New England Patriots: Ryan Allen

Watch: Julian Edelman, YouTube comedian

May, 28, 2014
Julian Edelman has not only replaced Wes Welker’s production as the Patriots’ slot receiver, he seems to have inherited his goofy sense of humor as well.

The Patriots’ leading receiver on Wednesday posted an interview segment from a fictional YouTube talk show he calls “Burgertyme” -- think Letterman, only filmed in someone’s basement. In the 5-minute clip, he, as the host, talks with teammate Chandler Jones.

We won’t give away the laughs, it’s worth checking out yourself (and note the cameo from punter Ryan Allen). We rarely see the lighter side of Patriots players, so it’s refreshing when we get a glimpse every once in a while.

And if you like that, check out his “Smoothietyme” from last week, or this one, in which he films himself catching punts using Google Glass.

Last week, Edelman and teammate Rob Gronkowski went back and forth in a meta T-shirt battle. Looks like Edelman got the last laugh there:

Leftover Patriots nuggets from Denver

January, 19, 2014
DENVER -- Gathering together some leftover notes from Sunday's AFC Championship Game:

Third-down struggles: The New England Patriots struggled to defend the Denver Broncos on third down, allowing them to convert on seven of 13 tries. "You can't win when you can't get off the field," defensive end Rob Ninkovich said of the woes. "Again, it was just basic fundamental football. You've got to get off the field and they do a good job of keeping the sticks moving with various formations and patterns they run with good receivers and a good tight end."

Pass rush bagel: Another area the Patriots struggled in was generating pressure on Peyton Manning. They didn't register a single sack of Manning and pressured him just three times in 43 dropbacks (according to ESPN Stats & Information), giving him far too much time to settle into his throws. Finding another pass-rusher could be a top offseason priority.

Long drives for Denver: The Broncos were able to sustain long drives on Sunday, as their two touchdown drives accounted for 173 yards on 14:09 of game time and 28 plays. Those kind of sustained drives can leave a defense deflated, particularly in the thin air of Denver.

The day after: The Patriots traveled home Sunday night, with the team wrapping up the season on Monday. Coach Bill Belichick will conduct a news conference at 9 a.m. ET, with players addressing the media from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Allen toughs it out, performs well: Credit punter Ryan Allen for a strong day, as he bounced back from an injury last Saturday night to punt three times, all landing inside the 20-yard line. He averaged 49 yards per punt and did not allow a single punt return.

Edelman logs big day: While some of his production came late in the game, wide receiver Julian Edelman capped an incredible season with a 10-catch, 89-yard effort and another score. He was a standout on offense all year long.

Ups & downs for the Patriots

January, 19, 2014
DENVER -- A look at who's "up" and who's "down" for the New England Patriots in their 26-16 loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game:

Ryan Allen -- Rookie punter played through a shoulder injury and delivered a couple of booming punts in the first half.

Austin Collie -- Veteran receiver turned out to be one of quarterback Tom Brady's most reliable options.

Chandler Jones -- Defensive end caught the eye with strong play against the run and a good rush that contributed to a red zone stop.

Danny Amendola -- Receiver was hardly a factor and had a drop in the third quarter.

Tom Brady -- The missed deep pass to receiver Julian Edelman in the first quarter will probably stick with the quarterback for a while. He also missed one to Collie late in the second quarter.

Alfonzo Dennard/Logan Ryan -- Young cornerbacks struggle in coverage and tackling.

Beauharnais absence part of roster move?

January, 17, 2014
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rookie linebacker Steve Beauharnais was the only player missing from New England Patriots practice on Friday morning, though the reason behind his absence was unclear.

He was not listed on the team's injury report Thursday and has not dealt with an injury issue this season. The absence could hint at a potential roster move coming for the Patriots, as this has mostly been a red-shirt season for Beauharnais.

Aside from Beauharnais, there was full attendance at practice, including the third straight day of work for both wide receiver Aaron Dobson and punter Ryan Allen.

Dobson, who had not practiced following a Week 17 injury until this past Wednesday, said earlier Friday in the locker room, “Right now, I feel like it's OK. I have to do what I have to do. I'm trying not to think about it, go out there and do what I can do, and do it the best I can.”

Allen, meanwhile, has toughed through a sprained AC joint this week, which was suffered in a divisional round win against the Colts.

