The Patriots had the following players in for tryouts on Friday, a league source confirmed: guards Jake Bernstein and Chase Farris; center Robert Kugler; fullback Marcel Reece; and tight end Greg Scruggs.

Marcel Reece worked out for the Patriots on Friday.  (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Veteran Marcel Reece worked out for the Patriots on Friday. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

The Patriots had the following players in for tryouts on Friday, a league source confirmed: guards Jake Bernstein and Chase Farris; center Robert Kugler; fullback Marcel Reece; and tight end Greg Scruggs.

Of the group, the most notable is Reece, a 6-foot-3, 240-pounder who has played seven years in the NFL, all with Oakland. A four-time Pro Bowler, he has played in 92 games, and has 205 career catches for 2,015 yards and 12 touchdowns, to go along with 183 carries for 844 yards and three touchdowns.

(It’s important to note that Reece began serving a suspension for violating the league’s PED policy late last season, but is eligible to make his 2016 debut this month. He was released by the Raiders in September.)

Prior to the Patriots-Raiders game in 2014, Patriots coach Bill Belichick spoke glowingly of the 31-year-old Reece and his skill set.

“It’s hard to find somebody to cover a player like that,” Belichick said of the Washington product. “You put a big guy on him, he probably is going to have a hard time matching up with Reece’s speed and quickness. You put a smaller guy on him, he might match up with his speed and quickness, but it would be hard to match up with his size. I’d say that’s a dilemma. Who do you have that has the same skill set as Reece? He was a former receiver and now he’s a fullback.

I think it’s hard to match up against a guy like that, that just has a real good skill set that defensively, it’s hard to find people that can match that.”

The news of the tryout was first reported by ESPN.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
LeGarrette Blount could be in for another big week. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

LeGarrette Blount could be in for another big week. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

What you have to know when it comes to Sunday’s Bills-Patriots game at Gillette Stadium.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL

For one more game — at least until You Know Who returns — this is the unquestioned strength of the New England offense. The Patriots lead the league in rushing, and LeGarrette Blount (75 carries, 298 yards, four touchdowns) is the top individual rusher in the NFL after three weeks. From this viewpoint, if Jimmy Garoppolo plays, that could mean the Patriots will rely more on the passing game, and by association, more on the likes of Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. If Jacoby Brissett is under center, look for them to pack it in, rely on more big formations with extra tight ends and fullback James Develin and lean on Blount just as much as they have done over the course of the first three games. It’s worth noting that over the course of his career, Blount has enjoyed limited success against Buffalo with a nice yards per carry average, but has never really been cut loose: in five career games against the Bills, Blount has averaged just 12 carries and 65 yards a game, but has a whopping 5.53 yards per carry. That could change this week. On the other side, the Bills are tied for 15th in the league in run defense, having allowed an average of 98 rushing yards per game. (The Jets hit them for 123 yards on the ground in a Week Two win in Buffalo.)

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL

There’s so much uncertainty here for the second straight week, I’m almost tempted to leave this section blank. Everyone knows the story: it’s either going to be Garoppolo (42-for-59, 496 yards, four touchdowns and a passer rating of 119) and his right shoulder, or Brissett (17-for-28, 61 percent, 195 yards, 81.7 passer rating) and his thumb. As previously stated, the game plan is going to depend on who’s out there — if it’s Garoppolo, more pass attempts, if it’s Brissett, more of a run-based attack. But regardless of who’s under center on Sunday, when it comes to the passing game, the Patriots will rely on the likes of Julian Edelman (18 catches, 24 targets, 180 yards), Danny Amendola (9 catches, 10 targets, 138 yards, one TD) and Chris Hogan (8 catches, 13 targets, 122 yards, one TD) and tight ends Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett (10 catches, 14 targets, 138 yards, one TD).

Buffalo is 22nd in the league against the pass (285 yards per game allowed), but one of their strengths of this group is its ability to take advantage of things when an opponent becomes a one-dimensional team. Last week, the Bills were able to get up early on the Cardinals and force them to pass to get back into it. As a result, they became the first team in the NFL since 2013 to come away with four fourth-quarter picks. Overall, they have second takeaways (four picks and three fumble recoveries) and just two giveaways (both fumbles). That plus-five is good enough to tie them for third in the league, and trail only Minnesota (plus-8) and Philadelphia (plus-six). When it comes to getting after the passer, outside linebacker Jerry Hughes (three sacks) is probably their best pure rusher. As a ream, they’re tied for third in sacks with 10.

