LaAdrian Waddle

Belichick: Karras stepping in an illustration of why Patriots are good

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Belichick: Karras stepping in an illustration of why Patriots are good

Is it Tom Brady? Is it Bill Belichick? Well, yes and yes. But there are other reasons for why the Patriots are 8-2, obviously, and Belichick highlighted one of them by lauding one of the most unsung players on his 53-man active roster.

What Ted Karras did on Sunday -- filling in against the Raiders as the starting center in place of David Andrews -- was just one of many examples of a player making the most of an opportunity presented to him, Belichick explained.

PATRIOTS 33, RAIDERS 8

"Ted always works hard," he said after the Patriots beat the Raiders, 33-8. "Nobody spends more time at the facility than he does. Training. Preparing. He had an opportunity, and he stepped up and did the most with it. That's what we needed. That's why we have a good team. We have a lot of guys who do that."

Andrews came down with an illness last week and missed the team's final two practices at the Air Force Academy. As the primary fill-in at all three interior offensive line spots, Karras was tapped as the replacement, and he played all 60 offensive snaps for the Patriots in what was his first start since filling in for Shaq Mason during the 2016 season-opener. 

Karras had played just nine snaps going into the game -- all in a blowout against the Broncos the week prior -- but was part of an effort in the trenches that allowed Tom Brady to remain relatively clean for the vast majority of the game. On 38 drop-backs, Brady was pressured just seven times, he was hit three times, and he was sacked only once. And for the second consecutive week, Brady's offensive line was not penalized. 

Considering that Karras wasn't the only fill-in used, the offensive line's performance was all the more impressive. LaAdrian Waddle continued to be the primary replacement for Marcus Cannon, who is dealing with an ankly issue, and when Waddle left Sunday's game briefly on two different occasions then Cameron Fleming took his place. 

"They did a great job to step in like that . . . [Waddle] was battling out there, going against some really good players," Brady said. "It was a great team win. Great by the offensive line. They've really done a great job with the penalty situation, moving the line of scrimmage and so forth. Great protection. We just have to keep it going."

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Keeping Miller off Brady a challenge for improved OT Waddle

Keeping Miller off Brady a challenge for improved OT Waddle

FOXBORO - Von Miller has ruined many a football game for opposing offenses. The Patriots have first-hand experience with that. Just flashback to the AFC title game in the 2015-16 season. The All-Pro defensive end/linebacker tormented Tom Brady, sacking the quarterback 2 1/2 times while also recording a handful of hits on the beleaguered Brady in a 20-18 Denver victory. Miller did that going head-to-head with starting right tackle Marcus Cannon. 

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Fast forward to this weekend. Miller must be salivating at the thought of not only teeing off on Brady but at the very real possibility he’ll be squaring off with backup tackle LaAdrian Waddle. Yes, the same Waddle who played exactly one snap a year ago will be thrown into the lion’s den against the ferocious Miller.

“He’s a great player, a great rusher,” said Waddle. “He’s one of those guys...He’s gonna jump the count if he can. He’s fast off the ball, he can bend that edge, he can bring a little power too. He’s a good, complete rusher and he’s someone we’ll have to take care of to do the things we want to do on offense.”

Said Bill Belichick: “Miller can do it all; he can play the run, he’s a great edge-setter, and he’s a great speed-rusher - good counter move, good speed to power rush. He’s seen double teams and things like that. He knows how to deal with them. He has a good inside spin and has the power to get away from those types of techniques. He’s a good pass rusher and he’s as good a player as there is in the league.”

The idea that Waddle could even put up a fair fight against Miller was far-fetched as recently as this summer when the 26-year old appeared to be a prime candidate to get chopped off the roster. Instead, not only has Waddle survived but he has slipped past Cam Fleming to earn substantial snaps this year: 130 to date. Waddle filled in capably for Cannon when the latter went down in the victory over the L.A. Chargers, fending off the explosive Melvin Ingram, himself an elite pass rusher in the Miller mold.

“I think it’s just more getting that opportunity to get out there," said Waddle when asked of his overall improvement. “I didn’t really get that opportunity to last year - whatever reason that was - whatever, it’s in the past, it’s over with. Now that I’m getting my opportunity, I want to make the most of those, show them I can perform and get the trust of the rest of my teammates and the coaches.”

Belichick has been high on Waddle dating back to August. At the time it surprised those of us who watched the tackle struggle in both camp practices and joint sessions with Jackonsville and Houston. Shows you what we know. 

“Yeah, it started in the offseason,” said Belichick. “He had a really good offseason, good spring and I think he's improved his overall strength, his mobility. He's in good condition. You know, he kind of took a while – when we first got him, I think he was still dealing a little bit with the knee injury from Detroit. And, I don't want to say last year, but it's just over a period of time, between hard work, maybe it's some just physical improvement – I don't know, some combination of the two – but he looks and plays kind of like what we saw in Detroit before the injury.”

Waddle credited offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia for constantly pushing he and the rest of the hogs up front to get after it daily, be it in the meeting room, weight room or on the practice field. Scar stresses opening lanes for the run game and “keeping Tommy clean” said Waddle. That’s a good way to put yourself in the good graces of not just the coaches but the man himself - Brady.

“LA [Waddle] works hard. I’m very confident in him as I am with all our linemen,” said Brady earlier this week.

Miller will do his best to ruin that Sunday in the Mile High City. We’ll see how Brady feels about Waddle and that o-line once Week 10 is in the books. 


 

Patriots down three starters to start Wednesday's practice

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Patriots down three starters to start Wednesday's practice

FOXBORO -- The Patriots took the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Wednesday without three starters.

Marcus Cannon, Chris Hogan and Malcom Brown were all missing from the start of the workout, which was the team's second of the week. Cannon has an ankle injury, which he aggravated against the Chargers in Week 8. Hogan is dealing with a shoulder issue that occurred at the end of the win over the Chargers two weeks ago. Brown has an ankle ailment, and he has not practiced since suffering the injury in the second half against the Falcons in Week 7. 

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How would the Patriots fill in if they were to be without any of those three for this weekend's game in Denver?

* LaAdrian Waddle would likely be the choice to play right tackle should Cannon miss time. He subbed in for Cannon against the Chargers and performed admirably, according to offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. Waddle and Cameron Fleming are the team's two swing tackles, but Waddle has earned the nod over Fleming most recently. 

* If Hogan can't play, that could mean more work for Phillip Dorsett. The former Colts wideout has drawn solid reviews from both Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels this week, and because the Patriots lean so heavily on their 11-personnel packages that could mean Dorsett finds himself heavily involved as the team's No. 3 receiver. 

* Brown missed the win over Los Angeles, leaving more work on the interior of the defensive line for Lawrence Guy and Alan Branch. The Patriots recently signed Ricky Jean-Francois to their active roster, and he could provide some interior presence for Belichick and Matt Patricia moving forward.