Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga was the only member of the Patriots 53-man roster not present at the start of Thursday practice, according to reports. Siliga, who is dealing with what the team is calling a foot injury, was also the only one missing at the start of practice on Wednesday as the team continues to prepare for Monday night’s game against the Chiefs in Kansas City.

Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga was the only member of the Patriots 53-man roster not present at the start of Thursday practice, according to reports. Siliga, who is dealing with what the team is calling a foot injury, was also the only one missing at the start of practice on Wednesday as the team continues to prepare for Monday night’s game against the Chiefs in Kansas City.

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Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Dave DeGuglielmo

Dave DeGuglielmo

History tells us that the offensive lines coached by Dave DeGuglielmo have a history of successful power running, but have always struggled when it comes to pass protection.

Going back and looking at the numbers provided by Football Outsiders (as well as some other stats), the four seasons that DeGuglielmo worked in the NFL as an offensive line coach — with the Dolphins from 2009-2011 and the Jets in 2012 — the lines were distinguished in a positive manner by their ability to run the ball and make tough yards. On the flip side, his teams have also had issues when it came to protecting the quarterback, as well as occasionally developing the level of talent needed to provide depth when one or more key linemen go down.

When considering these numbers, it’s important to remember that DeGuglielmo favors a fairly standard version of line play — there are a few new things he brought with him, but it’s not like the Patriots suddenly instituted a zone-blocking system under the new coach. It’s also important to remember that the offense as a whole must be considered when evaluating offensive line play — the quarterback and skill position players can often play a large role in determining the success or failure of run or pass blocking — but given the numbers from FO, we have a pretty good idea of what sort of lines DeGuglielmo had in his time in Miami and New York. Here’s a quick look at the work each year, and their best and worst attributes:

Miami — 2009
Rushing Yards Per Game — 139.4 yards per game, 4th
Passing Yards Per Game — 198.1 yards per game, 20th
Power Success — 79 percent — 2nd
Stuffed — 14 percent — 1st
Second Level Yards — 1.01 — 28th
Open Field Yards — 0.63 — 21st
Pass Protection — 18th — 34 sacks — Adjusted Sack Rate of 6.5 percent

After offensive line Mike Maser was fired by the Dolphins following the 2008 season, DeGuglielmo was hired by Miami coach Tony Sparano after spending the previous five seasons as a member of the Giants staff, including the previous four as assistant offensive line coach. DeGuglielmo inherited an offensive line that was stocked with elite draft picks, including tackles Jake Long (the first overall pick in 2008) and Vernon Carey (who was taken in the first round in 2004). As a result, the Dolphins good offensive line numbers were not wholly shocking. After a start where they failed to crack 100 yards rushing over the first four games of the season, the Dolphins were one of the best rushing teams and best run-blocking teams in the league. According to FO, Miami had the fewest percentage of stuffed runs (percentage of runs where the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage), finishing with 14 percent. They were also second in the league when it came to successful power runs (percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown) at 79 percent. That Miami team struggled when it came to second-level yards and open field yards, but that was more about the speed of the backs as opposed to the blocking styles. They were barely below average when it came to pass protection — the Dolphins yielded 34 sacks, and their adjusted sack rate of 6.5 percent was 18th in the league. (Adjusted sack rate gives sacks — plus intentional grounding penalties — per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent.)

Miami — 2010
Rushing Yards Per Game — 102.7 yards per game, 21st
Passing Yards Per Game — 220.4 yards per game, 16th
Power Success — 83 percent — 1st
Stuffed — 16 percent — 7th
Second Level Yards — 0.86 — 32nd
Open Field Yards — 0.38 — 32nd
Pass Protection — 15th — 38 sacks — Adjusted Sack Rate of 6.3 percent

