ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to discuss the huge number of penalties given out this preseason as well as Jimmy Garoppolo‘€™s potential in New England. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

NFL referees have come under fire for aggressively calling penalties in preseason games, something that revolves around the league cracking down on illegal contact, defensive holding and illegal hands to the face.

Hasselbeck said the number of penalties should decrease once the regular season kicks off.

“I watch all of these games, and you obviously can’€™t watch them all in real time, so I feel like I’ve had the benefit of fast-forwarding through the nonsense, because the games that I’ve watched in real time, it’€™s been brutal,” Hasselbeck said. “It’€™s been absolutely brutal. There’€™s no way this continues, because the league doesn’t want games like this during the regular season, and I can tell you right now, with all of this emphasis and all of this focus on this illegal contact and that nonsense, go look at every postseason for the last five years. The further and further you get along in the postseason, refs are afraid to take the flag out of their pocket. They won’€™t do it. … I feel like the officials in the NFL kind of missed the boat on this one.”

Hasselbeck said that Garoppolo’€™s impressive performances in the team’€™s first two preseason games, coupled with Ryan Mallett‘€™s upcoming free agency, has given Garoppolo the edge in terms of fighting for the backup quarterback role on the team.

“œI think, in terms of the ownership of the system, I think you need to be in it for a full year,” Hasselbeck said. “The advantage of being in something a full year is that you have command over it, rather than just knowing it. … There’€™s so many layers of it, so I think if you’€™re in it for over a year, to start to develop that type of ability. In terms of Belichick’€™s process with these guys, because of the contract situation for Mallett going forward and when he reaches free agency and because they’ve invested a second-round pick in Garoppolo, I believe that the scale is tipped a little bit in Garoppolo’€™s favor for them to really try to get him up to speed and feel comfortable with him being the backup, and so I think that’€™s why you’€™re going to see them give him opportunities.”

While teams such as the Bills and Jets have the players and potential to make some noise this season, Hasselbeck still has New England pegged as a massive favorite to once again claim in the top spot in the AFC East.

“œEveryone is looking for the team that’€™s challenging them. Who is it? I said this last week … If [Rob] Gronkowski‘€™s healthy, I don’€™t see anybody challenging them,” Hasselbeck said. “New England has gotten better on both sides of the football, just by guys going into their second year, guys on the defensive side of the ball, in terms of additions, [Shane] Vereen being healthy, they have gotten significantly better, I believe, from a personnel standpoint.

“€œYou can talk Sammy Watkins all you want. … EJ Manuel developing, whatever it its, good quarterback play out of the Jets and their defense. But New England looks better, too. I really don’€™t think that there’€™s a team that gives them a significant run for their money in the East.”

For more Patriots news, go to the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning, with the team hitting the halfway mark of the preseason schedule.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning, with the team hitting the halfway mark of the preseason schedule. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Some consider preseason a boring lead-up to the regular season, but Brady is not one of those people.

“It means football is back,” he said. “We’re really in preparation for the season. You can’t shortcut it. You’ve just got to grind through it. It’s about getting better, and you can’t cheat that. You’ve got to see where your team’s at, and to have weeks and weeks of really concentrated practice time and then the preseason game, you make mistakes, you correct them, you try to do them better and make the improvements — I think that’s what training camp’s all about.

“Coach [Bill Belichick] always says a good offseason program leads to a good start of training camp, good training camp leas to a good September, a good September leads to a good October, November. Then you’ve got to be playing well in December. Through none of those phases can you really just be average, because then you can never get back, you can never try to get ahead, you’re always just trying to catch up.”

Brady said progress is far more important than anything else at this stage.

“For all of us it’s just level of improvement,” he said. “I think that’s what you gauge. Because not all the parts are there at this point. A lot of it is individual improvement. So you’re really just focusing on what you’re job is, what you need to do, go through your read, your throw. And then when you start to incorporate those into one-on-one drills, and as that leads over into team drills, hopefully by the opener you’ve got all the guys that have worked on their individual improvement so collectively, as a whole, you’re better and better — or significantly better than what we were let’s say when the OTA’s started. That’s what you have to look to be able to do. You’ve got to built a foundation. Without that foundation you’ll never be a good football team.”