Head coach Bill Belichick spoke to Allen's mental toughness on Friday morning in handling adverse circumstances during his rookie season.

"Mentally, he's shown a lot of toughness and competitiveness to do what he needs to do, whether it be wind, rain, snow, cold, what have you," he said.

The Patriots practiced in helmets and shells for their final on-field tuneup before traveling to Denver later today.

Tom Brady not spotted at practice

January, 15, 2014
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was not spotted at the start of practice on Wednesday morning during the media availability portion of the on-field workout.

The reason for Brady's absence is unclear, as is whether he will take part in any portion of Wednesday's practice. A source told's Mike Reiss that Brady is "good and will be ready for Sunday."

Brady did not suffer any apparent injury during the team's game against the Colts on Saturday night, though he was sick throughout the week last week.

He has been listed as a limited participant with a shoulder injury on multiple occasions since late October, though Brady has not missed a practice this season.

The Patriots moved Brady's regularly scheduled Wednesday news conference to Friday morning.

He was one of two Patriots not seen at the start of practice, as long snapper Danny Aiken, who was also playing through illness on Saturday night, was also not spotted.

Meanwhile, the Patriots did have punter Ryan Allen, who left Saturday's game with a shoulder injury, on the field. Allen suffered an AC sprain, according to sources, and the team is hopeful he can rehab the injury this week to a point that he is good to go on Sunday.

Finally, wide receiver Aaron Dobson, who was injured in Week 17 and had not practiced since that time, returned to practice on Wednesday as he continues to work through a foot injury.

Source: Patriots hopeful on Allen

January, 14, 2014
The New England Patriots believe there is a possibility that injured punter Ryan Allen will be able to play in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, depending on how his shoulder responds to aggressive treatment over the course of the week, according to sources.

The plan with Allen, while fluid, reflects why the Patriots have not had any free-agent punters in for workouts as of 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Allen suffered a sprained AC joint, sources said, when he was tackled by multiple Indianapolis Colts players while running down a high snap in the second quarter of last Saturday’s AFC divisional round playoff game. The play resulted in a safety and Allen took the ensuing free kick (a solid 68-yard effort) before leaving the game for good. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski took over the punting duties.

Should Allen punt in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, one of the greater concerns for the Patriots would be his ability to reach up to corral a high snap. Thus, the accuracy of third-year snapper Danny Aiken would take on added importance.

Also, Allen serves as the team’s holder for field goals, a role that quarterback Tom Brady assumed after Allen was knocked out of Saturday’s game. There is a possibility that Allen could punt Sunday, but not serve as the holder. Brady or backup quarterback Ryan Mallett would be top options to replace him.

Allen, a two-time Ray Guy Award winner at Louisiana Tech, joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in May and won a training camp competition over incumbent Zoltan Mesko. A left-footed punter, he finished 14th in the NFL in average (45.9) and 16th in net (39.9). His 12 touchbacks led the NFL.

The Patriots, as much as any team in the NFL, place a greater emphasis on directional and situational punting under veteran coach Scott O’Brien.

Asked about Allen’s availability on Sunday, head coach Bill Belichick said, “We’ll put out the injury report [Wednesday] after practice like we usually do.”

Belichick also said it’s possible Gostkowski could once again handle both kicking and punting duties, or the team could still bring in a free-agent punter, although the lack of movement at this point would seem to make that less likely.

In November, the Patriots worked out punters Shawn Powell and Robert Malone as part of their emergency list preparations at the time. Mesko, who could have been an obvious replacement, isn’t an option because he’s still under contract to the Cincinnati Bengals after signing with them in the wild-card round of the playoffs.

Belichick on travel, Allen, Spikes

January, 14, 2014
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick held his weekly Tuesday conference call, and here were the biggest takeaways:

1. Team could travel Friday: In the past, when the Patriots play a game at 1 p.m. local time in the mountain or pacific time zone, they often travel a day earlier than norm (Friday instead of Saturday). Belichick said that possibility was in play this week. With Friday's media schedule set up earlier than the norm, it looks as if the team could be leaning in that direction.

