McDaniels putting his mark on offense


McDaniels putting his mark on offense

The Patriots have made a few key signings so far this offseason, but one of the more interesting ones was that of wide receiver Donte' Stallworth.

Stallworth was a key player on the Patriots' historic 2007 team, catching 46 balls for 697 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He was Tom Brady's third receiving option behind Wes Welker and Randy Moss before parting ways with the team after the season.

Now he's back, and a big reason for that could be due to the return of Josh McDaniels as the Pats offensive coordinator.
With Welker still with the team, Brandon Lloyd signed, and Stallworth back, the Patriots have three wide receivers that McDaniels is very familiar in working with. He's got an obvious grasp of the system from years past -- and from working with the team towards the end of last season -- and has an entire offseason of preparation ahead as well.

The offense really shouldn't skip a beat with McDaniels on board, and bringing on Lloyd and Stallworth make it extra smooth. Not to say that Bill Belichick would have worried much about McDaniels if LloydStallworth didn't happen, but it's just another reason that he doesn't have to now.

I'm reading a book called "Don't Take Your Eye Off the Ball" by Pat Kirwan (a long-time, well-respected NFL analyst, former Jets defensive assistant coach and director of player administration) and one paragraph stuck out to me that I think could relate to this a little.

Kirwan writes: "Usually a head coach came up through the ranks on one side of the ball or the other. Tom Coughlin is an offensive guy. Pete Carroll is a defensive guy. Many times, coaches will build the game plan for the side of the ball they're most passionate about (and most experienced with), and then let their coordinators on the other side build their own game plan. Of course, those coordinators are going to present everything to the head coach before it's installed."

It's no secret that Belichick came up on the defensive side of the ball. It's also no secret that he has a lot of faith in McDaniels (offensive side of the ball), who the Patriots literally couldn't wait to bring on board once he got out of his contract with the Rams. That said, Belichick's certainly had his hand in the Patriots offense over the years, and will continue to. The point is that maybe he's more comfortable handing the offensive reigns over to McDaniels, giving him a longer leash to design and run his own stuff with. Don't forget, Belichick didn't officially give the "offensive coordinator" title to Bill O'Brien until 2011, two years after McDaniels left the position. But he wasted no time handing it back to McDaniels upon his return.

It wouldn't surprise anyone to hear that Belichick is spending more time focusing on the defense, seeing as that was the weaker side of the ball and has been for the past few seasons. Is he more "passionate" about defense? Well, he's passionate about winning. And being able to concentrate more on areas of need -- while still working close enough with McDaniels -- could prove to be the difference.

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

BOSTON – With all the changes the Celtics went through over the summer, seeing more rookies on the floor this season was a given.
But six?
Yes, only three games into the season and the Celtics have played more rookies than any team under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.


And in the 102-92 victory at Philadelphia on Friday night, the Celtics (1-2) played almost as many first-year players (five) as veterans (six).
The youth movement here in Boston has been sped up a bit by the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, compounded by a left ankle sprain to Marcus Smart that Smart said won’t keep him out any more than Friday night in Philly.

Even if Smart is back in the Celtics lineup Tuesday night against New York, that doesn’t change the fact that Boston will continue to need rookies to step up and contribute going forward as they did on Friday.
And while there’s an old adage about experience being the greatest teacher, Boston’s youngsters are going to have to fast-forward past some of those on-the-floor growing pains for the Celtics to stay among the top teams in the East.
“Everybody talks about young players having to learn by going through experience,” said Stevens. “Why don’t we just watch film and learn? Learn from things we can control and in the interim, let’s beat the age thing. Let’s not talk about the age thing. Let’s talk about how we can be better at what we can control and how we can learn and grow every day and expedite the learning curve.
Stevens added, “because they are going to get opportunities all the way down the line, let’s not focus on trying to learn from experience; let’s focus on learning from every day and see if we can get a little bit better every day.”
The one rookie who has had no problem adjusting to the NBA game early on has been Jayson Tatum.
Selected with the third overall pick last June, Tatum has been among the NBA's most productive rookies in this first week of the season.
Tatum’s 35.3 minutes played per game is tops among all rookies. His 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds rank seventh and fourth among his first-year brethren.
Stevens loves what he has seen thus far from Tatum, but believes he’s capable of making an even greater impact sooner rather than later.
“I like him to shoot it on the catch more,” Stevens said. “Because he has tremendous touch. When he shoots it in rhythm with confidence, the ball finds the net. He’s one of those guys; he’s a natural scorer. But his ability to read the game … he’s very intelligent. It’s been more evident on the defensive end. He’s gonna pick his spots offensively now. But we want him to be aggressive and first and foremost, be a threat to shoot it every time he catches it.
Stevens added, “I guess it should feel pretty good when you’re 19 years old and your coach is begging you to shoot it.”
How quickly Tatum and the rest of Boston’s youngsters grow into the roles they will be asked to play this season can do nothing but help the Celtics adapt to what has already been a season with major changes needing to be made.
“You saw [against Philadelphia], we had Shane [Larkin], we had Guerschon [Yabusele], we had guys coming in that played the game at a high level and we need them to contribute,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “For me to see that and witness that, it makes me nothing but proud and happy to have teammates that are ready to play. It’s not always going to look perfect because we’re still gaining knowledge about one another. But as long as we’re out there competing, having each other’s backs, that’s all that matters.”

AFC EAST: Cutler hurt, Moore leads Dolphins to 31-28 comeback win over Jets


AFC EAST: Cutler hurt, Moore leads Dolphins to 31-28 comeback win over Jets

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Matt Moore replaced an injured Jay Cutler and threw two touchdown passes in the final 12 minutes, and the Miami Dolphins pulled off another comeback win by erasing a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the New York Jets 31-28 on Sunday. Click here for more.