Patriots

McCaffrey's versatility presents another challenge to Patriots

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McCaffrey's versatility presents another challenge to Patriots

FOXBORO -- Cam Newton will be a focal point for the Patriots defense, especially in light of what another mobile quarterback, Deshaun Watson, just did to this team on Sunday. But to hear Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia on conference calls Tuesday, Christian McCaffrey, is also someone worthy of some serious attention.

The rookie running back is part of the new breed of third-down backs, who do a hell of a lot more than play on third down. McCaffrey lines up all over the damn place - as an I-back, single back or split back. Maybe he’s in the slot. Or outside the numbers. Oh, and don’t forget the return game. Wherever there’s a need, the Panthers aren’t afraid to give the kid a try.

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“[Christian] McCaffrey is definitely someone that has I think has expanded their offense in general in what Coach [Mike] Shula has been able to do on the offensive side of the ball,” said Patricia, "utilizing him in really kind of a multiple role position, both in the backfield, out of the backfield, some motion, some different things they’ve aligned him in. Wildcat would be another one that he’s had a role in too.”

Said Belichick: “Call him whatever you want, but it changes from play to play through the versatility. Even though it’s the same number and the same jersey, where he’s located and what he can do from those locations is different defensively. We have to be aware of where he is and what the possibilities are from those spots."

They better be. The Panthers are invested in McCaffrey. He comes from good stock. His father, Ed, was an NFL receiver for more than a decade. The son is more highly regarded. McCaffrey was the eighth overall pick in the first round and thus far, he’s been getting a fair share of touches - 25 carries, 18 receptions and 9 punt returns. He doesn’t have a touchdown yet but it’ll happen.

“He’s a very talented player,” said Belichick. “He’s got speed, quickness, good hands. He’s a smart player that’s versatile and they can do a lot of different things with him.”

“He’s just a very elusive player,” said Patricia. “[He’s] got great burst, acceleration, good vision, really good space player, can catch the ball extremely well. [He] definitely is a guy that can turn big plays out of nothing and just really an overall huge part of dangerousness that their offense now has with him out there on the field.”

The challenge for the Pats will be to make sure they don’t get their linebackers isolated on McCaffrey. None are what you’d call coverage backers, and as you saw this past weekend, they can be gashed for big plays. The Texans' D’Onta Foreman beat Kyle Van Noy along the sidelines and turned what should have been a short gain into a big one. McCaffrey is quicker, faster and more dynamic in space than Foreman, and dying to break out. The way the Pats have been playing defensively, the fear is it will come Sunday at Gillette. 

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Report: James Harrison could return to Patriots

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Report: James Harrison could return to Patriots

James Harrison was a larger than life figure during his time in Pittsburgh. 

It was as if God molded him to be a member of the Steelers: massive, physical, and an absolute bruiser.

But at the end of the day he is a football player. And athletes in this sport don't particuarly like time on the bench.

Mike Tomlin and the rest of the Steelers organization were reminded of this fact in a very harsh manner.

At the end of the December, Harrison made a late season move to sign with the Patriots. It left his former teammates in Pittsburgh frustrated, and his former fans confused.

But at the end of the day he just wanted to be on the football field again. And that's exactly where Belichick put him.

Harrison had the opportunity to appear in many more situations, and had several sacks at the end of the season.

Now there is a new report from Christopher Price of the Boston Sports Journal that he could re-sign with the Patriots in 2018.

A source close to Price and Harrison said "there's a reasonable chance" that he could be on the roster next year.

He will be playing this upcoming season at age 40, and has previously stated he'd like to play one or two more seasons.

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King: It was football, not family that kept McDaniels with Patriots

King: It was football, not family that kept McDaniels with Patriots

There have been all kinds of theories of what ultimately kept Josh McDaniels from taking the Indianapolis Colts head coaching job.

NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran offered his here and here. Ex-Pats linebacker Willie McGinest said he was told it wasn't because McDaniels was promised to eventually succeed Bill Belichick. 

Now comes Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who told NBCSports Network's "PFT Live" that you can cross off the theory that McDaniels' reversal was about not wanting to move his family to Indianapolis. 

“This had nothing to do with his family,” King said. “It was about the Patriots giving him a better option than Indianapolis.”

More here from NBCSports.com's Pro Football Talk.