2. No update on punter: Asked if punter Ryan Allen will be available to the team Sunday, Belichick said the team will submit its injury report when the league requires it, which will be Wednesday in the late afternoon/early evening. This is a common answer from Belichick on injury-related questions, as he seldom offers up information that could affect what he perceives as a competitive advantage. Later in the call, Belichick didn't rule out the possibility of kicker Stephen Gostkowski punting, or a free-agent punter joining the team as late as Friday and punting in the game, although both scenarios seem unlikely.

3. No comment on Spikes: The agent for linebacker Brandon Spikes released a statement late Monday stating that Spikes didn't want to be placed on season-ending injured reserve. Asked about the statement, Belichick said: "I'll talk about the game and the players that are on our roster. I'm not going to talk about any players that aren't currently on the active roster."

Rapid Reaction: New England Patriots

January, 11, 2014

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing thoughts on the New England Patriots' 43-22 divisional-round playoff victory Saturday over the Indianapolis Colts:

What it means: The Patriots advance to the AFC Championship Game for the eighth time in Bill Belichick's 14 years as head coach, which continues a remarkable run of success for Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. Many of the faces around them have changed over the years, but Belichick and Brady have been the constants, and one could make a case this has been their most impressive season as a tandem. The Patriots have been hit as hard by injuries as any team in the NFL, but they've willed their way to put themselves in position to win their first Super Bowl championship since the 2004 season.

Running game sparks attack again: For the third consecutive game, the Patriots' ground attack was the difference-maker, led by hard-charging LeGarrette Blount (franchise-record four rushing touchdowns). The Patriots split snaps at running back evenly among Blount, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, and sliced up the Colts with strong work up front by the offensive line -- left tackle Nate Solder, left guard Logan Mankins, center Ryan Wendell, right guard Dan Connolly and right tackle Marcus Cannon -- as well as tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan and fullback James Develin. When the Patriots run it like this, it brings back memories of the 2004 Super Bowl championship team for which bruiser Corey Dillon was the lead back.

Injuries to monitor: Punter Ryan Allen left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury and did not return. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski handled the punting duties, and Brady handled the holder responsibilities as part of the field-goal operation. If Allen is unavailable in the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots would almost certainly bring in another punter. Former Patriot Zoltan Mesko isn't an option, as he punted for the Bengals in the playoffs and isn't eligible to join another team. ... Elsewhere, rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins left the game in the fourth quarter with a head injury (presumably a concussion) and did not return. Veteran Austin Collie was his replacement.

Stock watch: Jamie Collins -- up. The Patriots' top pick in the 2013 draft (52nd overall) was thrust into an expanded role, in part because linebacker Brandon Spikes was placed on season-ending injured reserve earlier in the week. Collins had played just 25 percent of the defensive snaps during the regular season, but he didn't come off the field and made his presence felt as a tackler, pass-rusher and in coverage with an interception. He was all over the field in what was a coming out party for the ultra-athletic defender from Southern Mississippi.

What's next: The Patriots will play in the AFC Championship Game against the winner of Sunday's game between the visiting San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos (4:40 p.m. ET). If Denver beats San Diego, the AFC Championship Game will be played in Denver. If San Diego beats Denver, the AFC Championship Game will be played in New England. Regardless of location, the game will be played at 3 p.m. ET next Sunday.

Allen leaves game with shoulder injury

January, 11, 2014
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots punter Ryan Allen left Saturday night’s divisional playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts with a shoulder injury and did not return.

Allen got hit hard in the second quarter on a botched punt attempt. Long snapper Danny Aiken sailed it over Allen’s head and the rookie punter eventually recovered the ball near the goal line. He was steamrolled as he tried to lateral the ball, which went out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

Allen booted the ensuing quick kick but was seen grabbing his shoulder on his way off the field. He retreated to the locker room and was replaced by kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who was effective in punting the rest of the way.

Allen is also the holder on field goals. That role went to Tom Brady in the second half.

Football journey: Ryan Allen

December, 28, 2013
Ryan AllenJohn Tlumacki/The Boston Globe/Getty Images
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When rookie punter Ryan Allen went undrafted and signed a free-agent contract with the Patriots on May 3, he was a longshot to stick.

The Patriots had incumbent Zoltan Mesko, and while Allen was a two-time Ray Guy Award winner as the nation's top collegiate punter, it wasn't as if other teams (two selected punters in the draft) were knocking down his door. It was the Patriots and Raiders, and he ultimately chose New England on a modest contract that included a $1,500 signing bonus and $2,500 base salary guarantee.

