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Bill Belichick and the Patriots have been fortunate the Buccaneers have been so bad in recent years, because he’s been able to pluck some pretty good players off their roster.

If all goes well, the deal they made on Tuesday for linebacker Jonathan Casillas will hopefully keep that tradition going.


The Patriots have had good luck trading for Buccaneers players in the past and hopefully Jonathan Casillas continues that tradition.
(USA TODAY Images)

Casillas adds depth at the linebacker spot for a team that is in need of some additional help defensively after losing Jerod Mayo a couple of weeks ago, along with the fact that Chandler Jones is set to potentially miss a month or more, according to several reports.  They already traded a sixth-round pick to the Tennessee Titans for linebacker Akeem Ayers last week, and Casillas marks the second defensive addition to the team.

It’s an interesting move as while Casillas is not a super star by any means, he’s a guy who has a history of being a special teams standout (he actually¬†recovered an onside kick at the start of the second half of Super Bowl XLIV, helping the Saints beat the Colts) and should be able to¬†give them a little extra help on the defensive side of the football in sub packages.

He hasn’t seen much time on the field this season, having appeared in just five games for Tampa Bay in 2014 while totaling 9 tackles and zero sacks. He’s been inactive for each of the Buccaneers‚Äô past two games, but does have¬†three starts on the year.

Given the success with some of the players they’ve taken from Tampa Bay’s roster, it will be interesting to see how he fits in. He’s not a flashy player but fans in New England also knew little about players like¬†Aqib Talib or LeGarrette Blount, both of whom were acquired via trade from the Bucs and ultimately made significant contributions during their time here. ¬†Tim Wright, who was acquired in a deal that sent Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers before the start of the season, got off to a slow start but he’s quietly becoming an important part of the Patriots’ offense, having caught his third touchdown of the year in Sunday’s win over Chicago.

As a result, Belichick must have seen something in Casillas¬†to send the Buccaneers a fifth round pick for his services. ¬†Hopefully he’ll turn out to be as good as some of those past players they’ve added previously, because as the Patriots get set to start the second half of their season, they could certainly use all the help they can get.

Rob Gronkowski Finally Clicking in Patriots Offense


Rob Gronkowski seems to be back to his old self. (USA TODAY Images)

When Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski went down last year against Cleveland with a knee injury, it was difficult to wonder how it would affect him over the long-term.

Would he still be the same guy? Would he still be as quick and would his athleticism be affected? Would he still be able to create the same separation and would he be able to play with the same intensity that made him such a big part of the offense?

They were all valid questions coming off of a torn ACL and MCL. However, one season later, the answer is pretty obvious.

He’s back, and arguably even better.

The 25-year old tight end appears to be as explosive as ever after putting up quite a performance during the Patriots 51-23 win over the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.


Gronkowski seems to be getting his swagger back after a slow start this season.
(USA TODAY Images)

During the victory Gronkowski finished with 9 catches for 149 yards, including 3 touchdowns. ¬†It was Gronkowski’s second career three touchdown game, and he and Tom Brady finished the day increasing their total to 48 career touchdown connections, which is second all time for quarterback/tight end tandems, trailing only Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who have 69 career touchdown connections.

Seeing him back and playing at a high level has certainly been encouraging, especially considering how last season ended for him. Watching him get carted off the field in 2013 was difficult to watch, especially after how tentative he had been with his return to begin with given the complications he battled while recovering from fracturing his forearm the season before.

Following the reports of the severity of his knee injury, the next question was whether or not he would be even close to the same player when he returned. ¬†Former Patriots tight end Jake Ballard was a glaring reminder of a player who was explosive and had a promising career that was taken away after a knee injury. He was never the same and fans in New England saw him seemingly struggle to trust the knee during last year’s training camp. He was ultimately cut, and he eventually called it quits and said he “never felt the same”.

It was hard not to wonder if that might happen to Gronkowski but fortunately, that hasn’t been the case. ¬†Gronkowski got off to a slow start this season after he and Brady struggled to connect early on, but ever since the Monday night debacle against Kansas City, the two appear to be much more in sync. ¬†Through the first four weeks Gronkowski caught just 13 passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns. ¬†Since then he’s caught 27 passes for 411 yards and four touchdowns, but the bigger story is the fact the Patriots’ offense hasn’t scored fewer than 27 points over that span and the team is 4-0.

Sunday against the Bears the thing that was impressive was the fact Brady was a perfect 9-of-9 targeting Gronkowski, and he was a big part of their success moving the football. The Patriots were 7-of-11 on third down Sunday, with Gronkowski accounting for four conversions, including a touchdown.

