Tag Archives: Sean Payton

Patriots, Brady Answer the Bell, Smother Saints 36-20 Observations

Steve Balestrieri
September 17, 2017 at 6:18 pm ET

Ok, now everyone can back away from the ledge. The Patriots did just what they needed to do after a bad performance in the Week 1 loss to the Chiefs, they dominated the game on offense and the Saints defense had on answers for the Patriots offense as the team ran out for 30 points in a pivotal first half and cruised to an easy win on the road.

It wasn’t all pretty, there are still several areas to tighten up on, but as we’ve seen for years with Bill Belichick and this team, it is always done be degrees and this team was infinitely better than the team that stepped on the field 10 days ago.

So after Buffalo thudded back to earth in Carolina, the Patriots find themselves tied with Buffalo at the top of the AFC East at 1-1. Miami and the Jets are still playing at this point although the Jets are trailing as we speak.  Here are some other observations on this one:

Tom Brady Skewers Saints “D”: We talked coming into this game that we’d be shocked if this offense didn’t score between 30-35 points. I predicted a 34-24 win. They actually went a bit more than that and left some points on the field in the process.

Brady entered the game with just three healthy wide receivers and put on an absolute clinic in the first quarter throwing for 177 yards and three touchdowns.

Brady overall was surgical, completing 30-39 for 447 yards and three touchdowns, no interceptions, no interceptions with a passer rating of 139.6

He went to his running backs more in this one, mostly James White and completed 13 passes for 143 yards to the backs who stepped up big time in the passing game this week. Brady was frequently under duress but stood tall in the pocket and delivered. Despite being short of WRs today, Brady completed passes to nine different players today.

Defense Steps Up: It still is far from what they’ll expect later in the season, but it is only Week 2. The defense was gashed a week ago by the Chiefs, and all week the lament was “what is Drew Brees and the Saints going to do?” Well, the defense stepped up big, especially in the running game. New Orleans ran for 81 yards, helped by a big run on the last play of the game by Mark Ingram. But that was much, much better for Matt Patricia’s unit. Take away that last run which skewed the stats and the Saints averaged 3.3. Yards per Rush.

Anytime you can go to New Orleans and hold Drew Brees and the Saints to two touchdowns, you’ve done your job. And this defense definitely did that today. They still need to work on their communications for the rub routes and pick plays but overall this was a much better effort.

Minnesota is supposed to have one of the best defenses in the NFL. They allowed 19 points at home to New Orleans. This same Saints offense at home where they are much more effective scored just one more point. Mission accomplished.

Gronk Has a Big Game Before Injuring Groin: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski heard the talk about him supposedly losing a step this week after Eric Berry did a masterful job of slowing him down this week.

He too, answered the bell this week, hauling in six passes for 116 yards and a score, including his broken play 53-yard touchdown where it was vintage Gronkowski. He got free down the sideline, got the pass and shook off a tackle and then the big man rumbled into the end zone for a score and treating the fans to the first Gronk spike since Week 8 a year ago.

He then left the game and running another seam route and taking the ball deep into New Orleans territory he went down awkwardly and went straight into the medical tent. He was seen later pedaling the exercise bike on the sideline. We’ll have to see what transpires this week on the Wednesday practice and injury report.

Situational Football Pays Off: One thing we always love to watch in practice is the team practicing their situational football scenarios. Bill Belichick calls out downs, distances and time on the clock and the team has to respond. No one does it more and better than the Pats.

Today was a prime example of this. After stopping the Saints just before the half, the Patriots were driving and in a position to score to go up big at halftime. Brady led them down the field and on third down he scrambled but came up two yards short of a first down.

The reacted perfectly. The kicking unit ran on the field, the offense got off and Stephen Gostkowski had time to get set and boot a field goal to end the half that put the team up 30-13 at the break. It was a huge switch in momentum and was a prime example of why they practice those plays.

Deatrich Wise Steps Up Nicely in His Second Game: The rookie defensive lineman got a ton of reps today. Looking at the defensive line, there was a ton of youth out there at times with Wise, Adam Butler and Trey Flowers providing the pass rush.

Wise finished with two tackles, a sack and five QB hits on Brees. The young lineman from Arkansas had a very good summer and is off to a very good start in his NFL career. The pass rush wasn’t great today, especially considering the state of the Saints offensive line but it was good enough.

Cassius Marsh only had a few snaps but got some good pressure as well. His coming off the left end saved a touchdown as Brees had to unload the ball early and his pass was short, with his wide receiver open in the end zone.

Offensive Line Didn’t Play Well: The offensive line play will be an area where the coaches will try to settle things down this week, with Houston coming into town. Brady was under pressure far too often although they only sacked him twice. Nate Solder, in particular, struggled with Cameron Jordan.

