Seattle's scondary a big problem for Welker, Patriots

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Seattle's scondary a big problem for Welker, Patriots

FOXBORO -- Wes Welker hasn't had much of a problem getting open in the last three weeks, but he knows that the Seattle secondary he'll face on Sunday presents a unique challenge with its size.

Seattle's larger-than-average defensive backs will be tasked with slowing down the Patriots offense and their diminutive, but ridiculously productive, slot receiver. Welker grabbed his first touchdown of the season last week against Denver, and he had over 100 yards receiving for the third week in a row.

"It's always a challenge in the NFL so especially with these guys it's going to be really tough," Welker said. "You gotta make sure you're not sloppy, you're physical and quick and fast and all those different things in order to get open."

Seattle's secondary has helped make the Seahawks defense one of the toughest in the league, allowing just 258.6 yards per game (best in the NFL) and 14.0 points per game (second best). Their size and their length allows them to be physical with receivers and sometimes get their hands on balls that other defensive backs can't.

Cornerbacks Brandon Browner (6-foot-4, 221 pounds) and Richard Sherman (6-3, 195) man the edges, while at the back end of the secondary is safety Kam Chancellor (6-3, 232).

"These guys are long, theyre extremely big, theyre 6-4, 6-3 corners," Bill Belichick said Wednesday. "You just dont see them very often, and to see them on one team, theyre hard to get away from. Theyre big and theyre physical and they take up a lot of space. A lot of guys arent used to going up against that size a player 220-pound corners.

"For the quarterback, its hard because its no different than playing against a taller middle linebacker, a guy like Brian Urlacher or somebody like that whos 6-4, 6-5 in the middle of the field. Their range and their height just make those throws in the middle a little tougher."

Welker (5-9, 185 pounds) is accustomed to seeing defensive backs slightly taller than him, but Seattle's secondary is a whole different animal. He said the unusual length of their defensive backs is something that's hard to prepare for and laughed when it was suggested that the Patriots might need to deploy their tight ends for the scout team secondary in order to give a similar look.

"You'd almost have to," Welker said. "It's kind of hard to replicate Seattle's size but you just watch a lot of film and go out there and practice how you're gonna play on Sunday and make sure you're doing the things you need to do to get open and get that separation and different things like that. It's definitely hard to replicate, and you just gotta make sure you're watching enough film and staying on top of everything so that you're ready to go on Sunday."

Felger on Ortiz: ‘He keeps passing the tests’

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Felger on Ortiz: ‘He keeps passing the tests’

Major League Baseball is reportedly set to release more PED testing results, but Mike Felger is growing increasingly more confident in the fact that David Ortiz is clean. He's passing all the tests, isn't he?

Secretary of Navy: Cardona 'may have to leave the Patriots' to serve

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Secretary of Navy: Cardona 'may have to leave the Patriots' to serve

United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus joined the Dan Patrick Show on Thursday to discuss new Ravens draftee Keenan Reynolds, a record-setting quarterback during his career at the Naval Academy. In so doing, Mabus hit on the uncertain status of Patriots long-snapper Joe Cardona. 

"Right now we do have a process," Mabus said. "It hasn't got up to me yet to [decide on whether or not Reynolds will be eligible to play], but there are a lot of paths to both play and to serve. 

"We've got Joe Cardona, long snapper for the Patriots. He played . . . last year for the Patriots while he was on active duty because he was able to work them both out. Now he's been assigned to a ship, and he's going to report to that ship. He may have to leave the Patriots for a year or so to go fulfill that roll."

The playing status for individuals like Reynolds and Cardona is always somewhat uncertain given their commitment. Last season, Cardona was able to serve by working at the Naval Preparatory Academy during his time away from the Patriots facilities. Once his rookie season ended, he headed back to the Newport, Rhode Island-based school to work full-time and help mentor students there. 

Cardona was scheduled to make his way to Norfolk, Virginia later in the offseason and live there for about two months to participate in the Navy's Basic Division Officer Course, or "BDOC," which was required before he could report to his ship as a Surface Warfare Officer. From there, he was scheduled to travel to Bath, Maine, to work on the USS Zumwalt. 

"I'll get to work there and figure out a schedule that doesn't interfere with either of my jobs," Cardona said back in January following New England's loss to Denver in the AFC title game, "and hopefully be back on the field next year."

Cardona has long maintained that his job as an active member of the Navy is his top priority. Should his duties on the USS Zumwalt interfere with his long-snapping work with the Patriots, he could realistically sit out for the season. 

The Patriots signed veteran long-snapper Christian Yount earlier this offseason in a move that reminded those following the team that Cardona is not guaranteed to be available for 2016. Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich has long-snapped in the past and typically serves as the team's emergency snapper. 

Cardona was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft and played in all 16 regular-season games and two postseason games for the Patriots last season. 

Caserio: Wasn't the plan to aquire 2017 4th-rounder for Deflategate

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Caserio: Wasn't the plan to aquire 2017 4th-rounder for Deflategate

When the Patriots walked away from last weekend's draft, they did so with an extra fourth round pick to be used in 2017. That was especially noteworthy given that the Patriots will be docked a fourth-rounder next year as part of the Deflategate punishment handed down to the team by the league. 

But when Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio joined Sirius XM's "Move the Chains" program this week, he said they weren't dead-set on grabbing an extra fourth-rounder for next year. 

"Not necessarily," Caserio explained. "When you get into the draft, you're not really sure how it's going to unfold. You go into the process, you get yourselves prepared to pick whenever you're going to pick."

The Patriots traded down twice and up once during the three-day draft process. On Day 2, they traded the No. 61 overall pick to the Saints in exchange for picks No. 78 and No. 112, which turned into North Carolina State guard Joe Thuney and Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell, respectively.

On Day 3, Caserio and Bill Belichick made two more deals. First, they dealt two sixth-rounders (No. 196 and No. 204) and a seventh-rounder (No. 250) to Miami for the Dolphins' fifth-rounder (No. 147). Then the No. 147 overall selection was flipped to the Seahawks, along with No. 243, in exchange for No. 225 and a fourth-rounder in 2017. The Patriots eventually spent No. 225 on Arizona State receiver Devin Lucien.

"I don't think anybody had a master plan, like, 'This is how it's going to go,' " Caserio said. "I think you look at the draft, and you kind of assess where you are relative to the players you're going to pick. If you feel it makes sense to make a trade, then you go ahead and do it. If you don't, then you go ahead and pick.

"Like, we were prepared to pick there with that fifth-round pick [at No. 147] that we ended up moving. But the way it worked out, like, I don't any of us would've said going to the draft, like, 'This is how we think it's going to go.' "

The league's punishment for Deflategate states that the Patriots will lose the higher of their two selections in the fourth round for next year so it's unclear as to whether it will be their own fourth-rounder or Seattle's that will be erased. Either way, at least now they are scheduled to pick in the fourth round in 2017, whereas before the Seahawks deal they were not.