AFC East: New England Patriots

Key areas for Patriots vs. Panthers

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
7:30
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the New England Patriots host the Carolina Panthers in preseason action Friday night, here are some key areas for the team based on what has unfolded in the first two games:

Conditioning and possibly playing into third quarter. The overall conditioning of the team has been a high priority for head coach Bill Belichick in training camp, with an eye toward what figures to be a sweltering Sept. 7 season opener in Miami (1 p.m. ET kickoff). Quarterback Tom Brady said Belichick has told the players to expect a heavy workload, which could mean playing into the third quarter, which is often the case in the third preseason game. It's all tied to conditioning.

Good test for run defense. One of the themes of the week has been how facing an athletic quarterback such as Cam Newton, and a downhill power running team, presents a nice contrast to the spread-it-out Philadelphia Eagles offense from last week. So it's more good work for the starting front seven in the 3-4 alignment, which was solid against the run last week against LeSean McCoy & Co. Our eyes will be on linebacker Jerod Mayo and if he plays for the first time this preseason.

Following up with Stevan Ridley. The four-year veteran played 16 snaps last Friday as the Patriots focused heavily on the run game. Ridley's final snap was ruled a fumble, which was a close play but nonetheless brought a hot-button topic -- Ridley's ball security -- back to the forefront. In a game in which the starters are expected to play extensively, how Ridley responds bears monitoring.

Competitions on interior of O-line. Center and right guard are the spots to continue to monitor, with Dan Connolly (center) and Josh Kline (right guard) looking like the front-runners at this point. But incumbent center Ryan Wendell is still in the mix, and the coaching staff has also taken a long look at first-year blocker Jordan Devey, who has played every snap this preseason. Four-year veteran Marcus Cannon is also a possibility at right guard, although our feeling is that he looks more comfortable at tackle.

Malcolm Butler and sustaining his play. The undrafted free-agent cornerback from West Alabama has been one of the surprise stories of training camp, as he's not only practiced well, but has shown up in games with ball disruption and strong coverage. Can he sustain it?
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- If recent history is any indication, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and other top players will see extended action in Friday's preseason game against the visiting Carolina Panthers. That's Brady's expectation.

Brady
"Coach told us we're going to get a lot of work," Brady said Wednesday after practice. "What that means, I don't know. I don't think anyone ever knows with him. But we'll be prepared and ready to go for 60 minutes and hopefully it's a good 60 minutes. We've had a couple doozies in the third preseason game lately. It would be nice to have a good one."

Brady was referencing last season's 40-9 loss to the Lions in the third preseason game, as well as a 34-10 loss to Detroit in the third preseason game in 2011.

In the past, coach Bill Belichick has discussed the value in having top players remain in the third preseason game into the third quarter, so they can go through the experience of making halftime adjustments. Another benefit is conditioning-based.

"We've done a bunch of that," Brady said Wednesday. "This a good game to really gauge where you're at. ...You have to get out there and play and get your mind working, and get into the situations and concentrate for extended periods of time. Certainly we're going to be asked to do four quarters of that in three weeks [in the Sept. 7 opener at Miami].

"So hopefully we're in good enough condition to play a half, and hopefully we'll play a lot more than that."

A few other soundbites from Brady:

Develin draws praise. Asked about fullback James Develin, Brady lauded him as a selfless player and great teammate. "I don't think there's a better fullback in the league," he said. "He brings so much in terms of his toughness, his attitude; it's that one position on offense that can really bring a lot of toughness. You get it out of that fullback position. I can't say enough good things about him."

Cadence as a point of emphasis. After Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III was penalized twice for a false start on Monday night because of the combination of his hand movements and voice infliction, Brady was asked about a point of emphasis on the NFL rule about simulating a snap count. "I guess you can't … the shoulders, the head, and the hands [with] the voice, they talk about calling that quite a bit," Brady relayed. "Sometimes it's just a natural [thing]; you try to inflict your voice and the movement of everything gets you going. But we have to be cautious about it, because I was warned a bunch by [referee] John Parry, who was here last week about doing that. In practice, he said, 'Look, I'm OK with it, but there are other refs who probably won't be.' So I think you just have to make the changes. Whatever the rules are, we have to adjust to them."

