Knighton has contract incentives to keep weight in check


Knighton has contract incentives to keep weight in check

Terrance Knighton has made a career off of his unique combination of size and athleticism. There simply aren't many human beings on the planet who can take on multiple similarly-massive blockers, hold firm, then disengage and chase after whatever waterbug happens to be carrying the football. 

But last season, when Knighton was listed at 354 pounds, his size may have ballooned to the point that it got in the way of his performance.

On a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Knighton said that he has lost weight since 2015 when he was with the Redskins. And he plans on keeping it off. It will make him a better player, he explained, and he'll have incentives in his contract that will serve as additional motivation. 

"Last year I was obviously heavier than I am right now," Knighton said. "I'm in a lot better shape than I was last year. Contractually, I'll have weights that I need to hit. Whatever the coaches want me to play at, that's what I'll be. I've worked really hard this offseason, and I'll continue to work hard throughout the offseason program and get acclimated to the new strength coaches and the nutritionist and the way things are done in Foxborough. I'm looking forward to it."

Knighton came into the league when he was drafted by the Jaguars in the third round as a 321-pound defensive tackle out of Temple. Though he wouldn't disclose his target, that could be closer to the playing weight he and the Patriots have in mind for the role he'll be playing. 

When Vince Wilfork played with the Patriots -- a player Knighton admired as a Patriots fan growing up in Connecticut -- he insisted he played at 325 pounds. He's still listed at that weight on the Texans roster. Sealver Siliga was also listed at 325 pounds during his Patriots career, and remains listed at that weight now as a member of the Seahawks. 

"Obviously it's been a tag on me my whole career, my weight," Knighton said. "But that's something that I have paid a lot of attention to this offseason, and it won't be a problem."

Knighton was open last season about how he suffered from cluster headaches that impacted everything from his play on the field (he missed last year's Redskins-Patriots game because of headaches) to his sleeping habits. Those may have contributed to his conditioning issue, but when probed further about his fitness, he gave no excuses.

"It's something you have to pay attention to," he said. "I have a lot of football left and I don't want anything to hinder from that. I put last season behind me. I'm happy about being in New England, working with a great strength coach and nutritionist, I had a long talk with him on my visit. I'm looking forward to putting the plan together that they have for me and executing it and, you know, having a new start and refreshing my career."

For a look how the Patriots treat nutrition as an organization, as well as some of the duties taken on by team nutritionist Ted Harper, check our story from last year.  

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."