But they also had a mixed bag in the running game. Overall the Patriots managed 119 yards on the ground which is good but only for a 3.8 yard per carry average. The run blocking will have to be better as we go on but again when you score 36 points and run up 555 yards on offense, there aren’t too many dings against the offense. However, the coaches will point to the 3 of 7 in the red zone as a teaching point this week.

Call the MASH Unit: The injuries continue to pile up. New England entered the game with just three healthy wide receivers and had two of them plus Gronkowski going down. Chris Hogan looked like he had a thigh injury and Phillip Dorsett also came up limping in what looked to be an ankle or foot problem.

Eric Rowe was injured which opened the door for Jonathan Jones to come in and he played very well, breaking up a couple of passes, one in the end zone on a very head’s up play. Rex Burkhead suffered a rib injury and left the game. It will be interesting to see who is healthy enough to go next week against Houston.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Saints Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 15, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

The New England Patriots find themselves in unfamiliar territory after the first week of the season at the wrong end of a 0-1 record. To even things up, they have to travel to the New Orleans Mercedes Benz Superdome where the Saints are always tough to beat. The Saints are also 0-1 and like New England didn’t play particularly well on Monday Night. Now with a short week, they return home to face a Patriots team that is looking to rebound in Week 2.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 17 at 1:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nance will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines. The game will also be on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.

The Patriots (0-1) lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 42-27 giving up 21 unanswered points in the 4th quarter. The defense struggled and gave up the most points and yards ever allowed by a Bill Belichick coached Patriots team.

The Saints (0-1) lost to the Minnesota Vikings 29-19. The offensive line struggled to protect Drew Brees and the defense gave up big plays on third down and had communication issues in the secondary. Not exactly unheard of on Week 1 with a young defense.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give a quick break down on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Saints have met thirteen times in their history dating back to 1972 with the Patriots holding a 9-4 advantage including 4-1 in New Orleans. The last meeting was in Foxboro in 2013 when Tom Brady hit Kenbrell Thompkins with a game winning touchdown with less than a few seconds left on the clock to pull it out 30-27.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Saints Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game is still looking to get untracked but did have a bit of success running the ball last week. Although stopped twice on 4th and 1 attempts, Mike Gillislee scored on three short yardage touchdown runs from 2,2, and 1 yard out.

The Saints did a pretty good job of stuffing the run last week against Minnesota holding Adrian Peterson and Co. in check. Cameron Jordan is their best pass rusher and a very good run defender.

Look for the Patriots to spread them out and run Rex Burkhead in between the tackles this week. I expect to see him get plenty of work in the passing game as well. Gillislee will be the designated goal line/short yardage back.

Patriots WRs vs Saints Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game was very lackluster last week, Tom Brady completed only 16-36 for 267 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Patriots were trying to stretch the field last week going deep vertically much more than they’re accustomed to. They have to get back to stretching the field horizontally this week.

The Saints have a young and talented secondary but they’re not ready yet. They had multiple breakdowns and communication issues in Week 1. They also struggle to cover the tight ends which should be a big matchup nightmare for them this week.

I’m looking for Brady to get the tight ends involved early and often this week. Even with an injury depleted wide receiver corps, Brady still has plenty of weapons to go to. Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen should be primary targets early in this one. Look for Josh McDaniels to get the running backs more involved in the passing game this week. As long as the offensive line gives Brady time to throw, he should find plenty of space to work in this week.

Next up the New Orleans offense:

Saints RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New Orleans

The Saints barely used Mark Ingram who rushed for over 1000 yards last year. And neither was Adrian Peterson who they signed this spring as they went with rookie Alvin Kamara who played well And after Peterson yelled at head coach Sean Payton late in the first half of his first game as a Saint, his time there may be short.

The Patriots played in a dime for most of the game last week with Jordan Richards as a linebacker and were gashed by the run. They allowed 185 yards and 6.9 yards per run. This week’s game should see them change that up quite a bit as that strategy plain didn’t work. Look for the Patriots to be much better against the run this week.

Saints WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New Orleans

Drew Brees struggled in the opener because of issues with his offensive line. But he has a very good wide receiver in Michael Thomas and a burner in Ted Ginn as well as TE Coby Fleener. If Brees gets time to throw, he can pick apart any defense.

The Patriots were gashed in the passing game as well, this secondary is much too talented for that. Look for the Patriots to go to the Big Nickel this week, with Pat Chung as the extra linebacker. Harvey Langi should see some action this week. The key will be the pass rush against a beat up New Orleans offensive line. Look for Trey Flowers to have a nice game this week putting pressure on Brees.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Push

The Patriots special teams lost their punt returner when Danny Amendola went down with a concussion. That’s three punt returners and counting that have been lost so far this season. The coverage units and kicking game were solid last week. The kickoff return team was stuck in neutral.

Bill Belichick raved this week about Thomas Morstead this week, (he loves his punters) and he’s one of the better ones in the league. Their kicking game with Wil Lutz had a solid week, but the Saints allowed five kicks to be blocked last year. Look for the Patriots to try to get one this week.  