Friday’s preseason win over the Eagles was marked by 28 penalties as officials try to get players to understand they’ll be calling games tighter this season. Brady said it’s incumbent on the players to adjust.

“I don’t know whether they throw 20 flags or five flags over the course of the game. Some calls go your way, some calls don’t,” he said. “I think players like when they let you play, more so than anything. But at the same time, the refs stand up there in front of us on whatever day it was, on Wednesday, and said, ‘Look, we’re throwing a lot of flags. If we see illegal contact, if we see defensive holding, if we see hands to the face, those are real points of emphasis for this year.’ And they showed video. So when those things come up, they’re throwing the flags. And they did in practice a lot, too.

“It’s just being able to adjust and being disciplined and being good decision-makers. … You just have to learn to play within the rules. And those adjust on a weekly basis, depending on how the refs call the game. And we have a pretty good idea of how they’re going to call the game going into it. Some refs throw a lot of flags, some refs don’t throw a lot of flags. Our coaches try to prepare us on that. And once you get out there on the field, you play within the rules to the best of your ability. And if they’re calling it tight, you’ve got to be able to adjust. That’s all part of the decision-making process as a player.

“Hopefully, there’s not 20-plus flags a game. That’s a lot of flags. That will make for long football games.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

On the most important trait for a quarterback to succeed in the NFL: “Probably the same thing you need in life: It’s decision-making. That’s an everyday characteristic. I think more so than any physical ability — which, believe me, those are all important. Having great physical ability allows maybe some more margin of error in other areas. But ultimately it comes down to decision-making. And as a quarterback on the field it’s really split-second decision-making.

“And that carries into all parts of your life. What you do on an off day, how hard you work, the kind of leadership you’ll provide, whatever it takes and whatever priorities you put in your life, what decisions you’re making in order to prioritize what’s important. For me, my priorities are football — and obviously they change over the years when you have a family and so forth, but football is obviously the utmost priority, and trying to be the best I can be. Every decision that I make always comes back to being a better performer, and that’s a pretty good [factor] in my life to be able to do it.

“It’s hard to judge one quarterback on the course of one year or two years or three years. I’ve been at it for a while. Guys I really look up to do it for long periods of time. That’s really a life decision. When you look at Peyton Manning, for example, he’s just been so consistent for so long. That’s the kind of guy you always look for.”

On if a “knucklehead” with exceptional physical ability can be successful over time: “I don’t think you can really be a knucklehead and be a great performer. Maybe for a year, or maybe for two years. But not for a long period of time. It all depends on what a lot of people would define a long period of time as; it’s different. But I think that the guys that go and play at Hall of Fame levels, they do it year after year after year. You know what you’re going to get every time out.

“The best guys that I’ve played against, the best guys that I’ve played with always make good decisions. They’re always the ones that are doing the right thing by their teammates and being the best they can be.

“The quarterback position in general really affects the game a lot because you’ve got the ball in your hands more than anybody else. So if you make poor decisions with the football then you really don’t give your team a chance to win the game. If you’re careless with the ball, if you’re not throwing the ball to the right places, if you’re making wrong checks at the line of scrimmage, then the rest of the team really has no chance. Because the ball always goes to the quarterback.”

On rookie QB Jimmy Garoppolo: “He’s been a lot of fun to work with. There’s a reason why the team liked him and picked him pretty high. Obviously the team feels that way. He’s gone out there and done just a great job when he’s had his opportunity. That’s great to see from any young player, but you’ve got to keep building on it. You’ve got to keep getting better and making improvements and improving your deficiencies while strengthening the things that are really strong points for you. It’s hard to tell after such a short period of time.”

