Belichick, Caserio go deep on Ravens receivers


Belichick, Caserio go deep on Ravens receivers

There was something very obvious about Joe Flacco's play against the Texans. No, not his habit of taking sacks; his happiness in having Anquan Boldin back as a target. The Ravens receiver missed the regular season's final two weeks after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Boldin fell right back into step during last weekend's Divisional playoff, punishing Houston for 132 yards on eight catches.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick couldn't have been encouraged. He spoke Tuesday about the edge a healthy Boldin gives Baltimore.

"Boldin is a tough matchup hes strong, hes really physical, hes got great size, tough guy, tough after the catch. You give him too much space and hes strong and physical and can hurt you with the ball in his hands. You get up there too tight on him and hes big and physical and can throw some of those smaller guys around and get on top of him and go up and get the ball. Hes a tough guy to match up on."

The scope of Belichick's compliments was actually much wider. He said the Ravens have a complimentary offense based on an array of targets available to Flacco. Whether looking to Boldin, Ray Rice -- the NFL's No. 2 regular season rusher, Torrey Smith, or tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, there's someone to step up against the coverage.

Smith, in particular, is someone the Patriots looked over during 2010's pre-draft process. He and Boldin could be a pair to bother New England's inconsistent secondary.

"Torreys probably their top vertical threat," Diirector of player personnel Nick Caserio said this week. "He was an explosive down field player at Maryland; a real productive player. Hes got good size, great kid, and great makeup. Hes come in and has done a nice job and hes given their offense a different dimension.

"They really have players that really can attack all three levels of the field. Smith is maybe a little faster than Boldin, but Boldins ball skills are very, very good, so even if you have him covered they still might throw it up to because the quarterback has quite a bit of confidence in that Anquan is going to go up and make a play."

The message was clear: Neither Belichick nor Caserio is surprised to see Baltimore across the field.

They said it starts at the top. Both men stroked the Ravens' staff, from Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta in the front office, to John Harbaugh down on the front line. While Baltimore's defensive gets most of the attention, its offense did rank in the NFL's top half during the regular season. Nobody will be muttering, "But it's Flacco" in that planning room.

"The bottom line is they have good football players." Caserio said. "Thats really what it comes down to in this league. They find good football players, they bring them in, and they develop them."

The Patriots can afford to underestimate nothing. Especially not for the AFC Championship.

Patriots acquire linebacker Kyle Van Noy from Lions


Patriots acquire linebacker Kyle Van Noy from Lions

The Patriots acquired Kyle Van Noy, who was the Lions’ 2014 second-round pick and starting linebacker this season, on Tuesday. 

Why former Pats executive Bob Quinn would send a starter East for what is reportedly just a conditional draft pick is something we’ll try to ferret out.

The Patriots were no doubt interested because they lost Jonathan Freeny to IR with an injury, rookie Elandon Roberts is an undersized thumper (Van Noy is 6-3, 252) and Shea McClellin is well, just… there so far.

Van Noy has two years remaining on his rookie deal so -- provided he shows something -- he could be around awhile. The move -- one week before the trade deadline -- is a familiar one from the Patriots who added players like Jonathan Casillas and Akeem Ayers in 2014 prior to their Super Bowl run.

This story from last season indicates that Van Noy’s lack of production in his first two seasons with the Lions was merely a matter of circumstance. 

Perhaps. We’ll find out soon enough. Meanwhile, the name Van Noy made me perk up because I remembered him as having a central role in the excellent book The System by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian.

Read the excerpt on Van Noy here. It will give you a better understanding of the road he’s traveled.

Report: Patriots trade for Lions LB Kyle Van Noy


Report: Patriots trade for Lions LB Kyle Van Noy

The Patriots have added more depth at linebacker, and they've reached out to an old friend to do it.

According to ESPN, the team has agreed to a deal with the Lions in order to acquire linebacker Kyle Van Noy. The compensation has not yet been disclosed. 

Van Noy, who was a second-round pick out of BYU, is listed at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds. He played 36 snaps in Detroit's win over Washington on Sunday, recording two tackles.

The Patriots lost depth at linebacker when veteran Jonathan Freeny landed on injured reserve with a shoulder issue before New England's Week 6 game in Cleveland. Van Noy will fill in behind Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, providing insurance alongside rookie Elandon Roberts, Barkevious Mingo and Shea McClellin. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich has also seen time at linebacker this season. 

Collins and Hightower have both dealt with health issues over the last two seasons, often pressing reserves into action. Collins returned to the field over the weekend after missing Week 6 with a hip issue. Hightower missed Weeks 2 and 3 due to a knee injury he suffered in Week 1 against the Cardinals. 

Van Noy has played in 30 games since entering the league. His seven career starts have all come this season. He has 32 career tackles and one sack. Going into the draft in 2014, the All-Independent Defensive Player of the Year was viewed as a stand-out athlete with good quickness, a high football IQ and an ability to run with backs and tight ends in coverage. 

That the Patriots and Lions were able to work out a deal comes as little surprise. Detriot general manager Bob Quinn has a close relationship with Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio as he worked in New England from 2000-2015. Quinn began with the team as a personnel assistant, worked his way up the ladder, and from 2012 through 2015 he served as the director of pro scouting.