Happy for Hoyer. Brady wasn't aware that his former backup, Brian Hoyer, had been named the Browns starter earlier on Wednesday. When told of the news, he smiled. "I love Brian. He's such a great guy, a person, a friend. We've always kept in touch. So I'm proud of him. He's fought through some tough circumstances over the years -- getting released here, going to Arizona, getting a little bit of an opportunity there -- and really has taken advantage of the opportunity in Cleveland. It's great for him. He's a great player. I'm very happy for him."
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tuesday's news conference with Bill Belichick had a "Football 101" type of feel to it. Belichick was the professor at the front of the room, going in depth on special-teams contributions, kick-returning technique and what defines a good training camp.

These are the types of news conferences that Belichick seems to enjoy (or at least tolerate), as it went a bit overtime and threatened his on-time arrival for afternoon practice.

Here were a few notes:

Bonus plays with receivers on special-teams coverage units. When it comes to receivers playing on special-teams coverage units, which Brandon LaFell has done, Belichick called those "bonus plays" because it's more the exception than the rule with pass-catchers. Not including special-teams captain Matthew Slater, who technically is a receiver but plays sparingly at the position, LaFell is the only New England Patriots receiver who showed up on the top kickoff coverage unit in Friday's game against the Eagles. In practice, LaFell has also taken reps as a backup on the punt coverage unit, and his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame is part of what makes him competitive in the coverage role. "Size and strength are big attributes that you have to have to block or take on blockers," Belichick said. "Those are things that kind of work in his favor and he did in Carolina. He’s tough and he’s competitive and he does a good job there. Just another way that he can contribute to the team."

Most important things for kickoff returners. When watching Patriots kickoff returners Friday night against Carolina, consider these remarks from Belichick on what makes an effective returner: "Vision is important. Speed is important because the faster you can get the ball from the goal line or wherever it comes down up into that 15-, 20-yard line area, then the more you can avoid [the unblocked coverage player]. So, speed and then either some combination of quickness and power to break tackles. Somehow or another returners to be good have to be able to make some yards on their own. They have to be able to avoid them or be strong to run through them, as well as have good vision and find the holes." Belichick then added this: "The three things that affect [kickoff returners] the most are the depth of the kick, the hang time of the kick and the posture that he’s in when he catches it." The Patriots have used rookie Roy Finch (3 returns, 25.0 avg.), Josh Boyce (1 return, 25 yards), Travis Hawkins (1 return, 20 yards) and James White (1 return, 19 yards) on kickoffs this preseason, with Boyce entering training camp as the favorite to seize the job.

What defines a good training camp. How does Belichick know a team has had a good training camp? He explained that part of it is seeing how the club responds to adversity. "It’s a challenge for the team -- not just the players but the entire organization -- to handle all the things you have to handle in training camp. You have to be able to show some mental toughness, some ability to block out distractions and focus on your job," he said. "If you can do those over a training camp period of, call it six weeks, then it’s probably a pretty good indication that you have a chance to do it during the year. If you don't, then it’s probably an indication that when the pressure really comes on during the season, which the pressure is going to mount for the team as the season goes, I’d say the likelihood of it all just magically coming together without a legitimate foundation, I haven’t had a lot of great experience with that."

Jerod Mayo, Bryan Stork return for Patriots

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
2:40
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo has returned to practice Monday after missing all of last week for undisclosed reasons.

Mayo's return for a full-pads practice isn't the only good news for the Patriots on the health front, as rookie center Bryan Stork (out since July 29) and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (out since July 27) are back on the field after being sidelined by undisclosed injuries.

Meanwhile, as previously noted, rookie receiver Jeremy Gallon (off physically unable to perform list) and defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Ben Bass are practicing for the first time.

In his Monday afternoon news conference, Bill Belichick was asked about the 6-foot-2, 308-pound Worthy, a 2012 second-round draft pick of the Packers.

