Patriots

Long skill set accentuated in Philly, now has a shot at ring No. 2

Long skill set accentuated in Philly, now has a shot at ring No. 2

FOXBORO -- Chris Long handled his responsibilities without a peep. It might not have been the best way to use his skill set, in his eyes, but it was what Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia wanted him to do. So, he did it. And in Super Bowl LI he drew a fourth-quarter holding penalty that helped him earn his first Super Bowl ring.

Last season in New England, Long was asked to play more on the inside despite being more accustomed to aligning wide. He often played as a five-technique with the Patriots, which means he was asked to play head-up on opposing offensive tackles. And because the Patriots typically ask their linemen to two-gap and focus on stopping the run, Long wasn't able to pin his ears back in quite the same way he did in St. Louis.

"At the end of the day, I wanted to get back to playing football the way I played for a long time," Long said at a press conference after joining the Eagles last offseason. "It was a blessing to be a part of the Patriots last year, but I wanted to be in a situation where I can prove myself all over again."

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He added: "We played a lot of nine technique, seven technique [with the Rams]. It was definitely closer to what we do here. I fit in well. For me, the No. 1 thing going into free agency was to find a good football fit. Schematically, this is a fit for my skill set."

Now, with a full season in Philly under his belt, it's hard to argue with the choice Long made. Playing in the Eagles rotation on the defensive line, Long finished the year with five sacks, four forced fumbles, 18 quarterback hits and 38 hurries, per Pro Football Focus. 

Even Belichick, who could've used some edge help this season, didn't blame Long for choosing Philadelphia as a free agent. 

"Yeah, I think his defensive role is similar to what it was when was with the Rams," Belichick said. "Chris has a lot of good skills, but his overall skill set and experience is probably more in -- it definitely is more in the system that he’s in than it was in our system, which is closer to the system that he played in with the Rams.

"He did a great job for us. Look, there was no better teammate or guy that tried to embrace the program than Chris, but in the end, he probably has a better fit there for his skills and for this point in his career than maybe we had for him. I understand that. He probably made a good decision. He probably did."

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Unfortunately for Belichick, now he has to prepare for Long, who is coming off an impressive performance against the Vikings with two quarterback hits and five hurries. That Long makes up the deepest defensive line group the Patriots will see this season, makes the challenge all the more difficult. 

Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Timmy Jernigan, Derek Barnett, Beau Allen and Brandon Graham will rotate in and out, providing the Patriots a steady dose disruptive players with relatively fresh legs. Even if only four are on the field at any one time, their front-four is more of an octet.

"Yeah, it’s a lot more than four," Belichick said. "I wish it was just four. Yeah, it’s about eight, nine. It’s a very disruptive group. They’re hard to run against, hard to throw against. Again, they’re well coached, very instinctive. Screens and plays like that that you think will take the edge off the pass rush don’t look as good. When you run them they don’t look as good as what you think they’re going to look like . . .

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"A lot of times they blow those plays up, too. They do a good job. They’ve got a lot of good players. They have good inside rushers. They have good outside rushers."

And even though that wasn't exactly Long's full-time role in New England, Belichick is fully aware that his former five-technique is among the latter. 

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Trent Brown calls Patriots QB Tom Brady "one of the coolest guys" he's ever met

Trent Brown calls Patriots QB Tom Brady "one of the coolest guys" he's ever met

Trent Brown has played only one season with Tom Brady, but the offensive tackle clearly has a high opinion of the New England Patriots quarterback.

Brown was a recent guest on ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter's podcast "The Road Less Traveled", where he talked about free agency, his 2018 trade from the San Francisco 49ers to the Patriots, and more. 

The soon-to-be free agent also was asked about Brady, and he paid the 41-year-old quarterback quite a compliment.

“Tom’s really one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met in my life, and that’s no (B.S.) by any stretch of the imagination,” Brown said. “He’s really a cool guy. That’s really the only way I can say it.”

Brown is one of several current and former teammates to praise Brady over the last year or so.

Former Patriots linebacker James Harrison, who played with New England for just a few months last season, called Brady the "ultimate teammate" in January. Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, during an appearance on FOX Sports 1 show "First Things First" earlier this month, called Brady a "great teammate" and "one of the hardest workers I've ever played with."

It's hard to find a negative opinion of Brady from players who've interacted with him on a daily basis. It probably also helps that Brady is the main reason why many of these guys have a Super Bowl ring (or multiple). 

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Patriots fans will enjoy this video of Tom Brady's top 10 plays in 2018

Patriots fans will enjoy this video of Tom Brady's top 10 plays in 2018

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady took a lot of criticism during the 2018 NFL season, and a good amount of it was warranted, but the 41-year-old veteran got the last laugh when he held the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl LIII.

Brady became the first player in NFL history to win six Super Bowls when the Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 on Feb. 3 in Atlanta. He didn't play particularly well against the Rams, but he made enough clutch plays with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.

The NFL tweeted a video Monday of Brady's top 10 plays from the 2018 season, including New England's memorable playoff run. Check out it out below:

Brady has been adamant about returning for the 2019 season, when the Patriots will try to become the first team since 2004 to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Given the way Brady played in 2018, there are plenty of reasons to believe next season's top 10 plays video will include several memorable playoff moments.

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