Patriots

New year, different circumstances, same approach for McDaniels

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New year, different circumstances, same approach for McDaniels

FOXBORO -- A year ago, the Patriots had a unique challenge: Fulfill Tom Brady’s desire to take every snap but also get Jimmy Garoppolo ready to run the team in Brady’s four-game absence.

This year, there’s no suspension looming. But Josh McDaniels still is tasked with getting Brady, Garoppolo and, yes, Jacoby Brissett ready for prime time.

“It’s the same every year for us,” said McDaniels a day before the first training camp practice. “We really didn’t change what we were doing in training camp last year.”

To quibble with the Pats successful offensive coordinator, there did appear to be a change, particularly with Brady’s usage during the preseason games. Perhaps the confluence of events in Brady’s personal life (mother’s illness) and that scissor mishap were driving forces, but bottom line is the program had to be altered. Still, the overall theme didn’t, and won’t again according to McDaniels.

“Everybody is going to get plenty of reps,” he said. “Fundamentals, techniques, all of the things that are basic to our success as we go through the course of the season, this is our opportunity to anchor those in our players so they’ll all three get plenty of reps . . . we’ll just let it play out.”

During OTAs and mini camp, Garoppolo spoke of competing to be the starter. Wishful thinking perhaps from the fourth-year pro, what with the GOAT firmly entrenched ahead of him on the depth chart, but it’s precisely that kind of attitude that is beneficial not only to the player but the entire roster.

“If you’re here, you’re responsible to try to push the people ahead of you so you can get out on the field and help us win,” said McDaneils. “I don’t think there’s a lot of deferring in any room, and that’s the great thing. That means we have a lot of competition and that’s the thing that makes everybody better. “

That competition started in the spring and will continue going forward to McDaniel’s satisfaction, or else. 

“They’ll be things I get mad at and will yell about,” he smiled.

Looking forward to it.

Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

The first came in the second quarter, when Brandin Cooks turned on afterburners to beat a Raiders double team and glide underneath a Tom Brady heave for 52 yards. The second came in the third quarter, on the third play from scrimmage of the second half, when Cooks faked an out-route, jetted past rookie corner Obi Melifonwu, and sped into the end zone to make the score 24-0. 

Both deep completions in New England's 33-8 win over Oakland just added to cumulative effect that Cooks has had on the Patriots offense since arriving before the season to become their top deep threat. 

Paired with Brady, Cooks has actually become the most productive deep threat in the NFL. 

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According to Pro Football Focus, Cooks leads all receivers with 431 yards on deep passes (throws that travel 20 yards or more down the field). In second place is Houston's DeAndre Hopkins with 313 yards. 

And Brady, who has long been more effective in the short-to-intermediate range than he has been deep, is now among the league leaders in creating explosive plays from the quarterback position. The Patriots are third in the NFL with 41 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and they are tied for second with nine plays of 40 yards or more. 

"You're always trying to work on that," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show of his team's deep passing game. "It's not one particular year [you work on it]. I think that's been a concerted effort by our entire offense, trying to make more explosive plays in the pass game. 

"Sometimes your offense is built differently. We actually have some guys now that can really get down the field so that becomes more of a point of emphasis. The way Brandin runs, the way that Chris Hogan runs, the way that Phillip Dorsett runs, they're very fast. You need to be able to take advantage of their skill set . . . 

"When we had David Patten we were throwing it deep. I mean, but David Patten didn't run a lot of short routes. I would say Brandin Cooks, in general, he doesn't run a lot of short routes. Everyone has a different role. If we can get by you, I think that's a good place to throw the ball. if we can't, we gotta figure out ways to throw it underneath and different weeks are going to call for different things based on the strengths of the defenses we're playing, too."

A week before beating the Raiders, against the Broncos and their talented corners, the Patriots had less luck pushing the ball down the field -- though they tried to hit Cooks deep multiple times. In Mexico City, Cooks matched up with a weaker secondary, and he wasn't at all slowed by the altitude, catching six passes in all for 149 yards and a score. 

Per PFF, Cooks has seen almost one third of his targets (30 percent) come on deep passes, which is the ninth-highest rate in the league. He's caught all 11 of his catchable deep passes, three of them accounting for scores.

"Obviously when you're throwing the ball 50-60 yards down the field," Brady said, "your chances of completion go down, but if you hit it, it ends up being a very explosive plays and you can change a lot of field position and get a defense really on their heels if they have to defend every blade of grass on the field." 

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Belichick remembers Glenn: 'A good person with good intentions'

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Belichick remembers Glenn: 'A good person with good intentions'

Terry Glenn, the Patriots' top draft pick in 1996, died early Monday morning in a one-car accident in Irving, Texas. He was 43. 

Bill Belichick coached Glenn as an assistant with the Patriots during Glenn's rookie season. He was later Glenn's head coach in 2000 and 2001. Belichick traded Glenn to the Packers before the 2002 season after a tumultuous run in New England that involved legal trouble, injuries and clashes with the coaching staff.

During a conference call with reporters soon after the news of Glenn's death was published, Belichick remembered Glenn for his natural physical ability and "a good heart."

"I was pretty close with Terry," Belichick said, "and his rookie season was my first year here in '96, and so I had a lot of interaction with him and other people that were involved in his life and his upbringing separate from the Patriots. Terry's a very smart individual. Had a lot of, obviously, a lot of physical skill and talent. Could do a lot of things on the football field very naturally. And I think he was deep down inside a good person with good intentions and, you know, a good heart. Obviously it's very unfortunate. Very unfortunate passing. I mean, it's a sad day. Sad news."

According to reports, Glenn was with his fiancee at the time of the accident. She's being treated at a local hospital for unspecified injuries.