With the first round of cuts looming — the Patriots have to go from 87 to 75 players by Tuesday afternoon — Bill Belichick knows that the time is getting short for players who need to carve out a niche for themselves if they want to survive Tuesday’s cuts, much less the second wave of cuts that gets the team to 53 at the end of the month.

With the first round of cuts looming — the Patriots have to go from 87 to 75 players by Tuesday afternoon — Bill Belichick knows that the time is getting short for players who need to carve out a niche for themselves if they want to survive Tuesday’s cuts, much less the second wave of cuts that gets the team to 53 at the end of the month.

“Every player’€™s situation is different,” Belichick said on a conference call with reporters on Saturday afternoon. “Guys that want to play football that have an opportunity, I think they want to take advantage of that opportunity and make the most of for themselves on it or whatever it is. That’€™s really all they can control. Whatever else happens is beyond their control. They can just do the best they can with the opportunities they get. Make the most of the ones they get and that will lead to more.

“I think, honestly, everybody pretty much understands that. We all knew at the start of the season that rosters were at 90 and they were going to be cut to 75 and the 53 and so forth. Everybody knows it’€™s a competitive situation. Just try to go out there and try to do the best you can to make the most out of it.”

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Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Jonas Gray

Jonas Gray

Every week, we list the Patriots’€™ “offensive touches,”€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense through the first three preseason games of 2014:

RB Jonas Gray: 30 (30 rushes)
RB James White: 20 (18 rushes, 2 catches)
RB Stevan Ridley: 19 (19 rushes)
RB Shane Vereen: 14 (7 rush, 7 catches)
RB Roy Finch: 13 (10 rushes, 5 catch)
WR Julian Edelman: 10 (10 catches)
WR Brian Tyms: 9 (9 catches)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 (6 catches)
WR Brandon LaFell: 6 (6 catches)
WR Josh Boyce: 6 (5 catches, 1 rush)
QB Ryan Mallett: 5 (5 rushes), 3 sacks
FB Taylor McCuller: 4 (4 catches)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 4 (4 rushes)
WR Danny Amendola: 3 (3 catches)
RB Brandon Bolden: 3 (3 rushes)
RB Stephen Houston: 3 (3 rushes)
FB James Develin: 3 (3 catches)
WR Derrick Johnson: 2 (2 catches)
WR Wilson Van Hooser: 1 (1 catch)
QB Tom Brady: 1 (1 rush)

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat –€” a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback –€” it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. Here’€™s a look at the target breakdown for the New England passing game after two games of the 2014 preseason:

WR Julian Edelman: 10 catches on 10 targets
WR Brian Tyms: 9 catches on 16 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 7 catches on 7 targets
WR Brandon LaFell: 6 catches on 13 targets
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 catches on 9 targets
RB James White: 5 catches on 6 targets
RB Roy Finch: 5 catches on 9 targets
WR Josh Boyce: 5 catches on 8 targets
WR Danny Amendola: 3 catches on 5 targets
FB James Develin: 3 catches on 4 targets
WR Derrick Johnson: 2 catches on 2 targets
WR Wilson Van Hooser: 1 catch on 1 target
FB Taylor McCuller: 1 catch on 3 targets
TE Justin Jones: 0 catches on 1 target
TE Steve Maneri: 0 catches on 1 target

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price assess the performance of Tom Brady, Shane Vereen, Chandler Jones and the Patriots in their 30-7 preseason win over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers Friday night at Gillette Stadium.

[0:00:22] ... I thought the biggest take away with the way Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich who were so disruptive along with a pencil. Line they got this team off to a great start Ninkovich his first sack ...
[0:01:20] ... for me coming out of this game tonight. I was in with Tom Brady his post game press conference he went seventeen of 21204. Yards -- 138 point nine. Quarterback rating and two touchdown passes to ...
[0:02:49] ... ever in a game situation and got the chance tonight thanks to Tom Brady connecting with Julian element over the middle. I actually asked bill -- checked Chris after the game if that was a good ...
[0:06:12] ... You're looking at a guy who has the potential to put up Darren Sproles kind of numbers he is an absolute matchup nightmare you're not gonna get a linebacker in -- who's going to be able ...

If Tom Brady is done for the preseason — and after Friday’s performance, it seems like it’s a safe bet — here’s a look at how his preseason stats from this year stack up to his work over the last decade-plus.

2 games: 25-for-31 (81 percent), 285 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 0 sacks

3 games: 34-for-44 (77 percent), 357 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks

2 games: 17-for-27 (63 percent) 157 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 3 sacks

3 games: 28-for-50 (56 percent), 379 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 3 sacks

4 games: 37-for-50 (74 percent), 476 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks

3 games: 26-for-42 (62 percent), 307 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks


3 games: 32-for-48, (67 percent), 346 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs, 2 sacks

3 games: 35-for-54 (65 percent), 404 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 1 sack

2 games: 18-for-33 (55 percent) 232 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (no sack information available)

3 games: 34-for-44 (77 percent), 374 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT (no sack information available)

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — When Stephen Gostkowski ran out onto the field with just eight seconds left before halftime, he didn’t think about the fact he had never attempted a 60-yard field goal.

He didn’t have time to.

Stephen Gostkowski (3) converts a 60 yard field goal at the end of the first half. (Getty Images)

Stephen Gostkowski (3) converts a 60 yard field goal at the end of the first half. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — When Stephen Gostkowski ran out onto the field with just eight seconds left before halftime, he didn’t think about the fact he had never attempted a 60-yard field goal.