WHEN THE BILLS RUN THE BALL

This was clearly the strength of the Buffalo offense through the first three games, and now, with wide receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) on the sidelines, it’s even more the case. The Buffalo running game is powered by LeSean McCoy, a speedy, multidimensional back who can stress a defense as a slashing runner who can also catch the ball out of the backfield. “Shady” has 227 yards on 48 carries (4.7 yards per carry) and three touchdowns through three games, to go along with 13 catches for 98 yards. McCoy had a pair of touchdowns and his first 100-yard rushing game Sunday against Arizona. Buffalo will also mix in some designed runs for quarterback Tyrod Taylor (16 carries, 112 yards, one touchdown).

On the other side of the ball, the Patriots have done well against the run for two-thirds of the first three games of the season. Things kind of got away from them in the second half against the Cardinals, a game where New England yielded 92 rushing yards, most of them to David Johnson, a back whose skill set does bear some resemblance to McCoy. While statistically, the game against the Texans represented a season-high in terms of rushing yards allowed — 109 — much of that came when the game was no longer in doubt, so we’ll excuse those numbers. The fact those numbers have come without Dont’a Hightower in the lineup for the last two games is a good sign for the Patriots, and from this viewpoint, if he’s out there on Sunday, it’ll go a long way toward taking away Buffalo’s offensive strength.

WHEN THE BILLS PASS THE BALL

Numbers can be bent any way you want, but the truth is that if you want to stop the Bills, stack the line of scrimmage with an eye toward containing McCoy and make Taylor to beat you over the top. Taylor is in the bottom half of the league when it comes to most major passing categories — he’s completed 47-of-77 pass attempts (61 percent) for 527 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions through three games. Taylor has cracked the 100-yard passing mark through the air in only one of his three games (297 yards against the Jets), and in three career games against the Patriots, he’s 0-3 while going 44-for-70 (63 percent), 477 yards and three touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 73.3. McCoy leads the team in catches, but without Watkins, expect Taylor to also lean on wide receiver Robert Woods (11 catches, 15 targets, 81 yards) and tight end Charles Clay (seven catches 12 targets, 67 yards). The Patriots’ pass defense is 18th in the league, having allowed an average of 271 passing yards per game. In terms of the challenges that have been presented to the New England pass defense to this point in the season, the Bills are easily the weakest of the bunch.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker Dan Carpenter is 3-for-4 on field-goal attempts and 8-for-9 on extra points. Punter Colton Schmidt is toward the back of the pack with a 40.6 average (27th), and 38.4 net average (23rd). Former Patriots draft pick Brandon Tate is Buffalo’s primary returner, and has shown to be pretty good in limited work; his average of 24.2 yards per kick return on six chances is fifth-best in the league, and his 17 yards per punt return (on four return chances) is fifth-best in the NFL.

On the other side, kicker Stephen Gostkowski is 6-for-7 on field-goal attempts and 9-for-9 on extra points. Punter Ryan Allen bounced back after a tough Week Two to deliver one of the best individual efforts of the year last week against the Texans, dropping six of seven punts inside the Houston 20. His 42.3 average per punt is 24th in the league, while his 41.7 net is tied for ninth. Danny Amendola is fourth in the AFC when it comes to punt returns at 10.2 yards per opportunity, while rookie Cyrus Jones has averaged 25 yards per return on his two kick return chances.

THE PATRIOTS ARE IN TROUBLE IF… McCoy is able to get started and the Bills can get some sort of traction in the passing game. The Patriots have struggled at times to contain multidimensional runners like McCoy in the past, and if Taylor can get the passing game on track with Woods, Clay or another target, Buffalo will have a punchers’ chance. One other thing to look out for? New Buffalo offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn had the Bills operating at a higher tempo last week against the Cardinals than they had in the past. If the Bills are able to get rolling, they could hurry things up in an attempt to get the Patriots on their heels.

THE BILLS ARE IN TROUBLE IF… the Patriots get out to an early lead and control the tempo of the game. New England has been in control from start to finish in just about all three of their games to this point in the season — according to ESPN, the Patriots have trailed for just 6:02 this year. If New England is able to establish command early, look for a healthy dose of Blount in the second half, as he’s been able to establish his bonafides as one of the best closers in the game this season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 34 — The Patriots have outscored their opponents by a 34-0 margin in the first quarter over the course of the first three games. The total is the most first-quarter points scored by any team in the league, and the point differential is the largest in the league for any quarter.

