Patriots

Pats' interest in Lloyd signals a need for wideouts

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Pats' interest in Lloyd signals a need for wideouts

The Patriots haven't really replaced Randy Moss. They've done just fine without him, as the statistics and won-loss record since he left indicate. But the home-run element, the need to guard against a wideout either running right past or jumping right over a corner, doesn't exist for this team right now. That explains why they were in the hunt for Broncos wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. The 30-year-old Lloyd, who led the NFL with 1,448 receiving yards in his breakout 2010 season, is in the final year ofhis deal with the Broncos and has requested a trade. Multiple reports had the Patriots in the mix for Lloyd's services, along with San Francisco and St. Louis. Ultimately, the Rams sewed up Lloyd, according to Jason LaCanfora at the NFL Network. The fact Lloyd becomes a free agent at the end of the year means that any team acquiringhim ranthe risk of losing whatever pick it sent in compensation after just 10 games of regular-season service in 2011 if it can'tre-sign Lloyd. And the Patriots' dynamic in trying to re-sign Lloyd would have been complicated by the fact they can't (and shouldn't) disrespect Wes Welker - also a free agent to-be - with an offer to retain Lloyd that would have trumped something Welker's offered. But the asking price for Lloyd - who has 19 catches for 283 yards in four games this season - was intriguing enough for the Patriots, experts at buying quality on the cheap. The pros to Lloyd? He jumps out of the gym (7-2 high jump in high school) and doesn't have a lot of wear on his tires. He also worked in Josh McDaniels' offense when McDaniels - now the Rams offensive coordinator - was in Denver. Cons? One year of great production and a background of inconsistency. That the Patriots are looking to add a wideout right now shows just how useless the acquisition and expenditure on Chad Ochocinco has been. And since they've already burned two picks on a guy who's made just nine catches and will cost 6 million probably made them think twice about upping the ante on Lloyd.

Patriots' Gillislee a healthy scratch for second straight game

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Patriots' Gillislee a healthy scratch for second straight game

For the second straight week, Mike Gillislee is a healthy scratch as the Patriots prepare to play the Raiders in Mexico City. Because he doesn't contribute in the kicking game, and because he doesn't have as much situational versatility as Dion Lewis or Rex Burkhead, Gillislee finds himself on the outside looking in. 

Does this mean that if the Patriots running back group remains healthy for the rest of the year that Gillilslee will continue to sit? Not necessarily. That will change from week to week based on the matchup and the overall health of the rest of the roster. But for right now, he's not viewed as an essential game-day option the same way Lewis, Burkhead, James White and Brandon Bolden are. 

The Patriots will have seven linemen active, as they do most weeks, but this week they're without two of their starters -- Marcus Cannon and David Andrews -- so Cole Croston and Cameron Fleming will be in uniform against the Raiders. Both players are candidates to be healthy scratches when other linemen are healthy. For Croston, it will be his NFL debut. He's been on the active roster all season but has been a weekly scratch. 

Malcom Brown (ankle) and Eric Rowe (groin) practiced all week but will continue to miss time with their respective injuries. Matthew Slater (hamstring) left last week's game against the Broncos and will need more time to let his ailment heal. He missed the first four weeks of the season and most of training camp with a hamstring issue. 

Cassius Marsh, who was inactive last werek due to a shoulder injury, will be back in uniform to give the Patriots some depth on the edge. They need it; after Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy and Deatrich Wise, they were wafer thin at that spot in Denver. 

RB Mike Gillislee
C David Andrews
OL Marcus Cannon
WR Chris Hogan
WR Matthew Slater
DL Malcom Brown
CB Eric Rowe

With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

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With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

Continuity along the offensive line was one of the reasons the Patriots were able to have the season they had in 2016. They tossed aside the early-season experiementation that Bill Belichick favored at times in order to establish a starting five that could be relied upon, if healthy, start to finish. 

They attacked 2017 with the same approach, but because of injury the consistency simply has not been the same. Both starting tackles, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, have missed time injured this season, and Cannon will sit out again on Sunday as he continues to deal with an ankle injury. 

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The interior of the line has remained largely in place until this week when center David Andrews came down with an illness, missed two practices, and was ruled out. 

On a line where familiarity is key, where the center is the one making the calls, the one in constant communication with Tom Brady, what now?

The Patriots will likely turn to second-year man Ted Karras, who has the ability to play both guard spots and also backed up Andrews for the vast majority of training camp. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder was released at the end of camp, quickly signed to the Patriots practice squad, and then he re-signed to the active roster in Week 1 when Malcolm Mitchell was placed on injured reserve.

Karras, drafted in the sixth round in 2016 out of Illinois, was named a practice player of the week earlier this year and he earned some praise from Belichick before the Patriots took off for Mexico City.

"Ted works hard," Belichick said. "He loves football. He gets there early, stays late."

Belichick noted that Karras (nine snaps, all against the Broncos) hasn't played much this season, but he did see plenty of work early last season when he filled in for an injured Shaq Mason. He was the Week 1 starter at right guard in a win ver the Cardinals and he played 41 snaps in Week 2 against the Dolphins. 

The Patriots offensive line could also potentially turn to Joe Thuney at center. He's practiced there before and got some experience at the position during his time at NC State. This seems like the less likely move since the Patriots would then have to deal with two new players at different spots -- center and left guard (whether the player replacing Thuney would be Karras or rookie Cole Croston) -- which could have a domino effect on the rest of the line. 

However the Patriots choose to handle it, they'll face an interesting test south of the border. The Raiders feature a pair of talented pass-rushers in Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack, who Belichick says play all over the offensive line, yet Oakland is tied for last in the league in sacks. 

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