Alfonzo Dennard

Alfonzo Dennard

On Saturday, the Patriots listed six played as probable for Monday night’s game against the Chiefs, including cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, tight end Rob Gronkowski and linebacker Jamie Collins. In addition, the Patriots officially placed defensive lineman Sealver Siliga on injured reserve-designated for return with a foot injury.

Here’s the complete injury report

Did Not Participate — Placed on IR-DFR
DT Sealver Siliga (ankle)

Limited — Probable
DE Michael Buchanan (ankle)
LB Jamie Collins (thigh)
OL Dan Connolly (knee)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (knee)
S Don Jones (hamstring)

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

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Rob Gronkowski could take a sizable leap in playing time this week. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski could take a sizable leap in playing time this week. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

1. For the first time this season, tight end Rob Gronkowski played more than half the snaps. Last week against the Raiders, he was on the field for 42 of 73 snaps. That represents a bump from the first two weeks, where he was 38-of-86 in Week 1 and 28-of-67 in Week 2. In all, he’s played 48.5 percent of the snaps, and has 11 catches (on 23 targets) for 116 yards and two touchdowns. But if there’s a point in the schedule you want to start ramping him back up to what we’ll call Full-On Gronkowski Status, it’s these next two weeks against the Chiefs and Bengals. The Patriots offense can certainly use a jumpstart, and the idea of Gronkowski being unleashed could certainly give New England the spark it needs through what will be a difficult stretch. (Not just as a pass catcher, but also as a blocker.) For his part, Gronkowski was deferential to the coaching and training staff when asked about the possibility of more reps this week, but he certainly sounds like he ready for more action. “I’m a few games deep now — three games — so basically [I'm] progressing every week,” Gronkowski said this week. “It’s getting to the point now where we can start rolling more and more.” In his weekly conference call with reporters, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels hinted that more could be in store for Gronkowski, saying he’s “happy with the things that he has done so far, and we will continue to add more as we go through the year.” It is worth mentioning that one of Gronkowski’s finest games came against the Chiefs back in 2011, when he had four catches (two of which went for touchdowns, one of which produced this memorable GIF) for 96 yards in a win over Kansas City in Foxboro.

2. Looking around the league, it’s hard not to draw at least a few parallels between the Patriots and the Packers at this point in the season as two established teams who have high hopes for the 2014 season, but have had some offensive issues in the early going. Green Bay has started the season 1-2, and a sizable portion for the slow start can be traced to a sluggish offense with a former MVP at the controls. The Green Bay offense is 28th in total yards, while the Packers have averaged just 18 points per game, 27th in the league. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has come in for some criticism, as his 62.7 completion rate would be the lowest of his career, and he’s failed to throw for at least 200 yards in two of the three games already this season. He badly missed on a few throws over the course of the first three games of the season, including a bad connection with usually trusted target Jordy Nelson on a key fourth-down play late in last Sunday’s loss to the Lions. On his show on ESPN Milwaukee on Tuesday, Rodgers had a brief message for panicking fans: “Five letters here. just for everybody out there in Packerland: R-E-L-A-X,” he said. “Relax. We’re going to be OK.” Rodgers has good reason to be confident, as Green Bay has started 1-2 the last two seasons, but on both occasions, ultimately made the playoffs.

3. From this viewpoint, we’€™ve never been shy about proclaiming our respect for veteran Baltimore wide receiver Steve Smith, and that’€™s why we’€™re very excited about this weekend’s game between the Ravens and Panthers. (The planets have aligned to make sure they’re playing when New England’s on a Monday night, which makes it perfect.) In the offseason, Smith departed Carolina as a free agent and took shots at the Panthers on his way out of town. “Put your goggles on, ’cause there’s going to be blood and guts everywhere,” he said if his new team faced Carolina in 2014. The Panthers had some fun with it this week when Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams met the media wearing goggles, but Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco cautioned reporters earlier in the week against the idea of Baltimore leaning too heavily on Smith as it relates to the revenge factor. “If I pay much attention to that maniac on Sunday, who knows how I’m going to play?” Flacco asked. “He’s going to want the ball — probably every single down — and if I don’t get it to him, and I pay attention to how he reacts to that, then I’m going to be in trouble, and I’m going to feel bad, and then we’re not going to play the way we should.” Regardless of where you stand on Smith, it promises to be compelling theater.