‚ÄúWe know that the completion percentage, and to get a first down from that, is very low,” Gronkowski told reporters after the game. “But you just have to go out there and execute and run the route just like it‚Äôs any other play. [You‚Äôve] got to get open and Tom [Brady] made some great throws. Just had to catch the ball and get the first down.‚ÄĚ

He’s looked great and the fact he’s beginning to settle in is certainly a terrific sign for a team that many had written off a few weeks ago. ¬†With Denver looming next weekend it will be a big challenge, but they seem to be heading into this match-up at the right time considering how well the offense is playing. ¬†However, there’s no question that it starts with Gronkowski and for now it appears he’s starting to resemble his old self.

‚ÄúIt was a good day overall for the team,” said Gronkowski. “Everyone was executing well. The offense was clicking. The defense was playing very well. Overall a great day, a great win, and it‚Äôs always good to get a win at home.‚ÄĚ

Patriots Brady Focused on Improving His Mobility


Tom Brady said this week that he’s working on using his legs to extend plays.

One of Tom Brady’s assets over the years has been his ability to move around in the pocket and avoid the onslaught of defensive players that come his way each time he drops back to throw the football. ¬†Now it appears he’s focused on adding another facet to his game to try and give himself and his teammates more chances to make plays.

Last Thursday against the Jets Brady made a terrific throw while rolling to his left, hitting Danny Amendola from 19-yards out for the touchdown, which at the time helped extend their lead to 27-19 with 7:49 to go in the game.  That play would ultimately prove to be the game winner as the team escaped with a 27-25 win.

The fact he was able to get outside helped give him the ability to connect on that throw as when Brady moved left, Amendola spun away from his defender and was able to get behind him, which allowed the veteran quarterback to hit him for the touchdown. Brady said on Wednesday that while extending plays with his feet has never been his strong suit, it’s something that he’s trying to improve on because he feels it provides his receivers better opportunities to get open.


“If you’re able to extend the play and buy your teammates more time to get open, then it’s like a whole other play.” – Tom Brady (USA TODAY Images)

“That’s never really been something that I’ve been great at is extending plays,” said Brady. ¬†“I see so many of these players ‚Äď whether it be Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers or Jay Cutler do it, Alex Smith does it ‚Äď some really mobile quarterbacks that do a great job for their team. Ben Roethlisberger has done it for a lot of years. I’m just trying to understand how I can help our team more. If I can make some more of those plays, I think it’d really help our team.

“I try to focus on that a little bit. Coach [Belichick] has talked about it. I think there could be more of those still, too. I don’t think instinctually it’s there for me yet, but I’m going to keep working at it. Because when you see when they happen, they end up being big plays, big momentum plays. Sometimes the defense has the initial part of the pattern covered, and if you’re able to extend the play and buy your teammates more time to get open, then it’s like a whole other play. It’s a great advantage for an offense. Like I said, it hasn’t really been a strength of mine. I’m trying to do a better job of it so hopefully it’s not as big of a weakness as it’s been in the past.”

The veteran admitted that the hardest part is getting past what he said is a “mental issue” of getting out of the pocket and using his legs, which is something he plans on trying to get past.

“I think for me sometimes it’s more of a mental issue,” said Brady. “I joke all the time, I said, I don’t have one cell in my body that ever tells me to run. I think I just sit there and kind of go, ‚ÄėWow, I’ve got more time to throw than usual,’ as opposed to I see some other players that maybe their initial read isn’t open and bam, they’re on the move, and they do a great job of that.

“I think there’s a balance for both of those. Being in the pocket certainly has served me well, but I think also there are times I can definitely help our team more [by] extending plays and making the defense cover for a longer period of time than they typically cover. So I’m going to keep working at it.”

Some fans may remember the play Brady made against former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher back on Nov. 26, 2006, who Brady juked while scampering for a first down on a 3rd-and-9 play and extended a drive that ultimately turned into a touchdown and essentially won the game. ¬†Back then he was 31, at the age of 37 he’s at the point in his career where fans likely won’t see him take off too often, but it’s still a play that he said¬†he may be able to one day tell his kids that he made a Hall of Famer miss.

“Somehow that always gets brought up, too, when we play these guys,” said Brady. ¬†“There weren’t many of those in my career, so it’s pretty easy to count them all on one hand when something like that happens.”

“They’re probably still too young to know that at this point,” Brady said of his children. “To figure out what dad does yet is still kind of confusing for them. One day, you’re right. He’ll be in the Hall of Fame someday, so it’ll probably be the only time I’ve made a Hall of Famer miss.”

For now he and his teammates will continue their preparation for Sunday’s game, which will be their eighth game of the season. ¬†As they head into November it’s an important stretch, and Brady said they’ll learn a lot about their team in the weeks to come.

“This is when football season starts to really feel like football season and the mental and physical toughness really start taking a toll,” said Brady. This is where you see what your team is all about.”

Brother vs Brother: Vereen Siblings Set to Battle Sunday


Shane Vereen is excited to battle his brother on Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)

Patriots running back Shane Vereen has already seen his role expand following the loss of lead back Stevan Ridley, who was lost for the season with a knee injury in Week 6 against the Bills.

Last Thursday night against the Jets he carried 11 times for 43 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry in his first game as the team’s main running back. ¬†This Sunday against the Bears, he’ll have another obstacle he’ll face as Chicago has a key player in their secondary that will be looking to make life a little difficult for him.

The Bears drafted Brock Vereen, the younger brother of the Patriots running back, in the 4th round of this year’s NFL Draft. ¬†The defensive back was a standout at the University of Minnesota and he’s now carrying over his talents to a Bears defense that is ranked 14th in the NFL against the run.

However, many of New England’s plays tend to move Shane out of the backfield and into open space, which may see a collision or two in the open field against his brother. ¬†Should Brock get a good hit on him, Shane knows he’ll get some ribbing for it, telling Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, “If he does get a good hit on me, I‚Äôm going to be hearing about it for a while.‚ÄĚ

The two are obviously competitive, although the two have never been on the field together at the same time due to their age difference (Shane is 25, while Brock is 22). ¬†That will change on Sunday when they face each other, which is something they’ve talked about for a long time. ¬†Now they’re excited to battle on the field.

‚ÄúGrowing up, we talked about it a lot,‚ÄĚ Shane told NESN.com earlier this week. ‚ÄúWe were never on the field at the same time because of our age difference, but now we‚Äôll finally get that chance, and we‚Äôre both really excited about it.‚ÄĚ

Brock got his first start last week at free safety with Chris Conte sidelined with a shoulder injury but Conte has returned to practice this week and seems as though he’ll be back in the line-up. However, according to the Chicago Daily Herald, Vereen should still see some playing time Sunday.

If he does, he’s excited about the opportunity but for now he’s spending this week trying to stay focused.

“It’s an exciting time for my parents and my family,” the rookie told the newspaper. “But from a personal standpoint, I’ve got to stay focused and get ready to go.”

Brock said he’s never hit his brother on the field but he obviously can’t go easy on him. Should the two square off they both know that it’s all about trying to help their respective team win, which should make for a fun story line to watch this weekend.

“(Not) with pads on,” he said when asked about it. “But we’re definitely looking forward to the possibility. I’ve got plenty of love for him. (But) on Sunday we both know we have jobs to do.”

REPORT: Patriots Revis Sent Home Tuesday after Arriving Late


Darrelle Revis has been a key part of the Patriots defense so far in 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

Bill Belichick is about as consistent as it comes when it relates to his approach to the game and the rules he governs his players by, which, according to the Boston Globe, ended up being bad news for one of their star players this week.

Ben Volin of the Globe reported on Wednesday that Darrelle Revis was sent home on Tuesday after showing up late to the facility for a 7:30 a.m. meeting at the stadium following the team giving the players Saturday through Monday off after their victory over the Jets Thursday night.

According to Volin, Revis overslept, with a source telling him that the veteran cornerback “has accepted responsibility for his actions and understands that the team‚Äôs rules apply to all players.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened, as Belichick has previously sent¬†players home for¬†being late. Fans may remember what happened in 2009 when he sent four players home after they arrived late to the facility during a December snowstorm, with¬†Adalius Thomas, Derrick Burgess, Randy Moss, and Gary Guyton being sent home that day.

At the time that seemed to spell the beginning of the end for Thomas, who was quite miffed after the incidient.  When asked whether he thought Belichick was trying to motivate the players by sending them home, he was quite vocal to ESPN Boston about it.

“Motivation is for kindergartners. I’m not a kindergartner,” Thomas said. “Sending somebody home, that’s like, ‘He’s expelled, come back and make good grades.’ Get that [expletive] out of here. That’s ridiculous. Motivation?”

For those concerned about any potential rift between Revis and Belichick stemming from this, this appears to be an isolated issue. ¬†Volin cites a source who said that Revis actually returned to the team’s facility in the afternoon on his own to apologize to Belichick.

On Wednesday, Revis¬†told the media his absence on Tuesday was, “Between me and coach [Bill Belichick]. Talk to him about it.”

Case closed. ¬†They’re on to Chicago.

Patriots Make a Low-Risk Trade, Acquire Titans LB Akeem Ayers


New England added LB Akeem Ayers Tuesday. (USA TODAY Images)

The Patriots made a move to try and add some depth to the linebacker position on Tuesday, acquiring Tennessee Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers via a trade, with the deal reportedly pending a physical.

The move helps New England as they continue to try and deal with the loss of Jerod Mayo, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 6. ¬†They’ve also seen Dont’a Hightower banged up and now will also have to make changes to compensate for the loss of Chandler Jones, who will seemingly miss the next month with a hip injury.

Ayers reportedly had offseason knee surgery on both knees to repair his patellar tendons.  With the deal being contingent on a physical, should he pass, that should tell most fans all they need to know about his health if the coaches and front office are comfortable enough with him to complete the deal.

The deal¬†will cost the Patriots¬†a sixth-round draft choice in next year’s draft in exchange for Ayers and a Titans’ seventh-rounder, per ESPN.com¬†Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky.

The former Titan was a second-round pick in 2011 and is in the final year of his contract.


Chandler Jones will reportedly miss a month with a hip injury. (USA TODAY Images)

Last season saw the Patriots lose quite a few high profile players to injury, making a complete mess of things on both sides of the football as they battled to stay in the playoff hunt before eventually getting knocked out of the AFC Championship Game in Denver.

At the time it seemed like a really bad anomaly that would hopefully never happen again.  Losing the likes of Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Tommy Kelly set their defense back badly over the course of the remainder of the season as they worked each week to compensate for each player that went down.

Heading into the 2014 season most hoped they wouldn’t ever have to deal with those types of losses this time around.

Unfortunately, their luck is beginning to take a turn for the worse.

Despite the celebration that took place following Chris Jones’ block of Jets kicker Nick Folk’s field goal, there was one player who wasn’t jumping for joy after New England blocked the Jets’ game-winning field goal attempt. ¬†Defensive end¬†Chandler Jones reportedly suffered a hip injury somewhere around the end of the game and was spotted walking off the field fairly gingerly instead of celebrating with his teammates.

According to the Boston Globe,¬†Whatever happened will now reportedly keep him ‘about a month’, which now has New England trying to come up with a contingency plan to deal with his absence. ¬†The newspaper reports that the team will sign free agent defensive end Alan Branch in an effort to add depth on the defensive line.

This marks the second straight week New England has lost a significant player on defense, having lost Mayo for the second time in as many seasons to a season-ending injury in Week 6.  Losing Jones removes a high-energy personality and a player who has been a difference-maker this season, making key plays in some key moments, including his blocked field goal and subsequent return for a touchdown against the Vikings in Week 2.

Overall he has 4.5 sacks as well as a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

The signing of Branch seems to have a lot of upside if he’s ready to turn things around. ¬†He’s coming off of a DUI arrest that lead to his release from the Bills¬†this summer back on August 24th, 2014.

Fortunately Jones will seemingly be back at some point this season. ¬†But his loss, along with Mayo and running back Stevan Ridley, has been a strong reminder of just how quickly things can change. ¬†Hopefully this will be the last hit they’ll have to suffer for a while because this is a group that struggled enough as it was against New York. ¬†

It’s another tough blow to a team that has already battled with enough setbacks after a rough start. One would have to think losing Jones isn’t going to help make things any easier for Bill Belichick to fix their problems as they continue preparing for the Bears this week.

Four Patriots Players Among Active Leaders For Games Played

In a league where staying healthy and being out there every Sunday is so important, it’s tough enough for players to consistently be out there given the physical nature of the sport they’re a part of.


Rob Ninkovich leads the NFL in his category for players with the most consecutive regular season starts.
(USA TODAY Images)

Looking at the current active players who are among the league leaders in consecutive regular season games played, there are only four names who made the list from the Patriots when looking at the top five in each category.

Tom Brady, Rob Ninkovich, James Develin and Kyle Arrington are the few who have managed to remain healthy enough to make it, with Ninkovich being the only player who is near the top at his position in that category. ¬†The veteran, who is classified as a defensive end, has played in 77 consecutive regular season games, trailing only Oakland’s Jon Condo, who has played in 117 consecutive contests. ¬†Below him are Chicago’s Lamarr Houston (70), Jacksonville’s Tyson Alualu (70), Minnesota’s Everson Griffen (65), and Houston’s J.J. Watt (54)

Arrington has played in 76 straight regular season games, trailing Dallas’ Brandon Carr (102), Carolina’s Antoine Cason (102), Buffalo’s Corey Graham (115) and Pittsburgh’s William Gay (118).

Also making this list for fullbacks is James Develin, who has played in 23 straight regular season games, tied with Detroit’s Jed Collins for third in this category for their position. ¬†They trail Oakland’s Jamize Olawale (24) and Oakland’s Marcel Reece (46).

Following his knee injury back in 2008, Brady has since played in 87 straight regular season games, trailing Baltimore’s Joe Flacco (102), San Diego’s Philip Rivers (135) and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (157).

Brady and Ninkovich are also the only two players in the top five in their categories for consecutive regular season starts among active players, with Ninkovich leading all defensive ends with 56 consecutive starts, ahead of Watt, who has 54.

Brady Reaches Milestone in Win Over the Jets


Tom Brady reached another career milestone as he continues his march up the NFL record books.

Tom Brady’s no stranger to the NFL record books and on Thursday night he continued his assault as he continues his Hall of Fame career.

During New England’s win over the Jets Brady moved into sixth place all time in career pass attempts ahead of Warren Moon following an incompletion on first down¬†to Julian Edelman with 13:30 to go in the fourth quarter. ¬†It was Brady’s 6,824th career attempt.

He would have eight more attempts following that play, the last of which was the 19-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola with 7:55 to go that ultimately ended up being the game-winning play.

Brady also finished the night having thrown three touchdowns and no interceptions for the 40th time in his career, which is currently the 2nd most all-time behind Peyton Manning, who has done it 42 times.

There’s just something about the New York Jets that causes Chris Jones to stand out.

Last season it was in a way that he’d probably rather forget, having been responsible for a key penalty in overtime during their week seven 30-27 loss down in New York. ¬†It was a play¬†that ended up being the topic of discussion for a while when it came to a rule change that involved being able to assist teammates by giving them a little extra push blocking field goals.

Jones was flagged for unnecessary roughness after referees ruled he had illegally pushed one of his teammates to help block a 56-yard attempt by Folk that sailed wide left, which should have given the Patriots good starting field position out near midfield. Instead it allowed the Jets drive to continue, and they moved up and allowed Folk to hit a 42-yard try that ultimately won the game.


Chris Jones saved the day with a huge field goal block at the end of regulation Thursday night. (USA TODAY Images)

However, Thursday night he was the one who took matters into his own hands. With just over a minute to go the Jets had driven down to the New England 40-yard line, making play after play and putting themselves in position to attempt a 58-yard field goal that trailing 27-25 would have given them a much needed road win.

Considering the way things had gone to that point after the Jets were having success moving the football, along with how accurate kicker Nick Folk had been all night, the kick seemed to be a foregone conclusion and the thought of losing such a hard fought game was nauseating to say the least. ¬†There had been some great moments by the Patriots on the offensive side of the football, but their defense didn’t seem to have any answers for a Jets’ ground game that tore them up all night and left them with plenty of problems they’ll need to solve when they get back on the field a week from Sunday when they take the field again at home against¬†Chicago.

Needless to say everyone at Gillette Stadium held their breath during New York’s attempt, but fortunately Jones was able to get some height and got his hand up just high enough to deflect it shortly after Folk made contact.

The ball fell harmlessly to the ground, and just like that the game was over.

“Well, it was, I think probably about the game we expected with the Jets,” said Belichick. ¬†“It‚Äôs always tough, a really grind it out game. ¬†Obviously really happy for Chris [Jones] at the end after what happened last year. ¬†I thought it was so fitting that he made that play. ¬†So that was awesome.

“It wasn‚Äôt our best. ¬†It was good enough, but it wasn‚Äôt our¬†best. ¬†We‚Äôve got to do a better job in all three phases¬†of the game all the way around. ¬†But I‚Äôve got to give our team a lot of credit.”

That kick was Folk’s fifth field goal attempt on the evening, with the Jets kicker having hit earlier field goals from 22, 47, 46 and 27 respectively. ¬†He was right on the money with each one, so there was no reason to believe this time would be any different.

However, Jones managed to make what could end up being one of the biggest plays of the season, especially knowing how last year went and the fact that one win could have changed their playoff possibilities. In 2013 one more victory would have seen them battle the Broncos at home instead of on the road and it’s games like these that could end up being so important.

For now he’ll get to enjoy the fact that he was able to help his team win just one year removed from what transpired at the MetLife Stadium last year.

“A few people have told me about it, so I‚Äôve had a chance to think about it,” Jones told the Boston Herald. “It feels good. That was last year. It just feels good to get the win this year.

“I think it really became a reality when (special teams assistant) Joe Judge came up to me and told me. I felt it then.”