UNDER THE RADAR PERFORMER: We have a soft spot for guys who made their bones as special teamers, and so linebacker Lorenzo Alexander is an easy pick here. The 33-year-old, a 6-foot-1, 244-pounder out of Cal bounced from Carolina to Baltimore to Washington, eventually finding a role as the Redskins’ special teams captain. He wasn’t re-signed by Washington — despite a Pro Bowl berth as a special teamer in 2012 — and ended up going to Arizona and Oakland before signing with the Bills this spring. Now, because of injury and some personnel shuffling, he’s become part of Buffalo’s linebacking corps, starting on the outside last week against the Cardinals and logging six tackles, 1.5 sacks, and one forced fumble during Sunday’s upset win. (He’s tied for the team lead in sacks with three.) Bottom line? He’s the kind of guy who would become a gonzo cult hero if he was in New England, a core special teamer who has climbed the ladder and carved out an impressive niche in the league. And how can you not love a guy who does this on Sept. 11?

QUOTE OF NOTE: “The one thing I do know for sure is Tom Brady is not the quarterback. And I feel good about that.” — Rex Ryan on who might be under center for the Patriots on Sunday. Brady has a 25-3 career mark against the Bills.

PREDICTION: I said it earlier in the week, and I’ll reiterate it now: It doesn’t matter who’s under center for the Patriots on Sunday, it’s not going to matter much. In fact, if the New England defense and special teams are half as good as they were last Thursday against the Texans, this game isn’t going to be close. If it was being played in upstate New York against a completely healthy Bills team, it might be a different story. In the end, Rex will be able to rally his troops and make it interesting for a good portion of the first half, but the Patriots are deep enough in all phases to come out of this with their fourth straight win to open the season. My take: New England 27, Buffalo 17.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
IMG_0812

Chris Hogan speaks to reporters Friday at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — To Chris Hogan, this weekend’s game against the Bills isn’t about facing old teammates – it’s all business.

The Patriots receiver, in his first season in New England after four with the Bills, is getting to face many of his former mates on Sunday on the Gillette Stadium turf.

“This isn’t about me going against the Bills,” Hogan said Friday after the final full practice before taking the field Sunday. “This is about the Patriots playing the Bills, a [division] opponent and a big game for us as a team. Get this and get another win under our belt and just keep playing the way we have been playing in special teams, offense, defense.

“If we keep playing that we do, we have some really special things happening here. So, that’s where we’re focused on. I’m not focused on my relationships or I’m going back to play an old team. It’ll be great to see those guys at the end of the game but it’s all business for 60 minutes.”

From 2012 through last season, Hogan built relationships and a spotless reputation in the Buffalo community after kicking around with the 49ers, Giants and Dolphins after matriculating from Penn State (lacrosse) and Monmouth (football).

“I will be forever grateful to them,” Hogan said. “That organization gave me my first chance. That’s really where I started my career. I was there for four years. I established a lot of relationships with those guys and to this day, I still do [have relationships]. I will always look back on my careers as that’s where I started.

“Those guys are all my friends. But we’re playing a game now. Once the whistle blows, for 60 minutes I’m going to be playing football. Afterwards, we can talk and do all that. My focus is doing my job and taking advantage of all my opportunities out there.”

When he wasn’t spoofing Julian Edelman, Rex Ryan was paying tribute to another Patriots receiver. Ryan had Hogan for just one season but was impressed with what he saw. But the Bills made the financial decision not to match the three-year, $12 million offer sheet from the Patriots in March and Hogan switched teams in the AFC East rivalry.

“Yeah, it was definitely tough to lose him when we didn’t want to,” Ryan said. “The thing about Chris, he’s a tough guy. He’s a good receiver. But the thing that impressed me, this guy, he did everything that was asked of him. From being a special teams player, to obviously being a wide receiver, being in the slot, being outside. It doesn’t surprise me at the success he’s having because he’s really a good football player and when you look at him as an athlete, here’s a big lacrosse player and he decides he’s going to play one year of football and then is now in the National Football League. It’s a pretty special talent.”

The irony is that Hogan has yet to play a single snap on special teams. All 173 snaps have come on offense. Against the Texans, his 57 snaps (out of 64) led all Patriots receivers. Hogan has one touchdown reception so far, the 37-yarder from Jimmy Garoppolo against the Cardinals in the season opener. He’s totaled eight catches for 122 yards, a healthy 15.3 yards per haul.

“I came in here and was going to do whatever was asked of me so if it’s play 60 plays, 30 plays, do whatever I need to do to be on the field,” Hogan said. “That’s what’s I’m going to do. I’ve been on the field a lot. I’ve been trying to take advantage of every single second and every play that I’m out there.

