Brady on Hogan: 'He runs by people and they don't catch him'

Brady on Hogan: 'He runs by people and they don't catch him'

Chris Hogan has moved past the point of showing signs. He's done more than that. 

The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder proved yet again on Sunday that he is a veritable deep threat for the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady, catching four passes for 91 yards and a touchdown in a 41-25 win over his former team in Buffalo. For the season, Hogan is now averaging 20.6 yards per catch.

To put his explosive nature of his play-making into perspective, Hogan is one of just five receivers in the league who has played at least 25 percent of his team's offensive snaps and is averaging 20 yards or more per catch, according to Pro Football Focus.


The others? Jets wideout Eric Decker (21.6 yards per catch average), Bills wideout Marquise Goodwin (21.5), Steelers wideout Sammie Coates (21.3) and Falcons wideout Julio Jones (20.0). Hogan's teammate Rob Gronkowski (22.0) is the only non-receiver on the list.

That's it. That's the group. If you want to narrow it down to players with at least 15 receptions, then only Coates, Jones, Hogan and Gronkowski would make the cut. 

Hogan's speed, which Bill Belichick said recently has long been apparent to the Patriots, was on display late in the first quarter when he ran by Bills corner Stephon Gilmore for a 53-yard score to go ahead, 14-3. 

"Maybe if I had a good release at the line, the ball was going to come to me," Hogan said of the play. "Once I got off the line and looked back, the ball was in the air. It seemed like tha ball was in the air for a really long time. I knew it was just one of those things, go up, make a play. And Tom made an awesome throw. Didn't even have to stop."

He added: "On those deep balls, you never know when the ball's going to come so you always have to be prepared. You gotta get off the line first. After that, it's just about making a play."

He's done that time and again through eight games this season, catching five of the 10 deep passes (traveling 20 yards or more in the air) sent his way this season for 220 yards. He's made an impact in the short-to-intermediate range as well, but it's his long plays in wins over the Cardinals, Browns and Bills that have stood out. 

"[Hogan] had a chance," Brady said of his teammate's long score. "It looked like they were favoring coverage to the other side of the field. You know when you do that that it's one on one back side, and he had a good inside release. 

"Hog's fast. He runs by people and they don't catch him. If you just put it out there for him and let him run under it, he's able to make those plays. He's done that all season long for us. It was great . . . That was a big play in the game."

Hogan's speed has meshed with one of the many facets of Brady's game that is currently on point. Not usually known for his deep accuracy, Brady leads the league in yards-per-attempt (9.8), and he's completed nine of 15 deep passes for 383 yards and four touchdowns -- good enough for a rating of 143.7 on those throws. 

Don't pigeonhole me: How will Adrian Clayborn fit into the Patriots defense?

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Don't pigeonhole me: How will Adrian Clayborn fit into the Patriots defense?

Looking for a two-word answer from Bill Belichick during a press conference? Ask him how a new addition to the roster might fit into the Patriots scheme. 

"We'll see," is Belichick's typical reply in those situations. 


We point that out here because it's hard to know exactly what any new player's role will be with the Patriots, particularly for an edge player like Adrian Clayborn. That spot in Belichick's defense can take on a variety of roles, from pass-rusher, to edge-setter, to coverage player. 

But we can take an educated guess as to how Clayborn will fit in the Patriots defense, based on what we know. That's what the Patriots did when they signed him. They saw certain skills. They saw Clayborn perform in certain situations. They made their projection. 

There's always the chance Clayborn asserts himself in a way that wasn't expected. Or maybe the way he fits with his new teammates will open his coaches' eyes in ways they weren't anticipating. But at this point, as is the case with every new addition, they're hypothesizing. So we will too. 

AGAINST THE PASS: Clayborn was, for the vast majority of his snaps, a pass-rusher for the Falcons last year. He played 631 snaps for the Falcons, which was 53.4 of their defensive snaps. Of those 631 plays, Clayborn rushed the quarterback 477 times, per Pro Football Focus (76 percent of his workload). And of those pass-rush snaps, only one came from the left side. (Clayborn was born with Erb's palsy, which means his right arm has some limitations compared to his left, which impacts the side of the field he aligns on. He played 91 percent of his snaps from the right side in 2016.)  Clayborn played over 80 percent of the snaps during each of his first three seasons in the league as a member of the Bucs so he's been a three-down player before. But recent history would suggest the 6-foot-2, 280-pounder is now more of a sub option.

Here's how Clayborn responded during a conference call on Wednesday when asked if he could chip in on first and second down for the Patriots. "I believe that’s what people have pigeon-holed me in as a third-down player, but I know I can play first, second, third down if need be," he said. "That was my role in Atlanta because that’s what they asked me to do, but I mean, I can play all three downs if you ask me."

AGAINST THE RUN: According to Pro Football Focus, Clayborn has been a negatively-graded player against the run during each of his seven seasons in the NFL. Last year he checked in as PFF's 78th-ranked run defender among edge players, which was far below the ranking Trey Flowers received (19th) but ahead of Deatrich Wise (85th) and Eric Lee (96th). During each of his last three seasons with the Falcons, he has seen his snap-counts break down similarly: about 75 percent of his work came against the pass, about 25 percent came against the run. He can defend the run. He's capable of it. He just hasn't been asked to consistently hold up on the edge on a down-in-down-out basis during the most recent phase of his career. 

THE FIT: Based on his history in Atlanta, it would make sense if the Patriots asked Clayborn to come off of the right edge in passing situations in 2018. That's where his recent experience has been. Keeping him away from the left side not only makes the most of where he's strongest, but it also keeps him from finding himself in coverage. As Belichick has explained in the past, the left end spot (Rob Ninkovich's old spot), going against right-handed quarterbacks, is typically asked to do more in coverage. The right edge has been Flowers' area in the recent past -- he played almost 65 percent of his passing-rush snaps last season off the right, per PFF -- but if the Patriots are fully-healthy up front, Flowers could kick inside to do his rushing. An ideal sub package for the Patriots, it could be argued, would have Clayborn on the right edge, Flowers and either Wise or Adam Butler on the interior, and Derek Rivers or Dont'a Hightower on the left edge. Rivers saw some work off the left side before suffering an injury in last year's training camp. Early last season, Hightower saw time on the left edge. 


Clayborn will have an opportunity to show he can do more than rush off the right side. He said on Wednesday that the Patriots have discussed multiple roles for him. (Perhaps he could rush from the interior, though he's not as long as Flowers or Wise, whose arms make them good matchups for stouter guards and tackles.) Wherever those opportunities come, Clayborn knows he'll have to make the most of them if he doesn't want to be pigeonholed. The deal for two years and $10 million he just signed in New England doesn't guarantee him myriad responsibilities.

"Whatever I can prove I can do,” he said. "I know I can rush the passer. I know I can set edge in the run. I mean, there’s a couple of different positions that they believe I can play, so it’s up to me to prove I can play them."


Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

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Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

Former Patriots defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois is signing with the Lions, according to Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports.

The 31-year-old had six tackles in six games for the Patriots in 2017. He'll reunite with ex-Patriots defensive coordinator and now Lions head coach Matt Patricia in Detroit.