But all the Salem, Ore., native was looking for was a chance to prove himself. He got it, won the job in a close competition and has had a solid first season.

Allen, who will turn 24 on Feb. 28, shares his "football journey":

When he first started playing football: "Eighth grade. Middle school lightweights. I was just under the weight limit for light and heavyweight. But then I didn't play in high school until my junior year. I played two years of high school, didn't really pay much attention to it -- I was the kicker and also was playing receiver and [defensive back] as well. I played mostly basketball in high school. Senior year, I started catching on pretty quickly because of my strong soccer background and started getting a couple of [college] letters. Once that happened, I started looking into going to a camp and getting myself evaluated and seeing where I stacked up nationally against everybody else."

Why he first went out for football: "I was big into sports and everybody else did it. I didn't have anything to do in that season. It was right around the time I stopped playing soccer -- I had been playing year-round since I was 8 or 9 years old, traveling up to Portland, Ore., which was about an hour away from where I lived at the time. After a while, being so young and doing one sport the whole time, I kind of got burned out from the whole soccer thing. So when I stopped playing, during the fall, I was looking for something else to do and I figured I'd do what everyone else was doing."

A scouting report on his work as a receiver and defensive back: "I always had good hands and I was decently fast at the time, but not very strong. And corner was just way too hard [laughing]. We had a couple of receivers get D-I offers and I was trying to guard them, getting my ankles broken, falling down. But it was fun."

[+] EnlargeRyan Allen
Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY SportsRyan Allen made the most of his training camp opportunity, beating out incumbent Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko.
Favorite teams growing up: "I really didn't have one. My first NFL game was the first game I played in. If I had to pick one, it would be the Seahawks because I was only a couple hours from there."

Favorite players growing up: "When I first started paying attention more, it was in college, and at that point I was more focused on the punters and kickers, seeing how they were doing, what they were doing, and trying to pick up on small stuff. [Sebastian] Janikowski and [Shane] Lechler were right up there, in their prime. They were great to watch [with the Raiders]."

Enrolling at Oregon State: "There was a job opening up for the punter position, and it was me and one other walk-on [Johnny Hekker] to win the job. He was an All-State quarterback, bigger, 6-5. With my soccer background, I thought it was a good opportunity. It wasn't guaranteed and we competed hard. They ended up choosing him at the end of the day. I had a rough day and kind of hung my head a little bit, and I think that, to them, it was 'We need a guy who is going to be mentally stable.' As a coach, I would have done the same thing. So he got the scholarship and as I got better, I thought 'I can definitely go play somewhere else.' That's how I made the decision to transfer once that time came."

How he chose Louisiana Tech: "Honestly, the transfer process is brutal. I have a strong opinion on this -- I think it needs to be easier. I think kids get locked up so easily and the mere fact that you can't transfer straight over in a division if a coach has called you more than twice; these are 17- and 18-year old kids we're talking about here. It's too easy for people to sweet-talk them into a program, and when things don't pan out or they don't adapt quickly or perform quickly enough, they're kind of out of luck. For me, it was hard to get my name out there and that I would be eligible to play right away. Some of those bigger schools were kind of iffy. Louisiana Tech was loyal. They had me come down for a visit. It was going to be warmer weather down there. Some of the players who hosted me were my kind of guys. Everything kind of clicked and it felt like the right decision. I got to be at a bigger school for a couple years [at Oregon State] in a bigger-city atmosphere, so the small-town country feel was kind of cool. I liked it."

Top football memories in college: "Going to a bowl game in San Diego was great. That was a year we played very well and it was cool to see players who didn't find success there for a couple of years being able to enjoy that. Also, all those times competing with Johnny at Oregon State, and we went to a couple of Bowl games. Just competing at a younger age, watching all those guys, I'll never forget all that. Another great moment is having a lot of success with our punt coverage team and being able to be recognized nationally [with the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter] at the awards ceremony."

Going through the NFL pre-draft process: "I thought I performed well. I could have done better at the Senior Bowl, did well at the combine, nothing spectacular. I felt confident about myself and my abilities, but at the end of the day, I had a lot of good guidance from my agent [Ryan Morgan/Zeke Sandhu] and my uncle who had been through the same scenario. He was telling me the best thing to do is have zero expectations and you're going to end up where you end up, and you have zero control over it. A big motto of mine is 'Don't worry and don't stress over things I can't control.' No one is perfect, but it helps when you have that mentality."

Not being selected in the draft and signing with the Patriots: "It wasn't a big letdown. Obviously, after that, there are moments where you say 'Dang', and there's a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach. But in the end, it's all about competition. Nothing is a guaranteed spot these days and you can be in there and out of there in two days regardless. It all happened extremely fast and all I knew was that it was an option with Oakland, here, and there were a couple of calls to attend a practice as a camp leg [on a tryout]. I wasn't interested in the [tryout]. I wanted a chance where I could come in and compete, and they were straight-forward here. It's a great organization and program, and from a competitive standpoint, it was the better opportunity."

Competing with Zoltan Mesko in training camp and preseason: "It was great. I felt like it was a healthy competition. Zoltan and I got along. I was able to watch him, on the sidelines, in practice, how he goes about things. Holding was new to me. So just being able to visually watch him, and things he did, was helpful."

Summing up his rookie season: "I'm a real big competitor and I nitpick, so the first thing I do is focus on the things I'd like to do better. But overall, first and foremost, to be able to work with [snapper] Danny Aiken and [kicker] Stephen Gostkowski and have them be so open, it's been a very good work environment. It's hard to grab a new holder, especially someone who has never done it before -- a lot of composure and confidence goes into that and you see that with Steve. I think that's the biggest thing I've been proud of -- being able to come in here and do something I wasn't accustomed to doing."

What he loves about football: "The situational aspect of it. Sometimes we may be called upon only two or three times per game, but those given plays, if it goes wrong, it's an all-or-nothing deal. If you're backed up and you mishit it, or you hit it well and it makes a world of difference, pinning them inside the 10 or 5, and giving them 95 yards to go. It has such a big impact on the momentum of the game and that's what I like about what I do in this game. Sometimes I would love to be out there running routes, and doing things more active because I'm an adrenaline junkie. I'm learning, it's a work in progress, and I like where it's headed."

Role models growing up: "When I was little, Sean O'Connor, who was from Salem, Oregon, was my neighbor. He was a big soccer player and he got me into it. I looked up to him. He was the reason I ended up getting into it, so I give him a lot of the credit. It's funny how things start so random like that."

Summing up his football journey: "Perseverance and optimism has gone far for me; up until my senior year of high school, I didn't know what opportunities I would have, or what type of skill set I had at the position. The transferring process was so difficult. There were a few times I didn't think I'd be able to, and I was just thinking about going back to school and not playing any more. It's crazy to think that type of decision could have that type of impact. I don't even know where I would be right now. The perseverance my mom [Sherry] had throughout that whole process. And all the times I felt iffy and insecure about my talent, to be able to push through those and continue to work on something I love is sweet, man. It's why I cherish it and I'm thankful for it. I want to keep working and getting better because it's something I've put a lot of time in to doing. Why stop now?"

Ups and downs for the Patriots

December, 8, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- At an initial glance, a look at which New England Patriots players were "up" in Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, and those at the opposite end of the spectrum:


Ryan Allen: Punter continues to excel from a situational standpoint; his 53-yarder in the first quarter reflects his strong work.

Stephen Gostkowski: Kicker hits a long field goal and then executes perfectly on an onside kick to set up the game-winning touchdown drive.

Shane Vereen: Running back is the team's best skill-position player, at one point making all three plays on a 72-yard scoring drive.


Coaching staff: When a team continues to come out flat in the first half, it starts with the coaching staff.

Nate Solder and offensive line: Left tackle is beaten for a sack and later a pressure, which highlights some overall struggles up front in pass protection.

Aqib Talib/Devin McCourty/Steve Gregory: Patriots give up touchdown passes of 80 and 40 yards after breakdowns in the secondary. While there is some good play in the secondary, those two plays are big in a low-scoring game.

Progress report: Rookies chip in

November, 7, 2013
The New England Patriots have received significant contributions from their rookie class this season. In Bill Belichick's 14 years as head coach, this season ranks near the top of the list, if not at the top, in this area.

Following up Field Yates' progress report on second-year players from this morning, here is a rookie breakdown (alphabetical order):

Punter Ryan Allen: The undrafted free agent ranks 10th in the NFL with a 46.4 average and 16th in net punting (39.9) as he's proven to be up to the task of replacing veteran Zoltan Mesko. He's also the holder on field goals, and Stephen Gostkowski is 22 of 23 this season. Allen's eight touchbacks are tied for the NFL high, which is an area for improvement.

Guard Chris Barker: Claimed on waivers from the Dolphins at the final roster cutdown, the undrafted free agent from Nevada dressed for the first three games of the season as veteran backup Will Svitek was working his way back from a knee injury, but hasn't played on offense. This looks like a red-shirt year for him as the Patriots have avoided the risk of another team claiming him on waivers (Dolphins?) should they try to move him to the practice squad.

Linebacker Steve Beauharnais: The seventh-round draft choice from Rutgers has dressed for three games, but hasn't played on defense. This appears to be more of a red-shirt year for him.

Receiver Josh Boyce: The fourth-round draft choice from Texas Christian played in the first five games (1 catch, 24 yards) but has been inactive for the past four as veteran Austin Collie was viewed as a more consistent option. Boyce is one of the fastest receivers on the team, but appears to need a little more time to put it all together.

Defensive end Michael Buchanan: The seventh-round pick from Illinois opened the season as the primary right defensive end in sub packages, but a few struggles with rush-lane integrity (Oct. 6 vs. Bengals and Oct. 20 vs. Jets) led to the signing of veteran Andre Carter, who has since taken over that role. Buchanan contributes on special teams and is now No. 4 on the overall defensive end depth chart, with obvious upside.

Linebacker Jamie Collins: The second-round pick from Southern Mississippi has been a core special teams player and was integrated a bit more defensively after linebacker Jerod Mayo was lost to a season-ending injury Oct. 13. But after flashing a bit Oct. 20 vs. the Jets, he was pushed around in the first half against the Dolphins on Oct. 27 and has played sparingly on defense since. He has all the tools, but appears to need a bit more time.

Receiver Aaron Dobson: The second-round pick from Marshall has come on strong in recent weeks, elevating to the top spot on the depth chart as the X outside target. He has 31 receptions for 454 yards with four touchdowns, and at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds gives the Patriots a combination of size and speed that they haven't had at the position since Randy Moss.

Safety Duron Harmon: Considered a reach as a third-round pick, the Rutgers product has been a top backup behind starters Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory, playing in some sub packages. He also filled in on special teams when core player Tavon Wilson was out with a hamstring injury. Teammates have talked about his smarts and his professional approach.

Defensive tackle Chris Jones: Claimed on waivers from the Buccaneers on Sept. 11, he earns our vote for Patriots "rookie of the first half" with five sacks in six games played. At 6-foot-1 and 309 pounds, his quickness has been an asset as an interior rusher, and he's been competitive from a strength/physical standpoint on run plays. Waived by the Texans, who drafted him in the sixth round, he briefly landed in Tampa before the Buccaneers let him go and the Patriots pounced. He has proven to be a steal.

Cornerback Logan Ryan: The third-round pick from Rutgers has made some big plays, such as an interception return for a touchdown against the Jets on Oct. 20, as he's been thrust into a top reserve role in recent weeks with Aqib Talib out. At 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, he has mostly been competitive in coverage and shown a willingness to play the run.

Receiver Kenbrell Thompkins: The undrafted free agent from Cincinnati has slid down the depth chart the past two weeks after serving mostly as the primary X option on the outside (23 catches, 334 yards, 4 TDs) through the first seven games. He made the big game-winning catch against the Saints on Oct. 13, but has since been passed on the depth chart by Dobson.

Defensive tackle Joe Vellano: The undrafted free agent from Maryland is one of the surprises of the season. After opening the season as the No. 3 option behind Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, he has been thrust into a starting role as both veterans have been lost to season-ending injuries. At 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, he might be viewed as undersized by some, but he wins with technique and scrappiness.

Reiss' P.A.T.: Talking to Ryan Allen

October, 31, 2013

In this edition of Reiss' P.A.T., Mike Reiss delivers the latest Patriots news from Gillette Stadium, catches up with rookie punter Ryan Allen, and answers your questions.