The two elite tackles in Carey and Long stuck around — one of the reasons the line was able to maintain some level of success on the edges — but the interior struggled. In fact, the interior was a continual issue for the Dolphins throughout the Jeff Ireland/Bill Parcells era, as there were some really bad deals handed out to a few players, including center Jake Grove, who was cut in September 2010, just one year after the signed him to a five-year, $29.5 million contract with $14 million guaranteed. One thing that stuck out about this group was the fact that while some of those bad deals washed out, the Dolphins and head coach Tony Sparano seemed hell-bent on reassembling the Cowboys old offensive line — prior to the start of the season, Miami went out and got three former Dallas offensive linemen, all of whom who worked with Sparano when he was the offensive coach with the Cowboys. As a result, it’s fair to wonder if DeGuglielmo was stuck with some Sparano retreads that he might not necessarily have pursued himself. (In the end, 1,643 rushing yards, 3.7 yards per attempt and eight rushing touchdowns were all the lowest numbers produced in Sparano’€™s three years as head coach.) Ultimately, the in-depth numbers were still fairly comparable to 2009 — the power/stuffed numbers were good, the second level/open field yardage numbers are a little odd, while the pass protection numbers are middle of the pack at best.

Miami — 2011
Rushing Yards Per Game — 124.2 yards per game, 11th
Passing Yards Per Game — 193.2 yards per game, 23rd
Power Success — 46 percent — 32nd
Stuffed — 18 percent — 13th
Second Level Yards — 1.14 — 19th
Open Field Yards — 0.82 — 17th
Pass Protection — 30th — 52 sacks — Adjusted Sack Rate of 9.6 percent

This is the year where the numbers simply fell off the table, and likely played a major role in the team sweeping the coaching staff — including DeGuglielmo — out the door. Long allowed a career-high six sacks because of the knee and shoulder injuries, while there was also significant slippage in Carey’s game. The Dolphins struggled to replace them both, as they not only bad poor decisions when it came to acquiring interior linemen, there was little in the way of prepared youngsters who may have helped as fill-ins. The changeover on the interior had disastrous results, as starting guards John Jerry and Richie Incognito and starting center Joe Berger all had bad years. The FO numbers were awful, particularly when you look at the dramatic slippage in the power running game the previous two seasons, as well as the dramatic drop in pass protection.

New York Jets — 2012
Rushing Yards Per Game — 118.5 yards per game, 12th
Passing Yards Per Game — 180.7 yards per game, 30th
Power Success — 67 percent — 10th
Stuffed — 16 percent — 2
Second Level Yards — 1.06 — 24th
Open Field Yards — 0.45 — 29th
Pass Protection — 30th — 47 sacks — Adjusted Sack Rate of 8.6 percent

In his only year with the Jets, DeGuglielmo’s line returned to something close to what we saw in his first year with the Dolphins — solid power game, and a really impressive lack of stuffed runs as well. (In addition, there was mediocre to poor open field and second-level yardage, with an alarmingly low number when it came to providing pass protection.) If there’s a mulligan to be given here, it’s for New York’s pass protection, as a great majority of it can be blamed on ineffective skill position players and quarterback Mark Sanchez. D’€™Brickashaw Ferguson had a good bounce back year at left tackle, and Nick Mangold proved to be sturdy up front at the center position. While the numbers were pretty good, there was some thought that DeGuglielmo’s occasional propensity to speak out of turn may have ultimately been his undoing with the Jets. He wasn’t shy about letting people know that it wasn’t his decision to play Vlad Ducasse, saying that it was a “directive from someone above me.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — The Chiefs were without star running back Jamaal Charles last week and they still managed to throttle the Miami Dolphins, 34-15, in South Florida.

Bill Belichick was paying close attention to the back who picked up the slack.

With Charles sidelined by a high ankle sprain, Knile Davis ran 32 times for 132 yards and a touchdown.

“I think they’€™re different skill sets, but they do the same things with them so the same plays look different depending on who is carrying the ball,” Belichick said of Charles and Davis. “Davis is strong — they’€™re both very fast — Davis is strong, 230 pounds, whatever he is and he breaks tackles, he’€™s got good lower body strength, hard guy to bring down. You see that on some of his kickoff returns from last year, too, where he just runs through arm tackles and all that.

“Charles has good playing strength, too, but he’€™s more elusive, great quickness, acceleration. They’€™re different, but they’€™re both very good. They both can hit the homerun ball. They’€™ve both got great long speed, they have that in common, but their styles are a little bit different but they’€™re both very dangerous — strong guys, strong runners.”

If Charles doesn’t go, Belichick will also have to be ready for former Jets tailback Joe McKnight, who chipped in with six catches and 64 yards. There’s also veteran receiver Dwayne Bowe and explosive tight end Travis Kelce.

Kelce has five catches this season over 20 yards, the second-highest total of such plays in the NFL. On the season he has 10 catches for 166 yards. And feeding Kelce the ball is classic West Coast offense quarterback Alex Smith, one of the first players coach Andy Reid brought on board when he took over in 2013.

Belichick was reminded Wednesday that Smith, with three TD passes and a 136.0 rating, didn’t throw a pass against the Dolphins that traveled over 10 yards.

“I think that’€™s part of what Andy does,” Belichick said. “Kind of take what the defense gives you and if you want to play back, they’€™ll take the short passes. Those receivers and tight ends and backs are all capable of catch-and-run plays, where they take a four or five-yard pass and turn it into a 25-yard gain.

“They’€™ve had a lot of explosive plays this year from backs, receivers and tight ends and the quarterback. I don’€™t think it’€™s how far you throw it; it’€™s how much you gain. They’€™re a good screen team, which that’€™s another element which you’€™re never going to see screens thrown 20 yards downfield. But those are explosive plays for them, too. They do a good job of using everybody and getting the ball around. I’€™m sure if they get the opportunity to get it downfield, we’€™ve seen them do it plenty of times with those receivers and tight ends. I think it would be stupid to challenge them to do that all day.”

Here are some other takeaways from Belichick on Wednesday:

Q: What have you seen from Patrick Chung since he returned this season?

BB: Pat’€™s been good. He’€™s contributed for us on all four downs. He’€™s obviously familiar with our system and we’€™re familiar with him. I’€™m glad that we’€™re able to get him back on the team this year. I think he’€™s contributed well on first down, third down, fourth down. I think Pat is pretty much the same player he was when he was here. He’€™s in great condition. He’€™s smart, he’€™s tough, he’€™s a very good tackler and he has versatility ‘€“ he can play in a lot of different situations.

Q: How have you felt about Dont’€™a Hightower’€™s move to an end of the line position?

BB: Dont’€™a is a very versatile player. He’€™s played multiple positions for us ‘€“ that’€™s one of them. He’€™s done that well. He’€™s played off the line, inside on the guard, on the tackle and played on the line on the tight ends, played down. [He] did that in college, did some sub rushing in college, played Sam. Then when [Rolando] McClain left, he moved inside and played Mike. So, he’€™s a pretty versatile player.

Q: When you were scouting him initially was that something you saw him eventually stepping into or is that just how it worked out?

BB: Well, we saw him as a versatile player and we’€™ve used him that. So, I would say it’€™s not really a big surprise. I think the big thing for a player like Dont’€™a is his ability to play on third down ‘€“ his ability to cover and rush the passer, which gives your defense a lot of flexibility. He’€™s a guy that you really want on the field on third down for the number of different things he can do. I wouldn’€™t say that’€™s always the case with linebackers like him ‘€“ inside linebackers. But that’€™s what makes him a really good player. He’€™s good on all downs, but he gives you a lot of versatility and can also play on fourth down for us as well. We haven’€™t used him as much in that role because of his expanded role defensively but he was a good fourth down player for us his first year and even last year at time [on] punt team.

Q: The noise at Arrowhead could be a factor. How, if at all, does that affect what Tom Brady can do at the line in terms of making checks? Does it reduce the number that he can make and only make certain checks?