4. Rookie running back James White has been a healthy scratch for the first three games of the season, which has sparked some questions about his spot on the roster and his future with the team. At this point, unless there’s a major injury to one of the running backs, White seems ticketed for a redshirt year as he sits and learns about life in the NFL. Taking a redshirt year isn’t necessarily a slap in the face — it’s something the Patriots have utilized frequently with young players as a developmental decision, keeping them on the team without trying to get them through to the practice squad (and expose them to the rest of the league via waivers). While he struggled with injury as a rookie, Shane Vereen is one player who ended up taking a redshirt year as a rookie in 2011. That move paid off, as the Cal product has emerged as one of the best multidimensional options on the roster. Considering the full house at running back, White knows he’s the low man on the totem pole, and while he would desperately love to play, he understands the reality of the situation. One of the youngest players on the team (he’s currently one of four 22-year-olds on the roster), he knows he’ll get his chance sooner rather than later — he could ultimately step into a major role in 2015, particularly because Vereen, Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden are all in the final years of their current contracts.

5. Three games into the season and four Patriots players are still possibilities to go wire-to-wire this year. On offense, quarterback Tom Brady and left tackle Nate Solder have played every snap through three games. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the football, linebackers Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower have not missed a single defensive play through the first four games of the season. Last year after three games, the Patriots had four players who hadn’t taken a single snap off: Brady, Devin McCourty, Ryan Wendell, and Logan Mankins. (In the end, Wendell was the only player on either offense or defense who played every snap last season.)

6. Darrelle Revis has made it a habit to meet with the media every Thursday afternoon after practice. He’s always been very accommodating, but this past Thursday was particularly insightful, as he talked for more than 10 minutes about the difference between the defensive styles favored by Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan, the art of defending the deep ball and the challenge of this week’s opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs. Most of that was either covered here or here, but we also wanted to include the rest of his thoughts, particularly on his teammates. Here are a few things we couldn’t find room for earlier in the week:

a) On Jerod Mayo and his leadership skills: “He’s the captain. He’s the guy. He’s the voice on that defense. He’s been doing it for so long. The guy is a Pro Bowl linebacker. You look for him sometimes to lift us up, and he does sometimes in the huddle. He’s the voice. He’s the anchor. He sets the defense and gets everybody lined up. I’m excited to be playing with him and excited to have another quarterback on the defensive side, that type of leadership he brings to the table.”

b) Does Mayo compare to any other linebacker you played with when it comes to leadership skills? “Yeah, man. David Harris when I was in New York. Pro Bowls, Ray Lewis. One of those guys show as always vocal. As a linebacker, having a player like Jerod, you want that leadership from the linebacking corps. They set the front. They make the calls. They make the adjustments. It’s nice to have that leadership at the linebacker area.”

c) On Chandler Jones and his size and wingspan: “He’s great. The guy is 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6. I don’t know what his wingspan is, but it’s very long. He creates havoc for us in pass rushing. he gets to the quarterback and puts pressure on the quarterback all the time. We need that every week with him and he’s been consistent with that. He’s a ball hawk, man. He goes after the ball he tries to get strip[ sacks. We’re excited about him as well — just trying to go out there and put some pressure on the quarterback and help us out in the secondary.”

7. Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman was one of 11 players born in Massachusetts who was on an NFL roster at the start of the season, and he’€™s been part of a recent mini-renaissance around the league at the fullback position. Used predominantly as a run blocker for the likes of Jamaal Charles, Sherman has two carries and one catch this season for the Chiefs. While the 5-foot-10, 242-pound UConn product isn’t technically from Cape Cod, Chiefs coach Andy Reid praised his Southeastern Massachusetts attitude this week. “He’s got some of that Cape Cod toughness, so he brings it every play,” Reid said of the North Attleboro native. “He”s a tough guy. And you know what? he’s very versatile, which I don’t think people realize. He’s got tremendous hands, too. You can do a lot of things with him and move him around. He could equally fit in the tight end role if you need him in there and do the blocking and the receiving part of that.” (For what it’s worth, Sherman isn’t the only member of the Chiefs with connections to Southeastern Massachusetts — defensive lineman Mike DeVito attended Nauset Regional High in Eastham and still lives in Wellfleet.)

8. Kirk Cousins’ performance in Thursday’s game against the Giants aside, it’s been a good start to the season for quarterbacks. After three weeks, the league-wide interception percentage is 2.15 percent, the lowest ever at this point in a season and on pace to be the best mark in NFL history for a full year. In that same stretch, the league-wide passer rating is 90.6, on pace to be the highest of any season in NFL history. (The mark is also the highest of any NFL season through three weeks.) NFL quarterbacks have been particularly effective at avoiding interceptions in 2014, which has helped fuel the record passer rating — through Week 3, the league-wide interception percentage is 2.15 percent, the lowest ever at this point in a season and on pace to be the best mark in NFL history for a full year. Locally, that can be seen in the performance of Tom Brady. He’s the only quarterback to this point in the season with more than 100 pass attempts without an interception. In fact, dating back to the end of the 2013 regular season (and not including the preseason), Brady has now completed 104 in a row without an interception. In addition, going into the weekend, since 2002, the Patriots have had the most games in the league without an interception at 101. (The Patriots are 90-11 in games where Brady doesn’t throw an interception.) Remarkably, Jacksonville is second at 93, with Philadelphia third at 89.

9. The season-long “Thursday Night Football” experience is four weeks in, and as far as the on-field product is concerned, it’s a bust. In the wake of Thursday’s 45-14 win for the Giants over the Redskins, the average margin of victory over the course of the first four Thursday night games is 28.3 points per game, as there have been wins of 20, 20, 42 and 31 points. If the league is serious about its’ commitment to keeping Thursday as part of the NFL schedule going forward, it needs to take a hard look at what it can do to improve the on-field product. Of course, we say this, but at the same time it’s important to note that the Thursday night package has been an unparalleled ratings success for CBS, so the league can’t hear all the complaints over the sound of all the money its making: According to the network, the game averaged 16.3 million viewers, a ridiculous 96 percent increase from last year’s 8.3 million viewers on NFL Network and over-the-air stations within the two team markets. Through three games of the CBS/NFL Network schedule, the Thursday night games are averaging 16.1 million viewers, a 59 percent increase compared to last year’s 10.1 million.

10. A quick look around the AFC East:

a) Dolphins: After an impressive win in the regular-season opener against the Patriots, Miami (1-2) sits at a crossroads. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin refused to name a starting quarterback this week, letting Ryan Tannehill twist in the wind before Tannehill came out and let the media know that he was starting. Philbin then issued a startling mea culpa, saying he was sorry that his hemming and hawing was a distraction to the team. (Tannehill said late this week that he and Philbin are on the same page.) Is this the first (public) sign of dysfunction, and perhaps emblematic of a far greater issue in Miami? Or simply a speed bump for the Dolphins, who have shown plenty of good on both sides of the ball, at least before last week’s surprising home loss to the Chiefs? It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, as Miami and Oakland will face off this weekend in London — after the bye, they’ll open a seven-game slate against the Packers, Bears, Chargers and Broncos. Needless to say, we’ll have a good idea of just what sort of team the Dolphins are by that point in the season.

