Patriots

Marrone, Jaguars hope to learn from Patriots' model of success

Marrone, Jaguars hope to learn from Patriots' model of success

For a couple of years, Doug Marrone tried to unseat the Patriots when he was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. That didn’t go so well - Marrone’s team winning only once in four meetings, and even that had an asterisk next to it, with Tom Brady giving way to Jimmy Garoppolo midway through that 2014-15 season finale. Now Marrone is back at it again, but this time piloting the AFC South Jacksonville Jaguars in joint practices prior to Thursday’s preseason opener at Gilllete Stadium.

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“I did say that to a couple of guys that were with me in Buffalo. I said ‘can you believe we’re going up there to practice?’’ laughed Marrone before turning serious, “I am thankful to coach Belichick for giving us this opportunity because at the end of the day, we’re just trying to get our team better and this is definitely going to help us.”

Marrone inherits a program that never gained traction under previous coach Gus Bradley, who was fired after almost four seasons of futility. Marrone was the offensive line coach on that team last year and took over on an interim capacity for the final two games before being named the permanent boss this winter by none other than Tom Coughlin. The organization is now absorbing a more disciplined culture than previously existed.

“I think every team needs that,” said Marrone “You look at the teams that are successful in this league consistently, that’s the one thing: they’re always in shape, always well-conditioned, always very physical, have great discipline, and they’re great in situation football and can execute. I think you need those things to be a successful football team.”

For a model, Marrone and the Jags need to look no further than their competition this week. 

“I think we look at the history - everyone understands where they are, what they’ve done, and like I said before, we have a great deal of respect for their coaches and players.,” he said. “It’s a fact. I don’t think you have to talk it up. Everyone knows.”

Brady and Guerrero enjoy time in Monaco

Brady and Guerrero enjoy time in Monaco

There has been plenty of discussion surrounding the New England Patriots this offseason.

Is there tension between Brady and Belichick? Are the Patriots finally starting to crack?

There is no confirmed proof of either, but Brady missing OTAs has only fueled speculation

Some may have figured he just wanted to spend more time with family. But we've found out he's had a full list of things to do outside football.

Many wouldn't have guessed this list included throwing footballs yacht-to-yacht with a competitor in the Monaco Grand Prix.

The man who caught the football was Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull Racing. He would go on to win the Monaco Grand Prix.

Everything that Brady touches turns to gold.

Brady serves as a brand ambassador for TAG Heuer. Red Bull Racing started using TAG Heuer branded Renault engines a few years back.

This part of the trip is certainly important for the Tom Brady brand.

And one of the most important people that was by his side the entire way. 

TB12 guru Alex Guerrero was on the trip also.

With that being the case, I'm sure Brady hasn't missed a day of training on his overseas trip.

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Hightower’s presence at OTAs leads to a look at linebacker depth

Hightower’s presence at OTAs leads to a look at linebacker depth

FOXBORO - Dont'a Hightower was among the missing during Tuesday's OTA that was open to reporters. He was prominently featured on the team's website as a participant in Thursday's OTA, though.

It's a positive development for one of the Patriots best and most versatile defenders. Hightower tore his pectoral in October and missed the remainder of the 2017 season, leading to some shuffling of personnel both at the second level and on the edge. 

Hightower snagged one of the team's photos of his participation in Thursday's workout and slapped it on his Instagram page. 

Hightower's presence on the turf behind Gillette Stadium, even if he was limited in the practice, allows our minds to wander a bit and look ahead to what the Patriots depth chart might look like at linebacker with him in the fold. 

The Patriots are consistently altering their fronts and Hightower's adaptability allows his role to change with whatever scheme Bill Belichick deploys. 

Hightower can play on the line or off. He can be used as a "Sam" linebacker at the second level in a 4-3 or at the end of the line of scrimmage in 3-4 looks. He played on the left end early last season - a spot we identified yesterday as a potential landing spot for Derek Rivers. And if the Patriots needed Hightower to play as a "Mike" linebacker, he has the ability to do that as well. 

Sub packages, base packages . . . Hightower can line up in a variety of front-seven spots for the Patriots regardless of the situation, which is why when healthy he's been able to serve as an every-down player. (He played 92.4 percent of Patriots defensive snaps in 2014 and 83.1 percent of the snaps in 2016.)

How might the rest of the Patriots linebacker corps slot in if Hightower is a full go for training camp? Let's take a look . . . 

MR. MIX AND MATCH


Kyle Van Noy is probably the closest approximation to Hightower that the Patriots have on their roster. When Hightower went out last season, it was Van Noy who moved around the front seven and handled a variety of responsibilities. He's probably best suited as a "Will" linebacker, someone who can use his athleticism to make plays in different areas depending on the situation, but Van Noy's ability to handle multiple responsibilities in New England's defense is part of the reason why the team likes him as much as they do. He was handed a two-year extension early last season. 

LIKE "MIKE" 


Elandon Roberts often handled the "Mike" responsibilities in the Patriots defense last season. The third-year player out of Houston might have the inside track on this role in 2018, but he could be pushed by rookie fifth-round selection Ja'Whaun Bentley out of Purdue. Both players seem like they're at their best against the run game, unafraid to fill their lanes as prideful "thumpers." What may separate this duo is which player can more consistently cover the correct gaps on first and second down, and which player more effectively communicates the defense to their teammates around them. Whether either player can contribute on special teams could also alter how the workload is distributed here. 

WHEN THERE'S A "WILL"


Van Noy would likely be the first choice here for the Patriots, but there are a few others who could be angling for time here. Marquis Flowers re-signed with the Patriots this offseason after an impressive end-of-the-season run where he showed up as a pass-rusher with enough athleticism to be trusted to run with backs in the passing game. Flowers was also a key contributor on special teams last season. Rookie sixth-round pick Christian Sam could also compete for "Will" reps. A defensive back in high school, Sam bulked up at Arizona State but remains a good athlete and could be a fit behind Van Noy. Special teamers Nicholas Grigsby and Brandon King work out with the linebackers and could be options here if they were ever called upon defensively.

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