Patriots

Winston on playing 'inspiration' Brady: 'A chance to witness greatness'

bucs_falcons_winston.jpg

Winston on playing 'inspiration' Brady: 'A chance to witness greatness'

The question seemed pretty generic. It had to do with the opportunity the Bucs had in front of them with the Patriots coming to town on Thursday night.

Where the answer went from there painted a picture of a young man getting the opportunity to play against his idol for the first time. The young man in this instance is Jameis Winston. His idol? Tom Brady, whom he'll be tasked with trying to beat.

"Really just a blessing for me personally," Jameis Winston said. "I don’t like talking about me, but to get a chance to witness greatness in front of us with Tom Brady coming into town, it gets you pumped up. It definitely makes you think about how hard you worked to get to this point. I’m thinking about what I’m going to say to him when I see him and meet him."

Winston watched film of Brady and others in the offseason, which was a quasi-continuation of what he did growing up, following Brady and his contemporaries from afar as a fan.

"Growing up, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, guys of that nature and more, every successful quarterback that was playing when I was coming up, I admired them," he said. "Tom Brady, in particular, he is the winningest. He has won more Super Bowls than each of those guys, so to me that is the most important part.

"His ability to protect the football and take advantage of those opportunities when they are given to him is impeccable. Just studying him, just seeing how calm he is [and] how precise he is, is very impressive. That is the reason why every offseason, every rep I get during the season that I’m trying to be better and better because I know that he’s still out there playing. He’s still getting better and better. He should be an inspiration."

Winston is one of the best young quarterbacks in football, who has shown improvement already from last season to this one, but there is certainly room for him to be more precise. He's completing 63 percent of his passes this year (19th in the NFL) and averaging a pick per game through three games. But thanks to some big-play weapons and an ability to extend plays within the pocket, Winston's numbers in terms of rating (No. 10 in the league) in terms of rating and he's sixth in the league in yards per attempt.

Winston -- who Brady touted as "a great leader, has been since he came into the league" -- said he won't necessarily take his leadership cues from Brady. He has a style all his own he's taken with him to the league from Florida State.

But in terms of playing style? He's open to being more like the guy who he considers walking, talking, passing greatness.

“You see his leadership with his team. We have all different types of leadership within teams," Winston explained. "Obviously, he’s a great leader, [but] I’m talking about play because that is very important. Imitating his leadership is huge, but the way that he plays . . . if you can imitate that, you’ll have more people happier with you."
 

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE