Here’s a quick rundown of this morning’s top stories:
Johnson Looking to Surprise Old Team – There’s been quite a change in defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, who now that he’s with the Patriots is looking forward to going up against his former team this weekend when the Dolphins come into Gillette Stadium.
When Johnson played in Miami back in 2014, he was a bigger player, with the veteran hitting as high as 325 pounds while he worked on moving inside to nose tackle, which isn’t far off from the 330 he weighed as a freshman at LSU.
Now he’s down to 280 and he’s been much quicker and more effective thus far here in New England and he expects his former teammates to be surprised when they see him.
“It’s gonna mess them up,” Johnson said via NESN. “It’s going to mess them up. You better believe it. I’m looking forward to it. I think I’m going to be a mismatch for a lot of teams. These coaches are going to put us in the best position to make plays. I’m just ready to help this team go out and win the best way we can.”
Johnson has fit in well so far in the Patriots’ defense, finishing with a tackle in Week 1 but was disruptive las Sunday as he made Carson Palmer miserable on a night where played in 20 snaps on defense in his first regular season game with his new team.
This week he’ll be playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder as he gets ready to face the team that cut him last year, and he told NESN he’s been spending extra time working hard to make sure he plays well this weekend.
“You want to go out and have a good game against your former team,” Johnson said. “That’s why I’m working hard at practice. I’m going in, putting in the extra work day in and day out, not changing anything from my routine, but I’m ready to play.”
Gronkowski a Football Mastermind – Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated had a terrific article on Rob Gronkowski, where he really went deep with the tight end as Gronkowski discussed a variety of nuances and scenarios he faces on a week-to-week basis on the field, while offering up some pretty incredible insight for a player who sometimes doesn’t get much credit for his football I.Q.
The veteran has put a lot of time in since coming to the NFL learning the nuances of the game, which he explained has helped make him a better player. Gronkowski told Benoit that figuring out little things, like being able to read the safeties and adjusting his routes based on where they’re lined up, has made him more productive.
“There are a lot of routes, about five or six in the playbook, where if it’s split-high , I have to run one certain route, and if it’s single-high [one safety deep], I have another route,” Gronkowski said. My rookie year I always got it wrong. But just learning the game, studying film, listening to my coaches, figuring out the techniques of the team I’m playing that week, to know if it’s split safety or post high, was hugely helpful. Eventually you know it in a second. You won’t even have to think about it.”
Another area that Gronkowski discussed was how he learned to improve his route running, learning how to show the same look in the beginning and being able to break it off to catch defenders off guard. A lot of players rely on just their athleticism to beat opponents, while Gronkowski has also learned to outsmart them.
“Having defenders think you’re going somewhere else, and always remembering to run what looks like the same route as before, but boom: At the top you stick it off one way or you stick it off the other,” explained Gronkowski. ” But all the way to the top of the route, it looks the same. I’ve worked on that a lot throughout my career.”
Bill Belichick told Benoit that Gronkowski’s athletic versatility really also extends to his intelligence, which has been the difference why he’s been able to figure out what many other players who have come into this system haven’t been able to do. It’s helped turn him into one of the best of the game, and also why he remains such an important part of their offense.
“Rob is a versatile athlete, but he’s also a versatile guy mentally,” said Belichick. “He can handle a lot of different assignments. Some guys can’t. Either they mentally can’t do it, or it’s just too much and their game slows down. They don’t play to the same skill set you see athletically because they’re thinking too much. That’s not the case with Rob.”
There you go. Gronkowski is just as incredible with his mind as he is in pads, and it’s definitely a story you’ll want to take some time and check out if you haven’t already.
Former BC Guard Hits the Practice Squad – The Patriots continued shuffling their practice squad on Thursday, releasing Clay DeBoard while adding offensive guard Ian Silberman.
Silberman played football for both Florida and Boston College and was a sixth round pick for the 49ers in last year’s draft. He’s originally from Florida, growing up as a native of Orange Park and having played for Fleming Island High School.
He played three years at the University of Florida and then after graduating in 2013, he transferred to Boston College where he used his final year of eligibility to play a season with the Eagles, playing at right tackle. He had been previously released by the 49ers back on August 27th.
Amendola Became Inspired By Tillman’s Story – There’s been a lot of controversy about players not standing during the national anthem, but Danny Amendola has his reasons for why he took part in the opening ceremonies when he held the flag during the pregame ceremony last Sunday and for what the Spar Spangled Banner means to him.
Amendola told NESN that one of the things that inspired him was reading Pat Tillman’s story, who was a former NFL player who joined the Army following the 9/11 attacks and was killed in a friendly-fire incident back in 2004.
Tillman’s sacrifice touched Amendola, who explained that it played a part in his actions during pregame Sunday night in Arizona.
“I can only speak for myself,” Amendola told NESN. “I read a Pat Tillman story before I went on the field the other day. What he did for the flag and what he did for the country is pretty remarkable. That was inspirational to me.”
Edelman Hit With $26k Fine, Plans on Appeal – Julian Edelman played with a chip on his shoulder on Sunday night, and one play he made saw him lay a big hit linebacker Deone Bucannon.
Bucannon, who is 6’1″, 216lbs got drilled on a blindside block by the smaller and nearly 20-pound lighter Edelman Sunday night.
According to Mike Reiss, Edelman was fined $26,000 for the hit “on a defenseless player”, which you can see in the Tweet above from NESN’s Zack Cox.
Reiss also reports Edelman plans to appeal the fine.
Reiss was the first to report the news, as was someone Fox Sports’ Brett Pollakoff quoted named ‘Mike Rice” (with Reiss’ Tweet and his name embedded right below it). Hard to fault Pollakoff as mistakes happen, and clearly he doesn’t understand what a key player Reiss is here in this market as it’s a name that’s obviously well-known in New England.
Meanwhile, no fine on Edelman for another hit he put on the Cardinals’ ball boy, where he didn’t help him up and stared him down before turning and walking back to the huddle.
The receiver is definitely playing with an edge and a little bit of anger, which should make him pretty dangerous for opponents in the weeks ahead.
Hightower Absent From Practice Again – Meanwhile, on the other side of the football the Patriots appear like they could be without linebacker Dont’a Hightower this weekend, who missed practice for the second straight day.
Hightower suffered a reported knee injury during the season opener out in Arizona and the fact he hasn’t been out there for two days likely doesn’t bode well for his chances for playing this weekend.
Give the veteran credit, he gutted out Sunday night’s game following the injury, missing just three snaps out of their 61 defensive plays. But as important as beating the Dolphins obviously is, like Gronkowski, having him in January far outweighs risking further injury if he’s not yet ready to return.
Solder Excited for the Game on Sunday – Veteran tackle Nate Solder missed Week 1 as he continues battling a hamstring injury, but after two straight days of being limited in practice, he sounded relatively optimistic about his chances of playing this weekend.
Having Solder back healthy would certainly give the Patriots’ offensive line a boost, especially against what will likely be a tough group up front by the Dolphins. Everyone knows the threat Ndamukong Suh presents up front and how dangerous a player he is, as well as the Dolphins’ pass rush as a whole. As a result, New England will need as much help as possible as they try and get Jimmy Garoppolo through another start this weekend.
Suh has already said his plan for Sunday is to try and rattle Garoppolo.
“Very poised young man,” Suh told ESPN of Garoppolo. “Obviously he has had a lot of work underneath that system and he understands what he needs to get done. In my opinion, he doesn’t want to go out there and make any mistakes, and he went out there and accomplished that.”
With Suh gunning for him as well as his teammates, Garoppolo needs as many healthy bodies as he can for this weekend. For now Solder is looking forward to hopefully being out there.
“I’m really excited [for the game], it’s going to be awesome,” said Solder on Sunday’s home opener. “It’s going to be a tough opponent and I’m excited to get the opportunity to play out there.”