Patriots

Burkhead 'definitely comfortable' working in slot if Patriots need wide receiver help

Burkhead 'definitely comfortable' working in slot if Patriots need wide receiver help

With Danny Amendola missing a second straight day of practice (concussion/knee), it’s becoming more likely that the Patriots will head into Sunday’s matchup at New Orleans dangerously thin at wide receiver. Not ideal, especially not coming off a loss.

Newcomer Philip Dorsett became the third receiver in three-receiver sets once Amendola exited the game in the third quarter. He was targeted once. The pass wasn’t even in the same area code as Dorsett was. With some extra time to get up to speed, the former Indianapolis Colt should have a better grasp on the playbook, but chemistry with Tom Brady is not easy to come by. That’s why Rex Burkhead seemed like a logical choice to get a more expanded role in the offense, including some more playing time in the slot, where Amendola operates so effectively.

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“I don’t really work in the slot specifically,” said Burkhead. “Running backs here run some routes out of the backfield. Whatever the coaches want me to do, I’m more than happy to do that.”

Odd response from someone who had spent some time working as a slot receiver in Cincinnati before returning full-time to running back. But Burkhead seems like an earnest guy so it’s hard not to take him at his word. When reminded of that period with the Bengals, the 27-year old’s memory was jogged. . . somewhat.

“I did a little bit," Burkhead said, "but it's whatever the coaches want me to do here - if that's in the run game, the pass game - it's whatever role they see me fit."

Burkhead was also split outside the numbers at various points in the opener against Kansas City and in the preseason as well. That’s where his confidence shined through.

“I’m comfortable with it,” he said. “Still things I got to improve upon I feel like for sure but definitely comfortable. Growing up, I tried to be an all-purpose back, catching balls. Here, you have to be that.”

If he can be, Brady’s life will become easier than it was in Week 1, and Belichick’s personal involvement in Burkhead’s free agent recruitment will begin to pay regular season dividends.

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Patriots react to Ramsey's guarantee: He should be confident

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Patriots react to Ramsey's guarantee: He should be confident

FOXBORO -- Patriots players didn't seem all that bothered by Jalen Ramsey's proclamation that the Jaguars would win the AFC title game and head to Minnesota for the Super Bowl. 

"I ain't got too much to say, but y'all make sure you bring that same energy out here next week and the week after," Ramsey said in Jacksonville following his team's win in Pittsburgh. "We're going to the Super Bowl and we're going to win that (expletive). We're going to win that (expletive)."

Asked about those comments on Monday, Patriots captain Matthew Slater showed no hint of disapproval. 

"Man, that guy’s really good," Slater said. "And he should be confident, because he’s very, very good. The good Lord made that guy, and he said, ‘Let there be corner.’ And there he is. I’d be confident if I were him, as well."

Ramsey was named a First-Team All-Pro for his work on the outside opposite Second-Team All-Pro corner AJ Bouye. They make up arguably the best cornerback duo in football, and Ramsey has already established himself as one of the best at his position despite being just 23 years old and in his second pro season.

"Hey, man, Jalen Ramsey’s a good player," Patriots captain Duron Harmon said. "He talks a lot of trash. That’s part of his game, and you can’t take that away from him. He’s confident. He should be confident in his team. He has a really good football team. The top two AFC teams are left, and he’s a part of one of them.

"His approach to the game is different than ours, but we can’t knock him for it. We know they’re going to come ready to play, and we’ve just got to match their type of physicality and also just their emotion and their readiness to get ready to play."

Ramsey's best work as a trash-talker came eariler this season after he shut down Bengals wideout AJ Green. What he said about the AFC Championship was certainly a step (or several) below that in terms of its intensity, and judging by their reaction Monday, it seems to be a mere blip on the Patriots' radar.

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With McDaniels, Patricia heading out, Pats now have double the distraction potential

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With McDaniels, Patricia heading out, Pats now have double the distraction potential

News about the Patriots coordinators over the past 24 hours is far from a shock.

And it’s not really news if you’ve been sticking with us over the past couple weeks.

 

(Yes, as a matter of fact, I did hurt my arm patting myself on the back…)

MORE - Pats don't need to apologize for anything

The Colts have been the preferred destination for Josh McDaniels since this started. Aside from geography, there was very little recommend the 3-13 Giants over the 9-7 Detroit Lions for Matt Patricia. Unless a chastened, meddling owner, an infant-laden locker room and a quarterback headed for the glue factory would be selling points for you, you’d go to Detroit 10 times out of 10 to stay out of that the Jints morass.

How will these acorns from the Belichick Tree fare?

It’s hard to even project. Depending on Andrew Luck’s shoulder, Indy’s either in semi-rebuild or headed for a full reboot. The Lions have the pieces in place but Patricia is in his first time around as a head coach. For a dozen years, he’s peeked over his shoulder to see if Bill Belichick approved of every on-the-record comment he’s made.

Fly free now, little bearded bird!

For both guys, it’s time. What else is left to prove in New England?

If you take a long, realistic look at the Patriots roster as they prepare for the AFC Championship – what’s the sense in sticking around until things get rocky?

The best core players are near or past 30 (Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Matt Slater, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Tom Brady). Two that aren’t - Donta Hightower and Rob Gronkowski – have fairly long injury histories and even if Gronk’s turned the corner, his contract is up in 2019.

Bill Belichick might be done in 12 months. He might be done in five years.

More than what’s “wrong” or insufficient in New England, though, is the simple fact of professional advancement and fulfillment. Challenge yourself. Make a bunch more money. Who knows, if you’re McDaniels, maybe you follow the same trajectory as Belichick and win five Super Bowls.

The “brain drain” can be stanched at the coordinator level by simple elevations of current assistants. Brian Flores and Chad O’Shea are the likeliest candidates. But there are other places it can flow. 

Every coach that departs a program needs lieutenants to bring with him who can pass on his vision to the team he’ll lead.

Fortunately, the GMs in Detroit and Indy – Bob Quinn and Chris Ballard – already have their economic and personnel philosophies in place. But, generally, coaches like to bring with the players who are can interpret and serve as go-betweens. 

Over his first two seasons in New England, Belichick brought aboard Anthony Pleasant, Bryan Cox, Bobby Hamilton, Roman Phifer, Antonio Langham and Otis Smith. He also brought coaches like Eric Mangini and front-office execs like Scott Pioli. 

And the outflow was what got sticky when Mangini left to coach the Jets and was perceived by Belichick to be pilfering players and coaches before he was even out of Gillette Stadium. 

Here’s a list of the Patriots who’ll be up at the end of this season. Here are the ones who’ll be up at the end of the 2018 season. Highlighting the list of guys expiring after 2019 is Brady.

You can rest assured McDaniels and Patricia are both familiar with all those names.

Before anyone goes anywhere, the 2017 Patriots have a chance to add another line to everyone’s resume. In years past, the interview process didn’t seem to hinder either man because they were both coming back. Now, with both coordinators committed to leaving, we’ll see how well the balance is struck.

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