First impressions: Edelman puts up career day as Patriots lock up No. 1 seed

First impressions: Edelman puts up career day as Patriots lock up No. 1 seed

Here are a few quick-hit impressions from the Patriots' 35-14 rout of the Dolphins on Sunday, which locks up the No. 1 seed in the AFC.


* There were some who wondered just how much Julian Edelman would play in the season finale, myself included. The thinking was that he is so important to the Patriots' postseason chances that keeping him healthy might be even more important that home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Well, not only did Edelman play, he played a lot . . . and he ended up with a career day. His 77-yard touchdown catch-and-run gave him career highs in three different categories: Longest catch, most receiving yards in a game and most receiving yards in a season. He finished with 8 catches for 151 yards on 12 targets, and he cracked 1,000 yards receiving for the second time in his career. 

* Edelman got through the day, it seemed, with his health intact. But he took a handful of big shots over the course of the afternoon; He was dropped on a long incompletion in the first quarter that left him a little bit bloodied, and after the play he drew an unsportsmanlike penalty; on a punt return late in the third quarter he absorbed another hard hit; and after a third-down completion in the third, Edelman came to the sidelines jesturing toward his right leg. He remained in the game, however, and appeared no worse for wear. 

* Tom Brady finished the game hitting 25-of-33 passes for 276 yards and three scores for a quarterback rating of 130.4. On the season, he has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 28-to-2, which is the best all-time, better than the mark set by Nick Foles (27-to-2) in 2013.

* Trey Flowers continues to be one of the most dominant defenders the Patriots have on their roster. He had a dominant first series of the game, stuffing two runs and recording a quarterback hit that led to an incompletion on third down. In total, he had three run-stuffs and two quarterback hits. Chris Long said recently that Flowers may be the best defensive player on the Patriots, and he only built on his cause for that title in the season-finale.

* Michael Floyd was expecting to see a larger workload with Malcolm Mitchell banged up this week, and he did. He was used in three-receiver packages and made his presence felt with his physicality. He caught a slant for 14 yards and fought through six Dolphins defenders to plow into the end zone for his first touchdown catch as a member of the Patriots. He also made a nice toe-tapping nine-yard catch near the sideline in the second quarter. But the most impactful play he made -- literally and figuratively -- was on a block he made on defensive back Tony Lippett to help spring Edelman free for his long score. Floyd recognized that Edelman had wriggled free, followed the play and de-cleated Lippett with a clean hit where he led with his shoulder. That's the type of play that will help the newcomer garner some respect from his teammates and the Patriots coaching staff. 

* The Patriots defense continues to create turnovers at an alarming clip after a slow start to the season when it comes to that category. Logan Ryan's interception and Devin McCourty's fourth-quarter strip (and Shea McClellin's scoop) gave the Patriots 14 turnovers since Week 12. From Weeks 4-11 they forced just two.

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

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Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."