Patriots

Jurrell Casey could be handful for Patriots up the middle

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Jurrell Casey could be handful for Patriots up the middle

FOXBORO -- It's a tale as old as time: Pressure Tom Brady up the middle and you'll have a chance.

How much of a chance the Titans actually have against the Patriots in the Divisional Round is debatable. Vegas has them as 13.5-point underdogs. But if pressuring Brady from the interior is the key, Mike Mularkey's defense has one of the best in the game to help them accomplish that feat in Jurrell Casey.

The 6-foot-1, 305-pounder is the prototype for the modern-day interior rusher. One Patriots player compared him to Rams star Aaron Donald, who is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year honors. Like Donald, Casey isn't built like a mac truck but his combination of power and quickness make him a handful for opponents.

According to Pro Football Focus, Casey is the NFL's best 3-4 defensive end against the run and among the league's most efficient interior pass-rushers. He finished the season -- his third consecutive Pro Bowl year -- with six sacks, 14 quarterback hits and 32 hurries. 

"He’s a great player," Bill Belichick said this week. "He does a good job, very active, strong in the running game. He’s not a real long guy, but he plays with great leverage. He’s got very good quickness. He’s a disruptive player. He’s quick enough to get up field and get the edge. He’s explosive and powerful enough to knock guys back, so he can win with his quickness, win with his strength, win with his power.

"He’s a smart player, very instinctive, reads screens and misdirection plays, things like that, well. He’s a hard guy to fool. He diagnoses plays well . . . He plays hard, gets a lot of plays in pursuit, chases things down, but he hustles from the backside. He’s not really out of any play. You’ve got to block him all the way through the play."

Casey will find himself on the offensive left more often than not, meaning Joe Thuney and Nate Solder will have their work cut out for them. As the Titans like to run games and stunts with their fronts, it will be a critical for the Patriots offensive line to communicate as Tennessee varies its looks. If Dante Scarnecchia's unit can get those plays blocked, if it can allow Brady room to step up and into the pocket in order to extend plays, then the Patriots should be fine against Tennessee's middling pass defense.

If not? Things could get a little hairy.

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Dolphins' Kyle Van Noy bristles at Patriots comparisons: 'We're our own team'

Dolphins' Kyle Van Noy bristles at Patriots comparisons: 'We're our own team'

You could call the Miami Dolphins "Foxboro South." Just don't call them that in front of Kyle Van Noy.

The veteran linebacker is one of four former New England Patriots who signed with the Dolphins this offseason, joining fellow linebackers Elandon Roberts and Kamu Grugier-Hill and center Ted Karras.

Miami is also led by an ex-Patriot in head coach Brian Flores, who has loaded his staff with New England alums in defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, tight ends coach George Godsey and quality control coach Mike Judge.

But Van Noy apparently is growing tired of those who believe the Dolphins are trying to replicate the Patriots' model of success.

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“I don’t now how many New England guys there are, but we’re going to get away from that,” Van Noy told the Miami Herald's Adam Beasley in a recent interview. “We’re our own team, this is not the New England Patriots. This is the Miami Dolphins. It’s totally different, and I’m excited for that. New beginnings.

The Dolphins began to forge their own identity late in the 2019 season, going 5-4 down the stretch after losing their first seven games. While Van Noy and his fellow Patriots cast-offs weren't there for that turnaround, the 29-year-old can already sense the team's new attitude.

"We’re the Miami Dolphins. We’re here to represent the people of Miami," Van Noy said. "They want it bad. I can sense that. Miami’s a football town."

The Dolphins fired ex-Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea as their offensive coordinator late in the 2019 season and used their No. 5 overall pick on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, so perhaps they are intent on moving past those Patriots comparisons.

We'll find out immediately if that new approach pays off, as New England hosts Miami in its 2020 season opener.

Devin McCourty, wife share heartbreaking news of daughter's death

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USA TODAY Sports

Devin McCourty, wife share heartbreaking news of daughter's death

Devin McCourty and his wife, Michelle, endured every parent's worst nightmare last weekend.

The New England Patriots safety shared his wife's announcement Saturday that they lost their third child, Mia, last Sunday as the result of a stillbirth.

"I cry as I type this," Michelle wrote in an Instagram post. "My pregnancy had resulted in a stillbirth at almost 8 months of being pregnant — at exactly 31 weeks 2 days, when we found out that the baby girl growing inside me no longer had a heartbeat after being completely fine the week prior at my last doctor’s appointment.

"We are so heartbroken. We are devastated. We are speechless. We are angry. We are sad. We are confused. We are numb."

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The couple has two other young children: a 3-year-old girl named Londyn and a 2-year-old boy named Brayden.

The McCourtys received an outpouring of support from Devin's current and former teammates after he shared the news on Instagram.

Here's ex-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady: "Love you my brother. So sad for you loss! You are in our thoughts and prayers always ❤️❤️🙏🏼🙏🏼"

And here's Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo: "My prayers and love to your family bro."

Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry -- "My prayers are definitely going out to y’all. Love you bro💙" -- Detroit Lions defensive end Trey Flowers -- "Prayers for you and your family! 💪🏾 be strong brother" -- and ex-Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib -- "Praying for ya family brotha!" -- were among many other NFL players offering their support to the McCourtys.

Michelle added in her message that she and Devin "appreciate the love and support we’ve already gotten, and just ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time, since we have no answers to give anyway."

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