Tag Archives: New England Patriots

5 takeaways from the Patriots-Vikings game

It’s OK to call this the bounce back game.

There’s so many players on the Patriots roster that bettered their efforts Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. The 30-7 win was sparked almost entirely by the defense, which accounted for four interceptions against former Patriots backup quarterback Matt Cassel, as well as a blocked field goal.

Here’s our takeaways from Sunday’s win, the Patriots’ first of the year, with the defense almost entirely in mind.

1. Chandler Jones much better on the edge — We’ll remember, probably fondly, Chandler Jones’ blocked field goal, which he scooped up and returned for a touchdown. It’ll make the rounds on the highlights. But of greater significance for the Patriots this season will be his play as a 3-4 linebacker. In Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots opted to use him as 3-4 defensive end, something that did not go over well, despite a couple of quarterback hurries. (Two penalties for roughing the passer and $16,000 fine later, it’s really something he even wants to forget.) But on Sunday, as the outside linebacker, Jones showed Matt Patricia exactly how he should be used on regular basis. Not only was Jones able to get to the quarterback, recording two sacks and three hits while tying the team lead in tackles. As that bigger outside linebacker, he was able to brush off tackles, tight ends, and fullbacks to insert himself into running plays, something he couldn’t do as an interior player. That kind of promising effort is only enabled by the healthy return of Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga. Siliga, in his second game, was a regular alongside Vince Wilfork in the 3-4 for the first time and Chris Jones returned for his first action since hurting his ankle in the preseason. It’s safe to say that with this healthy quartet, this is the lineup of players you can expect going forward, much like you can expect Chandler Jones to dominate the edge for the rest of the season.

2. Swapping wide receivers … what’s the difference? — It was nice to see Aaron Dobson make his season debut for the Patriots but it came at the expense of Kenbrell Thompkins who, like Dobson in Week 1, was a healthy scratch. Dobson caught one pass for 13 yards on two targets. In Week 1, Thompkins caught five passes for 37 yards on 10 targets. You can be the judge for yourself on who was better. But my eyes are on Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola, both of whom didn’t record a reception and were targeted collectively once. Something’s gotta give.

Read the rest of my takeaways on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Roger Goodell embarrasses himself, NFL in Ray Rice video debacle

The Associated Press has blasted a massive hole in the NFL’s story that the league did not see the elevator video that showed former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then fiancée twice in the face.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games prior to the video’s release by TMZ, which sparked further outcry over the light punishment given the juxtaposition against the suspensions of players for performance enhancing drugs as well as recreational drugs. Goodell followed up with an indefinite suspension after the video’s release.

He was already backpedaling.

However, the commissioner’s excuse that the league’s overtures to law enforcement for the video, which he claims were either declined or ignored, is being contradicted now by an AP report that says the league did in fact receive the video and that it was viewed by someone in the NFL’s office.

The person played The Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: “You’re right. It’s terrible.”

Read the rest of this commentary on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

5 takeaways from Patriots-Dolphins

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Patriots played one half of football pretty good. But there wasn’t one thing that looked good for the Patriots in the second half of their season opener Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

Not one damn thing.

The Patriots were shut out in the second half, defensively inept in the third and fourth quarters, gashed again on defense by Knowshon Moreno in a 33-20 loss at Sun Life Stadium. There’s not much worth retaining from that. Bury the football and file this one in the memory dump.

Besides disappointing fans with a lackluster effort (there was a full blown meltdown on Twitter Sunday afternoon), the Patriots surprised us with an abhorrent effort on both sides of the ball.

As difficult as this might be, I’m going to boil this down to five takeaways.

1. Mix and match, fix and scratch — Bill Belichick said after the game it was the team’s plan to play every single player. That led to the offensive line getting switched up practically every other series. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer were set at the tackles while Marcus Cannon was set at left guard. But the center and right guard combination seemed to differ on a whim.

The Patriots brass appears to want to extend the tryouts for starting positions into the regular season. While Dan Connolly started at center and Jordan Devey started at right guard, Ryan Wendell would come in and play center and Connolly would shift to right guard.

The obvious inference from this shuffling of players is that the Patriots are unsure about which combo they truly desire. And there’s nothing better than live game action to find out, if we are to continue to infer upon the situation. That led to disastrous results on Sunday, with Tom Brady sacked four times — all in the second half — and six total hits on the quarterback. Everybody was giving up plays on the line and the communication appeared to be shot. Belichick and new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo need to make a decision about who the starting group is now so that this unit can build cohesion. It certainly appeared that the coaching staff thought they could skate by against the Dolphins. They ought not make the same mistake twice.

2. The 3-4 debuts to substandard results — The new-ish Patriots defensive scheme was supposed to allow for the front seven to bring pressure on the quarterback from every angle. That is not exactly what happened Sunday afternoon. In fact, if you told me a day prior that Jerod Mayo would get the Patriots’ first sack of the 2014 season — and the only Patriots sack in Sunday’s game — I would’ve laughed in your face. I’m sure crazier things have happened. There were only two recorded hits on Ryan Tannehill Sunday, not including both of Chandler Jones’ penalties for roughing the passer. The Patriots looked off kilter all game and there is no easy way to explain how ineffective they were. But what was most problematic was the team’s run defense, which allowed 191 yards to the Dolphins, including 134 for Moreno. (Moreno, if you recall, ran for 224 yards last season against the Patriots as a member of the Denver Broncos.) Lamar Miller added 59. Fixing the run game isn’t easy. And the Patriots could very well be exposed next week against Minnesota and Adrian Peterson.

Read the rest of my takeaways on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Why Darrelle Revis is the Patriots’ X-factor

Everything hinges on Darrelle Revis.


The Patriots pushed all of their chips onto the table when they signed the 29-year-old three-time first-team all pro to a 1-year deal for $12 million, including an option for a second year at $20 million. And it should be no surprise that the hype has been at full tilt for the Aliquippa, Penn., native ever since, given what he represents for the Patriots: hope.

Revis is a player Tom Brady once said “doesn’t have any weaknesses.” The respect is apparent.

You have to understand, for the past seven years, this Patriots team has been just a few pieces shy of a Super Bowl victory. Every. Single. Year.

Read the entire feature on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Why the Patriots will win Super Bowl XLIX

In just a span of seven months, we’ve seen Bill Belichick and company make some extraordinary moves in order to position the team to better compete in the AFC.

Scratch that.

The Patriots are better positioned to dominate the AFC. They’ve got the quarterback, the defense, and the skill position players to run the tables. And that’s with a schedule loaded with every AFC playoff opponent from a year prior.

Consider that with every major transaction that the team has made since February, the Patriots have added an element to their roster that has only bolstered the team’s chances of besting the Denver Broncos — the Patriots’ largest threat to a Super Bowl berth — and given them the tools to possibly fend off Super Bowl contenders in the NFC.

Read the rest of this column on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Takeaways from Ryan Mallett’s trade

The Patriots seemed destined to jettison backup quarterback Ryan Mallett long before finishing the job Sunday in a deal that sent the fourth-year player to the Houston Texans for a conditional seventh-round pick.

And while it all was inspired by the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo — the largest takeaway from Sunday’s move — the trade also represents Mallett’s low appeal in a quarterback starved league and how Bill Belichick will go to whatever length possible to derive value from a player who no longer had a future with his team.

According to the Boston Herald, Mallett was dangled as bait to the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills before eventually being dealt to the Texans. The Texans, who might have been anticipating the Patriots’ release of Mallett in the cut down to 53 players Saturday, were forced to fork over a seventh round pick to acquire him.

Here are some other thoughts on the trade:

– Garoppolo obviously beat out Mallett in training camp to be the Patriots’ top backup quarterback. Mallett finished 14 of 26 passing (53.8 percent) for 161 yards and one touchdown. He had an 85.6 quarterback rating. Meanwhile, Garoppolo was 46 of 79 passing (58.2 percent) for 618 yards, with five touchdowns and an interception. He had a 99.0 quarterback rating. And it was obvious despite being a rookie that Garoppolo had a comfort level that Mallett just didn’t show on the field. He only improved over time, something Mallett did not do.

Read the rest of this post on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

5 takeaways from the Patriots-Giants game

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Before the Patriots’ preseason finale, there was a trumped up expectation that some of our open questions on the team would be definitively answered. That most certainly was not the case Thursday night.

Instead, after the Patriots lost to the New York Giants 16-13 at MetLife Stadium, there were more questions about the state of this team in its current form than before. And forgive me if I’m being dramatic, but there’s also the future of the franchise to consider. On Thursday night, a window to 2017 and beyond was on display. Here are my takeaways from Thursday’s game that explores these issues.

1. Shuffled line sees at least one consistent presence — Josh Kline played all of the team’s snaps at left guard. He had been an expected competitor for the starting position along with Jordan Devey. Devey played left tackle for the Patriots before he was replaced by Chris Barker (who started at right guard). Marcus Cannon, who was suited up for Thursday’s game, did not play a snap as the team decided to rest its key players. So the likes of Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer, and Ryan Wendell were absent from the final preseason matchup. It may be presumptuous, but after a strong start to training camp for Kline, he could very well be Mankins’ replacement. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean Kline, or anyone else for that matter, will live up to Mankins’ reputation as a top notch player. It was a mixed bag Thursday night for Kline and it’s not too bold to say he probably wishes he had a couple of plays back, including one notable sack allowed. Whether Kline is the future, or whether it is some combination of Devey and Cannon, no one knows outside of the organization. There was no way to answer that question Thursday night with what was displayed on the field. Instead, we must wait until the regular season opener.

2. The amazing Tim Wright — The fact that Tim Wright suited up and was able to catch four passes for 43 yards after basically a day and a half with the organization is outstanding. This sport is not like baseball, in which players can simply be subbed in, hit, and be seen as an instant impact. Football requires more learning and chemistry. So it was nice to see him get in tune with Jimmy Garoppolo Thursday in what can only be assumed was a slimmed down version of the team’s playbook on display. Wright can definitely generate some excitement as the team’s flex tight end, lining up detached more often than not, in this pass happy offense. It’ll be fun to see how this develops.

Read the rest of my takeaways on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Scouting new Patriots tight end Tim Wright

FOXBOROUGH — You’re going to hear two things about new Patriots tight end Tim Wright in the next day.

1) He’s a good barber. (Seriously, we all could care less.)

2) He’s a hard worker. (Tuesday’s talking point.)

What’s more interesting and revealing about Wright is how he converted from wide receiver at Rutgers to tight end in the NFL. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he rivals the size of Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell (6-3, 210). But more importantly, he’s close enough to the mold of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (6-1, 245) who excelled in New England’s offense as a receiving threat. Wright caught 54 passes for 571 yards and five touchdowns last season, his rookie year.

The New Jersey native did most of his damage in the middle of the field. He caught 38 of his passes between the hash marks, 24 of which were between 1 and 9 yards. When he ventured outside the hash marks, he was less prolific, targeted only 24 times while catching 16 passes.

Read the rest of my scouting report on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Patriots players keep their eyes front and center ahead of the cuts

FOXBOROUGH — It’s too much to ask Patriots players to describe their thoughts on their roster status.

It’s not that they don’t have any thoughts (they do). They simply cannot share them. That would be breaking a golden rule in Bill Belichick’s house.

But at this point in the year, when the roster is trimmed from 90 to 53 players within a span of five days, the topic of anxiety and focus leap to the forefront, despite a Thursday night game in New York and the regular season only 13 days away.

“Our focus is always on worrying about what we can control,” Patriots offensive lineman Marcus Cannon tells me. “And that’s our technique and how we practice, and that’s all you can control. You can control yourself. And that’s it. What I can do to help the team is all I can control.”

In only three minutes, Cannon tells me in one form or another that he can only control what he can control seven times. We’ve heard this before. The laser focus and talking points are drilled into the team, keeping players seemingly distant from each other (they’re not) and more intently concerned with bettering themselves (they are) in an effort that benefits the team dramatically, but dulls their personality. It starts with Belichick, of course, but it has seeped into the very core of the franchise, with each player outwardly unaware or unconcerned with the mechanisms of the franchise, and awkwardly immune from direct questions about it. It is what it is.

“You can only worry about yourself,” Cannon said. “I can only worry about myself. All I can worry about is coming in here and getting in my playbook and seeing the things that I’m doing wrong and fix ‘em. That’s what I have control of.”

Read the rest of this post in Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

5 takeaways from the Patriots-Panthers game

Forget the score. Preseason games are all about what you can learn about your team and this week there was just a few things we had our eyes on as the Patriots took on the Carolina Panthers.

The Patriots continued to mix up the combinations of offensive and defensive players with roster spots and playing time on the line. With the first cuts just days away (Aug. 26), that’s the main focus of our takeaways.

1. Has Patrick Chung taken the lead? — If you’re like me, and you were zoned in on the Patriots safeties, you know that the competition has not been one of the easiest to decipher. Whether it’s judging by snap counts or quality play — even 1s vs. 1s in the preseason— it’s been hard to get a gauge on who the Patriots want to play opposite of Devin McCourty. For Chung, who has made two starts in the team’s three preseason games, there may be an all-too-quick negative reaction to his abilities, particularly in pass coverage. There’s never been a knock on him for his physicality or his nose for the football. But Patriots fans have too many memories of missed tackles, poor angles, and deep passes on his watch in his first stint with the team. Despite all this, it appears that he has taken the lead at strong safety over Duron Harmon and Tavon Wilson — but with a caveat. The Patriots showed us a wrinkle in Friday’s game against Carolina, which could help explain how the team views each player. Chung played in the base defense while Harmon came onto the field in sub defenses, usually the nickel, to help with pass coverage which is his strength. While minimizing Chung’s weakness in pass coverage, Bill Belichick and company appear to be utilizing Harmon’s strengths in what will likely be a safety-by-committee role. (Wilson was marginalized.) Could these specialized roles be the answer for the team? For right now, that would make the most sense. Of course, we’ll just wait till teams start targeting one or the other to see if they are forced to adapt.

2. Expect Jordan Devey and Josh Kline to make the team — We watched Jordan Devey play right guard and left tackle Friday night, and left guard earlier in the preseason, so we know he has the versatility that Belichick craves. The same for Kline, who we’ve seen at right and left guard, but has also subbed in as an eligible tight end to help in power packages. There’s an allure to both of these two, who may not be the most polished players, but are certainly cheap and useful. Once the Patriots decide which offensive linemen they’re going to keep, they can be moved around at will if any injury arises. There’s an attraction there that I don’t think the team will want to pass up.

For the rest of my takeaways, view the original post on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.