BB: I think you have to be careful. I’€™d say in every away game there are going to be times, certain situations that it would be really hard to do that. Other times, I’€™m not saying it’€™s easy, but it’€™s doable. But there are plenty of times when it would be really hard, when the crowd really gets going or you’€™re backed up on your own one or you’€™re going in for a touchdown and in the red area and it’€™s just ‘€“ so, I think you have to be aware of those situations, be aware of game situations. Josh [McDaniels] is a very experienced play caller and coordinator. He can hear it, he can feel it and I don’€™t think it’€™s the type of call [where] we could run one of two or three plays depending on the look and the crowd is in that kind of frenzy, I don’€™t think that’€™s really when you want to make that call. Obviously, third down is a challenging down in Kansas City with their defense and the multiple looks they give you on the front and pressure. So, to identify those, that’€™s ‘€“ but third down is challenging on the road everywhere. It might be a little louder there, probably is, but it’€™s all, I don’€™t want to say the same, but pretty much you’€™re dealing with the same thing in every away game in that situation.

Q: When you’€™re struggling to protect Tom Brady, does that reduce the offensive game plan? Do you have to throw some plays out because you have to get it out quicker?

BB: It’€™s the same thing we’€™ve talked about after the game. We need to do everything better offensively. It’€™s not any one problem. It’€™s a number of lack of consistency issues, lack of execution. So, we have to do a better job on everything.

Q: What’€™s the biggest challenge that their defensive front presents to you this week and how much more important is it for Tom Brady to get the ball out quick?

BB: The challenge is for our offense. We have 11 guys playing out there so it will be a challenge at every positon. They have a good front. They’€™re big inside; they’€™re fast on the edge. They’€™ve got good depth. We’€™re going to have to block all of them. It will be a challenge for every guy. It will be a challenge for our receivers to get open, for our running backs to find holes and space in the running game. We’€™re going to have to do a good job with 11 guys. Coaching staff, we’€™re all going to have to do a good job. It’€™s a good defense. They have a lot of good players.

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of mixing personnel groups on offense?

BB: Well, it involves all your players. It creates potentially different matchups with the defense depending on how they want to do it. I’€™d say there’€™s an element of keeping the defense off balance. If you have the depth of your players to be able to stay out there and play every down, then there’€™s an advantage to doing that in terms of consistency, but sometimes that’€™s not really an option. Sometimes, for whatever reason, your players just aren’€™t able to play every single snap in every situation. Situationally, there are some advantages to getting people in the game to do the things that you think they do well in those situations and vice versa.

Q: How has Shane Vereen progressed over the years? What have you seen in his game as far as progression?

BB: One of the big things with Shane has just been his ability to get on the field. When he’€™s been on the field, he’€™s been productive for us. Even going back to the Kansas City game his rookie year, which was a real good game for him, but one of the few games that he was healthy for that year. I don’€™t think really there’€™s ever been a question about his skill set or his ability to be productive and make plays. But, unfortunately, there’€™s been times when he just hasn’€™t been able to be out there for other reasons, not performance, but just other things he was dealing with. Like every young player, the progression through the passing game is the hardest thing, no matter what the position is. Btu he’€™s done that. He did that well at Cal. I don’€™t think that was a big curve for him, but it’€™s certainly a curve for every player. But he’€™s a smart, dependable guy that’€™s been a productive player for us when he’€™s been on the field. I think that’€™s the key, is the consistency and him keeping out there. He trains hard, he works hard. I think he’€™s done everything he can to ensure that. I think that’€™s shown up as well the last couple years. He’€™s had good production and he’€™s been more consistent and been able to be on the field more.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — Nothing’s holding Rob Gronkowski back now.

The Patriots tight end insisted Wednesday that he’s getting closer and closer to full strength and, as such, is ready to carry more of the workload.

In the season opener against Miami, Gronkowski was down on the official box score for 38 of the 86 offensive snaps. With the Patriots building a big 24-7 halftime lead and with the running game taking more of a priority, his workload was decreased in Minnesota. He took just 28 of 67 snaps.

Last week against the Raiders, Gronk was in on 42 of 73 offensive snaps. Is anything with regard to the reconstructed ACL keeping him from playing more?

