Patriots

Tom Brady familiar with Gus Bradley defenses, realizes Chargers are big test

Tom Brady familiar with Gus Bradley defenses, realizes Chargers are big test

FOXBORO, Mass. -- Tom Brady has seen this Chargers defense before. Sure, he saw it last season when he hit 68.1 percent of his passes for 333 yards and a touchdown. But he's seen it now several times over the years. 

Gus Bradley's fingerprints were on the Seattle defense in Super Bowl XLIX -- he'd moved on to coach the Jags by that point -- when Brady won his fourth Lombardi trophy. The Seattle defensive coordinator in 2014, Dan Quinn, later moved on to coach the Falcons and Brady saw a similar style of defense again in Super Bowl LI. Last year's AFC title game? Same deal. Bradley was the head coach in Jacksonville from 2013-16 and even though he wasn't on the sidelines for a shot to go to the Super Bowl last January, his defense had taken root and was on display. 

So this week should be deja vu all over again for Brady, no?

"Knowing part of the scheme is one thing," Brady told WEEI's "Mut and Callahan Show" Monday morning. "But they incorporate [different] players. And we played them last year, and we didn't play particularly well. 

"I think the challenge is it's a very fundamentally sound defense. They don't really give you any plays. They don't void any zones. The put pressure on you with a great rush. I think that's the challenging part. Any time they can rush with four guys and force the ball out quickly -- I mean, they're all reading the quarterback, they break on the ball, they get a lot of turnovers. Any sloppy play in the pass game results in turnovers. You hold the ball for an extra tick of a second and it's a strip sack by [Melvin] Ingram or [Joey] Bosa."

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Bosa and Ingram were the definition of disruptive against the Patriots last year. Ingram had nine hurries, including a hit that resulted from a vicious spin move on Joe Thuney. Bosa had a sack while working on Marcus Cannon and generated seven more pressures. 

That type of pressure combined with coverage from 2018 All-Pros Desmond King and Derwin James and 2017 All-Pro Casey Hayward . . . makes . . . life . . . difficult. Not because what they do is exotic. There are only two teams that blitz less often than them. They're just good.

"Coach Bradley’s defense is very disciplined," Bill Belichick said. "They do a great job of creating negative plays in the running game. They usually overload the box so they put one more guy in there than you can block. They’re fast. They’re very aggressive."

"I think this is one of those games we have to play on time," Brady told WEEI, "we have to stay ahead on down and distance. We have to have a great complementary game. It's gotta be well-balanced. It's a great test." 

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Gunner Olszewski earning trust of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick with hard work

Gunner Olszewski earning trust of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick with hard work

The New England Patriots have had an unsettled receiver room for most of the 2019 season. At one time, it seemed like they had one of the best groups in the league. But the release of Antonio Brown and the team's decision to trade Demaryius Thomas left them a bit weaker at the position. And in recent weeks, they have been thin at the position due to injuries.

Phillip Dorsett (hamstring), Josh Gordon (knee/ankle), and Julian Edelman (chest) have all been dealing with various maladies over the course of the first six weeks of the season. Additionally, first-round rookie N'Keal Harry has been on IR since just after the team's final cuts.

With these absences, some unexpected contributors have been able to step up. And one of them is Gunner Olszewski. The undrafted rookie out of Bemidji State has earned a big role as a return man and has recently seen an increase in offensive action. And so far, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been impressed with his energy and effort.

"Gunner works really hard," Belichick told reporters at Saturday's media availability. "He gives a lot of effort to do, again, whatever we ask him to do. Whether that’s return kicks, cover kicks, block, catch – he works really hard. Just gives his best all of the time, so you can’t ask for anything more than that. He keeps getting better, so we’ll see where it goes. But, yeah, he’s a good, hard worker."

Of course, hard work is only part of the equation. In the Patriots' offense, it's important to have chemistry with Tom Brady. Has Olszewski done enough to earn Brady's trust so far?

"Yeah, definitely," Brady said when asked about his level of trust in Olszewski. "I think they’re – like I said, those guys are – when you’re young, you gain trust in practice, and a lot of it’s doing the right thing over and over and over again. Those guys are working at it. I mean, they’ve been here a short period of time, so try to get as many reps as you can and talk about things. You get coached up, and any young player, they’re trying to earn the trust of the coach and the players every day."

This is seemingly the most positive Brady has felt about his young receiving weapons this year. Perhaps the team's success against the New York Giants despite being limited to only one formation because of their lack of healthy personnel had an impact on Brady. And maybe that helped him to become more confidence in Olszewski and fellow undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers.

Either way, Brady will likely have to look Olszewski's way a bit more than usual on Monday night against the New York Jets. Josh Gordon is out for the game and so too are tight ends Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo. That should afford Olszewski a good opportunity to make his presence felt.

Tom E. Curran's Patriots-Jets Week 7 Preview>>>

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Tom E. Curran's Patriots-Jets Preview: Pats facing MNF challenge

Tom E. Curran's Patriots-Jets Preview: Pats facing MNF challenge

The Patriots have had one game in which there was even a shred of doubt about the outcome into the fourth quarter. And even then, did anyone figure the Bills were going to score? Exactly.

But Monday night at MetLife the Patriots could get their second decent challenge of the season.

Despite their 1-4 record, the Jets just got capable quarterback Sam Darnold back and his presence made a huge difference in the team’s win over Dallas last week. As for the Patriots offense, which isn’t working at optimal potency, the Jets did a nice job against the Patriots in the first meeting between the teams after New England walked through them on their first three drives.

With 11 days to prepare for this, Josh McDaniels is sure to have hatched something to get Gregg Williams’ defense off-balance. But the Patriots are still hamstrung on offense by their personnel so this one could turn into a slugfest.

Click here for Tom E. Curran's full Week 7 Patriots preview>>>