Patriots

Report: Navy approves Cardona's request to play for Patriots in 2016

Report: Navy approves Cardona's request to play for Patriots in 2016

Patriots special teams coach Joe Judge and head coach Bill Belichick -- a former special teams coach himself -- can breathe easy. It looks as though they'll have long-snapper Joe Cardona for the 2016 season. 

According to the Dan Patrick Show, Secretary of Navy Ray Mabus has approved Cardona's request to continue his NFL career. Mabus has also permitted Ravens rookie Keenan Reynolds to pursue his new NFL gig.

Paul Pabst, producer for the Dan Patrick Show, tweeted on Friday that Mabus contacted both Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft to inform them that Cardona will be eligible to play. 

Cardona was drafted by the Patriots in the fifth round of last year's NFL draft. He was just the fourth long-snapper in the history of the league to be drafted. As a rookie, he played in all 16 regular-season games for the Patriots as well as both postseason games. 

In order to fulfill his commitment to the Navy, Cardona worked during the season at the Naval Preparatory Academy. Once his rookie season ended, he headed back to the Newport, Rhode Island-based school to work full-time and help mentor students there. 

Cardona was scheduled to make his way to Norfolk, Virginia later in the offseason and live there for about two months to participate in the Navy's Basic Division Officer Course, or "BDOC," which was required before he could report to his ship as a Surface Warfare Officer. From there, he was scheduled to travel to Bath, Maine, to work on the USS Zumwalt. 

"I'll get to work there and figure out a schedule that doesn't interfere with either of my jobs," Cardona said back in January, following New England's loss to Denver in the AFC title game, "and hopefully be back on the field next year."

Cardona has long maintained that his job as an active member of the Navy is his top priority, and it sounded as though his season was in serious jeopardy when Mabus joined the Dan Patrick Show earlier this month.

"Right now we do have a process," Mabus said at the time. "It hasn't got up to me yet to [decide on whether or not Reynolds will be eligible to play], but there are a lot of paths to both play and to serve. 

"We've got Joe Cardona, long snapper for the Patriots. He played . . . last year for the Patriots while he was on active duty because he was able to work them both out. Now he's been assigned to a ship, and he's going to report to that ship. He may have to leave the Patriots for a year or so to go fulfill that roll."

The Patriots signed veteran long-snapper Christian Yount earlier this offseason in a move that reminded those following the team that Cardona was not guaranteed to be available for 2016. Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich has long-snapped in the past and typically serves as the team's emergency snapper. 

How will the Patriots protect Tom Brady against Khalil Mack?

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In this Reporting from Foxboro, Phil Perry breaks down the Patriots right tackle situation and how it will impact their ability to keep Khalil Mack in check.

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Matt Nagy: Flowers might not be a big name, but he is for coaches

Matt Nagy: Flowers might not be a big name, but he is for coaches

FOXBORO -- The Patriots rank last in the league in sacks, tied with the Raiders and Giants, with seven. Just a shade over one per game on average.

Not great.

But going into last weekend's game with the Chiefs, the Patriots ranked second in the league in pressure percentage, according to ESPN. And they hurried Patrick Mahomes into some bad decisions. Pressures on the quarterback led to Duron Harmon's interception in and Stephon Gilmore's pass-breakup -- both of which occurred in the end zone.

One week prior, Adrian Clayborn -- who leads the team with 20 quarterback pressures, but hasn't sacked the quarterback -- hit Andrew Luck to force an interception by Patrick Chung.

Bears coach Matt Nagy acknowledged that the Patriots haven't had much production in terms of sacks, but he insisted they made life difficult for quarterbacks at different points.

"That’s kind of what they do . . . and I don’t think that’s ever necessarily changed," Nagy said. "Again, they have a belief in their system and how it goes and how it works and they’ve been successful. Whether there’s a game where they have a lot of pressure or there’s a game where there’s not much, you’ve got to be able to adapt to it. Again, being around the football, tipping the ball in the air, making plays in the red zone, not giving up touchdowns and having three field goals kicked, that type of deal is always going to work when you just do what you’re supposed to do and that’s what they do."

Though Trey Flowers missed almost two full games -- he suffered a concussion early in Week 2 and missed Week 3 -- he's second on the team with 17 total quarterback pressures.

"He’s not the quote-unquote big name guy, but he’s the big name guy amongst the coaching world," Nagy said. "We know who he is and what he can do and we respect him and know he’s a hell of a player. As you would anybody, you always want to know where they’re at and how they do things and that happens in film study. He can hold the point, he’s strong, he’s quick, he’s fast, he plays in front of the quarterback. We know that he’s a good football player."

Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores said he values pressures a great deal. If his defense can put pressure on the Bears Sunday, even if they're not necessarily sacking the quarterback, they should be in OK shape.

"Well, I think anytime you can sack the quarterback, that's great," Flores said. "With that, when you're sacking him, you're pressuring him, and I think no quarterback likes having pressure on the edge or up the middle. So, yeah, I value pressures a lot, and I think that goes a long way toward marrying a rush and the coverage and playing really good defense. 

"So, getting pressure on the quarterback is, I would say, definitely something that we strive to do. I think we've gotten that. I would say Adrian Clayborn's a guy who he doesn't have a sack this season, but he's put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and that's led to some mistakes. He put some pressure on Mahomes that led to some mistakes from Mahomes last week. I think the pressure definitely helps us to create some turnovers. It created some turnovers for us [last week], and hopefully we can continue to do that moving forward."

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