Patriots

Bucs' Dominik, Pats' Caserio share a style

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Bucs' Dominik, Pats' Caserio share a style

TAMPA - Nick Caserio and Mark Dominik don't have the same job title - Dominik is the Buccaneers' general manager; Caserio is the Patriots' director of player personnel - but they do share quite a bit aside from that.

They're both young (Dominik is 41, Caserio 36), both climbed the ladder in their organizations honestly and both answer to detail-oriented and demanding head coaches.

Caserio's a bit more taciturn than Dominik but neither one is a slap 'em on the back type. It's all business and the two talk business, according to Dominik.

"Nick and I stay in constant communication during the season," Dominik said Thursday morning as the Patriots and Bucs concluded a practice at One Bucs Place. "It's always good to have a guy you can stay in good contact with. We have a good relationship. It's always been a professional relationship but also a personal relationship where we can talk to each other and see what's going on."

The Patriots, as you may have noticed, are kinda private. That gets irksome at times but their discretion also gives them an advantage in that they are trusted by other teams to keep their damn mouths shut.

"There's a lot of trust that goes on in the National Football League because if you're gonna shop a guy or make a trade, you have to decide whether (the personnel person you're dealing with is) gonna tell everybody or just keep it within the organization," said Dominik. "Those are important things to know that you can count on when you have a relationship with a team like the Patriots as we do."

Dominik's presence in Tampa pre-dates the hiring of Bill Belichick protege Greg Schiano. It will be interesting to see how their relationship evolves given the "one voice" approach espoused by the Patriots that effectively neuters Caserio from being glib in any public setting. Will Schiano want to replace Dominik with someone Schiano can mold? Will he leave the aggressive and sharp Dominik to do his work?

From a brief view of the Bucs operation this week, it seems to be working. And if Schiano wants to mold his team like the Patriots, Dominik seems on board with that.

"I think (the two days of shared practice) was very beneficial for us not only as a preparation but an evaluation of our own football team," said Dominik. "I think that's been a great thing. You like to have a chance to grow as a team and take the opportunity to evaluate how you're doing and how you stack up."

Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study

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Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study

If your team makes a goal-line stop in the fourth quarter, but you can't see it on the All-22 tape, did it even happen? 

Bill Belichick said the fog that hovered above the Gillette Stadium turf on Sunday night didn't impact the play on the field, but it did make its imprint on the game in other ways. First of all, spotters and coaches up at the press level had some difficulty relaying information to coaches on the sidelines. Video on the hand-held tablets for sideline use -- as well as the old-school still-frame pictures Belichick prefers -- was also obstructed. 

Then on Monday, as coaches tried to digest the film, the fog butted in on the process again. 

"It affected us a lot this morning because it’s hard to see the game," Belichick said during a conference call. "The fourth quarter is – I don’t know – pretty close to a white-out on the sideline film. The sideline cameras are at the top of the stadium, so that’s a tough shot.

"The end zone cameras are a little bit lower and they get a little tighter shot, so the picture is a little bit clearer. But, on that shot, a lot of times you’re not able to see all the guys on the perimeter. It’s kind of an in-line shot.

"Yeah, the first half, start of the third quarter, it’s all right. As they get into the middle of the third quarter and on, for those of us with aging eyes, it’s a little strained to see it, and then there’s a point where you can’t really see it at all, especially from the sideline. So, yeah, it affected us."

Belichick re-iterated that the fog didn't do much to the product on the field (other than maybe making life difficult for kick and punt-returners), refuting Julio Jones' claim from late Sunday night. When it came to digesting the film, though, that was another story.

"It was more, I’d say, just tougher for, whether it be our video camera or the fans that were sitting in the upper deck. It’s just there was too much interference there," Belichick said. "It was probably hard to see the game. I know when we tried to look at the pictures in between series – you know, I don’t look at the tablets, so I won’t get into that – but the pictures, it was kind of the same thing. It was hard to really be able to make out exactly what you were seeing."

Bademosi rises to the occasion in Patriots' defensive backfield

Bademosi rises to the occasion in Patriots' defensive backfield

FOXBORO -- “It’s not a coincidence,” said an AFC scout. “Bill found someone who will do what he’s asking, will play it the way he’s asking and -- as an aside -- let Malcolm [Butler] play like Malcolm.”

The scout reached out to me. He watched what we watched Sunday night (or tried to watch through that damn fog). The Patriots defense against the Falcons was unrecognizable from the first six weeks of the season . . . which is to say it was good. No receivers running free with the closest defender in a different area code. No defensive backs gesturing “what the hell?” to other members of the secondary after yet another chunk play. After surrendering 26 of those chunk plays (20 yards or more) through the first half-dozen games, the Pats coughed up just two against a Falcons offense that was historically good just a year ago and returned basically the same personnel.

And Johnson Bademosi has been a central figure it the Pats revitialization.

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“Hey man, he’s been doing amazing, man,” Duron Harmon said Sunday night. “For him to fill in the role he’s been filling in -- covering Julio [Jones], covering everybody -- like he’s been playing phenomenal. I’m really excited for him. This guy just got here and is playing really good football for us.”

We detailed last week where Bademosi came from and the daunting assignment he had in front of him this weekend. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Julio Jones is the perfect weapon. As Bademosi told me after the game, Jones has it all: Speed, strength, run after catch, smarts. So how could an undrafted player who done his best work as a special teamer match up with that?

Well, for starters, the Pats were wise not to isolate Bademosi on Jones without help. There was always a safety tilted in that direction. The staff also didn’t make it a 1-on-1 affair from start to finish. Bademosi and Butler played sides mostly, meaning sometimes the former Stanford product got Jones but other times, it was Mohammad Sanu or Taylor Gabriel. Not exactly a walk in the park, but a little less stressful.

“I mean he’s one of the biggest threats on offense, and in order to stop the offense, you have to limit him,” said Bademosi of Jones, before adding, “They’re a familiar opponent. We studied what they do, prepared like it was the most important game of our lives and so that’s how it happened.”

Point is though, it was never suppose to happen with Bademosi as a central figure. This was suppose be a Stephon Gilmore game. The Pats paid him boatload of guaranteed cash for nights like this, to match up against the physical freaks like Julio Jones, or Mike Evans a couple weeks prior. But with Gilmore out the last two weeks, Bademosi is playing corner full-time and excelling.

“He’s their unsung hero right now,” said the AFC scout. “No ifs, ands or buts about it. It’s going to be very interesting when Stephon comes back.”

At worst, Bill Belichick and the defensive staff have found an added layer of competent depth for their secondary, a physical corner unfazed by his new role. At best, they’ve found a player who will fight to keep the spot that belonged to Gilmore, forcing the former Buffalo Bill to raise his level to get on the field and stay there.

Bademosi knows better than to focus on that. All he’s doing now is what he can do.

“We’re all just taking advantage of our opportunities,” said Bademosi. Are you enjoying those opportunities? “A lot.”

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