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

The Patriots want to remind fans that Monday is the final day of training camp access for the public. Monday’s session is scheduled to run from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. Following Monday practice, the team switches to a regular-season schedule — workouts will be closed to the public, while the media will have a brief window at the start of practice to watch stretching and drills.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The Patriots want to remind fans that Monday is the final day of training camp access for the public. Monday’s session is scheduled to run from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. Following Monday practice, the team switches to a regular-season schedule — workouts will be closed to the public, while the media will have a brief window at the start of practice to watch stretching and drills.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

One week after they waived tight end Justin Jones, the Patriots have re-signed the rookie, according to reports.

The 6-foot-8, 277-pound Jones, who was cut loose last week, was a three-year starter at East Carolina, and finished his career with 52 receptions for 598 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Patriots this past spring.

One week after they waived tight end Justin Jones, the Patriots have re-signed the rookie, according to reports.

The 6-foot-8, 277-pound Jones, who was cut loose last week, was a three-year starter at East Carolina, and finished his career with 52 receptions for 598 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Patriots this past spring.

Tom E. Curran of Comcast first reported the story.

To make room for Jones, the Patriots have released long snapper Tyler Ott, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN. The Harvard product was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Patriots on May 16.

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

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

With two games in the books — and one contest under his belt — Tom Brady is 8-for-10 for 81 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the 2014 preseason. But how does that stack up to some of his past preseason numbers? With the understanding that passing yardage totals often fluctuate because of total snaps played, the key numbers to look for here are accuracy (completion percentage) and ability to avoid interceptions and sacks. From this viewpoint, his 2010 preseason remains the best of his career, but you could make an argument for 2004 or 2013 as well. (Last year, he started red-hot, going 18-for-20 for 172 yards and two touchdowns in his first two preseason games.) Here’s how the rest of the last decade stacks up for Brady when it comes to preseason performance:

2013
3 games: 34-for-44 (77 percent), 357 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks

2012
2 games: 17-for-27 (63 percent) 157 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 3 sacks

2011
3 games: 28-for-50 (56 percent), 379 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 3 sacks

2010
4 games: 37-for-50 (74 percent), 476 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks

2009
3 games: 26-for-42 (62 percent), 307 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks

2008
DNP

2007
3 games: 32-for-48, (67 percent), 346 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs, 2 sacks

2006
3 games: 35-for-54 (65 percent), 404 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 1 sack

2005
2 games: 18-for-33 (55 percent) 232 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (no sack information available)

2004
3 games: 34-for-44 (77 percent), 374 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT (no sack information available)

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

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 two preseason games of 2014:

RB Jonas Gray: 21 (21 rushes)
RB James White: 15 (14 rushes, 1 catch)
RB Roy Finch: 11 (10 rushes, 3 catch)
RB Stevan Ridley: 11 (11 rushes)
WR Brian Tyms: 8 (8 catches)
WR Josh Boyce: 6 (5 catches, 1 rush)
QB Ryan Mallett: 5 (5 rushes), 3 sacks
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 4 (4 catches)
WR Brandon LaFell: 4 (4 catches)
RB Brandon Bolden: 3 (3 rushes)
RB Stephen Houston: 3 (3 rushes)
RB Shane Vereen: 3 (1 rush, 2 catches)
FB James Develin: 3 (3 catches)
WR Julian Edelman: 2 (2 catches)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 1 (1 rush)
WR Wilson Van Hooser: 1 (1 catch)
WR Danny Amendola: 1 (1 catch)
FB Taylor McCuller: 1 (1 catch)

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 twos game of the 2014 preseason:

WR Brian Tyms: 8 catches on 13 targets
WR Josh Boyce: 5 catches on 8 targets
WR Brandon LaFell: 4 catches on 8 targets
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 4 catches on 6 targets
RB Roy Finch: 3 catches on 6 targets
FB James Develin: 3 catches on 3 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 2 catches on 2 targets
WR Julian Edelman: 2 catches on 2 targets
WR Wilson Van Hooser: 1 catch on 1 target
WR Danny Amendola: 1 catch on 2 targets
RB James White: 1 catch on 2 targets
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