Patriots

Matt Cassel: How N'Keal Harry can get up to speed with Tom Brady, Patriots

Matt Cassel: How N'Keal Harry can get up to speed with Tom Brady, Patriots

N'Keal Harry obviously has a skill set and can play. There’s no doubt about that.

But if you don't get any reps and just show up on game day and say "I’m ready to play," it’s hard for Tom Brady to know what you do well.

There's body lean: When he has leverage on somebody, how does he like to come out of his breaks?

Then there's the timing patterns and understanding body language: When he’s putting that foot in the ground and coming out of it, how are you throwing that? 

Some of it is timing, other things are depth recognition, and then it's reading a wide receiver's body language and understanding what he does best.

You can watch as much film as you want in college, but it’s a different scheme. To actually do it on the field, do it in practice and get better at it: that gives everybody confidence.

Every rookie wide receiver is challenged mentally and physically. A lot of them are more role players in their first year and kind of ease into it.

And the main reason is, when you’re not completely confident in what you’re going to do, then you play slow. You don’t play to your actual speed and what your abilities should be. You’re thinking too much on those plays rather than just going out and letting your skill set take over.

That’s the beauty of the New England offense: They are going to say, “What are this kid’s strengths? ... Which routes does he run really well, and how can we get the most out of this guy?"

That's why the biggest thing with N'Keal is his knowledge of the playbook and understanding what they’re asking him to do.

Josh McDaniels is one of the best – if not the best – offensive coordinators in the league. And he’s going to put that kid in the best position to be successful when he does step on the field.

They’re not going to do things that he’s not good at. That’s the beauty of the New England offense: They are going to say, “What are this kid’s strengths? How can he help us this week? Which routes does he run really well, and how can we get the most out of this guy?"

And they’re going to utilize him in that role, whether it’s inside or outside, double moves or comeback routes – whatever he does well, they’re going to emphasize those routes and put him in a position to be successful.

For example: if N’Keal plays this week and you put him in the slot, that might be a great opportunity to throw the inside fade route against a smaller nickel back in the red zone, because he's a bigger guy and can go up and get the ball.

Tom also takes an unbelievably detailed approach with his wide receivers.

Throughout my entire time in New England, he would bring in just the receivers on the Saturday before a game, and he would have specific notes for each individual player.

He would highlight certain routes and say things like, "Hey, remind yourself to get your depth on this, because it’s a longer-developing play.”

He knew where his receivers were going to be on each specific play and laid out exactly the types of things he wanted to see.

That's why N'Keal will need to grasp the "why" of this offense and understand the route concepts he'll have to know and be accountable for.

There are a lot of nuances within this offensive scheme you have to be on top of to earn the trust of your quarterback and your teammates. There are a lot of motions, double cadences and different formations they use try to take advantage of the defense.

In the end, it comes down to each individual player: How much can you put on this guy before he overloads?

Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that included four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.

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Report: Pats' punishments for videotaping could include fines, draft picks

Report: Pats' punishments for videotaping could include fines, draft picks

While the investigation into the New England Patriots' illicit videotaping of the Cincinnati Bengals' sideline last weekend is ongoing, The Washington Post's Mark Maske is reporting that the punishment could be aligned in severity with similiar game-day violations committed by other NFL teams in recent years.

That means fines in the range of six figures and/or a reduced round value on a draft pick — or worse still, the loss of one altogether:

"The NFL is likely to penalize the New England Patriots for their admitted violation of league video policy last weekend and is contemplating disciplinary measures in line with those imposed on teams in recent seasons for infractions of game-day rules, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

That could mean a fine in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and potentially the loss or reduction in value of a draft choice, typically a lower-level pick."

CURRAN: Preventable controversy is the last thing Belichick needed>>>

Looking for something similar to what the Patriots were levied for Spygate? Maske points out that punishment was clearly an exception, not a guardrail:

The Patriots have admitted wrongdoing in last Sunday's incident in Cleveland, in which a credentialed Patriots video crew member was caught filming the Bengals' sideline during their game against the Browns. New England has said the camera crew was there to feature a scout as part of their "Do Your Job" video series.

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Report: Julian Edelman, Ted Karras make trip with Patriots, Cowart out for Bengals game

Report: Julian Edelman, Ted Karras make trip with Patriots, Cowart out for Bengals game

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman and center Ted Karras, who were each listed as questionable with injuries, made the trip to Cincinnati with the team Saturday but backup defensive tackle Byron Cowart was downgraded to out with a concussion, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss.

Edelman, the team's leading receiver, has been battling shoulder and ankle injuries. Karras, the starting center, missed the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday with a knee injury. Both were limited in practice this week. 

The Patriots (10-3), coming off back-to-back losses to the Houston Texans and Chiefs, play the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday at 1 p.m.