Next up, who wins and why…


This one should be an entertaining one as two of the best quarterbacks in the league get together. Both have enormous respect for one another and both are ultra competitive who leave it all out on the field. The Patriots defense has some issues to work out or else Brees could have a huge day. Likewise, the Patriots offense, even with banged up WRs should have their way with this young defense.

This has the potential to be a shootout. But I like the Patriots to take control of this game with a much better effort defensively. It starts with the run defense and Alan Branch and Malcom Brown inside. Ditching the four-safety look this week should really help. Look for Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise to put some pressure on Brees against the younger tackles.

Offensively, if the Patriots don’t score between 30-35 points I’d be very surprised this week. A look at what Minnesota was able to do with a much less talented offense sets the bar this week. And it starts with Rob Gronkowski. Gronk had to hear the entire, “he can’t run anymore”, “he’s lost a step”, take your pick. He’s in line for a huge game this week. Brady will spread them out and find his mismatches. It may be newcomer Phillip Dorsett against nickel corner De’Vante Harris, who was picked on by the Vikings on Monday night. Look for the Patriots to rebound and play a much better game in New Orleans. Time for the fan base to come in off the ledge.

Patriots 34-24

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots 2017 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the Saints

Steve Balestrieri
September 13, 2017 at 7:54 am ET


We are on Week 2 in the NFL and the schedule this weekend has the Patriots traveling down to New Orleans to take on the Saints. Neither team got off to the start that they wanted to kick off the season and both teams enter the week at 0-1.

The Patriots had a rare 4th quarter meltdown at home against the Chiefs and allowed 21 points in the fourth quarter to lose 42-27. The defense gave up big plays for touchdowns and the offense, despite scoring 27 points never got untracked.

The Saints went to Minnesota and dropped an ugly one as well 29-19. Drew Brees and the offense in five trips to the red zone could only manage four field goals and a touchdown. And the defense consistently gave up big plays on third down as Sam Bradford had his way with them.

Both teams will be looking to bounce back this week as teams that start the year 0-2 rarely have success in making the playoffs or reaching the Super Bowl. New Orleans, especially their offense, however, always play much better in the Super Dome.  Here are our five first impressions of the Saints before this week’s game.

Minnesota Picked on De’Vante Harris in the Opener: Week 1 is the classic overreaction week in the NFL. Just look around, the fans from 15 teams are already looking on StubHub for tickets to Super Bowl LII, while fans from 15 others are in panic mode. However, the Saints knew coming in this year that they are inexperienced at the cornerback position.

And the Vikings saw this and made it a point to pick on cornerback De’Vante Harris. The 2nd year UDFA from Texas A&M got the start and had a rough game. Minnesota QB Sam Bradford had a 100 passer rating when looking in his direction last week. Harris got caught peeking in the backfield at Bradford during a red-zone possession which allowed Stefon Diggs to get behind him for an 18-yard touchdown.

Diggs also beat him on a deep sideline pass in the second quarter that, despite pass interference by Harris was still able to pull it in. We know that the NFL is a copycat league, I’d expect Josh McDaniels to test the young corner early and often this week.

Young Linebackers Make A Good First Impression: The Saints have revamped their linebacking corps and the early results were encouraging. With A.J. Klein, Manti Te’o and rookie Alex Anzalone manning the Saints front seven at linebacker, they are looking for improved play this season.

Klein, who was brought over from the Carolina Panthers this spring had a very solid outing and was active making 11 tackles although he said there was plenty of room for improvement from the unit, especially on the first play of the game where the Saints had only 10 men on the field. “To know we started the season that way was just a lack of communication to start,” he said. “I think that can fall on me. I have to know who is on the field and personnel and make sure everyone is on the field. I take responsibility for that one.”

Anzalone had what coach Sean Payton called a pretty active night. The rookie from Florida had a pair of tackles and a pass defended. He broke up a pass in the end zone on the Vikings first drive that forced them to settle for a field goal.

Red Zone Offense Uncharacteristically Stalls: Last season the Saints were one of the best teams offensively in the red zone.  But on Monday night they struggled, albeit against one of the better defensive units in the NFL.

The Saints made five trips into the red zone, with four of them being inside the 10-yard line and of those four trips, they could only manage three field goals and a touchdown, that came in the final two minutes of the game when the score was basically out of reach.

Some of the play calling was curious as they didn’t target Michael Thomas in the red zone during the game. The 2nd year wide receiver caught 92 passes a year ago but on this night had just 5 catches for 45 yards.

Mark Ingram played very sparingly (only 26 snaps) and had just six carries for just 17 yards in the game. He was more effective in the passing game with five catches for 54 yards. The Saints were going mostly with rookie RB Alvin Kamara over Ingram and veteran addition Adrian Peterson.

But credit the Minnesota defense, although they sacked Drew Brees only once, they were able to bring pressure on him and he was constantly under duress.

Offensive Line Needs Work: The Saints brought in running backs Alvin Kamara and Adrian Peterson this season to bolster the already very good Mark Ingram in an attempt to make the offense more balanced and assert their will on opponents. It would also take some of the onus off of Drew Brees and the passing game. But the offensive line, which was supposed to open up the holes for the running game struggled in Week 1.

Injuries and playing the tough Minnesota defense certainly had a hand in that. Left tackle Terron Armistead was out of the lineup in Minnesota and right tackle Zach Strief left the game with an MCL sprain that may keep him out of the line up for the next few weeks. Those losses, coupled with the Vikes front seven made life difficult for the running backs to find any room to run. Kamara and Peterson managed just 18 yards a piece and Ingram gained just 17.

While the interior of the offensive line remains intact, one area that will bear close scrutiny this week will be the edges. If they can give Drew Brees time to throw and open up some holes for the talented running back trio, the Saints offense will be tough to stop. If not, then the Patriots defense will be looking to assert their own pressure.

Like the Loss of Edelman, the Saints Felt the Loss of Snead: Watching the Saints in the opener, one couldn’t help but notice that the New Orleans passing game was missing their slot receiver Willie Snead in this one. Much like the Patriots in their opener, the loss was even more keenly felt on third down.

While Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn give them production and speed on the outside and TE Coby Fleener is a good, productive pass receiver, having that go-to slot receiver in the middle of the field is always a plus and the Saints could have used Snead who is serving a three game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse rules.

It will be interesting to see if the Saints use Austin Carr this week against his former team. The Patriots signed the UDFA wide receiver this spring and he had a very solid training camp and preseason. He was cut as the team whittled down the 53-man roster and the Saints scooped him up.

Check back with us later this week as we’ll have a detailed breakdown of the key matchups between the Patriots and Saints as we try to piece together who wins and why.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

With Visit with Saints On Deck, Is Butler’s Time in New England Over?

Ian Logue
March 14, 2017 at 1:53 pm ET

It would have been hard to imagine as the confetti fell in Houston just over a month ago that Malcolm Butler would be on the verge of being out of New England just six weeks later, barely removed from winning his second championship as a member of the Patriots.

It’s amazing just how quickly things can change, and now Butler’s future is suddenly in doubt given how things have transpired over the last week.

According to the Associated Press, Butler is scheduled to meet with the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, with Ian Rapoport reporting that it’s more than just a discussion to explore the cornerback’s options.  Rapoport reports that the two sides have already begun negotiations on a new contract, with the hopes of consummating a deal this week.

Butler is currently a restricted free agent and has a first-round tender placed on him by the Patriots, which for now, he hasn’t signed.  However, if New Orleans is offering what he wants and the Patriots are O.K. with making a deal to send him there, it’s possible Butler could sign the tender, which would allow New England to deal him.

The next question would be the type of compensation the Bill Belichick would be willing to accept.  The Saints currently have the Patriots 32nd overall selection that they traded in exchange to bring receiver Brandin Cooks to New England, as well as the 11th overall pick in the draft.  While an offer sheet that the Patriots could decline to match would yield them a first round pick (the higher of the Staints’ two selections), the fact Belichick has such a good relationship with Saints head coach Sean Payton would more than likely see them skip that process and work out the compensation from there.

Two years ago, Butler was a Super Bowl hero. Now, he might be done in New England.

The only question will be what the Patriots would receive in return.  Having just signed free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore, New England at least has someone they feel can be a quality top corner on their roster if they were to lose Butler.  They currently sit without a draft pick in the first two rounds, and it’s possible that by moving Butler, they’ll get back something to change that should a deal come to pass.

Another team reportedly in the mix could be the Houston Texans, with Eric Edholm reporting that the Texans are interested in possibly giving up  second-round selection if they can work out a long-term deal.  That would seem unlikely given that Belichick’s preference would likely be to send Butler out of the conference, and the fact it might not be a strong enough depending on what the Saints come through with.

Needless to say things are about to get interesting after an already crazy start to free agency this offseason, and it appears that more change is certainly on the way as the Patriots continue building the 2017 version of their roster.

Saints Payton Says He Can Relate to Brady’s Frustration

Ian Logue
September 8, 2016 at 1:46 pm ET

Bill Belichick may not be into Twitter, but New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton happens to have an account on that medium and sent a recent Tweet that should resonate well in New England.

On Sunday when the Patriots posted their photo of the tribute of Tom Brady on the lighthouse, the Saints coach apparently saw it and was moved enough to take the time to repost the photo and tagged the Patriots.

On the surface it seemed like the gesture was his way of standing behind Brady and the plight the quarterback was having to endure, but on Thursday the coach essentially confirmed that was indeed the case.

“If someone is asking, then I don’t know that they’ve paid much attention to it all,” Payton said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “There aren’t a lot of people that can understand what Tom is going through. Certainly, I’m one of them.”

Payton knows all too well after being suspended for the entire 2012 season for his alleged role in the Saints’ bounty scandal, and he clearly still has a bad taste in his mouth from that experience.

Bill Belichick was asked about Payton’s gesture on Thursday and said that he was aware of the coach’s Tweet, and that it was appreciated.

“Yeah, it means a lot,” Belichick said via NESN.com. “I have a good friendship with Sean. We go back quite a ways. We have a great working relationship, a great professional relationship and a good personal relationship. So I always appreciate his support. He’s had ours. We’ve had his. Can’t say that about everybody, but he certainly has been a good friend and a good supporter.”

Needless to say it’s good to see Brady get support from a prominent person from another team outside of New England.  It’s just too bad other coaches or owners don’t seem to feel the same way because, unlike Payton, it hasn’t happened to them – yet.

PHOTOS: Patriots Create Tom Brady Banners At Gillette Stadium During Suspension

Robert Alvarez
September 4, 2016 at 7:35 am ET

At 4pm on Saturday afternoon, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four game suspension officially began. Brady is now barred from Gillette Stadium and team facilities until week 5 against the Cleveland Browns, but as fans will now notice, Brady will still be seen front and center courtesy of two massive banners on the stadium lighthouse. It is unknown whether or not they will stay up through the regular season.

Also as a show of support, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton created this tweet following the news.  The Saints did a similar tribute for Payton during his suspension for the role he had in the Bountygate situation in 2012.


Patriots – Saints Joint Practice Observations 8-9

Steve Balestrieri
August 9, 2016 at 4:43 pm ET

Saints and Pats Get In Good Joint Workout Tuesday

The Patriots and Saints had a good, spirited joint practice session on Tuesday morning under hot, sunny skies at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots, however, weren’t at their best offensively and were rather sloppy with dropped passes across the board by multiple players.

Earlier in the morning prior to the workout, Bill Belichick stated that the team was excited for Sean Payton and the Saints to be here. He said the Pats have a great relationship with Payton and the Saints. Something Payton reiterated later after practice was over.

Many of the Patriots coaches, including Bill Belichick, wore Nate Ebner’s rugby jersey in  a nice show of support during practice. The US National Rugby team plays its first match later tonight.

Notable absences: Nate Solder who’s been practicing every day was out. Sebastian Vollmer, Dion Lewis, Jonathan Cooper, Bryce Williams, Danny Amendola and Nate Ebner (Olympics), were also not spotted.

But more importantly, Julian Edelman left practice after clutching his left leg during 1-on-1 drills. He didn’t return, although the NFL Network stated that his injury “wasn’t serious”.  But he could be seen throwing his helmet in frustration. Rob Ninkovich left early with what is being characterized as a “triceps” injury. He’s slated to have an MRI tomorrow.

Not a Banner day for the offense: The Pats offense has had better days and it begins with Jimmy Garoppolo. The Pats QB suffered thru his third straight session of making poor decisions with the ball. He had some shaky moments in there, but those things are to be expected and is the reason they hold practice.

Photo-Jimmy-Garoppolo-and-Tom-Brady-m6erN-250x250He was also victimized by a series of drops, and the Patriots receivers across the board were having issues holding onto the football.

With Solder and Vollmer out, the top offensive line consisted of LaAdrian Waddle at LT, Joe Thuney at LG, David Andrews at C, Josh Kline at RG and Marcus Cannon at RT.

After going thru warmups and a period of positional drills, the teams got together about 40 minutes into practice with the WRs and DBs going against one another.  The highlight of this segment was Julian Edelman putting an absolute filthy move on safety Vonn Bell. Edelman ran straight up the seam and faked to his right which Bell bit on and Edelman cut left leaving Bell far in his wake.

Brady led off the segment at QB and was followed by Garoppolo.  Meanwhile on the other side, Drew Brees was hooking up with WR Brandin Cooks who was battling hard with CB Malcolm Butler. Cooks was winning the majority of the battles but Butler did have a really nice pass breakup in the end zone. Logan Ryan had a nice pass breakup in the end zone.

7-7: This was followed by 7-on-7 drills with the Patriots offense on one field and the Saints on the other. Once again Brady took the initial reps followed by Garoppolo. Brady’s first pass, a screen to James White over the middle was nearly picked off by linebacker Stephone Anthony. Brady hit Devin Lucien deep in the end zone. He also connected with Chris Hogan, Nate Washington, and Clay Harbor.

11-on-11s Still Sloppy: Next came the 11-on-11s. Brady’s first pass was picked off this time, by Sheldon Rankins on a screen to White. He hit on only two of his first five passes. Garoppolo came on and hit  Rob Gronkowski down the seam. Gronk was wide open but dropped the ball, one of his three drops on the day.

Brees was doing a lot of check-downs to the backs Mark Ingram, Marcus Murphy and C.J. Spiller in his early work. Asked later if that was planned Saints coach Payton said no, that the Patriots were doing a great job of disrupting routes at the line of scrimmage.

Later when Luke McCown came on for Brees, he was picked off by Duron Harmon. Not to be outdone, the Saints De’Vante Harris picked off Garoppolo during the two-minute drill. Jimmy G. was trying to hit Aaron Dobson on a crossing route and it was a pass he’d probably like to have back.

Both Brady and Garoppolo suffered what would have been a couple of sacks in the goal line sequence and the two-minute drill. For the Patriots defense, Shea McClellin, Jamie Collins, and Trey Flowers who had arguably his best practice were bringing pressure from the edge. Flowers and Dont’a Hightower each got QB pressure/sacks twice.

While the focus in the secondary was on the Cooks, Butler matchup, Cyrus Jones had a solid day. He recorded passes broken up in both individual 1-on-1 drills and during the 11s. Jones was also solid in the kick return game, fielding all of his punts cleanly and having a good return straight up the middle on one play, displaying good vision and a nice cut.

Late in practice, the third QBs, Jacoby Brissett and Garrett Grayson each got to take some extended reps with the third team offenses. The teams return to action on Wednesday morning with the scheduled start time for practice being 9:15 a.m.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.


Patriots – Saints Joint Practices Help Competition, Evaluation

Steve Balestrieri
August 8, 2016 at 11:00 am ET

Coaching Staffs Communicate and Have Respect for one another

The Patriots will conduct joint practices with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 9-10 prior to their first preseason game on Thursday night.

This will mark the fourth time that the Patriots and Saints will conduct joint practices, the third time in Foxboro. The Saints visited here back in 2010 and 2012 and the Patriots visited the New Orleans training camp facility in White Sulphur Springs, WV a year ago.

It is interesting that in the constantly changing landscape of the NFL that the Patriots and Saints both have the same head coach/quarterback combination as they did back in the first joint practice in 2010.

Sean Payton and Drew Brees remain with the Saints while Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are still working their magic in New England. The two sides are deep with respect for one another, a year Belichick spoke about the respect he has for Payton and the Saints staff.

2012-Patriots-Saints-Joint-Practice-150x150 “I have all the respect in the world for the Saints, their entire organization, Sean, the way they do things,” Belichick said. “We’ve got a great working relationship with the Saints, Sean and his staff. From a coaching standpoint, we both feel like we get done things that are beneficial to our teams. Players work hard, but they do it in the right way.”

Drew Brees and Brady have long maintained a cordial relationship during these practices and have a mutual respect for one another. “I’m a big fan of Tom Brady,” Brees said. “As a player and I really enjoy being around him as a person.”

Unfamiliar Opponent and Chance for Added Competition: The Patriots traditionally under Belichick have loved these joint practices and they attempt to do a couple each season. And they work for the simplest of reasons. One is that after facing their teammates in training camp for a while now, this will give them the opportunity to face off against an unfamiliar opponent and changes things up a bit.

Going against another team always stokes the competitive fires in players and for those players on the bubble at the back end of the roster, it gives them extra reps against an opponent that may help them win a roster spot. Where  in a preseason game a certain player may only get a couple of snaps to show what he can do, in the joint practices they’ll get  more opportunities to shine.

The coaches also get to work on game specific situational football scenarios that they have recently installed into the offense/defense. It takes good communication between the head coaches and there has to be a level of trust there. Belichick spoke about that in his press conference on Sunday.

2012-Camp-Tom-Brady-Saints-150x150“Yeah, somebody you can work with, that’s the number one thing. That’s above all else. We have a great relationship with the Saints, with Sean [Payton] and his staff, the organization,” Belichick said. “It’s always worked out well the times we’ve done it with them, so if we have an opportunity to do it with them we try to take advantage of it. It’s been really good. They’re great to work with.”

“I think we know what we want to try and do. We’ll talk about it when they get here. We’ll kind of go over it one more time. We’ve still got practices that are important to us before we get to that, but we want to be organized with them. I think we are and we’ll just kind of fine-tune that when they get here, but we’re good to go.”

And a final advantage to these practices is that you can always find a player that may not be a fit for the opponent that may fulfill a role with your team. That allows the coaches to evaluate the player and see more of him in a close, working situation.

The Patriots saw that with the Saints Akiem Hicks who didn’t have a role in their defensive rebuild a year ago but was traded to the Patriots and played very well for the team in 2015. The Patriots also got to see ST/LB Ramon Humber last season, who they signed as a free agent this spring.

But the list is long, others the Pats practiced against and then brought in includes but isn’t limited to, Frank Kearse, E.J. Biggers, Jonathan Casillas, and Aqib Talib.

So the Patriots will be installing some new wrinkles in the playbook and will be using them against the Saints in the next few days. Belichick told the media, that they won’t be installing anything new per se, that they went over these things in the spring and now they’ll evaluate the players on how well they produce.

“Well, we still have things we need to install. We still have a lot of situation work we need to cover,” he said. “I know we’ll be doing some of those things against New Orleans, so it’ll be good to have already put it in, to have run it, and then run it against them, rather than go out there and have that be the first time. A lot of times there is some ironing out to do. We’ll try to get some of that out of the way the first time or two and then try to run it competitively.

If you’re planning on heading down to training camp for the two joint practices against the Saints, be advised plan on arriving early. Those workouts are traditionally very crowded and as always, it is first-come, first served. Both practices are scheduled to run from 9:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. daily. But check with Patriots.com for any updates.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

What to Watch For in the Patriots – Saints Preseason Game 2

Steve Balestrieri
August 22, 2015 at 7:03 am ET

The Patriots have finished up their two joint practices with the Saints in West Virginia and have flown down to New Orleans for their second preseason game. The game is slated for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff time and will be televised locally by WBZ.

Following a productive couple of days working out with Sean Payton’s team, now the Pats now have to get to the business at hand, which is getting the most out of this week’s game.

The starters should see a bit more action in this one as the Patriots start to prepare for the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers in September. Here are our keys in what to watch for Saturday night:

Offensive Line Composition:  Against the Packers last week, the starting OL didn’t include a single starter from 2014. This week at least in the interior it should be much of the same. With center Bryan Stork still out with an injury, rookie David Andrews and rookie guards Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason should see a lot of work with the starting unit.

The key to watch for is at tackle where starters Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer may play this week and get some quality reps against a good opponent to prepare for the opener. The protection last week wasn’t great as Jimmy Garoppolo was sacked seven times. But the protection should improve as the unit gets more work together.

Quarterback’s Workload: Tom Brady concluded a razor sharp week of practice and will be looking to parlay that into a solid outing against the Saints defense. He should play into the second quarter but much of that will depend on how efficient the offense is initially.

Last week he only played a cameo but with no Edelman, LaFell or Gronkowski, he didn’t have his normal array of weapons around him. Edelman and LaFell won’t play in this one and didn’t make the trip. But look for him to try to get Danny Amendola involved as well as Gronkowski early to get the offense into a rhythm. Gronk and Amendola have had solid camps and the big man should see some action this week.

Jimmy Garoppolo will be looking to improve upon his up-and-down performance last week. With the OL getting more work together and the WRs getting more in tune with the offense, this week will be a bigger test.

Effectiveness of Running Game: With Jonas Gray and James White handling the running duties last week, the team will look to improve upon that this week. LaGarrette Blount missed some time with an MCL sprain but has been an active participant in practice this week.

Blount has had an impressive camp prior to his injury and looking a tad leaner, showed an impressive burst. It will be worth watching to see if he can replicate that this weekend and provide a 1-2 punch with Gray. This would be especially valuable in the red zone where they didn’t get any work last week. White and Brandon Bolden would then get some complimentary carries to help keep the offense balanced.

Big week for depth WRs:  With no Edelman, LaFell, Aaron Dobson and Brian Tyms looking at a serious foot injury, this will be a key time for the players vying for those final roster slots to step up.

Brandon Gibson, Josh Boyce and Chris Harper are all vying for roster slots. With the team basically set with Edelman, LaFell and Amendola as the top three WRs, that leaves 1-2 slots open for competition. Matthew Slater is listed as a WR but is truly a ST’s player. That means production is everything now for those vying for the 53 man roster.

Gibson has been the most consistent all summer; the seven year veteran has progressed every day and seemed poised to earn a slot. Boyce, the 3rd year speedster from TCU has yet to put it all together. He was coming on in camp until a down performance against the Packers set him back. He rebounded a bit with some solid work in joint practices this week. He’ll be under the microscope early in this one.

Harper is an intriguing case, the UDFA from Cal is one of the bigger threats to be this season’s undrafted free agent to make the team. After a slow start to camp, he’s been improving daily and is getting a lot of work in the special team’s return game, always a good sign. It will be interesting to see if he gets any work this week with Brady and the top unit after he led the team in receptions against Green Bay.

Front Seven Pass Rush: Last week the Patriots got a lot of push from the front seven, especially early against Aaron Rodgers. Jabaal Sheard, rookie Trey Flowers and Rufus Johnson were all flashing in getting pressure from the edge.

This week, rookie Malcom Brown flashed in 1-on-1 drills in the interior and the team will be looking for he and Dominique Easley to push the pocket. Sheard, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich and rookie Geneo Grissom will be looking to add upon last week’s performance. Grissom is another guy who has been coming on recently; he had an impressive showing against the Packers and followed that up with a good two practice sessions in WV.

The Saints love to push the ball down the field, but unlike the Packers, their plays are a tad longer in developing. This will be a nice test for the front seven to see if they can disrupt the timing of those deeper passes and bring some pressure on Brees this week.

It will be interesting to see if Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower get to see their first action of the summer this week. Mayo coming off of a serious knee injury has been impressive and physical in training camp. Hightower is ahead of his rehab schedule for his shoulder and has been a full participant in practice.

Who’s at corner?: After an impressive start by Darryl Roberts last week, he injured his wrist in the preseason opener and since Saturday, Devin McCourty has been getting a lot of work on the outside. This week, it will be an interesting scenario to see where DMac plays and to see if Tarel Brown is ready to see his first game action. Brown had a good couple of days of practice with the Saints.

Malcolm Butler had his worst day of the summer on Wednesday as Drew Brees and the Saints picked on him during the first session. But he rebounded nicely on Thursday with a solid practice. He’ll be watched closely on Saturday night as the Saints will try to test him again. It will be a good test for the guy who’s basically been penciled in as the team’s starting LCB. He passed his first one, albeit in a smaller sample against Rodgers and Green Bay. Brees and the Saints will be another one to guage.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots TC Report: Why Bill Belichick Loves Joint Practices

Steve Balestrieri
August 19, 2015 at 6:00 am ET

Team will get more from the next two days of practice than PS game

The Patriots are on their way down to West Virginia to conduct two joint practices with the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday and Thursday prior to their preseason game. The Saints have been a frequent partner of the Patriots in these joint ventures, as New Orleans coach Sean Payton like Bill Belichick, is a firm believer in the value of joint practices.

The respect that each coach has for each other is evident in that the teams are looking to improve and will help each other help themselves for the next two days. We’ll get more to that later. But the fact that the teams have worked closely many times with very few issues is a testament to the respect between the two teams unlike the fiasco that Houston had to put up with versus the Redskins last week.

Some coaches, like Packers coach Mike McCarthy isn’t a believer in joint practices, preferring to work on his own with his own team. It was thought that the Patriots attempted to work jointly with Green Bay prior to the preseason game but were turned down.

We’re totally on-board with the joint practice venture. Beyond the fact that on a given afternoon we can watch Tom Brady and Drew Brees do their thing and then walk off to the same sideline and talk between drills is really cool, it just makes sense from a football perspective. Here’s a few reasons why joint practices work.

Situational Football: One of the reasons the Patriots (and Saints), have excelled in certain situations year after year isn’t magic (or some nefarious acts as some hysterical dweebs will have you believe), but the simple fact that they PRACTICE them.

Why is no one better than Belichick and the Patriots in situational football? Practice, practice and more practice. And joint practices are the best place to drive the point home. How many 3rd down and 16s will you face from the opponent 35 yard line in a preseason game? One? None? Well let’s do that and if we don’t like the way it looked, let’s run it again and again. And again if necessary until we get it right. The list could go on and on but the best way to be productive in any situation is to have experience in dealing with it.

Last season, the Sporting News asked Bill Belichick why the Patriots favored joint practices and he had this to say: “We may get a handful of red-area plays in the preseason games. I don’t know, we might not. But we know we’re going to get probably over 25 today. Same thing on third down—I don’t know how many third downs some of our guys who are going to have a lot of playing time during the year are going to get in preseason, but by the end of the week we’ll probably have 30 third down situations here. “

“You just can’t get the reps in preseason games like you can get out here on the practice fields.’’

Veterans Need Work: Last week against the Packers, Tom Brady played a total of seven snaps, Malcolm Butler the same and Rob Gronkowski? Zero. Think how many snaps each will get against a quality opponent in the next two days of joint practice.

This work in a controlled environment isn’t the same as a game but is still invaluable in preparing the veterans to be ready to go once the games become real on Week 1 of the NFL season.

While Brady will get more reps against the Saints in the preseason game than he did last week, he still won’t play much past the first half. But he and Jimmy Garoppolo will each get plenty of reps in the practices.

Different Looks by the Opposition: After facing your own teammates for the past two weeks in practice, the joint practice venture will allow the players, especially the younger ones the chance to react to different looks and schemes that are the staple of your opponent.

It is some great experience to go against a different, spirited opponent and breaks the monotony of training camp practices that all seem to run into one another. It also gives coaches the ability to give longer looks at some of the players on the bubble at an opponent where in a preseason game, that player may only get a handful of snaps.

Since the new CBA of 2011 did away with the old two-a-day practices, coaches like Bill Belichick are always looking for ways to introduce physicality and hitting into practice during training camp and joint practices are the wave of the future.

Once again Belichick was ahead of the curve on this one and the Patriots will no doubt continue to try to use the joint practices as often as they can during the preseason.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.