Patriots

Perry: Butler's right, there's no need to panic

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Perry: Butler's right, there's no need to panic

FOXBORO -- Malcolm Butler is among the most competitive people in the Patriots locker room so what he said on Tuesday as it related to his play in recent preseason games came as no surprise. 

"Below my status,” Butler said. “I’m better than that, and I will be better than that. No need to panic. That’s how I feel about it.”

It's been a bit of an odd build-up to the 2017 season for Butler. He spent a chunk of the offseason hearing his name involved in rumors and hearing a pitch from the Saints as a restricted free agent. He returned to New England and played well early on in camp. He was arguably Bill Belichick's best player on either side of the ball for a stretch earlier this summer.  

Then things got a little sideways for Butler in West Virginia. He gave up a long touchdown in one of the joint practices with the Texans when he couldn't quite get his feet under him to contest the football at its highest point. 

A few days later in Houston, he allowed a 37-yard pass to Bruce Ellington and a touchdown to Jaelen Strong. The following week in Detroit, he allowed a 23-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Marvin Jones. 

In total this preseason, Butler has been targeted six times, according to Pro Football Focus. Opponents have caught all six passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns, meaning he's allowed opposing quarterbacks a perfect 158.3 rating when he's been targeted. 

Before we make any declarations regarding Butler's play, let's take a look at the three preseason plays mentioned above to see what we can find. 

On the bomb to Ellington, Butler's drop -- where he opens up his hips to the middle of the field and keys in on quarterback Tom Savage -- indicated that he and the Patriots were in zone. 

Butler stayed with Ellington stride for stride while locked on Savage, but when the ball was falling to its target, Butler seemed to let it go, almost as if he assumed the football was floating out of bounds. It wasn't. Ellington made an acrobatic, if uncontested, catch. 

On the touchdown to Strong, Butler was beaten by some good footwork. The 6-foot-2 Strong sold a route that looked like it was taking him to the back-corner of the end zone, where he might be able to post up on the smaller Butler for a back-shoulder type of throw. Once Butler turned his hips toward the sideline, Strong had him. 

Strong quickly made his move back to the inside, almost causing Butler to fall as he changed direction. With the step that he needed, Strong headed to the middle portion of the back end line where he was open for the score. (There appeared to be some miscommunication between safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon on the play, which may have sapped Butler of some of his help.)

In Detroit, it looked like Butler was expecting another back-shoulder throw against a taller receiver. As Jones ran down the right sideline, Jones looked over his shoulder toward Stafford from about 10 yards away. Butler reacted and turned his head over his inside shoulder, slowing himself down and giving Jones a step. 

Perhaps Butler didn't think the Lions would take a shot at the end zone on first-and-10 from the 23-yard line with almost a minute-and-a-half remaining in the second quarter. Perhaps he thought Stafford would uncork it near the chains for a first down. Either the way, the result was not what Butler was looking for. 

So what do we make of these lapses?

While they're certainly worth analyzing, they don't indicate that Butler has lost a step physically, and it's hard to come to the conclusion that he's developed some bad habit over the course of camp. They ended up looking like 1) a lapse in spacial-awareness, 2) a bad read on a good route, and 3) a guess gone wrong. 

For Butler, three plays does not a summer make. He was excellent in joint practices against the Jaguars, and he had some highly-competitive battles against his own teammates -- particularly with Julian Edelman -- that he seemed to win more often than not earlier in camp. 

Even against the Lions last week, Butler helped cause two turnovers by punching the football out of Golden Tate's hands and later deflecting a Stafford pass that was picked by Eric Rowe. 

Butler may expect more from himself than what he's shown of late, but he was right: No need to panic. He remains a Pro Bowl-level corner, and as long as he's on the roster the Patriots -- with Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones rounding out the team's top four at the position -- will feature one of the most talented and versatile groups of cover men they've ever had under Bill Belichick.

Dolphins' Wake promises pain for Patriots on Monday night

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Dolphins' Wake promises pain for Patriots on Monday night

Monday night, Cameron Wake will be trying to hurt Tom Brady. Pain – inflicting it, enduring it, the specter of it – is a football fact of life.

And no matter how hard the NFL tries to legislate out the danger of the game, it will always be inherent. Brady gets that better than Wake does. He’s been on the receiving end of it a lot longer than Wake’s been dishing it out. And while Brady’s gets to do his job with plenty of protections, he spends a lot more time prone and vulnerable than Wake does.

The Dolphins defensive end went deep last week talking about the nature of the game, the protections afforded, the risks players take and what he sees as the inconsistencies.

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Asked about the injury suffered by Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier last week, Wake said, “I’ve seen a lot of injuries so, unfortunately, that comes along with. This is my thing: I want to hurt everybody I play. I don’t want to injure anybody.

“I want you to be able to get up and go to the next play or feed your family and play next week but I want you to say ‘Man, Cameron Wake …’ ” Wake continued. “I don’t want you to be off the team or like not playing. I want you to obviously be physically defeated. I want to intimidate. I don’t want you to be harmed beyond tomorrow at all. It doesn’t always work that way.”

Continuing, Wake did a little math to make a very good point.

“We have 10 guys on IR or whatever? I’m sure every team has about that with 50 players on a team and then when you think about a 90-man roster … That’s a 20 percent chance every time you’re on the field, a 20 percent chance that whatever happens to you, you’re not going to play football this year.”

As appetizing as the NFL tries to make its product for the masses, the truth is that every single one of the players in the league has reconciled himself to the brutal, primitive nature of the game in which an opponent isn’t just defeated but beaten – literally.

Which means you will see a quarterback exhibit the fencing response as Tom Savage did Sunday, a linebacker unable to walk off the field because he can’t feel his legs as Shazier did last Monday or a well-liked tight end go barbaric on an opponent who made him mad as Rob Gronkowski did last Sunday.

Consumers, advertisers, social media and fans recoil. But violence is as much a part of the game as the football.

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Eagles announce Wentz has torn ACL, out for rest of year

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Eagles announce Wentz has torn ACL, out for rest of year

PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles star quarterback Carson Wentz has a torn left ACL and will miss rest of the season and playoffs, coach Doug Pederson confirmed.

Wentz, a favorite in the NFL MVP race, had an MRI on Monday that revealed the severity of the injury. Wentz was hurt late in the third quarter Sunday at Los Angeles. Backup Nick Foles rallied the Eagles (11-2) to a 43-35 win over the Rams that secured the NFC East title and put them in first place in the conference with three games remaining.

The Eagles have overcome several key injuries and now have to move forward without their most indispensable player. Nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, return specialist/running back Darren Sproles, star linebacker Jordan Hicksand special teams captain Chris Maragos already went down for the season.

"If there's ever an opportunity for me to rally the troops as the football coach, now might be the time," Pederson said. "You can't lose faith. This has been a resilient football team all season long."

After starting all 16 games as a rookie, Wentz made a giant leap this year. He passed for 3,296 yards and set a franchise single-season record with 33 touchdown passes while only tossing seven interceptions.

Foles led the Eagles to a pair of field goals on consecutive drives against the Rams. He is 20-17 as a starter in six seasons with the Eagles, Rams and Chiefs.

Pederson insisted the offense won't change with Foles.

"He's a highly intelligent football player," Pederson said.

A third-round pick by former Eagles coach Andy Reid in 2012, Foles in his second stint in Philadelphia. He replaced an injured Michael Vick in 2013 and led the Eagles to an NFC East title during Chip Kelly's first season as coach. Foles tied an NFL record with seven TD passes in a game at Oakland in November 2013 and finished that season with 27 TDs and only two picks. The Eagles lost at home to New Orleans in the playoffs. Foles went to the Pro Bowl and was the offensive MVP.

But Kelly traded Foles to St. Louis for Sam Bradford after the 2014 season. Foles spent a year with the Rams, a season with the Chiefs and returned to Philadelphia as a free agent this season.

Second-year pro Nate Sudfeld is Philadelphia's No. 3 quarterback. Pederson said he hasn't spoken to personnel boss Howie Roseman about adding a third quarterback yet.

"I'm absolutely ready to go - need be," Foles said after the win over the Rams. "I prepare every day."