"He didn't play very much last year [but] played quite a bit his rookie year. He was a good player coming out of Michigan State, played well in a good conference against good people," Belichick said. "He has some athleticism and he has some size. We'll see how it all fits together for us. I'm happy to be working with him and we'll see how it goes."

While the returns of Mayo, Stork, Hoomanawanui and Gallon, as well as the additions of Worthy and Bass to bolster numbers, two notable absences at practice are starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and starting defensive tackle/end Tommy Kelly.
Examining the New England Patriots' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Garoppolo keeps showing impressive poise and presence, while Mallett played well Friday night as well.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Don't have many doubts that Bolden will be there, but wondering if there is a way Roy Finch might be able to sneak on the roster. In this scenario, he'll land on the practice squad instead.

FULLBACKS (1)

Showed up as a pass-catcher in Friday's game as he continues to round out his skills.

TIGHT ENDS (2)

Sticking with just two, with the thinking that Develin could factor into this mix and players like D.J. Williams and/or Steve Maneri will be on the emergency list.

WIDE RECEIVERS (7*)

Tyms sticks because he won't count against the roster initially as part of his four-game suspension. Boyce hasn't done enough to warrant a spot, but his future potential and the feeling that it's too early to give up on him keeps him on for now.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Time to start paying more attention to Devey, the first-year player from Memphis who spent last year on the practice squad, as a legitimate candidate to earn a roster spot. He takes the place of sixth-round draft choice Jon Halapio in this scenario, with the team's hope that Halapio could land on the practice squad.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Would like to find a way to keep Will Smith, but spots are tough to come by and he hasn't done much to distinguish himself at this point. If Siliga's injury is more of a long-term situation, it could open the door for someone like Jerel Worthy.

LINEBACKERS (6)

The Patriots could explore the waiver wire at this spot, as the depth is a question mark behind the top trio.

CORNERBACKS (6*)

Because Browner is suspended for the first four regular-season games, he won't count against the initial 53-man roster limit. But he is included here because he is obviously a significant part of the team's overall planning for the 2014 season. Butler, an undrafted free agent from West Alabama, continues to make plays.

SAFETIES (4)
Patrick Chung and Tavon Wilson could be part of the emergency list in the event of injury, while cornerbacks Arrington and Ryan could also factor into the mix.

SPECIALISTS (4)

Aiken looks more secure this week after the release of Tyler Ott on Sunday.

Brady on unique QB-center dynamic

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
12:30
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the top training camp competitions for the New England Patriots has been at center, where incumbent Ryan Wendell is facing a significant challenge from nine-year veteran Dan Connolly and fourth-round draft choice Bryan Stork.

With Stork sidelined since sustaining what appeared to be a lower-leg injury on the fifth day of training camp, it’s been Connolly vs. Wendell for the last two weeks, and quarterback Tom Brady touched on why the position is so important to him.

“Center-quarterback relationship is a pretty special one. I have my hands on their butts probably more than their wives,” Brady cracked. “You know, it’s a pretty unique trust and relationship you have.”

Brady added that the switching of Connolly and Wendell in and out of the lineup during training camp has little effect on him. He said he has confidence in both, citing their work ethic.

After starting the preseason opener and playing the first half, Connolly has been taking most of the top reps this week, with Wendell rotating in from time to time.

Checking speed limit on Revis Island

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
10:15
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Cornerback Darrelle Revis' first training camp with the New England Patriots has been a little bit of a getting-to-know-you type of deal. Revis Island has been in full effect at times, while there have been other plays when Revis takes his foot off the gas pedal a bit, such as Tuesday when Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin raced past him for a long score.

Revis
It's all part of Revis' practice approach.

"I've been doing this for a while and sometimes you do that and sometimes you don’t," Revis said of letting up on the practice field. "It depends on how everything is going."

Revis' approach is similar to former Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss, who often chose when to turn things on and off. For his part, Revis stressed he has the situation under control, regardless of when he finishes the play strong or not.

"Even though I’m not maybe running that fast, they are reps and I know what I need to do during that play," he relayed.

A few other sound bites from Revis:

Illegal Contact. With the NFL putting emphasis on defensive holding and penalizing illegal contact beyond five yards, Revis is working to grasp the new rule. He picked up multiple penalty flags while covering Maclin on Tuesday. “I’m trying to learn it just as every other defensive back in the league. We have to do our best job of following the rules. It’s tough, but at the same time we have got to abide by the rules."

On his first training camp with joint practices. Revis missed the first joint practices of his career last season while playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (he was present, but didn't participate), and he now sees the value of taking reps against other teams during the preseason. “I’m just trying to soak it all in and like I said it’s good to get competition from other opponents. We have been going at it for a while as a team -- offense and defense -- so it’s good thing.”

Contract extension already? Asked about the possibility of extending his contract, Revis focused on the present. “No. I’m just here. That has nothing to do with what’s going on right now. I’m here for right now. I’m in this contract and everything I’m trying to do is focus on this year."
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When New England Patriots wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins arrived on the two fields behind Gillette Stadium for a Tuesday afternoon joint practice with the Philadelphia Eagles, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“That was my first time seeing something like that,” he relayed.

All the seats in the bleachers were filled. The nearby hillside was also jam-packed. Then, because the Patriots’ practice facility couldn’t fit any more spectators, the gates to Gillette Stadium were opened so fans could line the ramps overlooking the fields.

 
The Patriots later announced that 25,317 fans attended the practice, which was easily a single-session record.

“It was a tremendous atmosphere, seeing the guys hanging over the stadium and the rooftop,” Thompkins said after the two-hour practice. “It was great energy to come out here and compete and get our adrenaline going. It brought our competitive level up.”

Thompkins’ thoughts were echoed by many, including tight end Rob Gronkowski.

 
The energy brought by the crowd was felt early, as big plays -- such as receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola excelling in 7-on-7 drills -- were met with roaring cheers in the intimate practice setting. Meanwhile, every move was chronicled by an overflowing media crowd. A Patriots official said that 131 media credentials (give or take a few) were issued for the practice, which was more than any day of camp.

Between the fans, the intense media spotlight and the action on the two practice fields, what resulted was a day unlike any other since the Patriots first started holding training camp at Gillette Stadium in 2003.

“To see that atmosphere that we had today was unbelievable,” Thompkins said. “I don’t think there are any fans like we have in New England.”
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Referee John Parry and members of his crew are in town to work with the Patriots, and he's received a message from coach Bill Belichick.

This is what Belichick told Parry: "Throw flags -- put the flag on the ground, so when we put the film on, we can see exactly what the action was. [Then] when the flag is on the ground, communicate with the player -- what did he do wrong? How does he potentially eliminate that action? Communicate with the coaching staff to make sure they know."

 This is a big part of the next two days for the Patriots, and it involves teaching and becoming familiar with some of the NFL's rule changes and points of emphasis.

"You'll see flags on the ground," Parry promised.

Two soundbites from Parry's briefing with media members:

On a point of emphasis about illegal contact. "It's not an easy call to make. The rule hasn't changed. We've been through this before. Points of emphasis are made annually from the competition committee ... and this is the second time in 14 years that defensive holding and illegal contact have been a point of emphasis. It's an offensive game and we want receivers to be able to run a free route. We do not want receivers to initiate contact with defenders to eliminate their opportunity to defend that route. ... But I think what you'll see, last week in the New England game there was maybe 23 penalties. I think we'll see 23, 24, 20 for Weeks 2, 3, 4 [in the preseason]. And the message will be sent that this is a point of emphasis and the players will adapt, the coaches will adapt and the officials will adapt, get on the same page, and Week 1, I don't think you'll see a big difference in the football game."

