Patriots RB Foster will need to refine blitz-pickup skills

Patriots RB Foster will need to refine blitz-pickup skills

As a hybrid running back/wide receiver at Arizona State, D.J. Foster didn’t have a ton of blitz pickup responsibilities to tend to.

With the Patriots – with any team in the NFL – blitz pickup is absolutely essential for any running back who wants to get on the field.

Aside from being relatively inexperienced doing it, Foster is going to have to prepare himself to take a reasonable pounding and hold on for dear life when tasked with picking up speeding linebackers. He’s just not a big guy. But, if he makes the team (and indications are he will), he’ll have to get proficient at it quickly. Bill Belichick was asked on a conference call Friday about Foster’s blitz pickup performance.

“It was alright,” he said. “It’s something that he hasn’t done a lot of and certainly it’s something that he can get better at. It came up a couple of times last night. I’d say no different than a lot of other things that we need work on. All of our backs can always use that, our receivers, our quarterbacks, our [offensive] line in terms of everybody seeing it together. There are a lot of little things that come up. You can have the right guy, [but] there is some technique and kind of knowing where the other players are around you and how to do it properly. There are a lot of little things like that that come up, too. It’s progressing.”

Going a little further in-depth (and why not since we’re just waiting for the cuts to come down), Phil Perry asked about the Patriots’ failed two-point conversion and whether Foster did what he was supposed to on that play which fell incomplete.  

“That’s really a long conversation, but to try and give it a short answer, if the [running] back has blitz pickup responsibility and either as he’s going to block his responsibility or if his responsibility leaves and he really doesn’t have any responsibility, you know, you’d never want to tell the back to run by a free player,” Belichick began. “Say the back is supposed to run a route and his linebacker doesn’t come so he starts to run his route and in doing that he sees a free rusher coming that’s not his guy, well just instinctively – backs – they just know to block those guys. There is no sense in going out for a route if the guy is going to run in there and hit the quarterback. “

One back who was really good at sensing those blitzers from unexpected spots was Kevin Faulk. You’d see him dive from the gap he was protecting across to another area to hit rushers in the thighs and redirect them on a fairly regular basis. It takes a lot of awareness which requires time and feel. It also requires the back to not get all excited about getting out into his route and possibly getting a touch without making sure the house is secure first.  

“Those are kind of plays that backs have to make a reaction to and good backs will make the right decision as to whether he needs to block the player or doesn’t and can get out in a pattern,” said Belichick. “He doesn’t want to run into a guy that’s being blocked and take himself out of the route, but at the same time he doesn’t want to go out into the route and let a player who’s running at the quarterback, run at the quarterback. Again, those are kind of things that come with experience and those are quick decisions that backs have to make because it’s not really their man. Technically, they’d be right to just ignore him and go on but in terms of having a successful play that’s not always the best thing to do. It’s a long answer but again, it’s an experience thing.”

As for Foster on the play in question?

“Could it maybe have been a little bit better? I don’t know. He certainly wasn’t the primary guy in that play,” concluded Belichick.

Former Patriots RB Danny Woodhead announces retirement

Former Patriots RB Danny Woodhead announces retirement

Former Patriots running back Danny Woodhead has announced his retirement after 10 years in the NFL.

The 33-year-old took to Instagram to make it official.

10 years! Wow, God had crazy plans for a small little kid from North Platte, NE! It’s been a wild ride and feel so blessed He allowed me to do what I loved for so long. But now it’s time to say goodbye to the game I love. First, I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Without Him my career wouldn’t have been possible. He blessed me with the gifts and He paved the way. All I had to do was follow His plans for my life, and His plans were crazy awesome! Next, I want to thank my wife who has been by my side since freshman year of high school. She has been a rock through all the ups and downs. Sis, Willy, Mae Mae, and Hopie your daddy is going to be home a ton more and I can’t wait! Thanks to my Dad and Mom for always supporting me and showing me that God is first, then everything else will fall into place. Ben, Joel, and Anna thanks for preparing me for the NFL in our backyard games growing up. The dreaded in-laws Steve and Suzie for always being there for me. Chris Gittings (agent) you’re the best and thankful your my brother/uncle! Thank you Jets, Patriots, Chargers, and Ravens! Thanks to all my head coaches (Bob Zohner, Brad Smith, Bill O’Boyle, Eric Mangini, Rex Ryan, Bill Belichick, Mike McCoy, and John Harbaugh) who believed in me! To my rbs coaches (coach skiles, coach reiners, Jimmy Raye, A Lynn, Ivan, Ollie, Ridge, and Thomas) thanks for putting up with me. Thanks to all my teammates from high school till now. Without you guys I never would’ve become who I was as a player. To all my olinemen, you guys deserve the credit for anything that I received credit for. I thank you for helping make my career. To all the trainers, team docs, strength coaches, chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, body gurus thanks for making sure I was on the field. To all the people who made my life easier at the facility (ops, pr, equipment staff, cafe workers, custodians) thanks and your work doesn’t go unnoticed. And how could i forget all my fans?! You’re the best and have always felt the love and support! I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few but know that I’m thankful for everything everyone has done on my journey.

A post shared by Danny Woodhead (@teamwoody39) on

Thursday, it was reported the Patriots reached out to Woodhead for a possible reunion. 

The last two seasons have been challenging for him, as he dealt with season-ending injuries in both 2016 with the Chargers and 2017 with the Ravens.

Woodhead finishes his career with 2,238 yards rushing, 2,698 yards receiving, 15 rushing touchdowns and 17 receiving touchdowns.


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: C's win despite injuries, Pats make additions

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: C's win despite injuries, Pats make additions

1:20 - Despite throwing a depleted roster out there, the Celtics were able to get back in the win column vs. the Magic. Michael Holley and Tommy Heinsohn break down the win.

6:17 - Finally, the Patriots have done something! On Friday night it was reported that New England signed defensive end Adrian Clayborn as well as running back Jeremy Hill. Tom Curran, Alex Giaimo and Ben Volin discuss the impact these additions will have on the team.

11:05 - While the Celtics were able to pull out the win on Friday, the team did announce that Marcus Smart is expected to miss six to eight weeks after undergoing thumb surgery. A. Sherrod Blakely expresses his optimism on Smart’s return for the playoffs.