Reggie rolls on for Colts in stately Wayne manner

Reggie rolls on for Colts in stately Wayne manner

By Tom E. Curran

FOXBORO - The Patriots made two shrewd picks in the 2001 NFL Draft - Richard Seymour at No. 6 and Matt Light at No. 48.

But the need for a wideout back then was such that there was much lobbying outside Foxboro Stadium for the Patriots to pull the trigger on someone to help bail out Drew Bledsoe.

Reggie Wayne went 30th to the Colts that year. Now, we're not trying to roll back history and say the Patriots "missed" on Wayne. But he was known as a technically proficient route-runner at Miami with magnificent hands and - for the past 12 seasons - he's been as reliable as the sunrise.

He'll turn 34 on Saturday and his numbers this year with the newly remade Colts make him seem like a latter-day Art Monk.

He's got 69 catches so far this season and - by the end of the year - he'll be darn close to 1,000 for his career (he has 931). You could say, "if he stays healthy" but that's the other thing about Wayne. He hasn't missed a game since his rookie year.

And this year, he's been reinvented a little bit. After spending much of his career as Marvin Harrison's partner-in-crime on the receiving end of throws from Peyton Manning, Wayne re-upped with the Colts for the Andrew Luck era. And he's been terrific operating with Luck in the system that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians brought with him from Pittsburgh

"They moved him around a little in the past, but not much," said Bill Belichick. "And now he's Hines Ward. They motion him a lot, he's blocking, cracking, he's lining up close to the formation, he's in the slot, he's doing a lot of things that Hines Ward did in Pittsburgh.

"It's interesting to see him in that role, but he's always been good at whatever he's done," he said. "You see him work the middle of the field on middle reads, and on option routes or that kind of thing, or working on the perimeter. He's good at all of it."

Wayne had 75 catches last season with a collection of ineffective Colts quarterbacks throwing to him. But Belichick is quick to point out that Wayne wasn't responsible for his drop below 80 catches for the first time since 2004.

"I don't really see Reggie Wayne much differently than I saw him in the past," Belichick stated. "He was good then, he's good now. There were some issues with the quarterback and passing game and all that, but I didn't see any dropoff in Reggie Wayne as a football player. Maybe I missed it, but he's always looked pretty good to me."

Good enough so that the Patriots made an offseason run at signing Wayne before he returned to Indy.

Belichick told the Indianapolis media on Wednesday he believes Wayne is having a "Hall of Fame career."

Arians, who's been the Colts interim head coach in place of Chuck Pagano, makes it clear that Wayne's influence has extended far beyond his 69 receptions.

Arians mentioned that, a couple of weeks back, there were eight first-year players on the field during Indy's winning drive against the Dolphins.

"(The) rookies have followed the pied piper, and thats Reggie Wayne," said Arians. "He sets the tempo for us offensively and then Andrew is the second guy in line. If he can handle it, then they can handle it and Reggie makes sure that the receiving corps and everybody else is ready to go." 

Arians said there was little doubt Wayne would return to Indy.

"Hes a Colt and he wanted to be a Colt bad. Hes a legend here and hes going to go into the Hall of Fame," Arians predicted. "Im really lucky because Ive gotten a chance to have my second receiver catch 1,000 passes and maybe get to two induction ceremonies (Hines Ward being the other). He always wanted to be here and as soon as Chuck made that call, it was just a matter of, Yeah Im coming. He knew what he was getting into and I think hes excited more than anybody with the change hes a rookie in this offense too because he sat out on the left side for 10 years and now hes all over the place, running routes that hes never run before. So hes jumped in and hes really excited about it. You cant put a quantified value on how much his leadership means to our team."

Like every season, this year's MVP debate will revolve around the best players on the best teams or the ones who put up eye-popping individual numbers.

So far, though, no player's been more valuable in more ways than Wayne's been to Indy. 

