Patriots

YouTube QB gets invite to Bills training camp

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YouTube QB gets invite to Bills training camp

From Comcast SportsNet
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- A five-minute YouTube video was enough to make quarterback Alex Tanney an overnight sensation for displaying his uncanny accuracy. Tanney created a big buzz last year in the self-titled "Trick Shot Quarterback" video by showing he can hit a receiver in a moving vehicle and throw footballs from across the court and swish them into basketball nets. He even banged a pass off the crossbar of an upright from 50 yards out -- from his knees. Now the Division III Monmouth College (Ill.) product will provide the Buffalo Bills a firsthand look to see whether he has a future in the NFL. After being passed up in the draft last weekend, Tanney has accepted an invitation to take part in the Bills' three-day rookie minicamp that opens May 11. "I'm from a small school, and the only thing I've ever really wanted was an opportunity to get into a camp," the 23-year-old said by phone this week. "And now I have that in Buffalo, so I'm anxious to get out there and compete for a spot." Turns out, the Bills weren't the only team interested in the 6-foot-4, 220-pound quarterback who set an NCAA record with 157 touchdown passes over a five-year career with the Fighting Scots. Tanney initially agreed to attend the Pittsburgh Steelers' rookie camp, but changed his mind after Buffalo extended an invite. He made the switch because he felt Buffalo was a better fit. Noting that Bills were among the first teams to contact him this offseason, Tanney added that he's spoken to Buffalo's new quarterback coach David Lee on several occasions. He's also aware that the team's No. 3 position is unfilled behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and backup Tyler Thigpen. If one thing's for certain, Tanner's accuracy shouldn't be an issue. In the video, Tanney bounces a pass off the floor into a trash barrel. He even threads a pass blind from the floor of the gymnasium up through a hallway and into a trash barrel on the floor of the school's adjacent running track. The video has received more than 1.1 million hits since Tanney and his friends posted it in February 2011, and led to him attracting national attention. Tanney showed off his throwing ability while featured on an episode of "Stan Lee's Superhumans" on the History Channel. It also led to numerous television interviews, including ones in Japan, Israel, Argentina and Chile. Tanney would rather play down his YouTube popularity and instead focus on what he did on the field. "The success and the numbers I put up speak for themselves rather than the YouTube video," he said. "But obviously, that's what people are going to talk about." In 47 games, he completed 68.6 percent of his passes going 1,205 for 1,756 with only 30 interceptions. He threw for 300 yards 32 times and finished with a Division III record 14,249 yards passing. Add it up, by NFL standards, Tanney finished with a 115.8 passer rating. And yet, he accepts his instant celebrity. "We really didn't expect it to take off like it did. It kind of blew up," Tanney said. "We had fun with it. It was a good experience. But I kind of think that's past me. I'm just looking forward to getting my shot in the NFL." The son of a longtime football coach, Tanney has been a quarterback since he started playing. He figures he was overlooked by Division I programs because he played for a tiny high school that had only 170 students. And though he was hoping to be drafted, Tanney understood the possibility was unlikely. That makes him even more driven to succeed. "I've had a chip on my shoulder basically throughout high school, college, coming from small schools and wanting to prove to people what I have," Tanney said. "I'm anxious to get out to Buffalo and see what I can do there."

With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

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With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

Continuity along the offensive line was one of the reasons the Patriots were able to have the season they had in 2016. They tossed aside the early-season experiementation that Bill Belichick favored at times in order to establish a starting five that could be relied upon, if healthy, start to finish. 

They attacked 2017 with the same approach, but because of injury the consistency simply has not been the same. Both starting tackles, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, have missed time injured this season, and Cannon will sit out again on Sunday as he continues to deal with an ankle injury. 

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The interior of the line has remained largely in place until this week when center David Andrews came down with an illness, missed two practices, and was ruled out. 

On a line where familiarity is key, where the center is the one making the calls, the one in constant communication with Tom Brady, what now?

The Patriots will likely turn to second-year man Ted Karras, who has the ability to play both guard spots and also backed up Andrews for the vast majority of training camp. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder was released at the end of camp, quickly signed to the Patriots practice squad, and then he re-signed to the active roster in Week 1 when Malcolm Mitchell was placed on injured reserve.

Karras, drafted in the sixth round in 2016 out of Illinois, was named a practice player of the week earlier this year and he earned some praise from Belichick before the Patriots took off for Mexico City.

"Ted works hard," Belichick said. "He loves football. He gets there early, stays late."

Belichick noted that Karras (nine snaps, all against the Broncos) hasn't played much this season, but he did see plenty of work early last season when he filled in for an injured Shaq Mason. He was the Week 1 starter at right guard in a win ver the Cardinals and he played 41 snaps in Week 2 against the Dolphins. 

The Patriots offensive line could also potentially turn to Joe Thuney at center. He's practiced there before and got some experience at the position during his time at NC State. This seems like the less likely move since the Patriots would then have to deal with two new players at different spots -- center and left guard (whether the player replacing Thuney would be Karras or rookie Cole Croston) -- which could have a domino effect on the rest of the line. 

However the Patriots choose to handle it, they'll face an interesting test south of the border. The Raiders feature a pair of talented pass-rushers in Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack, who Belichick says play all over the offensive line, yet Oakland is tied for last in the league in sacks. 

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Bill Belichick takes time to admire yet another opposing punter

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Bill Belichick takes time to admire yet another opposing punter

If the Patriots are about to go up against one of the more talented punters in the league, one way or another, you're bound to hear about it from Bill Belichick.

Sometimes Belichick will go into great detail on opposing punters in one of his weekly press conferences. Sometimes he'll go out of his way to highlight a punter during one of his "breakdowns" on Patriots.com. 

He went the latter route this week, gushing over Raiders punter Marquette King.

"We usually don't have the punters on the highlights here, but King's a very athletic punter," Belichick said. "He runs a lot of fakes, a guy you have to really be conscious of as a both holder on field goals and punts on fakes."

King is the No. 2 punter in the league when it comes to net punting (45.5 yards), and he's tenth in the league in terms of the number of punts dropped inside the 20-yard line. 

"King is an athletic guy," Belichick reiterated, "and he can change field-position big time."

Add him to the list of big-legged punters -- "weapons," if you will -- Belichick has praised in the past.

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