b) Jets: There’s a quarterback controversy brewing in North Jersey, as the struggles of Geno Smith over the first few weeks have caused some to say Michael Vick should be the new starter. (Also, what do you think Smith was thinking in this photo, taken in the immediate aftermath of last week’s loss to the Bears?) While the front seven remains pretty stout, the Jets (1-2) offense has struggled to this point in the season, as Smith has had issues moving the ball. New York needs to get things figured out quickly, as it hosts the Lions this week, but then moves on to a three-game stretch with the Chargers, Broncos and Patriots.

c) Bills: We wrote that they were feeling good last week, and even though Buffalo suffered a loss at home to the Chargers last week (a rare case of a West Coast team coming East and winning a one o’clock game), the Bills are still feeling pretty good about where they sit, as of this point. Buffalo (2-1) travels to face the Texans (2-1) this week in Houston in a game that could ultimately prove to be a statement contest for whoever ends up winning. If the Bills win, their 3-1 start would be one of the best of the last decade, and their best since they started 5-2 to open the 2011 season. Meanwhile Houston could continue to put some distance between itself and the rest of the AFC South with a win.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The Patriots announced Saturday they have placed defensive lineman Sealver Siliga on injured reserve (foot) with a designation to return, which means he’s eligible to return against the Lions in Week 12. To fill his roster spot, they signed first-year defensive lineman Casey Walker off the Panthers practice squad.

Here’s a portion of the press release on the move:

The Patriots announced Saturday they have placed defensive lineman Sealver Siliga on injured reserve with a designation to return, which means he’s eligible to return against the Lions in Week 12. To fill his roster spot, they signed first-year defensive lineman Casey Walker off the Panthers practice squad.

Here’s a portion of the press release on the move:

Walker, 24, originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with Carolina out of Oklahoma on April 30, 2013. The 6-foot-1, 340-pounder appeared in 33 games with 22 starts at Oklahoma and compiled 49 tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two passes defensed. Walker spent part of the 2013 season on the Carolina practice squad and went to training camp with Carolina this past summer. He was released on Aug. 30 and signed to the Carolina practice squad on Aug. 31.

Siliga suffered a foot injury in the first half against Oakland last Sunday. He played in the first three games with two starts and registered eight total tackles.

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

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Sealver Siliga

Sealver Siliga

Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga was the only player not spotted at the start of Patriots practice on Saturday, according to reports.

Siliga, who is dealing with what the team is calling a foot injury, has missed practice all week since injuring his foot in last Sunday’s win over the Raiders. With the appearance of a new (unidentified) player at the start of Saturday’s practice and all 10 practice squad players present, it’s reasonable to wonder if Siliga has been placed on short-term injured reserve.

The Patriots continue preparing for Monday’s game against the Chiefs in Kansas City.

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

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Ryan Wendell

Ryan Wendell

One of the things the Patriots have always valued in their offensive linemen is versatility, and this year is no different. New England has been able to run out several offensive linemen who have experience at multiple positions — that has allowed the coaching staff to do some mixing and matching while it tries to find the best combination for an offensive line that’s struggling over the course of the first three games.

The fact that Dan Connolly was limited at practice this week with what the team is calling a foo injury means that rookie Bryan Stork and veteran Ryan Wendell might be doing some shuffling. Stork, who stepped in at center in the late stages of last week’s win over the Raiders, arrives at the NFL level with a peerless resume, having played some guard before moving to the pivot, where he eventually won the Rimington Award last year as college football’s best center. A captain and three-year starter at Florida State, he was a part of last season’s national championship team.

“[He] played obviously in a good program down there, played for a real good coach ‘€“ [Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line] Coach [Rick] Trickett,” Belichick said Saturday. “He was strong; he was part of the Florida State workout the day we were there. He’€™s an athletic kid that runs fairly well. He’€™s a smart football player. He’€™s into football.

“He’€™s really a football guy; loves football, works really hard at football. He wants to be a football player and he’€™s dedicated himself to it; all those qualities that you love in any player but especially an offensive linemen. He’€™s got strength; he’€™s got a good frame for a center. He’€™s got good length and height. He played in a good program, he’€™s well coached, pretty good fundamental player. I thought he was as good as any center that we saw this year, the last couple years.”

A rookie center not only has the challenge of getting in sync with the rest of the line, but developing a relationship with the quarterback. But Belichick said Saturday that’s not the biggest challenge.

“I would say the passing game in general I think is the biggest change for the offensive line,” Belichick said when asked about rookie adjustments. “It’€™s more for the center than for the other positions relative to the amount of variables and the communication with the quarterback and then the cadence and actual timing and delivery of the snap and so forth.

“It’€™s not easy. It’€™s not easy to play offensive line in this league and it’€™s not easy to play center and it’€™s not easy to play center as a rookie.”

As for Wendell, he made his bones the last few seasons as the starting center, but at the same time, he does have some experience working at guard. On Saturday, Belichick certainly sounded like he would trust Wendell if he needed to make a move to guard.

“He’€™s played both for us,” Belichick said of Wendell, who has fundamentally been the starting center in New England since 2012. “Ryan’€™s a really smart player. He’€™s one of the smartest players that we have, that we’€™ve had. He really understands everything that we’€™re doing, including all the communication with the quarterback and so forth.”

Belichick acknowledged that the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Wendell is a little undersized for the center position, but is able to make up for it with his intelligence and technique. Belichick credited his pal and Wendell’s former college coach Pat Hill from Fresno State for giving that to him.

“He’s as smart and tough a player as you would want,” Belichick said. “He’€™s a little limited I’€™d say overall with his size and his athletic skill set but he’€™s worked on that. He’€™s very strong in the weight room and he has good playing strength.

“He has good leverage. Part of that is because of his height but he has good leverage. He’€™s a good technique player who was well coached in college with Pat Hill at Fresno [State]. He’€™s certainly improved on that since he’€™s been here. He’€™s a guy that just started [here] but a little better, a little better, a little better and just did everything a little bit better ‘€“ technique, athleticism, quickness, explosion, strength, experience and just kept getting better.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Ryan Wendell

Ryan Wendell

One of the things the Patriots have always valued in their offensive linemen is versatility, and this year is no different. New England has been able to run out several offensive linemen who have experience at multiple positions — that has allowed the coaching staff to do some mixing and matching while it tries to find the best combination for an offensive line that’s struggling over the course of the first three games.

The fact that Dan Connolly was limited at practice this week with what the team is calling a foo injury means that rookie Bryan Stork and veteran Ryan Wendell might be doing some shuffling. Stork, who stepped in at center in the late stages of last week’s win over the Raiders, arrives at the NFL level with a peerless resume, having played some guard before moving to the pivot, where he eventually won the Rimington Award last year as college football’s best center. A captain and three-year starter at Florida State, he was a part of last season’s national championship team.

“[He] played obviously in a good program down there, played for a real good coach ‘€“ [Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line] Coach [Rick] Trickett,” Belichick said Saturday. “He was strong; he was part of the Florida State workout the day we were there. He’€™s an athletic kid that runs fairly well. He’€™s a smart football player. He’€™s into football.

“He’€™s really a football guy; loves football, works really hard at football. He wants to be a football player and he’€™s dedicated himself to it; all those qualities that you love in any player but especially an offensive linemen. He’€™s got strength; he’€™s got a good frame for a center. He’€™s got good length and height. He played in a good program, he’€™s well coached, pretty good fundamental player. I thought he was as good as any center that we saw this year, the last couple years.”

A rookie center not only has the challenge of getting in sync with the rest of the line, but developing a relationship with the quarterback. But Belichick said Saturday that’s not the biggest challenge.

