Patriots

Patriots RB Mike Gillislee: 'Every time I get the ball, I'm trying to score'

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Patriots RB Mike Gillislee: 'Every time I get the ball, I'm trying to score'

FOXBORO -- The approach Mike Gillislee takes to his job makes sense. A backup for the vast majority of his first four years in the NFL, he has developed an almost over-eager attitude coming out of the backfield.

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"Every running back is different, but for me, I try to score," Gillislee said. "You know, opportunities in my career, I've barely gotten them. But now, every time I get the ball, I'm trying to score."

His average was pretty good in Week 1 against the Chiefs. On 15 carries, he scored three times, all of them from two yards out or closer. But there were moments when maybe Gillislee might've been better off looking for a sharply-lined single to the opposite field as opposed gearing up for an awe-inspiring moon shot. 

One play that stood out from Week 1 was Gillislee's off-tackle run with 10:23 remaining in the third quarter. Left guard Joe Thuney pulled and sealed one defender while fullback James Develin led the way to take out another. Instead of waiting a beat and allowing a hole to develop, Gillislee tried to bounce the run outside and lost four yards. 

"There were some things I looked at on film that I could see I could do better," Gillislee said this week. "Just perfecting the schemes. Every running play, every passing play, it's schemed the way that coach wants and the way that it works." 

There's a fine line between patience and aggressiveness as an NFL back, Gillislee explained.

In short-yardage situations, the get-it-and-go approach is ideal. "I'm not waiting," Gillislee said. "I'm trying to hit it." That's exactly what he tried to do on both fourth-and-one runs last week that failed when the line in front of him was unable to create much in the way of running room.

But on first and second down? There may be a little more leeway there, and Gillislee indicated that having a feel for the timing of how the play will develop in front of him can help him adjust one way or the other.

Gillislee he has done what he can to ensure that he's up on that timing, running drills with his teammates, talking to them in the locker room about what they see in certain situations. But he missed a large chunk of training camp with a hamstring issue and there still may be work to do in that regard.

From Gillislee's perspective, any ground they have to make up isn't necessarily a result of missed practice time -- "I wouldn't directly point to that," he said -- but he acknowledged the chemistry between him and his linemen can always improve with practice repetitions.

"Just getting those reps, developing those reps, me gaining their trust," Gillislee said, "I think it's going to come."

There should be opportunities for Gillislee to do some damage against the Saints on Sunday as they gave up 127 yards rushing to Vikings rookie runner Dalvin Cook in their Week 1 loss.

Matt Cassel: Why you shouldn't worry about Patriots' offensive line injuries

Matt Cassel: Why you shouldn't worry about Patriots' offensive line injuries

Any time you have rotating parts on the offensive line -- Korey Cunningham and Marshall Newhouse have had to step in for Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon, and obviously the center position has changed with David Andrews being out -- it's going to be a major question mark.

But I think the wild card in this whole situation is Dante Scarnecchia.

I’ve said this time and time again: Dante Scarnecchia is the best offensive line coach in the NFL. He's been doing it for so long, and his ability to coach these guys and have them ready to play is second to none.

Scar is so detail-oriented. He does a great job in the run game, and he also understands protection schemes and blitz pickup identification.

When I was in New England, we would do 9-on-7, which is a run-oriented drill. He'd do a great job of making sure I identified the appropriate linebacker for the offensive line so they knew who to block. He also has a great balance of pushing those guys: pushing to get the best out of them, but also knowing when to pull back.

They’re so detail-oriented in that offensive line room that you feel good as a quarterback -- going into any game or any situation, with whoever’s playing -- that he’ll have those guys prepared to understand their blocking and protection schemes.

In 2005, our starting center, Dan Koppen, went down with a season-ending injury. Russ Hochstein was always our interior "swing guy" -- he played guard and center -- and I remember Russ stepping in and playing beautifully.

Your leader on the offensive line is your center, because the communication really takes place between him and quarterback. And I thought we didn’t miss a beat when Russ came in, because Scar had him prepared at that position.

That said, the best example I can think of is Stephen Neal. This is a guy who never played high school football, college football or anything like that. He was an All-American wrestler in college.

But we picked him up, and Coach Scarnecchia and the rest of the staff developed Steve into dominant force for us at guard for years to come. I think a lot of his development as a player had to do with the coaching and expertise that took place within that room.

You’ve got to have trust in your guys up front. And a lot of that comes from you having a tremendous amount of faith in the coaching staff to prepare those guys every week. 

Every coaching staff has a feel for it. But based on my experience, the Patriots' coaching staff was the best I’ve been around during my NFL career.

If certain pass rushers that were giving us problems on the edge -- we called them "game-wreckers" -- Scar and the coaching staff would always come up with a great scheme to help, whether it was chipping the edge with the running backs or showing tight end presence so the pass-rusher couldn’t get clean run at the quarterback coming off the ball.

So, when we played the Colts and guys like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who were one of the most dominant pass-rushing tandems in the league, we’d always have a plan. We wouldn’t let those guys ruin the game. 

I think that’s the genius part of what the Patriots do: They go above and beyond in identifying the issue and doing whatever they can to make sure it doesn’t wreck the offensive plan. 

That's what I expect Scarnecchia and the coaching staff will continue to do, regardless of who's out there.

Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.

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Patriots QB Tom Brady listed on Week 3 injury report with calf issue

Patriots QB Tom Brady listed on Week 3 injury report with calf issue

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has made his first appearance on the team's injury report this season.

The Patriots and New York Jets have released their first injury reports ahead of Sunday's Week 3 matchup at Gillette Stadium, and the most notable name listed is Brady, who was limited in Wednesday's practice with a calf injury.

Brady has enjoyed a fantastic start to the season, throwing for 605 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions through the first two games. His inclusion on this injury report shouldn't sound any alarms, but it's certainly a situation worth monitoring throughout the week. Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon also was limited Wednesday. He suffered a shoulder injury in New England's Week 1 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and didn't play in Sunday's victory versus the Miami Dolphins.

The Jets roster has been ravaged by injuries of late, and their latest report reflects that. New York had 11 players who either didn't participate or were limited in Wednesday's practice. Starting quarterback Sam Darnold was among the Jets players who didn't practice. He is recovering from mono and won't play Sunday.

Here are the Wednesday injury reports for both teams.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2-0)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
Shilique Calhoun, LB Not Injury Related
James Develin, FB, Neck

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
Caleb Benenoch, OL, Calf
Tom Brady, QB, Calf
Marcus Cannon, OT, Shoulder
Matt LaCosse, TE, Ankle

FULL PARTICIPATION
Brandon Bolden, RB, Hamstring

NEW YORK JETS (0-2)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
Josh Belamy, WR, Shoulder
Trenton Cannon RB, Ankle
Sam Darnold, QB, Illness
Jordan Jenkins, LB, Calf
C.J. Mosley, LB, Groin
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Hamstring/Knee
Quinnen Williams, DL, Ankle

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
Kelvin Beachum, OL, Ankle
Steve McLendon, DL, Hip
Rontez Miles, S, Hip
Brian Winters, OL, Shoulder

FULL PARTICIPATION
Braxton Berrios, WR, Hamstring
John Franklin-Myers, LB/DL, Foot
Harvey Langi, LB, Knee
Alex Lewis, OL, Shoulder
Frankie Luvu, LB, Hand
Marcus Maye, S, Calf

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