“Nah,” Gronkowski replied. “I’m a few games deep now, three games, so basically it’s progressing every week. It’€™s getting to the point now where we can start rolling more and more.”

On Tuesday, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels hinted that he would like to increase Gronkowski’s workload.

“Obviously, I’m a football player and I don’t want to be limited,” Gronkowski said. “I always want to play as much as I can.”

With so much talk this week about the problems the offensive line has had protecting Tom Brady, Gronkowski said he certainly wouldn’t object to helping out by staying in to block.

“That could be a way,” Gronkowski said. “But it’s up to the coaches. They’re the ones who game play. Whatever they have, and whatever my job is to do, I’ll go out there and do to the best of my ability.

“I like being out there. It’s up to the coaches and whenever my number is called, I’m going to go out there.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — Give Nate Solder credit for this much: he knows exactly where improvement in his game begins.

FOXBORO — Give Nate Solder credit for this much: he knows exactly where improvement in his game begins. He admitted Wednesday that if he doesn’t do a better job blocking for Tom Brady‘s blindside, the Patriots offense has little chance of improving.

“I’€™d like to shore up my pass protection,” Solder told reporters in front of his locker. “I’€™d like to work better with the offensive line and do some of those things better that I haven’€™t been doing well.”

On Sunday in the 16-9 win over the Raiders, Solder allowed three quarterback hits on the franchise and at least one hurry. Solder had particular trouble against Raiders rookie sensation Khalil Mack and veteran lineman Justin Tuck.

But if Solder thought those two were tough, he could be having nightmares about what’s coming up the next two weeks. On Monday night in Kansas City, while he’s trying to battle the noise at Arrowhead and the communication on the line, he’ll have to deal with either Tamba Hali or Justin Houston, both outside linebackers. That will be followed up by Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry six days later at Gillette Stadium.

“We’re going to practice at a high pace and high tempo and try to get as prepared as we can for any sort of circumstances that may arise,” Solder said.

There’s been plenty of speculation this week that there is a serious issue with cohesion and leadership on the offensive line and that there might even be dissension with new offensive line coach Dave DeGugielmo. The Patriots offensive line reportedly came in extra early Wednesday morning for meetings. Solder acknowledged the issues of unity when he said the offensive line needs to close ranks and get on the same page heading into Kansas City.

“Yeah, you’ve got to have to have some cohesion and some unity going into that situation,” Solder said. “Every week in this league you have to be improving, especially when you’re not playing where you want to be, you have to make strides throughout the course of the week.”

How bad has it been? Brady has taken six sacks, 10 hits and has been hurried 28 times in the first three weeks.

“I think the problem is we’re not playing the way we’d like to play and we’re going to continue to work on that,” Solder said.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones

FOXBORO — Having the best turnover differential in the NFL is something the Patriots have a lot of satisfaction in.

The Patriots defense has forced eight total turnovers in the first three games –€“ six interceptions and two fumbles — and along with two giveaways by the offense, New England is tied for the league-lead in turnover differential at plus six with the Bengals.

“For the defense to get a turnover that can be huge for the offense and it’€™s something that we take pride in. Get the ball to the offense,” defensive end Chandler Jones said.

The defense’€™s eight forced turnovers are tied with the Bears for the most in the NFL.

“That is a credit to the defense working together and also credits the coaches and their game plans and play calling,” Jones said. “Coach [Matt] Patricia and Coach [Bill] Belichick do a good job of calling blitzes and when to drop into coverage — things of that nature to confuse the offense a little bit or even the quarterback.”

While Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has thrown three interceptions so far this season, he’€™s known as being a game-manager and not turning the ball over much –€“ not throwing more than seven interceptions in each of the last three seasons.

Smith is in his 10th season in the league, spending his first seven with San Fransisco, so the Patriots know they will have their work cut out for them Monday Night on the road.

“He’€™s a very good player and that comes with his experience,” Jones said. “He’€™s been in the NFL awhile. He’€™s a good player. He’€™s been across the NFL –€“ with the 49ers and now the Chiefs. He’€™s a very versatile player, he can run the ball, we’€™ll just have to contain him.”

While the Chiefs didn’€™t attempt a pass more than 10 yards down the field in last week’€™s win over the Dolphins, coach Bill Belichick isn’€™t taking Smith lightly or paying much attention to last week’€™s trend.

“He’€™s really smart, athletic – he’€™s got a good arm,” he said. “€œI think he takes good care of the ball, manages the team well, makes a lot of good decisions.”

“They do a good job of using everybody and getting the ball around. I’€™m sure if they get the opportunity to get it downfield, we’€™ve seen them do it plenty of times with those receivers and tight ends. I think it would be stupid to challenge them to do that all day.”

Although the Chiefs come into Monday’€™s matchup 1-2 on the year, losing to Tenneesee and Denver in the first two weeks of the season, it won’€™t be an easy game by any means with Arrowhead Stadium being one of the toughest places in the league to play, enforced even more with the game being on Monday night. Lifetime the Patriots are 3-10-1 on the road against Kansas City, including 1-4 at Arrowhead.

Jones and the Patriots are looking forward to the challenge and not denying the fact they are particularly excited about playing on Monday Night Football.

“I’€™m not going to sit here and lie and say I am not,”€ Jones said. “Everyone is watching. Everyone and their mother is watching. It’€™s an opportunity to showcase your ability and talent for a national televised game. I’€™m excited.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Dont'a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower

FOXBORO — Third-year linebacker Dont’€™a Hightower is off to a tremendous start this season.

After three games Hightower is tied for the team-lead in sacks with two and is third on the team with 10 tackles. He isn’€™t a traditional inside linebacker — as he has shifted to outside linebacker in passing downs — both dropping back into coverage as well as rushing the passer.

“If me rushing is going to help us win, that’€™s what it is,” Hightower said. “€œI feel like me rushing on either side with [Rob] Ninkovich and Chandler [Jones] that opens up the opposite side — them sliding to one side gives the one-on-one matchup that we want for those two guys to go to work.”

As a rookie he started in 13 games finishing with four sacks. Last year when Jerod Mayo went on injured reserve Hightower became the defense’€™s signal caller from the inside linebacker position, starting in 14 of the 16 regular season games. With Mayo back this year, this has freed him up to do a number of different things.

“I have more on my plate and that’€™s how I want it,” said Hightower. “€œI am able to rush, to drop, to cover –€“ zone, man –€“ I am doing a lot. When I am doing that the offense doesn’€™t know if I am dropping into coverage or rushing so that opens up space for everyone else.”

Hightower has been a main reason why the Patriots defense is ranked third in the entire NFL in total defense and the best against the run. They are allowing 16.3 points per game, tied for fourth in the league.

The 2012 first-round pick acknowledges he grew a lot last season as a player when Mayo went out for the year.

“It forced me to step up a lot,” he said. “Not having those two big anchors that have been there for a long time. It all helped me in the situation that we were in –“ it’€™s not usually like that. I mean sometimes we get those reps at practice where you pull a couple of starters. It made me grow up a lot faster and more into a leader.”

While Hightower didn’€™t necessarily perform poorly in his first two seasons in the league — the Alabama product received some criticism last year, particularly in pass coverage — but he’€™s turned things around dramatically through three games this season.

When asked why he’€™s having more success this year then his previous two, Hightower points to more experience and having the trust in the coaching staff.

“€œBeing put in the situation. Coach [Bill] Belichick and Coach [Matt] Patricia allow me to lineup at outside linebacker and rush the passer,”€ he said. “€œStill be able to cover backs, drop into coverage more and allowing me to have a bigger role in the defense.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

During Wednesday’s Middays with MFB show, Christian Fauria discussed the concerns about the Patriots offensive line and questioned whether Dave DeGuglielmo is a right fit for the team based on what he’s hearing about the positional coach’s relationship with the linemen.