“It’s been good. Just preparing for the game now just like it’s any other game, [division] opponent. So it’s a big game for us. They’re going to come in here pretty excited. There’s going to be a lot of intensity out there. Just got to be ready for that.”

That’s not to suggest that Hogan doesn’t appreciate the kind words from Ryan, who coached him for the 2015 season.

“Yeah, definitely, anytime someone pays you a compliment like that, as a head coach in this league, you obviously take that and that meant a lot to me, especially coming from him,” Hogan said.

Hogan is fully aware that Bill Belichick knows how to prepare for Rex Ryan just about as well as anyone in the NFL. He might offer teammates some tips but that’s about it.

“These guys have been playing against him, too, for a lot of years,” Hogan said. “I can kind of give them little tips here and there but for the most part, everyone does a really good job watching film. They’ve been playing against them for a long time, so I think both teams know each other very well.

“Everyone has their different style of coaching. Rex has his way of coaching. Bill has his way of coaching. That’s really it.”

Hogan is prepared for a battle this week against a Bills defense that’s played very well in Weeks 1 and 3.

“They’re physical guys,” Hogan said of going against them in practice for the last three seasons. “They’ve got a good front, secondary is good. They’ve got a lot of talented guys out there. A lot of speed out there, too. That’s what I expect.

“You play the Thursday night game and then you’ve got the long weekend, like a mini-bye week. I think it was good. Got some guys some time to rest and time to re-focus, spend some more time in the meeting rooms and on the field and everything. I think we have prepared really well this week.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Bill Belichick was very proud of his team Thursday night. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick is looking to go 4-0 for the fifth time in his career. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Despite playing two quarterbacks who had never started a game prior to this year, the Patriots are 3-0 and no matter what happens Sunday will lead the AFC East when Tom Brady returns from his suspension in Week 5 against the Browns. New England will look to continue its dominance against the Bills Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Here are 10 things you should know heading into the matchup:

(As always, thanks to the Patriots media relations staff for the help with some of these from this week’€™€™€™€™€™s media guide.)

1. Under Bill Belichick, the Patriots have started out 4-0 four times. Of those times, they have two AFC title game losses, one Super Bowl loss and one Super Bowl win.

2. The Patriots are the best first quarter team in the NFL. They are averaging 11.3 points, which leads the NFL, and on defense they have yet to allow a first quarter point.

3. Since 2011, Rex Ryan has a 35-48 record and since 2012, Ryan-coached teams are 4-18 following wins.

4. LeGarrette Blount leads the NFL with 298 rushing yards. Of those 298, 164 yards have come after contact, according to ESPN Stats and Info, which also leads the NFL. Ezekiel Elliott is next with 119.

5. The Patriots are 33-11 under Belichick when the Patriots get more than the standard six days to prepare.

6. The month of September was the Patriots’ 22nd undefeated month since 2000, the most in the NFL. The Colts are second with 15.

7. New England is 72-21 in the AFC East since 2001, which is the best divisional record in the NFL during that time. The Colts are next at 67-25.

8. When scoring first, the Patriots are 48-6 since 2010 in the regular season. Since 2001, they are 127-23.

9. Since 2001, the Patriots are 142-14 when leading at halftime in the regular season. Even further, they have won 83 straight regular season home games when leading at the half.

10. The magic number is 23. Including the playoffs, New England is 167-14 when scoring 23 or more points under Belichick.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Julian Edelman figures to be busy against the Bills Sunday at Gillette Stadium. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Julian Edelman figures to be busy against the Bills Sunday at Gillette Stadium. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — When it comes to the Bills defense this Sunday at Gillette Stadium, Bill Belichick is telling his team to expect the unexpected.

And the players are buying in.

One such player is Julian Edelman. The receiver has certainly had his chances against Ryan over his eight-year career. Last year, in the 40-32 win at Orchard Park, Edelman was targeted 19 times by Tom Brady. He caught 11 passes for 97 yards. That was easily his most active game in 11 career matchups against Ryan’s defense.

In 10 games against Ryan’s Jets (2009-14), Edelman caught 38 passes on 60 targets for 367 yards but just one touchdown.

Edelman has seen all sorts of coverages, man, press, zone, brackets with all different kinds of pressure combinations off those coverages.

“I see a spin-the-dial defense,” Edelman said Friday. “They bring a lot of everything. A well-coached team and a team that always plays us well. They’ve got a veteran group in the secondary that we’ve played a bunch. They know us. We know them. It’s going to be one of those games where you have to execute. The best team that executes will have a better chance of going out and winning.”

“They give a bunch of different looks. So, you’ve just got to lean on your fundamentals of the play and the scheme of what you have to do on certain looks. This [Buffalo] is one of the best teams at doing those types of things.”

Dennis Thurman is the defensive coordinator in Buffalo. Thurman is a former NFL corner for the Cowboys and Cardinals in the 1970s and 80s. But when it comes to the exotic nature of the Bills defense, Belichick has little doubt who’s making the final calls.

“I’d say it depends on who the person is and what the system – I mean I think we know where a lot of the decisions on defense with Buffalo are coming from,” Belichick said Friday, clearly referencing Ryan. “And I’m sure there’s certainly a team effort and a group effort and group ideas and so forth, but I think we also know where some of these are coming from and so to me its whoever the decision maker is.

“I know as a defensive coach where I’ve put the game to those guys because of the confidence that I have in them and their ability to see things on the field a lot later and that are a lot more accurately than you could see them on the sideline when you’re calling the defense based on down and distance and what players they have in the game. You don’t know what formation they’re in, you don’t know how big their splits are.

“Now once a team comes out there and gets in a certain look then that’s more information. There are times, a lot of times, where we give our players a lot of responsibility to run the defense at that point or run the offense at that point once they see how the defense is deployed. Again, it just depends on who the decision maker is. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong to it. It’s just figuring out who it is and trying to really compete against that person.”

While Ryan has been know to blitz or bring different pressures from different spots on the field in the past, he’s also shown blitz many times and dropped in coverage at the last minute. The most famous case of this came in the 2010 playoffs against Tom Brady when he showed as many as seven players around the line of scrimmage and disguised them in an effort to slow Brady’s recognition. The Jets won that game, 28-21, at Gillette.

Whatever defense Ryan throws out there, (and the Bills do have 10 sacks and four interceptions), Edelman says there’s no magic formula – just read and react and make a play.

“The X-factor is just going out and trying to do your job,” Edelman said. “If everyone does their job, that’s when things go right. When you miss doing your job, that’s when something can go wrong. If we focus on going out and playing good situational football, good complementary football, [that’s] how to put our team in the best scenario to win the game.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The Patriots are mourning the death of a member of their 1976 team that came so close to beating the Oakland Raiders in the playoffs.

The team announced Friday evening that former defensive tackle Richard Bishop died this week in Miami, Fla. at the age of 66. Bishop was with the Patriots for six seasons, starting in ’76 and ending in 1981.

Bishop started 51 of the 85 games played during his six seasons with the Patriots after joining the organization as a free agent in 1976. He appeared in every game for the Patriots in 1976 and 12 games of the 14 games in the 1977 season.

He earned a starting role at defensive end in 1978, starting 15 of 16 games for the eventual AFC East division champions. That season, he led the team in quarterback pressures (27), finished second in sacks (7) and third in tackles (75). His 1978 performance earned him the Jim Lee Hunt Memorial Award as the team’s most outstanding lineman.

Bishop originally entered the NFL when he was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth round of the 1974 draft out of Louisville. He spent two seasons in the Canadian Football League with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Ottawa Rough Riders before signing with the Patriots as a free agent in 1976.

Bishop is survived by his son, Bryce, and his three daughters, Renata, Beatrice and Rachelle. Memorial services are tentatively scheduled for Saturday, October 8 in Miami, Fla. Services are being coordinated by the Stanfill Funeral Home in Miami. Details are expected to be finalized early next week. For service times and obituary information, visit the Stanfill Funeral Home webpage.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

According to WEEI’s Kirk Minihane, Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will start Sunday against the Bills.

Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo

According to WEEI’s Kirk Minihane, Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will start Sunday against the Bills.

Garoppolo suffered a reported sprained AC joint in his right shoulder the second quarter of the Week 2 win over the Dolphins, but didn’t play last week against the Texans. Sunday would be two weeks from suffering the injury.

The quarterback was limited in practice all week and officially listed as questionable. Last week, he was listed as doubtful.

“It’s coming along,” Garoppolo said Wednesday. “Day-by-day right now, trying to get to the best of my ability on Sunday,” he said. “Just trying to get better every day, That’s all that you can ask for with this. … We’re just taking it day-by-day, really.”

Jacoby Brissett started last week in his place and injured his thumb. He too was limited all week and listed as questionable.

Tom Brady will return from his suspension in Week 5, so Garoppolo is really only needed as a starter for this week.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

It appears the guessing game with the Patriots quarterback situation will continue throughout the weekend.