Andruzzi aided by Gronkowski, Ninkovich at golf tourney

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Andruzzi aided by Gronkowski, Ninkovich at golf tourney

QUINCY, Mass. -- The clouds burned off right in time to let the sun warm those gathered at Joe Andruzzi's charity golf tournament Monday.

The fourth-annual event, to benefit Andruzzi's namesake foundation, was co-hosted by New England's Rob Gronkowski and Rob Ninkovich. Several other past and present Patriots (Tedy Bruschi, Logan Mankins) also came out to raise awareness and funds for cancer patients and their families.

The experience of fighting the disease is all too real for Andruzzi, a survivor of non-Hodgkin's Burkitt's lymphoma.

"Why we're here and what we're about is to help families, those families that are struggling," Andruzzi said. "I was fortunate enough to play in the NFL for 10 years. Other families aren't as fortunate. I know those walls close in when you're at the hospital. Sometimes a caregiver has to leave their job, but the mortgage still needs to be paid; rent still needs to be paid; there are utility bills. That's where our foundation steps in."

The Joe Andruzzi Foundation has donated over 300,000 to brain cancer research since it was founded in May of 2008. Ninkovich and Gronkowski -- who came to New England in 2009 and 2010, respectively -- were easy picks as co-chairs, said the host.

"We had to put a little spin on the golf outing," Andruzzi grinned. "Rob and Rob, since they've come here to the Patriots -- I didn't have a chance to play with either one of them -- but they've been a part of my gala and they've been part of the golf outing for the last few years now. They're really supportive of everything we do and they're great in the community, so to have them come out and attach their name to the golf outing is just an added bonus."

The pair was gracious. Ninkovich politely indulged several one-on-one interviews after the group media availability session ended.

"I'm excited to be here," he said. "I'm happy that Joe asked me to be a part of this. It's something that . . . anything that I can do to help out -- especially with what Joe's doing. I think it's great, what he's doing for families. That's what it's all about. Especially, being able to do this, being a part of something like the NFL where you can actually help someone and make a difference in their life."

Gronkowski had the crowd laughing with his... unique perspective.

"It's a great event. I get to go out, play a free round of golf, so that's a big plus. Get a couple meals out of it," the 23-year old yukked.

He eventually sobered up.

"But we're supporting him. He's been through so much, he and his family. He's raising money for cancer -- that's a great cause. You don't want anybody to deal with it. Whatever we can do to help him achieve something through his foundation."

Funny -- for all the NFL tight end records Gronkowski's broken, he said he's no good on the golf course.

"I'm a hacker," he admitted.

Lucky for Andruzzi's well-meaning friends, the fundraising is less about skill than heart.

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.

Call-up coming? Belichick likes what he's seen from p-squad receivers

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Call-up coming? Belichick likes what he's seen from p-squad receivers

The Patriots find themselves in a difficult spot following Sunday's win over the Rams: They are a team that likes to lean on three-receiver sets, yet they have only three healthy receivers.

Danny Amendola suffered an ankle injury during a punt return over the weekend that further thinned an already thin position group. The healthy receivers left on the depth chart are Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and rookie Malcolm Mitchell.

The Patriots will in all likelihood make an addition to their 53-man roster at some point in order to bolster their depleted receiving group, and in a way, they've been preparing for this.

The team has been adding and subtracting receivers on their practice squad for much of the year. They began the season with rookie seventh-round pick Devin Lucien and fourth-year wideout Devin Street on the p-squad. On Sept. 14, they added DeAndrew White as a third receiver on the 10-man unit, a relatively unusual amount of practice-squad depth at one spot. 

After Street was signed away by the Colts, the Patriots have also given practice-squad shots to Da'Ron Brown and Shaquelle Evans. Neither of those players stuck, but Lucien and White have, showing that the Patriots have been encouraged by their contributions.

"I think they’ve made good progress . . . They both have been consistent," Bill Belichick said during a conference call on Tuesday. "They’ve been out there every day. They work hard. They’ve made plays for us in practice on the scout team against our defense, so overall our guys on the practice squad do a good job.

"They certainly help us get ready for the games by simulating our opponent’s schemes and playing styles and at the same time they’ve improved with their individual skills and techniques. Both of those guys – they’ve done a good job for us."

ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss reported on Sunday that the Patriots voluntarily increased the salary of White (from the minimum of $6,900 per week to $10,000 per week), perhaps making him the favorite as a potential call-up to the 53-man roster.

White is in his second pro season out of Alabama, and he was signed by San Francisco last year as an undrafted free agent. He played in four games as a rookie, catching two passes for 18 yards. He also returned six kicks and returned one punt for the 49ers. During his collegiate career, he returned five kicks and two punts.

Should the Patriots feel as though they would be straining to add a receiver to the 53-man roster, they could find some help with the depth they have at running back. Dion Lewis, James White and DJ Foster are all capable pass-catchers who have the ability to line up wide or in the slot. Foster, who was a college teammate of Lucien's for one season, played receiver as a senior at Arizona State.