Working towards consistency between crews. "New York is getting aggressive with new technology. Now referees, every week, we will get every call that was made or not made by a referee. So at least if I'm calling two or three holds, and I can view other holds that were incorrect or 'am I on the borderline?' so we can gap the human side of this. Every game is different. Every player is different. Every coach is different on any given day. We are trying to bridge that gap. We now have coaches [who] are coming to our clinics and teaching us what the teaching technique is to a player. ... We're trying any and all avenues to bridge the gap on consistency. It's a big point for our game."
The New England Patriots have waived undrafted rookie tight ends Asa Watson and Justin Jones and running back Stephen Houston, according to a league source. In corresponding moves, the team has signed a trio of tight ends: veterans Ben Hartsock and Steve Maneri and 2014 undrafted free agent Terrence Miller.

Hartsock, 34, is a 10-year veteran who was originally selected in the third round of the 2004 NFL draft by the Colts. His other NFL stops include the Jets, Titans, Falcons and most recently the Panthers. The 265-pounder is considered a capable blocking tight end. He worked out for the Patriots this offseason.

Maneri has previous experience with the Patriots, as he was with the team back in 2010. He has played both offensive tackle and tight end in the NFL. He was most recently with the Chicago Bears.

Miller, meanwhile, was signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent following this year's draft. He is considered a very good athlete for the position at 6-foot-4 and close to 235 pounds. The Jets released him in June.

The three players waived were all considered longshots to make the team's 53-man roster. The signings reflect a more veteran approach to the tight end position, which has been an area of focus with Rob Gronkowski still working his way back from offseason ACL surgery and Michael Hoomanawanui dealing with an injury.

Belichick on benefit of using mobile tablets

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
5:15
PM ET
The New England Patriots -- like many teams in the NFL -- experimented for the first time with mobile tablets on the sidelines during Thursday’s preseason game against Washington. Coach Bill Belichick likes the compact accessibility of photos in a game that a tablet can provide.

“The tablets have the ability to hold all the pictures in the one tablet,” Belichick told reporters Friday. “You can scroll through them, certainly much more concise.”

“I’d say the quality of the tablets is good. The clarity of the pictures and all that is good. Better than what we had.”

Traditionally, NFL teams used photo printers on the sidelines to produce snapshots of plays and formations. Coaches and players could then draw on the pictures to analyze them.

[+] EnlargeCraig Johnson and Rashad Jennings
AP Photo/David RichardNew York Giants running backs coach Craig Johnson uses a tablet to point out something to Rashad Jennings at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 3.
“It’s not like we are getting a new picture or a new view or a new anything we haven’t seen before,” Belichick said about the differences between the paper copies and tablets. “It’s just the way it comes in on the tablets -- all put together, easier to access – probably the plus side of it.”

While the use of tablets provides coaches and players with a simple, organized system of managing in-game pictures, the method is far from foolproof. The tablets -- which run on a Wi-Fi network -- lost connection during the Patriots’ game.

“The issues are those are wireless tablets down on the field and so if the wireless or the Wi-Fi isn’t connected or something happens, then you have nothing -- you have zero,” Belichick said.

The connectivity issues were not exclusive to the Patriots’ sideline. Other teams throughout the league have run into problems with tablets.

“That happened in our game and it has happened in other games, from my understanding of talking to other people that have been involved there, too,” Belichick said.

Belichick said the Patriots use the same tablets in the press box and like using them up there. But tablets used in the press box do not have the same connectivity issues like the ones on the field.

“But the consistency -- or lack of -- and dependability of it based on the connections or whatever the technical aspects of it are makes it a little bit of an issue as to the dependability of the product,” Belichick said.

While the Patriots’ experience with tablets has not been entirely smooth, Belichick says the tablets are a good experience for everyone on the team. Though with anything new, there are always obstacles to overcome.
RICHMOND, Va. -- With the New England Patriots and Washington Redskins holding a walk-through practice on Wednesday morning, just a few notes to pass along:

Siliga & Williams sidelined. Defensive tackle Sealver Siliga and tight end D.J. Williams did not participate in the walk-through after getting injured in Tuesday's practice. Siliga was spotted with a black cast on his left hand on Tuesday, while Williams was rolled up on a running play on Tuesday and was wearing a black sleeve over his lower right leg on Wednesday. Neither player is expected to play in Thursday's preseason opener. At tight end, that should mean extended repetitions for undrafted free agents Justin Jones (6-foot-8, 275 pounds) and Asa Watson (6-3, 240).

