Patriots

Late-game preseason action fine with focused Branch

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Late-game preseason action fine with focused Branch

FOXBORO -- Deion Branch had never been here before.

It was the fourth quarter of a preseason game. Most of the Patriots' top offensive unit didn't even play. And here's Branch, on the field, waiting to return punts.

Branch had two punts kicked in his direction on Monday night -- both in the fourth quarter -- but he let them fly over his head inside the 10-yard line.

Still, the fact that he was out there that late in such a meaningless game was new to him. He said afterwards that he knew it was coming.

"It wasn't strange," said Branch. "We spoke about it before the game."

Belichick had previously told Branch that he was going to get him the extra playing time on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. It was a way to make up for him missing the team's preseason opener. But it was also a sign of what the Patriots have on their roster, which is, a plethora of wide receivers.

Even without Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots still have receivers battling for roster spots. And with the numbers New England presents at the position, the veteran Branch isn't necessarily guaranteed anything.

Still, even having to play in the fourth quarter of a preseason game, some veterans would see that as a sign of disrespect. Not Branch. He knows the deal in New England.

"I'm just controlling my job to come here and play ball, and help the team," said Branch after New England's 27-17 loss to the Eagles.

"Every year there's competition. You know, every year. It doesn't change."

Branch finished the game with three receptions for a team-high 51 yards. Afterwards, he was saying all the right things. But perhaps, that state of mind is exactly why he shouldn't be worried.

"I feel good about my situation, as far as everybody's role," said Branch. "Nobody has a role right now. Nobody's made the team.

"Right now, it's just all about me going out, doing what I have to do to make the team."

QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Jerod Mayo breaks down the best way for Patriots to attack Jaguars defense

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QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Jerod Mayo breaks down the best way for Patriots to attack Jaguars defense

Jerod Mayo talks with Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry about the Patriots AFC Championship matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(2:00) Jerod Mayo gives his X’s and O’s breakdown of the Jaguars defensive schemes and traits.

(5:00) Jerod gives his opinion on how the Patriots offense should attack the Jaguars defense.

(8:30) Could Gronkowski be the key to the Patriots offense? What would be the best way to use him?

(15:00) Does the Jaguars defense have a weakness against vertical routes?

(17:00) Jerod Mayo explains why James White could be a key once again for the Patriots. 

(21:00) Will Jaguars change their defensive scheme after allowing 42 to the Steeler?

(23:00) Will much will the Jaguars having the ‘nothing to lose’ mindset impact the game?

Replacing Patriots coordinators not easy, but 'the culture is built'

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Replacing Patriots coordinators not easy, but 'the culture is built'

FOXBORO -- The Patriots are looking at losing both coordinators, Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels, to head coaching jobs in the near future. When it happens, that will prompt questions. What's next? How will this impact the on-the-field product? What about the culture?

The short answer: As long as Bill Belichick is around, the Patriots will be the Patriots. The expectations. The culture. The schemes. They all remain. 

"I mean, I believe so," said Patriots captain Duron Harmon. "The culture is built. The culture is built. This is two decades of winning. A winning franchise. Coach Belichick is going to make sure whoever is in the defensive room is going to be the right guy to display the message and the picture that he wants his defense to play with. That goes through the defensive coordinator, whoever he hires."

That's not to say that filling the coordinator job on either side of the football will be easy. Consistency at those positions has value, whether it's in how new players pick up the system, or how certain fundamentals are taught. 

"Whenever you're trying to get something done professionally, to be able to have consistent leadership and foundation upon which to build is important," Patriots captain Matthew Slater said. "A consistent message, understanding what you're trying to get done. And we're fortunate not only with Josh but obviously Coach Belichick and the rest of our coaching staff.

"That consistency with the character of the coach, with the message of the coach, with what he demands of you is important because it helps set a standard. And then when players come in you say, 'OK this is what's expected of me and anything less is not going to be good enough.' " 

Harmon acknowledged that the consistency of having one coordinator in place for several years -- both Patricia and McDaniels have held their titles since 2012 -- can help. But, as just Slater pointed out the consistency coming from the team's head coach, Harmon explained that everything starts with Belichick.

"It's important," Harmon said of having consistency on staff. "Not only is it important coming from the defensive coordinator, but it's important coming from the head coach. Coach Belichick does a great job of always portraying the message he wants, and how he wants his team to play, and it goes through the coordinators and then to the position coaches and then to the players. I think the consistency is not always built straight from the defensive coordinator. I think Coach Belichick does a great job of doing that as well."

It won't be an easy job to replace McDaniels and Patricia when they leave, particularly since the favorites to be their successors could in theory leave with them. But as long as Belichick remains, so too will the standard he's set.