Belichick: Fleming gives Patriots smarts on re-shuffled line


Belichick: Fleming gives Patriots smarts on re-shuffled line

FOXBORO -- One day after earning a promotion from the practice squad, Cameron Fleming became the Patriots answer at right tackle.

When starting left tackle Marcus Cannon (who was forced into that spot due to Nate Solder's season-ending biceps injury) left the Colts game in the first quarter, Bill Belichick's offensive line had to get creative. Starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer flipped to the left side, while Fleming subbed in on the right. 

The second-year player out of Stanford ended up playing 58 snaps in his team's 34-27 victory. 

"The good thing for Cam was he did that last year," Belichick said during a press conference Friday. "Cam is very intelligent, very smart, works hard, and he's a very diligent guy. As a rookie, he was always in that situation. There were times where he was thrown into it. He's done it this year, and it was the same thing so, again, I'm not surprised.

"But I think he did do a good job, without taking a lot of reps with that group and playing pretty much three quarters of the game at that position. They got some very good pass-rushers and good players out there -- [Erik] Walden, [Robert] Mathis those guys. I thought he did a good job, but he's done that for us before, and that's why everybody's important, every role is important. You just never know how it's going to go, but he definitely answered the bell."

The Patriots may need him to answer it again this weekend. Cannon missed the team's first two practices of the week with a toe injury, putting his availability for Sunday's game with the Jets in doubt. If he can't go, Fleming likely would be reinserted at right tackle with Vollmer taking on the duties of the team's starting left tackle. 

The Patriots have provided themselves some insurance by having Fleming -- who played in nine games last season, including the AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl -- at the ready. But Belichick explained on Friday that any time two players at the same position go down, as Solder and Cannon have, it's difficult to recover. 

"You lose two players at any position, on any team, that's an issue," Belichick said. "Two of anything with anybody, pick any team in the league, that would be an issue. Once you start getting into that area, you gotta start thinking about what's our emergency move, how do we get through this?
"Maybe it's not even so much who we play there, but now what you can actually do with that person there? How you would manage the game, what you would call if we got to that point? Third quarterback, third tight end, third right tackle, third defensive end, third safety, third anything. If you're going that far down the line, it would be an issue. Not saying you couldn't handle it, but it would be an issue."
The Patriots handled it last week without issue, but a challenge awaits on Sunday in the form of the Jets talented defensive line. 

More WR trouble for Patriots: Dorsett helped off field at practice

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More WR trouble for Patriots: Dorsett helped off field at practice

The Patriots already-thin wide receiver group appeared to take another hit Tuesday when Phillip Dorsett had to be helped off the field during an 11-on-11 period at practice. 

Dorsett went down late in the practice following an 11-on-11 rep when he ran a route over the middle of the field. After hitting the turf -- I didn't see if he was hit or if he went down on his own -- a defensive player immediately called for help. Dorsett was eventually helped off the field by two staffers and made his way directly to the blue medical tent parked on the back of the practice fields. When he emerged, he got a hug from team chaplain/character coach Jack Easterby. Nick Caserio later came by to give Dorsett a pat on the back. After a few moments, Dorsett put his helmet back on and caught passes from an equipment assistant. He did not leave the field until the session was finished, walking off on his own. 

He gave a thumbs up as he made his way down the stairs toward the stadium and got into a cart that took him into the tunnel. Moments later, Dorsett was back on the field, spending time in the friends and family area before going back down the stairs to the stadium a second time.  

The Patriots - who've been without Kenny Britt, parted ways with Malcolm Mitchell and Jordan Matthews and been without Cordarrelle Patterson and Matthew Slater in portions of camp -- can ill afford to lose another wideout. Dorsett had a strong start to camp, which Tom Brady noted following Tuesday's work, and looked like the No. 2 receiver behind Chris Hogan for the first month of the season with Julian Edelman out the first four games serving a PED suspension. 

In Dorsett's absence, Hogan, Riley McCarron and Eric Decker seemed to see a bump in repetitions. Hogan was tired enough after practice that he hopped on the same cart Dorsett rode for a lift into the locker room area. 

When he met the media after practice Tuesday, quarterback Tom Brady spoke about Dorsett's injury.

"You never like to see it and everyone wanted to go over to see how he was doing because he's been doing so well in the spring and in training camp," Brady said. "Hopefully he's OK. I certainly hope he is. He has a great opportunity ahead of him. I hope he takes advantage of it."

Dorsett, in his fourth year out of Miami, was acquired early last season from the Indianapolis Colts in a trade for quarterback Jacoby Brissett. He had 12 catches for 194 yards last season in 15 games. 



Decker may get benefit of the doubt early on as he transitions to Patriots offense

Decker may get benefit of the doubt early on as he transitions to Patriots offense

FOXBORO -- It's been well-documented. Eric Decker had a rough early portion of practice on Monday. He dropped a pass in one-on-ones. He dropped two more in a side session with Tom Brady. 

He wasn't thrilled with himself. He punched his own helmet. He hung his head briefly. 

During the session, in response to a tweet from NESN's Doug Kyed, former NFL receiver Andrew Hawkins (who had a brief stay with the Patriots last year) tried to shed some light on what exactly Decker is going through at the moment as the new guy in town. 

Some players never fully grasp what they're being told and never get the chance to play at full speed. Decker, who has some background in the offense thanks to his time under Josh McDaniels in Denver, says he's getting close. But Monday's start was a sign he was still a ways off.

Bill Belichick said on Tuesday that it's his job to properly assess the mistakes made by a player in transition.

"I think you always have to account for the transition of a player who joins your team at some point during the season, training camp, midseason, whatever it is," he explained. "I don't think there's any set formula on that. Just evaluate it, engage it. The more time you have, the easier it is to make the right decision."

Decker finished Monday with a handful of catches in the 11-on-11 period, including one deep down the sideline with corner Jonathan Jones on him tight. That sort of bounce-back didn't surprise Decker, but both he and the team know that there's only a limited number of opportunities for him left before they have to make a decision as to whether or not he deserves a roster spot. 

"The more you know about the player and his fit on the team, his role, so forth, how well he can do, sometimes that takes time," Belichick said. "We only have the time we have. Whatever it is, it is. Just have to make the most of it. [We] would like to have more in all situations, but that's not always possible. Sometimes you have to make a decision with less information than you'd like to have."

The subject of Decker came up when Brady met the media at camp later Tuesday.

"I've watched him play a lot of football over the years," Brady said. "He's always been on great offenses. He's got to use his skill set, the one he's learned and used for a long time. He knows how to get open. Now, it's just about learning about what we do and how we do it. 

"He's worked hard. He's been out here every day. You can tell he's a real pro and hopefully, he can add something to the group." 

Decker should be able to provide the Patriots with more information on Thursday night against the Eagles. He played just six snaps against Washington last week but could be in line for more in preseason game No. 2. That may mean more reps with Brady. The quarterback told reporters at camp Tuesday that he plans to play in that game.