Patriots

Jaguars have Ramsey's back

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Jaguars have Ramsey's back

Enough has been made of Jalen Ramsey’s bold proclamation that the Jaguars are going to win the Super Bowl despite the fact that they’re aren’t even on that stage yet.

I know it’s not how the Patriots do business but other teams do. Does it generally work? Well, no one can match the Pats sustainability but that doesn’t mean that style can’t be effective in shorter windows.

Look at the Seahawks or Ravens. Even the Giants could be boisterous. That leads me back to the Jags, who have Ramsey’s back.

“We’re so close that I think it’s OK to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this,’’’ said defensive tackle Malik Jackson.

“The man has confidence in his team,” added Abry Jones, also a defensive tackle. “What’s he going to say? He knows what we’re going up there to do. It’s not like he’s saying anything that’s not true.”

“He does things very passionately,” Calais Campbell said on the Rich Eisen Show. “You feed off that. When you see a guy who loves the game as much as he does, you can’t help but fall into the same mentality.”

That is what makes Ramsey different from say Mike Mitchell, the Steelers safety who ran his mouth weeks ago about beating the Patriots in the AFC title game and then stood outside the Jags locker room and yapped about what a long day the visitors were in for Sunday. How’s that working out for Mitchell now? He’s at home while Ramsey is about to play in his biggest game as a pro.

“He’s going to talk, but he’s going to show up,” Yannick Ngakoue said. “I just don’t like people talking all week. You talk reckless, man, and you lose. It is what it is.”

That is not an indicator to the Jags that Ramsey is looking ahead.

“He’s just happy,” noted Ngakoue. “He understands we have a giant in front of us and he’s got to pay all of his attention to this team. We don’t even know who’s going to play in the Super Bowl…We understand we have to do what we have to do or we’ll be watching the Super Bowl at home like everybody else.”

Of course, Ngakoue, the gifted edge rusher on that fearsome front four, had some pointed words to the Steelers after that 45-42 win Sunday saying “real people don’t say nothing. Real people are quiet but then throw the first punch…they thought they were bullies today. We were the bullies. See you next year.”

That’s not Ramsey’s modus operandi however. He got under A.J. Green’s skin so much that the normally peaceful Bengals wideout threw punches at the Jags corner during the game and reportedly wanted more after the game. Then -- and now -- Jacksonville seems okay with it so long as the All-Pro corner continues to deliver the goods.

“Everybody has their own persona,” said Leonard Fournette. “Whatever motivates them. We aren’t worried about two weeks ahead of us. We aren’t worried about the Super Bowl. It’s the next game. It’s Sunday in New England.”

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Patriots sign Sony Michel to rookie contract

Patriots sign Sony Michel to rookie contract

First round running back Sony Michel officially signed his rookie contract with the New England Patriots Sunday. 

The 31st overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft will receive the standard rookie deal for first round picks, which is four years with a team option for a fifth season. 

Michel will join James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee and newcomer Jeremy Hill in the New England backfield. 

The Patriots begin training camp on Thursday, July 26th, but rookies report today, so Michel signed his deal just in time to attend his first camp as an NFL running back. 

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Signature Plays: Gronk presence felt on flat-corner combo

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Signature Plays: Gronk presence felt on flat-corner combo

We've already taken a look at a handful of go-to offensive concepts for the Patriots. There was the two-back stretch, the smash route, the post-wheel, the high-low crosser and the slip screen. Today, we'll focus on yet another key offensive play, one that works thanks to the physical gifts of their players. 

It's no secret: The Patriots offense benefits in a big way by being able to trot out arguably the greatest tight end in the history of the sport.

We illustrated Rob Gronkowski's importance to the operation when he attracted coverage in the Super Bowl, which helped to allow one of his teammates to score a touchdown. Yes, sometimes just having Gronkowski on one side of the field or another is enough to garner a defense's attention create a fatal opening.

Gronkowski's coaches know that. They know that even though he's a walking mismatch. If a defense overextends to stop him, they'll be opened up to damage elsewhere. 

That's exactly what happened in Week 11 last season, when the Patriots took on the Raiders in Mexico. The game was scoreless late in the first quarter until Josh McDaniels dialed up a route combination that used Oakland's respect for Gronkowski against them. 

WEEK 11 VS. RAIDERS, 4:19 FIRST QUARTER, SECOND-AND-6,
DION LEWIS 15-YARD TOUCHDOWN RECEPTION

THE CONCEPT: The flat-corner combination is one that works particularly well against certain types of zone coverages. In our example from the Raiders game, it appeared as though Oakland was in quarters coverage or Cover-4, with four defenders sharing the responsibilities of defending the deep portion of the field. But this would work against Cover-2 as well. The goal is to get a shifty running back into space, one-on-one with a slower linebacker underneath. When the talented inside receiver (in this case Gronkowski) runs his corner route, the cornerback goes with him, and the safety on his side of the field has to respect that Gronkowski's route could be a post. The result is oodles of open space on that side of the field for a back who thrives there.

THE PLAY: In the NFL's Mexico City showdown, the Patriots scored their first touchdown by goading the Raiders into paying attention to Gronkowski. Starting him in-line and sending him on a corner occupied both the middle safety and the outside corner. When Dion Lewis took off out of the backfield, he knew he had a juicy matchup. He darted into the flat, caught Tom Brady's pass, and cut back to the middle of the field. The linebacker chasing in pursuit was left hugging grass. Lewis finished the run hard, splitting two potential tackles to get into the end zone and open up the scoring in the game. On the opposite side of the field, the Patriots ran Brandin Cooks on a crossing route, Dwayne Allen on a corner to the opposite side of the field, and Danny Amendola ran a return route over the middle. 

THE PLAY IN 2018: This type of play is part of what makes Gronkowski so valuable. The fact that he's as good as he is earns him attention, and when the Patriots can use that attention to their advantage they do. Of course, they like Gronkowski for much more than his work as a decoy...but he's a good one. Especially when Gronkowski can open up space for a back with the agility to make the first tackler miss, this flat-corner combo is almost guaranteed to succeed against certain defenses. With Lewis gone, the Patriots might not have quite the same level of make-you-miss talent in their running back room, but James White, Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel could all potentially find themselves involved in this route combination, trying to embarrass a linebacker one-on-one. On the three-receiver side, the Patriots could use any combination of pass-catchers. Having Phillip Dorsett run the crosser, with Kenny Britt running the corner and Jordan Matthews on the return would give Brady some interesting options if things broke down on the flat-corner side.

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