Belichick explains matching in the secondary

Belichick explains matching in the secondary

FOXBORO – Here’s a leftover from last week I’m dredging up because it’s really instructive in giving insight to something we all flap our arms about: how the Pats decide whether to play zone, man-to-man or match receivers with their secondary.

The jumping off-point was asking about Trumaine Johnson -- a long-tall corner for the Rams. As Belichick about Johnson and the difficulties he poses, at 6-foot-2, it brought to mind the team’s acquisition earlier this season of Eric Rowe. The 6-2 corner they got from the Eagles filled a need in that the Patriots other corners are not very tall, headlined by 5-9 Malcolm Butler.

So I asked Belichick if the team strives to have different sized players in the secondary.

“That’s if you move them around,” he explained, meaning size only matters if you intend to put size-on-size. “If you don’t move them around, if you play a guy at one positon and he plays on the right side or the left side, you cover the guy that’s over there, which I’d say is more the situation than not. There are some teams or some situations where you’ve got him, he’s got the next guy, you’ve got somebody else, but I’d say that’s by far the lower percentage of the plays, by far. Generally, you see a corner play – some games are different. We’ll match to this guy and somebody else matches to that guy. Teams will do that. There’s some of that, but by and large, most teams play at one position and whoever is in that spot, that’s who they cover.”

With matching receivers being the exception rather than the rule, the next logical question is why? Why would you let a little guy cover a big guy if you also have a big guy who could cover?

Because offenses make it complicated, Belichick answered.

“The easiest thing in the world is for one player to match another,” he explained. “‘OK, you go cover this guy.’ Alright, great. But what do the other 10 guys do? That’s the problem. It’s easy to matchup one guy. That’s simple. What do the other 10 guys do? What if he’s here? What if he’s there? What if he goes in motion? What if he’s in the backfield? What if it’s this personnel? What if it’s that personnel in the game? Then how does all the rest of it matchup? That’s where it gets tricky.  You can be spending all day, literally, on that. OK yeah, you take this guy but what are you going to do with the other 10?”

Belichick also delved into other options including a coverage concept the Pats used when Darrelle Revis was here. Giving Revis the opponent’s so-called No. 2 receiver and doubling the No. 1.

“You can matchup and put your best guy on their best guy, or you can matchup and put your best guy on let’s call it their second best guy and put your second best guy on their best guy and double him,” Belichick said. “If you’re going to put your best guy on their best guy and double him anyway then you kind of lessen the matchups down the line. It’s like setting a tennis ladder, or whatever. If you put your bad guy at one and you win two through seven, great. If you put your best guy at one and he gets beat by their one and then your two versus their two, you know. That’s what you’re doing. You have a three to four-man ladder there with the receivers and your DB’s [defensive backs], except we don’t have to match them that way. You can match them however you want.”

It’s a fascinating discussion and it comes into play the next two weeks as the Patriots will see a true test with receivers like the Ravens Steve Smith and Denver with Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.

The Patriots will have decisions to make. Chances are they’ll use a little bit of everything. But these are some of the the things they weight when doing so.

Players, analysts weigh in on Chris Sale trade

Players, analysts weigh in on Chris Sale trade

The Red Sox made a major splash with Tuesday’s Chris Sale, the second swap of the day after acquiring Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers. 

MORE ON THE TRADE

While Boston had to give up top prospect Yoan Moncada and three other legitimate prospects in the trade, the deal gives them a very deep starting rotation that figures to see last offseason’s big acquisition -- David Price -- end up as Boston’s No. 3 starter. 

Here’s what the reaction looked like as the trade came down: 

CSN baseball analyst Lou Merloni gave the deal his stamp of approval. 

Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan cautioned against thinking the Red Sox at a discount. 

Blake Swihart was not one of the four prospects involved in the deal, and he’ll have a heck of a team to work with going forward. 

In Tampa, Chris Archer realized the AL East has a new ace. 

And one Sox fan pointed out that Dave Dombrowski has absolutely dumped out what was once a large and top-heavy chest of prospects.