|5 thoughts on return of LeGarrette Blount, state of Patriots running game||11.21.14 at 12:12 am ET|
1. In stark contrast to the nasty words that were coming out of the Pittsburgh locker room in the wake of what happened with LeGarrette Blount over the last week, on Thursday, the vibe around the Patriots was all good when it came to the newest Patriot. Special teams captain Matthew Slater called him a “great teammate,” while fullback James Develin said it was “good” to have him back. Meanwhile, Jonas Gray — who likely will see his role shrink some with the addition of Blount — said he had no problem with the move, adding that the veteran is is a “great guy to learn from.” As for what sort of role awaits him, it’s likely he’ll split duties with Gray as the primary between-the-tackles back, as well as serve as some sort of insurance policy if the stage gets too big for the youngster, or if he puts the ball on the ground at some point. It’s also possible he sees time as a part-time kick returner — with the occasional exception of Danny Amendola, no one has really done much to distinguish themselves in the position. With his background last year, it certainly makes sense for the Patriots to give him a shot back there.
2. Few teams have seen the type of turnover at the running back position as New England. With the injury to Ridley, if form holds, the Patriots will have their sixth different back lead the team in rushing in 2014 over the last decade — only four other teams (Saints, Browns, Broncos and Cardinals) have had more. Corey Dillon (2004-2006), Laurence Maroney (2007, 2009), Sammy Morris (2008), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (2010-2011) and Stevan Ridley (2012-2013). And now, with Ridley on the shelf the rest of the year, this season it figures to be either Vereen, Gray or Blount. That could change again next year, as Brandon Bolden, Ridley and Shane Vereen are all in the final year of their contracts, while Blount, Gray and rookie James White are all under contract for 2015. (In addition, Tyler Gaffney, who was claimed by the Patriots this summer but is spending the year on injured reserve because of a knee issue, is still a possibility to be a part of the mix next season.) Regardless, even with all the changes, things could still change between now and the start of next season.
3. As forward thinking as the Patriots offense — and the passing game in particular — has been the last few years, there’s something impressively retro about what New England might be able to do this season. If we operate with the idea that a “running back by committee” includes a team with four backs with at least 40 carries, it appears that for the second straight season, the Patriots will attempt to be the first team to win a Super Bowl using the “running back by committee” approach since the 1987 Redskins, who won Super Bowl. Right now, the Patriots three different backs reach with at least 69 carries (Ridley with 94, Vereen with 70 and Gray with 69). While some of those numbers are borne out of necessarily since Ridley went down, if Blount is able to click down the stretch for New England — and it’s entirely possible he can hit the 40-carry mark, given his experience in the system — he would be a fourth. If the Patriots could take the title, it would represent the greatest cross-section of work for running backs for any Super Bowl champion since that Washington team emerged with a win in Super Bowl XXII. (Of course, that Redskins team could be discounted on a penalty, as that was a strike year and one of the backs was a scab who rushed 80 times in three strike games but never played another down. If you disqualify them on a technicality, them the last true RBBC team to win a Super Bowl in a non-strike year was the 1981 Niners, a team that had five different backs finish with 40 carries or more: Ricky Patton, Earl Cooper, Johnny Davis, Walt Easley and Paul Hofer.)
|5 things you have to know about Colts||11.10.14 at 3:07 pm ET|
Here are five things you have to know about the Colts, who will face the Patriots this week Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
1. Andrew Luck is playing at an MVP level.
The Colts quarterback has had a terrific first half of the year, and is on pace to finish 444-for-699 (64 percent) for 5,484 yards with 46 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. (At that rate, the entire city of Indianapolis will be growing neckbeards by the end of the season.) Part of his success can be rooted in the fact that the Colts are playing in a mostly pillowy-soft division, and he’s managed to take advantage of a couple of woeful defenses in Jacksonville and Tennessee (he was a combined 60-for-80 for 763 yards, eight touchdowns and one pick in back-to-back games earlier in the year against the Jags and Titans). But at the same time, he’s risen to the challenge nicely when faced with some of the better defenses in the NFL. He’s passed for at least 300 yards in seven straight games, and at this point in the season, he’s one of two quarterbacks who have a completion percentage better than 60 percent (64), has thrown for at least 3,000 yards (3,085) and has at least 20 touchdown passes. The only reason Ben Roethlisberger is the other one in the conversation is because he’s played 10 games, while Luck is at nine.
2. For a (presumably) playoff-bound team, they don’t do a great job taking care of the football.
As good as Luck has been at times this season, he has been occasionally careless with the football, and can throw some bad picks. He’s throw nine interceptions on the year, which ties him for third in the league with luminaries like Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins. (Luck had nine all year last season.) The Colts have also fumbled the ball six times, but are still even when it comes to takeaway ratio (six interceptions and nine fumbles recovered on defense).
3. They don’t do a great job defending tight ends.
Indy has what can be be described as an above-average secondary, with some talented corners. But at the same time, the Colts have had issues against good tight ends this season. According to Football Outsiders, through Week 9 the Colts are 29th in the league in defending tight ends. In all, the Colts have allowed 49 receptions for 577 yards and seven touchdowns, an average of 11.8 yards per catch. Those numbers should be sweet music to the ears of the Patriots, who have leaned heavily on Rob Gronkowski over the course of the last five weeks, and will almost certainly do the same this time around against Indy. Gronkowski has caught 36 passes for 516 yards and five touchdowns over the last five weeks, while the Colts have had issues containing players like Heath Miller (seven catches on eight targets for 112 yards and a touchdown), Owen Daniels (five catches on seven targets for 70 yards), Zach Ertz (four catches, 86 yards) and Delanie Walker (five catches on seven targets for 84 yards and a touchdown). If they had issues with Walker, Indy will almost certainly have problems trying to slow Gronkowski.
|Fantasy Football: Week 5 starts, sits||10.03.14 at 8:59 am ET|
I’ll get to the starts and sits in a second, but I have to say that if the NFL wants to keep having Thursday night football, could they have both teams agree to play?
It’s now two weeks in a row that one team showed up and mopped the field with what looked like a JV unit. It seems like we keep getting low-quality football on Thursdays and it’s almost certainly related to the short week of preparation. And, in an era where player safety is supposedly of paramount concern, what’s the rationale for the short week? Not to mention that Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are about as compelling as another Derek Jeter retrospective. I never thought I would miss Mike Mayock.
So who do we want in our Week 5 lineups this weekend? Let’s endeavor to find out. As usual, I have avoided the exceedingly obvious choices. The most obvious selection below probably is Reggie Bush, who is included because his Week 5 situation is atypical. If the player or players that you want feedback on are not listed here, consult my full lineup rankings at Rotobahn. If you still have unanswered questions on Sunday, then head over to our chat, which starts at 11 a.m. every Sunday during fantasy football season. And, don’t forget to check out The Fantasy Football Hour. It airs each Sunday morning starting at 6:30 a.m., and you can listen to a tape of the show right here on WEEI.com if you are not an early riser.
To keep track of all our fantasy football content both here and at Rotobahn, follow us on Twitter.
He gets Odell Beckham, Jr. back this week, and they have righted the ship lately even without the highly regarded rookie. It’s a sweet home matchup with the Falcons, who can score the ball and who aid others in doing the same. Fire up all your Giants skill players.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers at Jaguars
He’s playing well, and this matchup is a slam dunk. Big Ben is a solid QB1 option with a cast of healthy targets led by scorching-hot receiver Antonio Brown.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars vs. Vikings
He should be playing from behind for much of the game, and we like the way he stays cool under pressure. This is crucial in Jacksonville, where quarterbacks face constant pressure. The good thing about Bortles is that he’s a rugged dude who gets you points with both his arm and his feet. If you need an option in a deep league, he can help you.
Andy Dalton, Bengals at Patriots
He’s playable in big formats, but I am not loving him on the road against a Patriots defense that projects to be fired up and ready to go. The Bengals are likely to be without Marvin Jones again after the tall receiver rolled his ankle in practice this week. Jones was supposed to return and bolster the Cincinnati receiving corps, but he’ll be limited if he can play. I see this game as a ground battle, so be careful with Dalton in smaller formats. You probably have better options.
|Super Bowl roundup: Ahmad Bradshaw ‘OK’ to play||02.04.12 at 4:19 pm ET|
Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw has been experiencing a sore foot after two straight days of practicing for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Bradshaw is one of six players on the Giants injury report, “but he’s OK,” Tom Coughlin told reporters on Friday. “He’ll be ready. He’ll be listed as probable.”
Despite the injury, Bradshaw showed up for practice Wednesday and Thursday after resting the first two days post-arrival to Indy.
“He got in two good days of work prior to this,” Coughlin said. “He’s prepared.”
Fans are using Facebook and Twitter to find the best restaurants and best parking spots for game day, and are even using them as locating devices to find out where the next major celebrity will appear.
According to a report by CBS New York, a year after Super Bowl XLV set a record 4,064 tweets per second during the fourth quarter of the game, organizers are aiming to make this year’s game in Indianapolis the most connected Super Bowl ever.
|Setting the scene: Patriots-Giants||11.06.11 at 12:16 pm ET|
The weather figures to be ideal once again. Clear skies and temperatures in the mid-50s are expected for today’s tilt. There is no chance of rain with a breeze out of the southwest at 11 MPH expected for kickoff.
On the injury front, there was a late addition Saturday night that could impact the Patriots as receiver Taylor Price was officially listed as questionable with a hamstring injury.
Wes Welker is expected to play after suffering a strained neck last Sunday on a hit by Troy Polamalu. Welker missed practice on Wednesday but returned on Thursday on a limited basis. He was also limited Friday and was listed as questionable on the Friday injury report. He did not have any setbacks on Saturday and will be vital once again to the Patriots passing game.
Albert Haynesworth is someone to keep an eye on once again as he is listed as questionable with lingering back issues. He has played in the last three games after missing Weeks 3 and 4 with the ailment.
The injury news is more significant for the Giants as running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), receiver Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) and center David Baas (knee) were all ruled out for today’s game and did not make the trip.
Additionally, defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul (concussion) and cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot) both made the trip to Foxboro and are questionable.
The Patriots will look to extend some remarkable winning streaks today that nearly ended three weeks ago against the Cowboys before Tom Brady hit Aaron Hernandez in the back of the end zone for the winning touchdown with 22 seconds remaining.
The Patriots have won 18 straight games at Gillette against NFC opponents. The only game they have ever lost at Gillette came in their first try, when Brett Favre and the Packers handled the Patriots, 28-10, on Oct. 13, 2002.
Brady has won 31 straight regular-season starts at Gillette Stadium, dating back to Nov. 12, 2006, when the Eric Mangini-led Jets beat the Patriots, 17-14. The 31 straight wins is an NFL record for home starts, six more than Favre had from 1995-98 at Lambeau Field.
There has naturally been lots of reflecting this week back on Super Bowl XLII, when the Giants ended the dreams of a perfect season with a 17-14 win over the Pats in Glendale, Ariz. But it’s worth noting the Patriots have beaten the Giants in the last four regular-season meetings, including the epic 38-35 game when the Giants played to win in the 2007 regular season finale, just coming up short as the Pats improved to 16-0. That was the game that Brady hit Randy Moss for a touchdown pass, establishing new NFL records for TD passes in a season (50) and TD receptions (22).
|Drafting running backs remains an inexact science||03.17.11 at 9:42 pm ET|
Some positions in the NFL draft require more attention early on than others. For example, if your team is in need of a quarterback, history shows that while there can be risk in spending a Top 10 pick on a signal-caller, you’re far more likely to go wrong by choosing one in the second or third round.
While quarterback is a position best addressed in the first round (or, if you’re lucky, the 199th overall pick), not every position necessarily screams “high pick.” Of course, punters go untouched in the early part of the draft, but other positions — even the occasional kicker — have been fair game in the first two rounds over time. Still, for an event that is defined by finding value, trends over the years have shown that certain positions may not represent the utmost value high in the draft.
It could be argued that one such position is running back. Despite being a position that plays such a crucial role in the average NFL offense, running backs that get big attention on draft day don’t necessarily provide a big payoff for their teams. Here’s a look at every running back selected in the top two rounds of the last five drafts:
16th overall — Ryan Mathews
30th overall — Jahvid Best
53rd overall — LeSean McCoy
44th overall — Matt Forte
55th overall — Ray Rice
49th overall — Kenny Irons
50th overall — Chris Henry
52nd overall — Brian Leonard
63rd overall — Brandon Jackson
45th overall — LenDale White
60th overall — Maurice Jones-Drew
Of those 28 players, eight finished Top 20 in the league in rushing yards last season. Of course, simply looking at last season doesn’t tell the whole story.
|Potential Patriots: Pierre Thomas||02.09.11 at 5:26 pm ET|
Despite the looming labor uncertainty, as free agency approaches, WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that could be available to the Patriots in free agency this offseason.
Position: Running back
Team: New Orleans
Weight: 215 pounds
Why the Patriots would be interested: New England is likely to make some big changes at running back in the offseason, as four players ‘ Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis ‘ are free agents, and the Patriots figure to cut ties with at least two of them. That means they’ll be in the market for some depth at the position, and Thomas is certainly a fit from a risk/reward perspective.
Why it would happen: History tells us that even if the Patriots are in the market for a running back, they’re not going to go all in for a first rounder. (In his 11 years in Foxboro, Bill Belichick has picked a running back in the first round just once ‘ Laurence Maroney in 2006 ‘ and in hindsight, that ended up being a mistake.) At the same time, there don’t appear to be any potential big-time targets that could be acquired in trade or in free agency. That makes a middle-of-the-road type of pickup like Thomas a potential fit for the Patriots if they are looking to build depth with some new faces at the position. In addition, there doesn’t figure to be a big market for Thomas, as he ended the season on injured reserve because of an ankle problem, and recently had surgery.