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."

Red Sox 'not going to rush' moving pitching depth after acquiring Sale

Red Sox 'not going to rush' moving pitching depth after acquiring Sale

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The addition of Chris Sale to the Red Sox' rotation has created a rare glut of starting pitchers, including seven with major league experience.

That means that at least one will have to be moved in a trade. But Red Sox' president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski isn't in any hurry.

"We're not aggressively looking to do something,'' he said. "We're really just digesting what's taken place. I think if we wanted to aggressively make a deal, we could definitely do that. But I don't really have a big hole on our major league club to address at this time.

"I think it's really important to gather all the info. Some teams have (starters) available; there are free agents out there. Our philosophy is kind of say, 'Let's just see what happens.' We're not going to rush out and do anything.''

That makes sense, especially since there's a very thin free agent market for starters, and many teams that need upgrades to their rotation.

Eventually, some are going to get desperate and may have to overpay. In that scenario, the Sox could really capitalize.

The starter the Sox would like to move the most is Clay Buchholz, if only because his salary ($13.5 million) is easily the highest among the three the Sox would be willing to part with. Steven Wright has yet to qualify for salary arbitration and Drew Pomeranz will get a bump from last year, but will still be under $5 million after arbitration.

Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, almost certainly won't be dealt because of his youth and potential, though Dombrowski hinted that teams have checked on the availability of every starter except The Big Three of Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello "as well as guys who aren't (in the current major league picture like Brian Johnson, Henry Owens, and Roenis Elias).''

Depth in the rotation is always welcome, but the numbers are such that the Sox can't make the current group of seven starters work.

"You start counting,'' said Dombrowski, "and there's not enough spots for everybody on the team.''

It's possible that the Sox could go into spring training with all seven and wait to see if injuries elsewhere give them additional leverage.

But that, too, is unlikely.

"It seems like there's not a lot of moves made in spring training,'' he said.

As for what the Sox might be seeking in return, the Sox don't have any obvious need they have to fill. It's possible they could want to obtain some prospects to help restock the system after six were traded in two trades this week.

"I can't really answer that question.'' he said. "We've traded a lot (of prospects). We wouldn't mind replenishing some of what we've traded.''

Stevens on Thomas' groin injury: 'It’s important that he’s 100 percent'

Stevens on Thomas' groin injury: 'It’s important that he’s 100 percent'

There’s no such thing as a good time to have an injury. 

But in terms of Isaiah Thomas being sidelined with a right groin injury and the schedule awaiting the Boston Celtics … this is about as bad a time as you can imagine to be without their scoring leader.

Thomas returned to Boston ahead of tonight’s game at Orlando, marking his first game missed since the 2014-2015 season. 

He suffered a right groin injury in the second quarter of Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston on Monday. 

At the time, Thomas was optimistic that he would be able to play tonight. But with a day off from practice, the soreness proved to be too much for Thomas to suit up and play tonight. 

While it’s unclear just how severe his groin injury is, the Celtics are likely to be overly cautious (like they are with most injuries) about his return which may result in him missing more games than Wednesday night’s matchup against Orlando. 

“Those things (groin injuries) are a little unpredictable,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters earlier today. “Especially in this sport, you have to be able to stop and change direction on a dime, especially him. It’s important that he’s 100 percent.”

Stevens is spot-on when he talks about how uncertain a return for Thomas is currently. 

New York’s Kristaps Porzingis suffered a groin injury against the Celtics in a preseason game back in October that didn’t result in anything more than him missing a day of practice. 

It was a different story when Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic suffered a right groin injury last spring (March 7-29) that sidelined him for 13 games. 

The timetable for Thomas’ return to the floor is likely to fall somewhere within those two timetables which would make an already daunting stretch of games even more difficult. 

Following tonight’s game, Boston has 12 games remaining in the month of December with nine being against teams with a winning record. And of the three games against teams below-.500 (Miami twice, Indiana), two of them are on the road.