McClellin uses cue from Ravens, perfect timing to block field goal

McClellin uses cue from Ravens, perfect timing to block field goal

FOXBORO -- It's like clockwork.

Every time the Ravens attempt a field goal or an extra point, holder Sam Koch looks in at long-snapper Morgan Cox. Then he looks back at kicker Justin Tucker. Then he looks in at Cox again. Moments later the snap arrives, and more often than not, the kick flies through the uprights. 


This well-oiled operation helped Tucker make all 28 of his field goals headed into Monday night's game with the Patriots. But the well-oiled operation also provided the Patriots with a cue that they used to break Tucker's streak on Monday night. 

With 5:51 remaining in the first quarter, and the Patriots leading 2-0, the Ravens lined up a 34-yard field goal. As they set up, Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin, playing off the line of scrimmage, peered into the Ravens operation.

McClellin would not say after the game if he was looking at Koch's metronomic head movements -- "I don't want to give that away for other teams," McClellin said -- but he saw something. 

McClellin sprinted toward the line of scrimmage when Koch's head turned back toward his long-snapper. A standout high school basketball player in Idaho, McClellin timed his leap perfectly, sailing over Cox's back and landing directly in front of Tucker. McClellin jumped again to ensure that he would smother the kick, and smother it he did.

The Patriots ended up with possession on their own 26-yar line and followed up the turnover on downs with a touchdown drive.

"It's a lot of things," McClellin said when asked for the key to that kind of point-saving play. "It's the guys up front, making sure they hold those guys down so they don't jump into me when I'm jumping. Getting the right height. And I think the most important thing is the timing, for sure. If you're there two seconds before they snap it, it's a penalty. Could've gotten a penalty, but fortunately it worked out."

McClellin had never jumped an opposing long-snapper like that before, but as the "Mike" linebacker in field-goal block situations, the Patriots coaching staff came to him to have him work on his leaps. They practiced it for some time before finding the right opportunity to use it. 

It's a play the Patriots have used in the past with linebacker Jamie Collins. Commonly referred to as an athletic "freak" by teammates during his time in New England, Collins' leaping ability was put on display when he seemed to hover over the Colts' field-goal protection in order to block an Adam Vinatieri kick last season. Collins tried to get another in Week 1 of this year but made contact with a Cardinals lineman to pick up a penalty. 

McClellin said he remembered the one that worked last year. A member of the Bears at the time, McClellin saw Collins take to the air and was in awe.

"I just remember him sky-rocketing over the center and blocking the kick," McClellin said. "I think I was watching it at home, and I was like, 'Wow, that guy's a beast.' He's a freak. That's Jamie though."

On Monday, with the help of a machine-like Ravens operation and a perfectly-timed leap, McClellin provided the Patriots with a pretty convincing Collins impersonation. 

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

File photo

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."