Patriots

Collinsworth: 'Pats could look to drop early bomb on Eagles'

Collinsworth: 'Pats could look to drop early bomb on Eagles'

BLOOMINGTON, Minnesota -- Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, James White and . . . ?

In each of the Patriots' last three Super Bowls, Tom Brady’s leaned on his running backs when the heat got turned up. Woodhead had four catches for 42 yards and a touchdown and was a catalyst for the Patriots offense in the drive before the half that put the Patriots ahead of the Giants in SB46. Against Seattle, Vereen had 11 catches for 64 yards -- a paltry 5.8 YPC average even with a 16-yarder mixed in -- but eight of those touches were positive drive-starters or connections that moved the chains. White caught 14 of the 16 passes that went his way for 110 yards. Again, not a huge YPC. But it was what was available.

Cris Collinsworth, who’ll provide the analysis for NBC Sunday night when the Patriots play the Eagles, says the Patriots are likely to go back to the running-back well against Philly.

The Jaguars' success in bottling up the backs was what kept the AFC Championship Game close, said Collinsworth.

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“What Jacksonville was able to do, tackling those guys in the open field, was among the most impressive things I’ve seen all season long and it’s really a big part of why they had a chance to win that game in the end.

“So now it’s gonna be up to the Eagles to try and do the same thing. It’s going to be the same pass rush --  the Jags, the Eagles -- same kind of pass rush. They’re gonna be coming after him and you know Tom Brady’s not taking a bunch of hits in the first quarter of this game. So what do you do? You gotta check it down, throw it out to those two running backs . . . 

“That will be the game early and then it will be a matter of whether or not they can tackle those guys,” Collinsworth mused. “If they can, then they’re forced to work it down the field. If they have to work it down the field, then the pressure has a chance to get there.”

The Eagles defense doesn’t spend a lot of time reading what’s going on after the snap. They make a read and fly. How to counter that?

“The easy answer is play-action,” said Collinsworth. “The Eagles linebackers play downhill so hard and the defensive ends are crashing so there’s a big opportunity for play-action. The Patriots were not a great screen team until about the last three or four weeks and the playoffs. Their screen game got a lot better at the end.”

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Collinsworth is also curious to see how the domino effect surrounding the Eagles treatment of Gronk plays out. A big one could be available early, he believes

“What are they gonna do with Gronk? That’s the million-dollar question. Are you really willing to leave [wide receiver Brandin] Cooks out there 1-on-1 and see what happens? This is [an Eagles defense] that’s been beaten by a lot of double moves. They are as aggressive on the back end as they are on the front end. I can’t decide whether Brady will want to score touchdowns on that double-move or will just want to scare ‘em. Do they run a bunch of slants and then hit ‘em with the double move or do you run the double-move early to get them to back off?”

Collinsworth had plenty more to say on the excellence of Brady and Bill Belichick and theorized that the departure of coordinators Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels will be absorbed and the train will just keep chugging on. Catch it all in the Quick Slants podcast:

 

Ex-Patriot Chris Long rips NFL's new National Anthem policy

Ex-Patriot Chris Long rips NFL's new National Anthem policy

On Wednesday, the NFL announced a new policy on players protesting during the National Anthem.

The new policy permits players to stay in the locker room while the anthem plays, but requires them to stand if they come on to the field.

Former Patriots defensive end Chris Long, now with the Eagles, shared his thoughts on the controversial change via Twitter:

His teammate, Malcolm Jenkins, ripped the new policy on Twitter as well.

Devin and Jason McCourty showed their support for Long and Jenkins' statements by reposting them on their Twitter account:

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Source: Tom Brady not at TB12 while teammates next door at OTAs

Source: Tom Brady not at TB12 while teammates next door at OTAs

A source confirms that Tom Brady was not working out at his TB12 sports medicine facility at Patriot Place in Foxboro while his teammates were on the field at OTAs as was previously reported by the Boston Herald.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, the other notable absence from OTAs, has been at the TB12 facility on the days his teammates were on the field practicing and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who participated in the first day of OTAs, has also been at TB12, according to the source.

The Herald's Karen Guregian reported on Tuesday that both Brady and Gronkowski were at TB12 on Monday, which is right next to Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots were practicing. 

Former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak of 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak and Bertrand" show said Brady likely wasn't even in the country this week.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Wednesday that Brady and Gronk are expected to participate in the mandatory mini-camp at Gillette June 5-7.

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