A week to revisit Mesko vs. Allen

October, 29, 2013
At the end of the preseason, the New England Patriots made the tough decision to go with rookie punter Ryan Allen over incumbent Zoltan Mesko.

This is a timely week to revisit the move, as Mesko -- one of the most likeable Patriots players in recent years -- returns to town Sunday as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here is the tale of the tape:

In seven games, Mesko ranks 31st in punting average (42.5) and 29th in net punting average (36.7), with two touchbacks and three punts inside the 20 (including a beauty this past Sunday in Oakland that was downed at the 1). Mesko has punted 34 times. This past Sunday against the Raiders, he had a punt partially blocked as a result of what appeared to be a slight mishandling of the snap coupled with a missed block by tight end David Paulson.

In eight games, Allen ranks 12th in punting average (46.2) and 14th in net punting average (40.4), with an NFL-high seven touchbacks and 16 inside the 20. Allen has punted 47 times (tied for second highest in the NFL).

Earlier today, Bill Belichick was asked about Allen's performance this season.

"I think Ryan has had his moments, for sure," he said. "Through some of the situations he’s been in, I think his situational punting has been pretty good. He’s improved in the plus-50 areas. He’s definitely got a big leg and the ability to change field position. I still think there’s a lot of room for improvement.

"He’s got a good level of talent but also consistency is an issue and these conditions that he’s in, kicking through the second half of the season up here will be, I’m sure, challenging at some point. They’ve definitely been that way in practice. That’s the way it was against Miami on Sunday. I think you saw both punters not have the type of days that we’d see them having in better conditions. ... If he keeps working hard and can stay focused and can stay consistent, I think he has a good opportunity for a real good career."

Belichick added that Allen has also performed well as the holder for kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

QUICK-HIT THOUGHTS: When the Patriots made the move, financial considerations were part of it. Mesko was due to earn $1.3 million this season, in the last year of his deal. Allen is making $405,000 on the first year of a three-year rookie contract. But finances weren't the primary driver for the decision, as Allen had clearly shown great potential in training camp. Mesko, from our view, was just more consistent. Both are punting in the NFL, although Mesko's job security has come into focus after an up-and-down performance Sunday in Oakland. To this point, it's hard to argue with the Patriots' decision.

Punter Ryan Allen was one positive Sunday

October, 7, 2013
There are no moral victories in football, and losses rarely come with a silver lining, but there was one performance during Sunday’s 13-6 to the Cincinnati Bengals that the New England Patriots can feel good about: that of rookie punter Ryan Allen, who, at the very least, gave his team a chance to control field position.

Allen managed four consecutive punts within the Bengals’ 10-yard line, putting their offense in a difficult situation and setting up his own defense with a chance to capitalize.

Ultimately, the Patriots' offense was unable to put the ball in the end zone, but the punt team, led by Allen, earned praise from head coach Bill Belichick a day after the fact.

“I thought our punt team overall gave us good field position, really all day,” he said during a Monday conference call. “The plus-50 punting was good. I think it was five [punts] inside the 20 and three inside the 10. Then a couple times we were backed up, we had good coverage there as well. The punting game and the field position on that end of it was good.”

Allen has averaged 40.6 net yards in the early goings of the season, but Sunday’s strong effort was a testament that punting on a short field (which limits opportunities for a high net average) is just as important.

Better to receive?

On another special teams note, Belichick decided to receive after winning the opening coin toss. Sunday marked the first time all season that the Patriots had won their coin toss, and the first time in a while (perhaps a few seasons) that Belichick decided to receive.

His recent trend has been to defer to the second half. Asked about the decision, Belichick offered the following:

“Those are the kind of things we talk about every week,” he said. “There are a number of things that are part of the conversation, the consideration. I would say there were a number of factors. In the end, we felt like taking the ball at that point was the better thing to do. I wouldn’t say it was any one big overriding [factor], but just the combination of all the circumstances surrounding the game. When we put it all together, we felt like that was the best thing to do.”

Just a couple of thoughts on what might have led to the decision: the desire to start fast, something Tom Brady talked about leading up to the Atlanta game, or, perhaps, the weather. The forecast for Sunday was unpredictable (as was evidenced during a fourth quarter rain storm), and perhaps Belichick wanted to give his offense the most opportunities when the skies were clear and the sun was shining, as was the case when kickoff took place.