Washington starters for eight to 10 plays. Washington coach Jay Gruden said he expects his top players on the field for eight to 10 plays against the Patriots in the preseason opener. He added that while he and Bill Belichick worked together to script joint practices, there is no such arrangement as to how they will approach Thursday's preseason opener. After Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson "twisted his ankle just a hair" in Wednesday's walk-through, it could take a Jackson vs. Darrelle Revis matchup off the table.

Browner with extended practice reps. Veteran cornerback Brandon Browner took extended practice reps in the walk-through, staying on the field with some lesser-experienced players. As Paul Perillo of Patriots Football Weekly pointed out, that could mean we see a bit more of Browner on Thursday as he could perhaps benefit from extended reps from a conditioning standpoint and also because he will miss the first four games of the regular season due to suspension.

Media interviews. In addition to backup quarterbacks Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo, safety Patrick Chung, running back Roy Finch, and receivers Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell were among those speaking with reporters after practice.
RICHMOND, Va. – It is an annual rite of passage in New England Patriots preseason: The day before the first game, the media spotlight shines a bit brighter on the backup quarterbacks.

In recent years, it traces back to Rohan Davey (2003-2004), Doug Flutie (2005), Matt Cassel (2005-2008), Kevin O’Connell (2008-2009), Brian Hoyer (2009-2011) and now Ryan Mallett (2011-2014) and Jimmy Garoppolo (2014).

So this was the scene following Wednesday’s light walk-through practice with the Washington Redskins: Mallett had a crowd around him asking about the only chance he gets for extended repetitions, while a few yards away Garoppolo was talking about his adjustment to the NFL.

Mallett
Mallett should receive the majority of repetitions in Thursday’s preseason opener, and it’s his primary showcase to prove to 31 other teams what he’always has believed -- that he’s a starting-caliber quarterback.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to be able to play a lot,” said Mallett, who has totaled just four pass attempts in the regular season over the last three years, coming in at the end of four games. “I haven’t really gotten too many chances during the regular season because I have a pretty good guy in front of me. Any time I get to play, I look forward to it.”

Unlike others from his draft class, who have already emerged, Mallett hasn’t allowed himself to ask “what if?” when it comes to his own career.

“I live day to day, man. I’m happy where I’m at right now,” he said. “I’m having a blast. I’m on a great team, I have a great organization around me. My teammates are awesome. That doesn’t cross my mind. I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team every day.

“You can’t control what you can’t control. It’s the uncontrollable. You have to deal with it … I was dealt the hand I was dealt, so I’m playing cards.”

Mallett’s story is well documented. In 2011, he had first-round physical skills but slipped to the third round, in part because of some off-field questions. Three full seasons later, he has been well schooled in the Patriots’ system and enters the final year of his contract.

Could a franchise really build around him in 2015?

That’s what Mallett hopes to prove starting Thursday night, as his performance in 2011, 2012 and 2013 preseason action wasn’t decisive like it was when then-Atlanta backup Matt Schaub lit things up in 2005, which later led Houston to trade significant assets for him and hand him a starting job.

The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Mallett certainly looks the part on the practice field, with a live arm that brings back memories of Drew Bledsoe. He said Wednesday that the game has slowed down for him, and he spent time this offseason working out in Minnesota with Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald , among others.

Now it’s time to prove it in a game, which is when backup quarterbacks truly need to pop.

Belichick: 'Situational' practice important

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
3:25
PM ET
As the New England Patriots take part in Day 2 of joint practices with the Washington Redskins, head coach Bill Belichick says the biggest benefit of this type of environment is working on “the situations.”

With Monday's practice focusing on basic situations of first, second and third down, the remaining joint practices are about getting more situational for Belichick.

“Today we're going to get into red area and third down and two-minute and tomorrow we're going to get into some more situational play and I think that's where a lot of the value comes on this,” Belichick said before Tuesday's joint practice.

“Let's face it -- there's no team in the league that's going to have their starting offense and starting defense on the field on the final drive of the game in preseason like it's going to be in the regular season. So in order to get work like that, this is a good opportunity to get it against somebody else. Not only the situations, but just playing against another team in that situation, trying to stop them or trying to score.”

Belichick also stresses that situational practices help team develop communication skills that players simply cannot acquire from preseason games and typical practices.

Joint practices with Washington will gradually kick up the situational intensity leading up to Thursday night's preseason opener.

A few other insights and sound bites from Belichick:

Conditioning for football only happens by playing football. When asked about the takeaways from the Patriots' conditioning level, Belichick said it's a daily grind. “I think we're making progress and I don't think we're where we need to be for the opener yet. Again, you can't get in condition to play football without playing football,” Belichick said. “You can run around a track and do sit-ups and all of that until the cows come home, but you've got to get in condition to play football by playing football.”

Putting the Ryan Mallett hype into perspective. After NFL analyst Mike Mayock said Ryan Mallett is a legitimate NFL starting quarterback, the Mallett hype took off. Belichick offered his perspective on Mallett's development as a quarterback this offseason. “Like everybody out there, every player, some plays are better than others. Ryan has good poise in the huddle, good presence on the field, handles the team well and absolutely knows the offense from A to Z and can make the adjustments and whatever changes, communications, checks, we need to make.”

Gronkowski still not practicing. Belichick said he doesn't have an update on tight end Rob Gronkowski's status. Gronkowski hadn't missed a full practice of camp until sitting out Monday's practice. Belichick informed reporters that Gronkowski also would not practice Tuesday. He has participated in individual drills at practices in Foxborough, though sat out team drills which is probably a factor in Gronkowski not participating in joint practices.
Examining the New England Patriots' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Garoppolo has struggled in practice of late, but that is to be expected from a rookie. Mallett, in turn, has caught our eye with some strong play, and we're curious to see if it transfers over to the game field in the preseason.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Starting to wonder if White might cut into some of Ridley's early-down workload, as it's been notable how many repetitions he's seeing in practice, especially on the goal line.

FULLBACKS (1)

Great story about a hard-nosed player who at one point went to the United Football League to keep his NFL hopes alive.

TIGHT ENDS (2)

Back to just two tight ends, because something has to give with so many receivers, a No. 3 quarterback and a pure fullback. So that could mean both undrafted rookies Justin Jones and Asa Watson land on the practice squad, with D.J. Williams on the emergency list if he's not picked up elsewhere.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Thompkins has clearly been ahead of LaFell and Boyce in practice. It's hard to imagine the Patriots would let Boyce go after drafting him early in the fourth round last year, but at the same time, I don't think he's a surefire lock.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Stork sustained what appeared to be a lower-leg injury in the fifth practice of camp and hasn't been on the field since. Toughest call here was deciding between Connolly and scrappy Ryan Wendell, as both have played a lot of good football for the team.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)

Added Kelly in this week's projection because he's been tough to block in one-on-one drills. No way a player like Moore gets through waivers to land on the practice squad, which is why he gets the final spot.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Thought Beauharnais had a nice week of practice, showing up with a big hit in the Oklahoma drill and commanding the huddle.

CORNERBACKS (5*)

Because Browner is suspended for the first four regular-season games, he won't count against the initial 53-man roster limit. But he is included here because he is obviously a significant part of the team's overall planning for the 2014 season.

SAFETY (4)

Veteran Patrick Chung could always come back during the season in the event of injury. With rookie Jemea Thomas (sixth round, Georgia Tech) sustaining an undisclosed injury on the first day of training camp, he is edged out in this scenario by Wilson, who also contributes on special teams. It would work out nicely if Thomas could land on the practice squad to add depth, as this is a little light to start the season in the defensive backfield.

SPECIALISTS (4)

One of the under-the-radar training camp competitions is at snapper, where incumbent Aiken is being challenged by rookie Tyler Ott of Harvard. To the layman, looks like Aiken has the edge right now.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

AFC EAST SCOREBOARD