Belichick loves Larry Fitzgerald

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Belichick loves Larry Fitzgerald

When it comes to his press conferences, Bill Belichick's about as likely to break into a seductive belly dance as he is to gush over one of the 53 players on his roster. But when it comes to the opposition, the coach is always more than willing to lay on heavy helpings of praise, and convince the world that his Pats are up against the NFL's best . . .

And sometimes, he doesn't even have to lie.

For instance, Larry Fitzgerald. You know about Fitzgerald. He'll go down as one of the best to ever play the wide receiver position. He's only 29 years old, but already finds himself in the Top 5 among active players in receiving touchdowns and, by the end of this season, will likely have more than 800 career receptions and well over 10,000 career receiving yards. He's a 6-foot-3, 225-pound freak of nature, who strikes fear in the eyes of any NFL coach even perhaps the greatest of all time.

Anyway, here's what Belichick said about Fitzgerald this afternoon, as the Pats prepare for Sunday's home opener against the Cardinals (courtesy of Mary Paoletti):

"He does everything well," Belichick said. "Hes a great, great receiver; will go down as one of the all-time greats and might end up being the best one ever, I dont know. He has size, quickness, ability to separate and gets open, exceptional hands. Hes good short, deep, with the ball in his hands after the catch; strong, very smart, sets up his routes well. They move him around, they put him in a lot of different spots, its hard to even find him; you have no idea where hes going to line up from play to play. He has a very big route tree; he runs all the routes with double moves off of them and complementary moves so one route sets up another."

And here's what Belichick didn't say: "It's just lucky for us that the Cardinals are starting Kevin Kolb at quarterback."

But he could have, and should have.

Listen, I love Larry Fitzgerald as much as the next guy. The dude transcends NFL allegiance. And no one will be surprised if he puts up massive numbers on Sunday.

I also realize that Kolb who's extremely likely to start for the injured John Skelton in Week 2 was very effective in relief against the Seahawks last Sunday. Not that it would take much, but it's very safe to say that he'll have more confidence coming into Week 2 than he's had in more than a year.

But come on, it won't last long.

It's one thing for Kolb to sneak up on Slappy Carroll and the Seahawks in the comfort of his own Arizona home (although, there were a few boo birds as he took over for Skelton.) It's another thing to start on the road against Bill Belichick and the fully-prepared Pats. At the end of the day, even if Fitzgerald puts up his numbers, it won't be enough to offset Kolb's.

Although I'm sure Belichick will still have plenty of nice things to say about them both.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Colts LB who helped spark Deflategate suspended for PED use

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Colts LB who helped spark Deflategate suspended for PED use

Deflategate started with an email. An accusation. An assumption. But it couldn't be pushed into Theater of the Absurd territory until the Colts had a Patriots football to play with. 

They got one when linebacker D'Qwell Jackson picked off Tom Brady in the AFC title game in January of 2015. Now, almost two years later, after Brady fought and later accepted a four-game suspension, Jackson has been slapped with a four-game suspension of his own. And this time, one would have to assume, there's evidence.

The NFL announced on Tuesday that Jackson has violated the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs and will be suspended for the remainder of the regular season.

The 33-year-old leads the Colts in tackles and has not missed a start for Indy since joining the team before the start of the 2014 season. He is eligible to return for the playoffs should the Colts get that far. With a record of 6-6, they are in a three-way tie for the AFC South lead.

Jackson has denied that he had anything to do with his team's pursuit of punishing the Patriots, telling the Boston Globe last year, "Twenty years from now I’m sure people will still kind of flirt around with it, so I guess it will be cool [to be connected to Deflategate]. Everything else that came out of that was nothing I had anything to do with. That’s above me. It wasn’t anything I had any part in."

Since we've come this far and you're still reading, here's a reminder of how Jackson factored into this whole thing: After his pick, per the Wells Report, he gave the Patriots football to Colts executive David Thornton. Thornton then handed it to assistant equipment manager Brian Seabrooks, who thought the ball was soft, and asked an equipment intern to check the pressure. The PSI was allegedly 11. Seabrooks then gave the ball to Colts equipment man Sean Sullivan, who alerted general manager Ryan Grigson. That led Grigson to make his way to a press-box suite with vice president of operations Mike Kensil and executive vice president of operations Troy Vincent. "We are playing with a small ball," Grigson supposedly said. 

You're probably familiar with what happened after that.

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.