He didn’t have time to.

Maybe that’s why he didn’t try to “over-kick” the ball. Maybe that’s why he did rush his leg through and mis-hit the ball. Maybe that’s why he struck the ball just right and used the favorable wind at his back to connect from a distance that was six yards further than any kick he had ever made in the NFL.

‘€œIt was just good to get on a positive track making the first one,” Gostkowski said, referring to his 47 yarder late in the first quarter. “Sometimes the first kick is the hardest to make. And then we got the opportunity at the end of the half. That’€™s the time you want to try a long field goal. The thing about trying a long field goal like that is there are no expectations. You go out there, and it’€™s really a win-win situation.

“Nobody really expects you to make it, so it really puts your mind at ease. We hit a pretty good kick, and we got out there a little late, the play clock was running down, so I didn’€™t really get to aim. I just kind of kicked it, and luckily the wind blew it enough to the left, a nice little draw, and it just fell in there. It was cool to see everybody getting excited and stuff like that. It was just a pretty cool experience. It was the longest kick I’€™ve ever kicked in a game, and it’€™s nice to get an opportunity and take advantage of it.’€

Whatever the reason, the 60-yard field goal not only gave Gostkowski a nice feather in his cap, it planted a seed in the mind of Bill Belichick that if ever the Patriots need three points before the half or at the end of the game, attempting a kick from midfield is an option.

“We had a little wind there,” Belichick said. “We felt like if we normally get the ball around the 35, he’€™s in range. But at the end of a half or in that situation in the end of the half with a little bit of wind, I felt like the 40-yard line or close to the 40-yard line would get it for us. It was like the 42 or something like that. It was a great kick. It was a good situation for us. I think it really visually now gives our offense as clear of a picture as they could possibly have of where we need to get to, how much a couple extra yards means in that situation and hopefully we can make those kicks when we get in the regular season.”

Like all NFL kickers, Gostkowski has attempted and made 60 yarders in practice and in pre-game. But making it under pressure, as in the end of a half or at the end of the game, is something else altogether.

‘€œYeah, any kicker in the NFL can kick a ball 60 yards, it’€™s just kicking it straight and then when the pressure’€™s on, it’€™s a different story,” Gostkowski said. “The main thing is to just try not to over-kick because your adrenaline is running and you’€™re going to get extra distance than you would get in practice, so I just tried to think of a nice, smooth swing ‘€“ kind of like what I do when I golf when I actually hit the fairway. That’€™s what I was trying to think of, and it worked out. I think most times I miss kicks because I try to kick it too hard, so sometimes it takes time to get the rhythm and timing down, but we had it going on tonight.’€

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Shane Vereen was all smiles after scoring two touchdowns in Friday's win. (Getty Images)FOXBORO -- See you in September.

Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones

FOXBORO — Not only can a very good secondary limit what opposing quarterbacks can do against a defense — it also can help the other members of the defense get after the quarterback.

The Patriots finished with three sacks in their 30-7 win over the Panthers, all in the first quarter against starting quarterback Cam NewtonChandler Jones had two and Rob Ninkovich had the other.

“œThe first play of the game was definitely a coverage sack,”€ Ninkovich said. “I was just trying to mirror the quarterback and make sure he didn’€™t get out of the pocket. I was just collapsing and collapsing and I was able to get to [the quarterback]. That goes to the secondary.”

The Patriots secondary now has arguably the best cornerback in the game in Darrelle Revis, as well as Pro-Bowl safety Devin McCourty to go along with rising-star corners Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan — as well as the former member of the Seahawks Legion of Boom secondary, cornerback Brandon Browner. (Although it should be noted, he is suspended for the first four games of the season and didn’€™t play until the fourth quarter Friday night).

All those players stepped onto the field together for the first time this preseason and were able to give the entire defense some added energy and boost to their games.

“€œ[We] had a tremendous time. Football is fun,” Jones said. “We’€™re out there in the preseason we get a chance to go against a different team. Whether it is in practice, going against the Redskins or the Eagles. We got an opportunity to go out in our third preseason game and execute and we went out and did a good job.”€

The defense played very well, with the starters playing a little over a half, holding the Carolina offense — which made the postseason last year — to just 94 total yards in the first half.

“It’€™s just working hard throughout camp, and all week, trying to prepare and knowing that we were going against a good team and a good quarterback that was able to scramble around and get out of the pocket,”€ Ninkovich said. “It was a good game all around.”

Having a strong secondary has allowed the Patriots to go with a 3-4 defensive alignment — which they have shown a lot over the course of the summer — and in turn has given Jones and Ninkovich, who line up on the outside, a better chance of getting to quarterback.

“I think as a defense you are always doing multiple things,”€ said Ninkovich. “Whatever we are in, a end of the line players like we are, our job is to stop the run at the edge and get some pressure on the quarterback. Whatever it is, we are going to play it to the best of our ability and try to help the team out.”

Jones finished last season with 11 1/2  sacks after totaling six in his rookie season, while Ninkovich has finished with eight in each of the last two seasons. In the 3-4 set — with the strong secondary behind them — both players could be looking at similar, if not better numbers.

With the third preseason game as the so called “dress rehearsal” for the regular season, it went almost as well as they could have hoped for — giving them plenty of reasons to be excited for the upcoming season.

“€œIt felt very good to be out there with my teammates,” Jones said. “€œCoach [Bill Belichick] put us in great positions, we got some plays to execute and out-executed [the Panthers].”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable