Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news notes and what’s happening around the division. It is always a bit strange when the Patriots play on Monday Night Football as the buzz around town on Sunday is always a lot more subdued.
Belichick Doesn’t Support the Troops?…PULLLEASE: Every week another pseudo-scandal takes place by the more irrational NFL fans out there in social media. Last week it was those nefarious Patriots manipulating the play clock to give Stephen Gostkowski more time to prepare for his game winning field goal. Never mind that the game was in the Meadowlands and the Giants timekeepers controlled the clock.
Even better was the one that Bill Belichick was the only coach not wearing the camouflage pullovers the other coaches were (he was the only one), and therefore “doesn’t support the troops”. What a crock.
If Belichick chooses not to, he’s certainly within his right, but no one….no one supports the troops more than he does. Every trip to Washington goes with hand-in-hand with a trip to Walter Reed hospital to visit our wounded warriors. Every Veterans Day Belichick drills into the team that it isn’t just another holiday and uses it to teach what sacrifice and dedication goes into being a military member.
Belichick grew up at the Naval Academy and saw first hand that those athletes on the Navy football team had a commitment first to the Navy before football. He drafted Joe Cardona, not knowing if the Navy would allow him to play in the NFL. On Pat Tillman’s last trip home before being tragically killed in Afghanistan, Belichick promised him a spot with the Patriots upon his return.
Belichick gets it for sure and what he undoubtedly doesn’t get is the league telling him to “be patriotic” for a few weeks by wearing a camo sweatshirt. He’s doesn’t need the league to tell him to support the troops, he does it all the time. Ask Joe Cardona.
Injury Epidemic Continues, Collins, Coleman Join Edelman: The Patriots injury list continues to grow; not only was Julian Edelman lost for at least the rest of the regular season but Jamie Collins, arguably the Patriots best linebacker has been ruled out also for Monday Night as he continues to battle an unnamed illness that has caused him to miss three games.
And now the team, already dangerously thin at cornerback, lost rookie corner Justin Coleman for this week. Coleman has been wearing a cast over his thumb but was removed from Sunday’s game against the Giants and missed all of this week’s practice. Coleman will be replaced by Rashaan Melvin, who played in the Giants game once Coleman was removed. Also added to the injury report was Chandler Jones, limited with an abdominal injury and Alan Branch.
Some good news was that OL Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon and Tre’ Jackson returned to the practice field this week, albeit in limited participation but it is a promising sign that they may all be close to returning to game action.
Malcom Brown draws raves from Belichick: Friday morning’s presser with Bill Belichick found him speaking for much longer than normal and he heaped some praise on rookie defensive tackle Malcom Brown.
Brown has been steadily improving over the course of the season and Belichick was speaking at length on his progression. Asked by media members how much Brown’s game has grown, Belichick said:
“Good… I think the last six weeks or so have been really a kind of a significant incline for him. Not that it was ever bad. But his play’s improved in everything. His aggressiveness, his reaction, his communication, adjustments he has to make after the ball’s snapped. He’s really done a good job.
“He’s worked hard and he’s taken the experience he’s had and built on it. It’s become a positive,” Belichick said. “Some guys make mistakes and they show up again, but he’s been able to correct a lot of those things and take his game to a much higher level here in the last few weeks.”
Patriots Workout RB Hunter: With Dion Lewis on IR, the Patriots continue to host running backs that can catch the ball out of the backfield in for workouts. On Friday, the team worked out former 49er RB Kendall Hunter.
Hunter is built similar to Lewis at 5’7 and lower to the ground, but has been beset with injuries throughout his career. Hunter had some effective seasons with the Niners but torn an Achilles in 2012 and an ACL in 2014.
He returned to the Niners for training camp this season but was released with an injury settlement.
East Bound and Down…Notes Around the AFC East:
Jets Fitzpatrick will play vs Houston: The Jets’ starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had surgery on his injured thumb on Friday but practiced in full on Thursday and is expected to get the start against his former team when the Jets take on the Houston Texans.
Fitzpatrick tore the ulnar collateral ligament in the thumb on his non-throwing hand in Oakland on the first of November and played through it in two games while wearing a brace.
“I thought he did a good job,” Jet coach Todd Bowles said. “I don’t think he was any worse for wear from last week. He’s not taking pain medicine or anything, so he had a full practice. We’ll see Sunday.”
Fitzpatrick started 12 games for the Texans last year but broke his leg in December and was released during the off-season before being signed by the Jets.
And so it goes…Bills’ Ryan has meltdown with media: Bills coach Rex Ryan has never met a microphone he doesn’t like. But on a Thursday conference call with Patriots beat writers, he blew up and the longer it went on the worse Ryan came off.
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald asked Ryan a legit question; Given his obsession with NE does his current streak of losing 8 of 9 against them keep him up nights? Ryan got the assembled crew chuckling with his answer that “you guys obsess about and talk about them every day.”
But it went downhill and kept going south from there.
“I’ll tell you this, we prepare for them the same way we prepare for every team that we face. But do we want to beat them? Absolutely. Do I want to beat them more than any team? Yeah, because they’re the standard, they’ve won and they’re the ones who win the division,” Ryan said.
“To me, that’s why do I obsess with them and all that? You guys write about I’ve lost seven of eight, so why are you even talking to me. I obviously have no clue on how to attack them or defend them. So, you guys should talk to somebody else who’s got a better record than I do against them.”
Ryan came off very badly even when the media lobbed him a few softball questions and sounded exactly like the guy who is obsessed with everything New England. So if there is a time for Buffalo to rise up and challenge the Patriots, this Monday night is the time. Because after Thursday’s rant, another loss to NE won’t go over well with Ryan at this point.
Dolphins Problems Stopping TEs will continue against Dallas: The Miami Dolphins have had some issues stopping tight ends in 2015 and last week against Brent Celek they struggled badly.
Celek was virtually uncovered for a big 60 yard gain, part of a 134-yard day for the Eagles tight end. And this week, old pro Jason Witten is coming to town and Tony Romo is off of the IR-Return list and will play against the Dolphins.
Romo missed seven games and the Cowboys dropped every one of them. But with him returning this week, his favorite target in Witten should see a lot of action against a Dolphins team that is struggling to cover them.
Defensively, the Dolphins have allowed 581 receiving yards to opposing tight ends. Only five teams have allowed more.
Witten is tied for the league lead in TE receptions with the Pats’ Rob Gronkowski with 49 and is eighth in yards with 445. While some would say, and truthfully so that Witten has lost a step, he’s putting up those numbers with Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel under center.
Romo and Witten have connected on 646 career completions which is the most of any quarterback/tight end combination in the NFL since 1991.
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