Patriots

Belichick: Patriots benefited from rare padded practice

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Belichick: Patriots benefited from rare padded practice

Patriots coach Bill Belichick made a comment during his postgame press conference that stood out as a bit of a change from the norm. He liked the way his team had practiced in the days leading up to New England's 27-6 win over the Texans on Sunday night, and he decided to highlight the effort his players showed him.

"Well, first of all I am real proud of our team this week," he said. "It was a tough week. I thought we competed hard all week, in terms of preparation, on the practice field, we practiced in pads and worked on a lot of fundamental things and those guys had a great attitude about it."

Belichick pointed out that the Patriots worked out in pads in part because that's a rarity for this time of year. 

Since the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and NFLPA was signed back in 2011, all NFL teams have been permitted just 14 fully-padded practices during the regular season. Teams are allowed one per week through the first 11 weeks of the season. After that, teams have to pick their spots as to when they ramp up contact. 

After consecutive losses to the Broncos and Eagles, the Patriots opted to use one of their remaining padded practices on Wednesday of last week. They had struggled on special teams, their pass protection had broken down, and their tackling had been sloppy at times. 

What better time to do some full-contact fine-tuning?

Players could have complained or gone half-speed, Belichick explained, by they approached the challenge with a certain zeal and became a better team for it. 

"You put on pads at the end of the season . . . Look, nobody's 100 percent this time of the year on our team or on any other team you play," Belichick said. "That's football. It takes a toll on everybody. So it's certainly the more comfortable way just to not have contact during the week -- which we're forced to do that the majority of the time anyway in terms of padded contact -- so not having that during the week, and when you do have it, then sometimes players can look at it as we're sore, we're banged up, [and take an] I-wish-we-weren't-doing-it type of attitude.

"But I think that our guys went out there and they worked hard. When we practiced on Wednesday, we definitely got better. We improved in a lot of the areas that fundamentally we were trying to address. I think that showed up in the game. It certainly wasn't perfect. I'm not trying to say that. But I thought that [it was] a hard week of preparation both on and off the field, and pushing each other.  Not just each individual preparing separately, but preparing and adjusting with his teammates, and getting on the same page on communication and adjustments and how to handle certain situations. Especially against a team like Houston -- that defensively has a lot of great players and gives you a lot of looks, and offensively can play at a fast tempo and force tough communication situations -- our players did a good job of that all week."

Belichick said he felt confident in the week of work his team had put together long before their drubbing of the Texans, but he was pleased to see that work pay dividends. 

"I told them that before the game, so it wasn't an after-the-fact thing," Belichick said. "I knew we had a good week of practice, and I knew we prepared hard, and I was just glad to see it show it last night. They got out what they put into that game. That was certainly a lot better than what we did last week."

Patriots reportedly almost traded for Odell Beckham Jr. last offseason

Patriots reportedly almost traded for Odell Beckham Jr. last offseason

Heading into the offseason after yet another Super Bowl win, one of the biggest areas of concerns for the Patriots is wide receiver. 

There were similar concerns this time last season. The team eventually shored up the position by trading for Cordarrelle Patterson and Josh Gordon, but Patterson is a free agent and Gordon's return to the team is still up in the air. 

Neither move might've happened if the Patriots had succeeded in their pursuit of one star player in 2018. 

On Pro Football Talk Live, Chris Simms reported that the Patriots were frontrunners to land star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. when the Giants were shopping him last offseason. 

"From everything I know, from multiple sources, the thing that stopped the trade conversation with Odell Beckham Jr. is because the team that was most aggressive in pursuing him was the New England Patriots. The New England Patriots were trying to get Odell Beckham Jr. all last offseason." 

MORE PATRIOTS

If the trade went through, last season might've turned out quite differently for New England. Beckham Jr. would have been the most talented wideout Tom Brady had thrown to in years. Gordon put up 737 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games with the Patriots. What kind of numbers could Beckham Jr. have put up if he was catching passes from Brady over the course of a full season?

With receiver remaining a weak spot in New England and continued rumors that the Giants may move on from Beckham Jr. sooner rather than later, the Patriots may have another chance. He isn't a typical Patriot with his hefty contract and constant presence in the media, but Bill Belichick is trying to maximize the last leg of Brady's career. No one can predict what he's up to in Foxboro. 

Time will only tell if the Pats take another swing at the supremely talented receiver. 

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PFF ranks Trent Brown, Marcus Cannon two of the best tackles in AFC East

PFF ranks Trent Brown, Marcus Cannon two of the best tackles in AFC East

New England's offensive line was a large part of the reason they won the Super Bowl; they managed to keep Brady upright despite facing talented pass-rushers in every playoff game, all while running roughshod over their opponents. 

Two cornerstones of their success came in the form of the two big tackles, Trent Brown and Marcus Cannon. While they weren't quite as dominant during the regular season, they still managed to rank as two of the best five tackles in the AFC East, with Cannon coming out as the best in the division according to PFF's rankings. 

Brown, an unrestricted free agent, was a key offseason addition for the Pats, who managed to acquire him from San Francisco for merely a fifth-round pick. Unfortunately, Brown's play may have priced him out of the Patriots' range, but they have his likely successor in the wings in the form of Isaiah Wynn. 

AREAS OF CHANGE

Cannon managed to stay on the field this year after finishing the previous season on the IR, playing in 13 games. He was excellent when he did play, and was a big part in shutting down the edge rushers of the Chargers and Chiefs in January. 

Brown may be gone by the time training camp rolls around, but Cannon is in the midst of a five-year deal, and will be the team's starting right tackle for the next few years, barring any injuries. If he can keep up his excellent play while remaining healthy enough for the playoffs, New England won't have to worry about the right side of the line for years to come. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.