“I would say the passing game in general I think is the biggest change for the offensive line,” Belichick said when asked about rookie adjustments. “It’€™s more for the center than for the other positions relative to the amount of variables and the communication with the quarterback and then the cadence and actual timing and delivery of the snap and so forth.

“It’€™s not easy. It’€™s not easy to play offensive line in this league and it’€™s not easy to play center and it’€™s not easy to play center as a rookie.”

As for Wendell, he made his bones the last few seasons as the starting center, but at the same time, he does have some experience working at guard. On Saturday, Belichick certainly sounded like he would trust Wendell if he needed to make a move to guard.

“He’€™s played both for us,” Belichick said of Wendell, who has fundamentally been the starting center in New England since 2012. “Ryan’€™s a really smart player. He’€™s one of the smartest players that we have, that we’€™ve had. He really understands everything that we’€™re doing, including all the communication with the quarterback and so forth.”

Belichick acknowledged that the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Wendell is a little undersized for the center position, but is able to make up for it with his intelligence and technique. Belichick credited his pal and Wendell’s former college coach Pat Hill from Fresno State for giving that to him.

“He’s as smart and tough a player as you would want,” Belichick said. “He’€™s a little limited I’€™d say overall with his size and his athletic skill set but he’€™s worked on that. He’€™s very strong in the weight room and he has good playing strength.

“He has good leverage. Part of that is because of his height but he has good leverage. He’€™s a good technique player who was well coached in college with Pat Hill at Fresno. He’€™s certainly improved on that since he’€™s been here. He’€™s a guy that just started [here] but a little better, a little better, a little better and just did everything a little bit better –€“ technique, athleticism, quickness, explosion, strength, experience and just kept getting better.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
We check in with former Patriot and NFL Network analyst Willie McGinnest, who was part of a panel of former players brought in by Roger Goodell this week to help contribute to helping the NFL learn from and grow from the mistakes and controversies it's faced the past month.
We check in with the great 88 Michael Irvin on a Patriots Friday and talk about the Patriots, and all things NFL.


FOXBORO — It’s been a brutal week of criticism for everyone along the Patriots’ offensive line.

Even Tom Brady dropped very subtle hints this week that he needs more time to “make better decisions” and expressed concern that sometimes teams “flatten out” in their improvement and never get above a certain level.

But all of that has done nothing to shake the confidence of one those who has heard the most criticism since the Patriots escapted 16-9 Sunday against the Raiders. Nate Solder figures to once again be the starting left tackle, assigned to slowing down Tamba Hali or Justin Houston. Solder says neither he nor any of his offensive line teammates are in a confidence of crisis.

“I don’t think confidence has been a problem,” Solder insisted Friday after practice. “We’ve been building steadily the whole year and we’re going to continue to do that.

“We’re working hard to fix everything. At this point, it’s just a building process. Things hopefully improve but you never know until game day so we work hard every day to make it better.”

As for slowing Hali or Houston, Solder knows what he’s up against.

Exceptional players, play really hard and make a lot of plays. Huge challenge for us,” Solder said.

Even with the struggles of the offensive line against the Dolphins and Raiders, Solder and Sebastian Vollmer appear to be fairly secure at the left and right tackle spots, respectively. It’s the interior line where the Patriots might decide to shake things up, especially with veteran center Ryan Wendell not appearing on the injury report.

After struggling through the first three games of the season, the Patriots offensive line is looking forward to showing that it can perform at a higher level when it takes the field Monday night in Kansas City.

If the Patriots decide to shake up the offensive line, such as starting rookie Bryan Stork at center, moving Dan Connolly to right guard or even swapping out left guard Marcus Cannon, they’ll be doing do in one of the most hostile environments in football – Arrowhead Stadium. But Solder, who played in the Big 12 at Colorado, says he’s not overly concerned.

“I imagine the crowd will get into it at some point but our main opponent is the Chiefs so that’s what we’re really focused on.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia