Patriots

Eric Decker confident in ability to bounce back after early spate of drops

Eric Decker confident in ability to bounce back after early spate of drops

FOXBORO -- It began with a push-off. Eric Decker's first rep in one-on-ones on Monday likely would've been flagged after he extended his arm in making contact with Patrick Chung to create some separation. Not the best start to his day. 

He dropped the next pass flung his way. Then he dropped two more in a side-session with Tom Brady . . . with no defense anywhere in sight. 

That led Decker to chuck a football and punch his helmet in frustration. Brady then approached him for a quick sympathetic fist-bump.

Decker is competing for a job at the moment. The 31-year-old's $75,000 in guarantees on his new contract with the Patriots indicate he's far from a sure thing to make the roster, and he knows every practice rep he gets matters. 

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That pressure makes what Decker did over the course of the remainder of the practice relatively impressive. Instead of letting his day spiral into a waste of a couple of hours, he caught his next four catchable targets. One pass from Brady, a deep shot down the sideline with Jonathan Jones close in coverage, was one of the prettiest connections of the day.  

"It's part of the game," Decker said when asked about his drops. "We're all human. We're gonna make mistakes. Don't let it become a habit. Don't let it happen over and over again." 

"This game is about mental toughness. You gotta understand that you gotta bounce back and they're going to ask you to respond. It's not really what you do in that moment, it's how you react to it. I've played a lot of football, had a few drops in my days. Had many catches as well, so I know how to bounce back and get to it."

Decker wasn't the only one dropping passes Monday. There were 10 drops in all during the workout. Rob Gronkowski mishandled one from Brady. Paul Turner, James White and Will Tye dropped consecutive passes from Brian Hoyer. Devin Lucien dropped a pair and Chris Hogan let one fall as well. 

For Decker's part, though he acknowledged the wet conditions in Foxboro, there was no way to explain away his own personal case of the drops. 

"There's no excuses for it," he said. "It's something that obviously you gotta address. That's something you work through. In my mind, that's why God created practice, just to be able to get better. Flush that out. 

"But again my job is to catch the football so I gotta do better in that field. That's why we work on the side so I can see how [Brady] throws, get into certain routes and get that rhythm so we can build that confidence."

Decker did say that he felt as though his understanding of the offense was moving in the right direction, even if there were occasional physical errors on the field. 

"Feel more comfortable with the playbook," he said. "Things are slowing down mentally. That's one thing, just gotta be able to get on the field and execute and not think about things and just react. We're getting there. Every day is a learning experience."

Decker should continue to see plenty of reps if others at his position remain out. The receiver spot has thinned as Kenny Britt has yet to practice in full during camp. Cordarrelle Patterson did not practice Monday. And both Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel -- two pass-catchers out of the backfield -- remain unavailable.

More reps means more opportunities for Decker to learn. If he can build on the end of Monday's practice, and "flush" his rocky start to the week, he may have a chance to fill what at the moment looks like a glaring need on the Patriots roster. 

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Stevan Ridley seeks revenge after Patriots 'trashed him'

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Stevan Ridley seeks revenge after Patriots 'trashed him'

Another week, another ex-Patriots running back looking for revenge.

This time, it's Stevan Ridley.

The Pats' lead back from 2011-14 now serves as a backup for the Steelers, and he's anxiously awaiting his chance to stick it to his former team on Sunday. With Pittsburgh's starting running back James Conner likely to sit out, Ridley could see an uptick in opportunities.

Ridley told The Boston Herald about how important Sunday's Patriots-Steelers matchup is to him.

“I’m very open and I have to be real: I want this game more than any other game, man,” Ridley told The Herald. “That’s just the bottom line to it. And it’ll be that way from this year until I go in the grave. I’m just that kind of person.”

He didn't stop there. Ridley explained how it felt to not be contacted by New England following the 2014 season in which he tore his ACL.

“I was trashed after an injury,” Ridley said. “I’m just going to put it that way. I’m not going to say specifically, but to be a starter for (the Patriots) for four years, to tear my ACL and never get a call back, that’s a tough pill to swallow.”

“And now they’re still looking for a running back to try to come in and play — how many running backs have been through there to try to give them some consistency as a quote-unquote first or second down back?” Ridley said. “They’re still looking for it right now. Yeah, it’s very personal. It is.”

After the Titans defeated the Patriots in Week 10, ex-Pats running back Dion Lewis took a shot at his former team saying, "That’s what happens when you go cheap. You get your ass kicked.” You can bet Ridley hopes to follow in Lewis' footsteps.

“I had circled the game when I was with the Jets — I think it was Week 7 or 8,” Ridley said, “and man, I’ve had that game circled on my schedule every year since I left there to try to get a shot at these guys and get some kind of redemption.”

While Ridley feels strongly about the sour ending to his tenure in New England, the 29-year-old made a point to acknowledge the good along with the bad.

“Anything between the white lines, you cannot question (Bill) Belichick, (Tom) Brady, or anything they’ve done in let’s say the last two decades,” Ridley said. “But you’re asking me about my situation, so I’m telling you about my situation when it comes to that. I don’t discredit anything. Those guys brought me into the NFL. They gave me my first shot in the league. We won a lot of ballgames there to go to four AFC Championships, two different Super Bowls. We were kicking ass every year that we were there. I had great memories in New England, man. It’s not all bitter.”

If Ridley indeed gets his redemption on Sunday, it will be the second straight week that a former Patriots running back comes back to haunt New England. Last week, it was Brandon Bolden scoring two touchdowns for the Dolphins in the crushing Pats loss.

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NFL mock draft 2019: Todd McShay predicts Patriots go DT in first round

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NFL mock draft 2019: Todd McShay predicts Patriots go DT in first round

The New England Patriots run defense has not been great this season, so it only makes sense to use some draft capital to upgrade the defensive line in the 2019 NFL Draft.

That's the area ESPN draft expert Todd McShay expects the Patriots to target in the first round. In his first 2019 mock draft of the season, McShay selected Ohio State defensive lineman Dre'Mont Jones (6-foot-3, 286 pounds) for the Patriots with the 29th overall pick.

Here's his explanation for the selection:

Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton land on the open market after the season, so the Pats' biggest concern will be shoring up the defensive line. Jones finally put it all together this season and exhibits a good motor and quick first step. 

The Pats rank 27th in rushing yards allowed per attempt and 15th in rushing yards allowed per game, although they've given up just three rushing touchdowns. 

New England has taken only one defensive tackle over the last three drafts -- Vincent Valentine in the third round in 2016.

Jones, who announced Wednesday on Twitter he's going to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft, was coached at Ohio State by Urban Meyer. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has drafted several players coached by Meyer from his tenures at OSU and the University of Florida. 

Jones tallied eight sacks, 40 total tackles, one interception and three fumble recoveries in 13 games for the Buckeyes this season. 

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