Patriots

Blake Bortles: Patriots 'schematically mess with you a little bit'

Blake Bortles: Patriots 'schematically mess with you a little bit'

FOXBORO -- What Blake Bortles said about the Patriots defense following Tuesday's practice was either a) a sign that Bill Belichick is already getting somewhat exotic with his scheme, or b) a sign that Bortles is having a tough time reading vanilla coverages.

What typically happens around the league in the preseason, especially early on, is that teams keep things relatively vanilla when it comes to their design. The goal is to have the basics down before starting to meddle. You also don't want to show anyone too much too early.

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But what Bortles described Tuesday sounded like a Patriots defense -- and in particular a Patriots secondary -- that has already blown past vanilla and has moved on to chocolate peanut butter pretzel with a caramel swirl.

"They do a lot of different things in coverage with their safeties, whether they’re sprinting their guys down or staying too high and doing different stuff," Bortles said. "It’s been good going against different looks. It’s definitely different than what we see in Jacksonville."

It's very possible that the Patriots are already mixing things up, even in joint practices, because they have the personnel to do it. Not only are they deep with starting-caliber players at both safety (with Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon) and corner (with Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones), but only one of those players (Gilmore) is brand new to the system.

Combine their skill level with an in-depth understanding of Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense, and they can afford get creative this early in camp. On Tuesday, when the Patriots defense took the field for the first 11-on-11 period, McCourty, Harmon and Chung were all out there.

"I think they do a lot of different stuff with their safeties," Bortles said. "They do a good job disguising coverages. I think schematically they mess with you a little bit and take away different things. They make you think they are taking something away so you go the other way. You have to be sharp in what you are doing pre-snap."

Maybe that's just a 25-year-old quarterback who's unsure of what he's looking at. But it could also be that the Patriots are pretty far along in terms of their ability to execute multiple defensive looks. They'll have four preseason games, two more joint practices against the Texans, and about a month on the calendar to get even more creative before the Chiefs visit Gillette Stadium for the season-opener.

Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

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Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

While being away from home isn’t uncommon for the Patriots - just think about all those Super Bowl trips - Tom Brady believes each excursion takes on its own feel, its own flavor and - eventually - its own meaning.

Back in 2014, the Pats went from playing in Green Bay and losing to the Packers straight to San Diego for a week on the West Coast prior to a rousing victory over the Chargers. That week, many players said in the aftermath, helped propel the team to great heights,.  You’ll recall, that season ended in grand fashion, a triumph in Super Bowl 49 over Seattle, at the time - and maybe still - the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

“I think all these experiences are pretty unique,” Brady said Friday from Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. “That was a very unique experience. This is different.”

Brady spoke about the number of stops the Pats have and will have to make on this trip - from Denver to Colorado Springs then on to Mexico City Saturday before a Sunday night return to Foxboro and their own beds for the first time in 10 nights.

“When you’re on the road like this, there’s less to do,” he said. “You know my family is not here, my kids aren’t here. There’s nobody telling me what I did wrong in the house. It’s just being at home and now it’s being here and trying to figure out a way to win a game.”

Brady quickly smoothed over any possible ill-will at home - why make Gisele mad? - smiling and saying “I didn’t mean that so I’ll take it back.”

Kidding aside, the 40-year old signal caller seemed pleased with the work the Patriots have put in during this long trip. A week of team-bonding can’t be a bad thing, especially for a group that seems to be hitting it’s stride both on and off the field. There’s the five wins in a row and also a locker room that has a better understanding of one another than it did during the first month of the season. But Brady is not ready to make any grand proclamations. That just wouldn’t be his style.

“I think it’s still work in progress,” he said of team chemistry. “You look at still adding a player like Marty (Bennett) last week. Things are always changing and evolving. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing well and after 8 or 9 weeks, you start to figure those things out. Now we have to work hard at those things, try to really own them, and use them going forward to try and win the most important games. We have a lot of important games coming up, starting with this one. Hopefully we can play our best football going forward.”

Brady said he’s been fired up for this game with the Raiders south of the border ever since the schedule was released all those months ago.

“I’ve never been to Mexico City,” he said. “It’s been a game you kind of look forward to. We’re playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. It will be very memorable. I think everyone is excited.”

Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

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Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

The Patriots will be without center David Andrews on Sunday when they play the Raiders in Mexico City. Andrews, who hasn’t all practice all week with an illness, is one of four Pats listed as out on the injury report released Friday.

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Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, who didn’t play last week against the Broncos is also out, along with wide receiver Chris Hogan and special teams captain Matthew Slater. Offensive linemen Ted Karras and Joe Thuney each took reps at center so one of them will likely start in Andrews’ absence. LaAdrian Waddle filled in for Cannon and performed well last week vs. Denver. 

Here’s the full injury report for the Patriots and Raiders: