Patriots

Will Tyrod Taylor's athleticism drum up old issues for Patriots defense?

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Will Tyrod Taylor's athleticism drum up old issues for Patriots defense?

FOXBORO -- Seems like a long time ago now, but think back if you can to a point in time when the Patriots defense was less stingy, back when they had a hell of a time trying to slow mobile quarterbacks.

From Week 1 to Week 6, Bill Belichick's defense was a lock to allow 300 yards passing. Athletic passers like Alex Smith, Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton -- even Josh McCown -- gave them fits. 

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Now, as they prepare to take on another talented athlete at the position in Bills signal-caller Tyrod Taylor, it's worth wondering if those same issues will reemerge.

As spotty as New England's recent history against athletic quarterbacks has been, in Taylor's career against Belichick, he's 1-4, he's completed 61 percent of his passes, he has a 76.5 rating and a 1-to-1 touchdown-to-interception. Given the growth the Patriots defense has exhibited in recent weeks, and given their history against Taylor . . . they should be OK.

But Belichick's concerned.

To hear him explain it, it's not only Taylor's threat to run that makes him dangerous. It's his ability to avoid pressure, allow receivers to uncover, and to pick up chunk plays on what look like playground calls. 

"We want to try to keep him out of those situations as much as possible," Belichick said Wednesday. "We don’t want him extending the play. He’s a lot better at extending the plays than we are. Inevitably, those are going to come up and we're going to have to defend them. The more that we can limit those loose plays, extended plays, I think the better off we'll be. 

"I don’t think you can eliminate them completely, but we certainly aren’t looking to get into those situations. Go back, let him run around, let him extend the play and see if we can defend it. We're certainly not trying to do that and no team has been very successful with that with him. He’s very good. If you don’t let him run laterally and throw the ball, he can run up the middle and run the ball and he’s hard to tackle."

So the question then is what do you do with him? If you want to avoid those extended plays, if you want to keep him from taking off and hurting you with his legs, then what? Spy him, right?

Belichick pounced on that thought before it was even brought up.

"I'll ask the questions before you guys ask it, 'Why don't we just put a mirror on him?' Oh yeah, great, that’s fine," Belichick said. "You’ve still got to tackle him and that’s an issue. Plenty of teams have put a spy on him and then he beats the spy and there’s nobody left, and so it’s 20, 30 yards. To just throw a spy on him, that’s not really the answer. You’ve got to do it right and he’s got to be able to get him and he’s got to get him."

The best athlete for that kind of job might be Devin McCourty, who has found himself in the box as a strong safety more and more this season. Maybe Kyle Van Noy, who has been a jack-of-all-trades and showed good skills in space against the Dolphins, will be an option. 

That there's no real clear-cut answer on how to deal with Taylor's movement -- other than the obvious: keep him in the pocket -- is a reminder that this group that hasn't really been tested the way it was through the first six weeks of the season, when a mobile quarterback seemed to be on the docket every week.

They'll have their crack at another one on Sunday. If they can't contain him better than Smith, Watson or Newton, what should be a walk in Orchard Park could feel like ride down I-90 with the brakes cut.

Former Bengal, Patriot Marquis Flowers opens up on the 'We're on to Cincinnati' game

Former Bengal, Patriot Marquis Flowers opens up on the 'We're on to Cincinnati' game

The New England Patriots weren't exactly in a great spot heading into Week 5 of the 2014 NFL season. The team was only 2-2 and was coming off a crushing 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football.

In that game, Tom Brady didn't look like his usual self. He had two picks, just 159 passing yards, and one touchdown pass that came when the team was already down 27-0. He was replaced late by Jimmy Garoppolo, who looked solid on the field. That led some to wonder if the Patriots dynasty was coming to an end.

Famously, after the game, Bill Belichick answered every question posed about the game with one simple response. "We're on to Cincinnati." The press conference went viral and put a spotlight on the Patriots' Sunday night clash with the Cincinnati Bengals.

That game ended up defining the season. The Patriots bounced back by smashing the Bengals by a final score of 43-17. Brady looked as strong as ever, and that was the first step for the Patriots to get back onto the Super Bowl path.

At least, that's how former Bengals linebacker Marquis Flowers remembers it. On Twitter, Flowers shared a brief memory of the game, including what his then-defensive coordinator said.

So, yeah. Clearly that type of hype up didn't work, especially since the Patriots were so desperate for a win at the time. And the "demise of the Patriots" storyline was clearly overblown considering that they've won three Super Bowls and appeared in a fourth since that game.

The D-coordinator's words and the headlines of the time make this an amusing anecdote that just makes the whole event that much better for the Patriots, in retrospect.

That said, It's easy to see why Flowers was able to laugh this off. Flowers was a part of the Patriots in 2017, so he has seen both sides of the "We're on to Cincinnati" game. Flowers likely enjoyed his time in New England, as he logged 30 tackles and 3.5 sacks in his best NFL season to date. He also got to play in the Super Bowl (although the Patriots fell in that game to the Philadelphia Eagles).

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Patriots 2019 training camp schedule: Here's when veterans will report

Patriots 2019 training camp schedule: Here's when veterans will report

The defending Super Bowl champions will be back at Gillette Stadium exactly one month from Monday.

The NFL announced training camp report dates for all 32 teams Monday, and the Patriots' rookies are due in Foxboro on July 21, while the veterans are set to arrive on July 24.

Training camp traditionally starts one day after veterans report, meaning New England should begin training camp Thursday, July 25.

The Patriots have been off since June 10, when head coach Bill Belichick cancelled the team's final two days of organized team activities and set up a lively paintball experience instead.

The team hasn't announced complete training camp dates and times yet, but the Patriots will head to Detroit in the first full week of August for joint practices with the Lions prior to their Aug. 8 preseason opener.

They'll also hold joint practices with the Tennessee Titans the following week.

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