interior rush, totaling two sacks and three tackles (one for a loss)