Patriots need to tackle better vs. Bills this time

Patriots need to tackle better vs. Bills this time

FOXBORO -- In their meeting with the Bills last month, the Patriots missed a fleet of tackles on both LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor in part enabling Buffalo to hold the ball for 12 more minutes than New England.

Certainly, there were other factors at play that day but the ability of both Taylor and McCoy to make guys miss aided the Bills early on third down.

“Some of our problems [in the first meeting] were directly related to that,” explained Devin McCourty on Friday. “We can talk about wanting to do a bunch of stuff but if we don’t fix that we’ll still have some of the same issues. I think some of that game was just missing a tackle. It’s something we work on daily. It was just a matter of not executing. It’s not going to get any easier, they have a lot of tough guys to bring down.”

McCoy didn’t practice all week because of a hamstring injury and is listed as doubtful for this game. But the Patriots will still be dealing with Taylor and McCoy’s shifty backup Mike Gillislee. Last week, New England did a good -- not great -- job of holding down Steelers’ back LeVeon Bell.

The key, McCourty said, is leverage as a tackler. Positioning your body so that the ball carrier is funneled to where the defensive help is.  

“Just knowing where your help is, knowing where your help is coming from [is what leverage] is all about,” he explained. “More to the point tackling wise is getting all 11 guys to the ball. I think if that becomes our focus missing a tackle won’t be as big if we’ve got three or four guys behind us to help us.

“[Leverage] is something we always talk about but when you play against really good open-field players like a Reggie Bush or a LeSean McCoy, [Mike] Gillislee or Tyrod Taylor, this is what they do week in and week out, we need to get more guys to the ball to help out.”

The Bills have done a good job offensively in recent weeks of scheming things to stress defenses and get their best skill players in space.

“Between the wildcat, the unbalanced line, the kind of two different option packages, that’s kind of what they force you to [prepare for],” Bill Belichick explained Friday. “They sprinkle those plays in, they make you work on them, but they also have I’d say some of the more conventional plays but they also have the speed sweeps and things like that, reverses and quarterback runs that are wildcat runs but it’s a quarterback that actually runs the ball instead of a running back or wildcat guy.

"So, they have a lot of things like that that force you to make adjustments even though they’re essentially running the same play but they get to it in different ways. Again, whether you want to call them wildcat, unbalanced line, option, but all of those things; they all kind of fall into the same category. And with them you’re not going to see anything like 30 times. 

"You’re going to see they have five of these, six of these, five of these, six of these, maybe eight of something else, maybe two of something else. But that’s kind of what they do. It definitely stretches you and forces you to prepare for those things that you’re going to get a handful of times in the game. You might get them more if you don’t stop them but that’s what they do and they’re pretty successful at that because they do force teams to eat up a lot of practice time working on things they’re going to see only a couple of times but then they’re on to something else.”

In the end, despite the practice reps and fundamentals stressed, the ability of the players carrying out the plays has to be dealt with. 

“You always practice that stuff but when you have LeSean McCoy coming at you, you know you have good leverage, he knows you have good leverage and he knows how to play to that,” McCourty explained. “That’s what’s hard. These players in this league who are very good at making guys miss and LeSean McCoy excels at that.”

McCoy might be a scratch Sunday and that will be a bullet dodged. But the Patriots will still need to do a better job tackling this time around to ensure a better result.  

Second ex-Pats OT to make free-agent visit to Cowboys

Second ex-Pats OT to make free-agent visit to Cowboys

The Patriots, who lost left tackle Nate Solder to the Giants last week, have a couple of his possible replacements, Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle, reportedly making free-agent visits to the Dallas Cowboys.

The Fleming visit was reported Sunday. On Monday, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that Waddle will be joining his former Patriots teammate in Dallas.

Replacing Solder is obviously a key part of the Patriots offseason and retaining Waddle or Fleming could figure into those plans. Waddle, who turns 27 in July, was signed from the Detroit Lions in 2016 and appeared in 12 games last year, starting four. Fleming, a fourth-round Pats pick from Stamford in 2014, turns 26 in September and also played in 12 games last season, starting six.


What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

The Patriots have made a trade with the Raiders to acquire receiver and special teamer Cordarrelle Patterson, according to a source. The deal, first reported by Pardon My Take, is an interesting one because it lands Patterson with the team that passed on the opportunity to draft him back in 2013. 


Bill Belichick dealt the No. 29 overall pick to the Vikings that year in exchange for four selections, including a second-rounder and a third-rounder. The second-rounder became Jamie Collins, and the third became Logan Ryan. The Patriots also took Josh Boyce with a fourth they received in the trade, and the fourth pick (a seventh) was traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for LeGarrette Blount. The Vikings took Patterson. 

Patterson's career to this point has been a mixed bag. One of the top athletes in the 2013 draft, the Tennessee product never quite panned out as a go-to No. 1 receiver. He has not missed a game in five seasons, but he has never cracked 600 offensive snaps in a single season. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has turned himself into more of a gadget receiver as well as one of the game's best special teamers. 

Here's what the Patriots are getting in Patterson . . . 

TOP-TIER SPECIAL TEAMER: Patterson has solidified himself as one of the NFL's best kick-returners. In five seasons, he's ranked as the top returner in terms of average yards per return three times. He's never been outside of the top 10 in the league in that category. Last year he was sixth in the NFL with a 28.3 yards per return average. Patterson has also become a highly-effective gunner on punt units, a role he thrived in once he embraced it, and he has kick coverage experience. Patterson has not been a punt-returner. He has just one punt return under his belt compared to 153 kick returns. Patterson has been named a First-Team All-Pro twice for his work in the kicking game. 

INCONSISTENT RECEIVER: Patterson has never been able to take his explosiveness and translate that into consistent production offensively. He's not thought of as a precise route-runner, and he has a reputation as a "body-catcher." Yet, because he's so dynamic with the ball in his hands, offenses in Oakland and Minnesota have found ways to get the ball in his hands. He'll align in the backfield, take reverses and catch screens just to try to get him the ball in space where he can let his natural abilities take over. If he gets a crease, he can create a chunk play in a blink. 

THE COST: Patterson is in the second year of a two-year deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason. He has a base salary of $3 million and a cap hit of $3.25 million. The Patriots will be sending a fifth-rounder to the Raiders and getting a sixth-rounder back. (As an aside . . . The Patriots have used one fifth-round pick in the last six drafts. It was spent on long-snapper Joe Cardona. Why are they constantly dealing fifths away? Inside the Pylon's Dave Archibald did an interesting piece on that topic about a year and a half ago. The gist is that a) there's a significant drop-off in your chances of finding a star in the fifth compared to the fourth, and b) the talent in the fifth round, by some metrics, hasn't proven to be all that different from the sixth or seventh rounds.) 

THE FIT: Patterson is a relatively low-risk acquisition because of his cap hit (which on the Patriots slots him in between Shea McClellin and Chris Hogan) and because of the draft capital required to nab him. Trading for a player like Patterson as opposed to signing another team's free agent has the added benefit of not impacting the compensatory-pick formula. Patterson also fills a few needs. His abilities as a kick-returner will be more than suitable with last year's primary kick returner for the Patriots, Dion Lewis, out of the mix. What Patterson can do as a gunner and in kick coverage will also be useful with Johnson Bademosi now elsewhere. There's also a chance Matthew Slater plays in a different city in 2017, in which case Patterson's contributions as a gunner and in kick coverage could be critical. With Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman and Hogan all established in the Patriots offense, Patterson won't be expected to take on a heavy role in the Patriots offense. However, if he can pick up a new system, perhaps he could take on a role as a No. 4 or 5 wideout who benefits from plays designed to get him touches in space. Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett and Kenny Britt -- now alongside Patterson -- will all be competing for time in New England's offense. Former Patriots coaching assistant Mike Lombardi seems to believe it's unlikely Patterson contributes offensively