Patriots

Why Phillip Dorsett will need to be ready for more in Denver

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Why Phillip Dorsett will need to be ready for more in Denver

The Patriots make use of myriad personnel groupings and formations offensively, but like the rest of the NFL, there's one set that they favor over all others: 11 personnel. 

One back. One tight end. Three receivers. It is the modern NFL's primary offensive setup. According to Football Outsiders, 2016 was the sixth consecutive year that three-wideout formations saw an increase. Eleven personnel accounted for more than 60 percent of all offensive plays, and every offense in the league used it for at least 40 percent of their snaps. It was more than 3.5 times as common as any other formation, per Football Outsiders.

Though the Patriots still make great use of two-back sets -- deploying both "pony" formations as well as more traditional power formations with a fullback -- they have favored 11-personnel groupings over all others this season, running with three receivers on the field for 48 percent of their offensive snaps. 

With that in mind, Phillip Dorsett may have to be ready for a steep increase in playing time this weekend. If Chris Hogan, who injured his shoulder in Week 8 against the Chargers, can't play then it could be up to Dorsett to fill in. 

Brandin Cooks is the clear-cut No. 1, having played almost 92 percent of snaps this season. And Danny Amendola (49 percent) would likely slot in as the No. 2 if Hogan misses time. That would leave Dorsett (19 percent) as the likely No. 3 in New England's three-receiver looks. 

The Patriots could turn to their pass-catching backs more often to help make up for Hogan's loss. They have three they can rely upon in James White, Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead. But there will certainly be 11-personnel plays the Patriots will want to keep available to them in Denver. And for those they'll need Dorsett.

"Yeah, Phillip – he came in and didn’t really have a whole lot of extra practices from camp and the spring, like some of our guys or most of our guys did," Josh McDaniels said during a conference call on Monday morning. "He just kind of got thrown in there, and he’s really doing a good job of working hard, working extra with Coach [Chad] O’Shea. Chad’s doing a great job of trying to get him caught up on some of the things, the foundational things that you need to be able to go from one week to the next and feel like you’re not learning a new offense every single week.

"Phillip’s a smart kid, he works hard, he’s got a good work ethic, good attitude and he’s continued to work at playing different spots and being ready to go when his opportunities come up. Hopefully, that will continue to progress as we go through the season. I know that’s what he wants. I know that’s what we want, and we’re looking forward to that."

Dorsett has seen eight snaps for the Patriots in each of the last two weeks despite being given a start Week 7 against the Falcons. He's caught four passes on seven targets for 85 yards for an average of 21.3 yards per catch. He last saw a pass come his way in Week 6 against the Jets, though he didn't catch any of the three targets he saw that day, and one was intercepted deep down the middle of the field by corner Buster Skrine.

Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

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Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

While being away from home isn’t uncommon for the Patriots - just think about all those Super Bowl trips - Tom Brady believes each excursion takes on its own feel, its own flavor and - eventually - its own meaning.

Back in 2014, the Pats went from playing in Green Bay and losing to the Packers straight to San Diego for a week on the West Coast prior to a rousing victory over the Chargers. That week, many players said in the aftermath, helped propel the team to great heights,.  You’ll recall, that season ended in grand fashion, a triumph in Super Bowl 49 over Seattle, at the time - and maybe still - the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

“I think all these experiences are pretty unique,” Brady said Friday from Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. “That was a very unique experience. This is different.”

Brady spoke about the number of stops the Pats have and will have to make on this trip - from Denver to Colorado Springs then on to Mexico City Saturday before a Sunday night return to Foxboro and their own beds for the first time in 10 nights.

“When you’re on the road like this, there’s less to do,” he said. “You know my family is not here, my kids aren’t here. There’s nobody telling me what I did wrong in the house. It’s just being at home and now it’s being here and trying to figure out a way to win a game.”

Brady quickly smoothed over any possible ill-will at home - why make Gisele mad? - smiling and saying “I didn’t mean that so I’ll take it back.”

Kidding aside, the 40-year old signal caller seemed pleased with the work the Patriots have put in during this long trip. A week of team-bonding can’t be a bad thing, especially for a group that seems to be hitting it’s stride both on and off the field. There’s the five wins in a row and also a locker room that has a better understanding of one another than it did during the first month of the season. But Brady is not ready to make any grand proclamations. That just wouldn’t be his style.

“I think it’s still work in progress,” he said of team chemistry. “You look at still adding a player like Marty (Bennett) last week. Things are always changing and evolving. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing well and after 8 or 9 weeks, you start to figure those things out. Now we have to work hard at those things, try to really own them, and use them going forward to try and win the most important games. We have a lot of important games coming up, starting with this one. Hopefully we can play our best football going forward.”

Brady said he’s been fired up for this game with the Raiders south of the border ever since the schedule was released all those months ago.

“I’ve never been to Mexico City,” he said. “It’s been a game you kind of look forward to. We’re playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. It will be very memorable. I think everyone is excited.”

Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

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Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

The Patriots will be without center David Andrews on Sunday when they play the Raiders in Mexico City. Andrews, who hasn’t all practice all week with an illness, is one of four Pats listed as out on the injury report released Friday.

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Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, who didn’t play last week against the Broncos is also out, along with wide receiver Chris Hogan and special teams captain Matthew Slater. Offensive linemen Ted Karras and Joe Thuney each took reps at center so one of them will likely start in Andrews’ absence. LaAdrian Waddle filled in for Cannon and performed well last week vs. Denver. 

Here’s the full injury report for the Patriots and Raiders: