Brady says Tebow's having 'great year'


Brady says Tebow's having 'great year'

FOXBORO - This week is shaping into a circus. The Patriots don't want to step under the big top until they have to. That explains why nearly all Tebow-related questions are quickly spun into Bronco-centric answers.

Inevitably, though, the impact Tebow is having in Denver during his 7-1 stint as a starter gives rise to so many questions that they can't all be spun into generic pap.

Tom Brady came closest on Wednesday to holding forth on Tebow and his impact as the Patriots get ready to play Denver.

Even though he's never met Tebow, Brady's take is germane because he plays the same position and overcame similar obstacles in his second year in the league when he led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl win.

How does a young player overcome non-believers?

"I think you just really have confidence in yourself that you can achieve whatever you think you can achieve, and then you try to work hard at it, and then when you get your opportunity you try to take advantage of it," Brady explained. "I think thats what a lot of young players not everyone is a high pick or not everyone gets a lot of chances right out of the box, but when you do get your opportunity, you really try to take advantage of your opportunity and do your best and give everything you have. If football means a lot to you and its important, usually good things happen."

Football is clearly important to Tebow. And aside from the spiritual element he espouses, his ability, energy, optimism and authenticity has seemed to make believers out of his teammates. Same way the Patriots bought in with Brady.

"Id say, as a team, everyone is trying to raise everybodys collective level energy and enthusiasm, and thats part of being a team," Brady said when asked if one player can raise the play of his teammates. "You can really only do your job. Thats what Coach Belichick has stressed to us day after day here. I can only play quarterback, Andre Carter can only play defensive end, Kevin Faulk can only play running back, and you have to do your job as well as you possibly can, because no one else can do it for you. The better you do it and the better everyone individually does it, the better collectively youll be as a team."

It seems more than coincidence, though, that Tebow's work- and that of his teammates - when the Broncos are in desperate straits is high. Tebow's fourth-quarter statistics, when he rises from a 46 percent completion guy to a 61 percent thrower, show the way his performance elevates.

What can a quarterback do as a leader in crunch time?

"Its an important part of the position," Brady said when asked about leadership. "You're the one calling the plays. Youre obviously the coach in the huddle. Its a responsibility that I think every quarterback takes very seriously leading your team and representing what your coaches are trying to put across on the field. Obviously he does a very good job of that."
Standard as his responses were, Brady did acknowledge that there is something compelling about Tebow's game.

"I appreciate good quarterback play," Brady said. "Im always watching around the league, whether its Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees having phenomenal years. Obviously, Tim is having a great year. You watch guys and the way that they perform under pressure and it says a lot about who they are and the way their teammates feel about them. Its a big challenge. Its going to be a very electric environment out there. Weve had some really great games against the Broncos over the years. I'm sure this will be no different."
Not sure everyone will agree with that.

LeBlanc's ability to play the football could help him earn spot with Patriots


LeBlanc's ability to play the football could help him earn spot with Patriots

FOXBORO -- Not long after Cre'Von LeBlanc made a hard-to-fathom, one-handed interception in New England's preseason opener against the Saints, Patriots coach Bill Belichick labeled the play "special." Then he delved a little more deeply into LeBlanc's practice performances with the team to that point.

"Day in and day out, he's been pretty consistent for us going all the way back to the spring," Belichick said at the time. "I'd say his instinctiveness, his ability to be around the ball, his anticipation and ability to recognize routes maybe offset some of the testing numbers that aren't elite . . . Knowing how to play -- he has got some of that. He finds the ball. Or the ball finds him. However you want to look at it."

LeBlanc has seen more preseason targets (20) than any other corner in the NFL thus far, according to Pro Football Focus, and he's allowed nine receptions for 95 yards. His percentage of targets caught (45 percent) is the third-best of any corner with at least 15 targets, and he's allowed a quarterback rating of 38.5 when targeted.

The undrafted rookie out of Florida Atlantic has one pass breakup to go along with his eye-popping pick, and his ability to make plays on the football -- something he flashed in one-on-one drills throughout training camp -- is something that may allow him to earn a spot on the team's 53-man roster.

When asked to explain the value of a player who seems to have a knack for finding the football, Belichick said it can be a difficult skill to assess. It may seem, at times, like a player is fortunate to make those kinds of plays at first. But if they happen again, and again, you might just have something.

"It's a valuable skill," Belichick said. "Logan Ryan is another guy that did it in college. He has done it here. Some guys have a real knack for that, other guys not as much. Sometimes it's a little bit acquired, sometimes it's just instinctive.

"The best example I ever had was [former Giants corner] Everson Walls. He didn't technically do hardly anything right from a fundamental standpoint. You would never take another player and say, 'Look, do it the way Everson's doing it. This is the way you would want to do it.' But in the end [he had], I don't know, whatever it was, 56 career interceptions. It was a lot. It was over 50. He did things, but he could find the ball and he had a great instinct for quarterbacks, routes, pattern combinations and so forth. Certainly it wasn't a speed and measurable thing. You would have released him on those measurable. That's whyhe wasn't drafted. But as a football player he's productive.

"When I was in Detroit, Lem Barney . . . same kind of thing. Lem probably had better measurable skills coming out, but at that point he made a lot of plays and he made them on his instinctiveness, ball skills, awareness, etc.

"Ty [Law], I mean Ty was a first-round pick, but Ty had that too. There are a lot of first-round picks that don't have that and he had that.

"It's definitely an important skill, and it really probably separates good from great players or average to good players. It's not the easiest thing to evaluate, and sometimes some of those plays are circumstantial more than they are great instinctive plays. They're fortunate the way they happen. But when a guy starts making enough of them then you know it's something a little special."

Time will tell as to whether or not the Patriots believe LeBlanc has that something special. Final roster cuts are due on Sept. 3. He's been included in our latest 53-man roster projection, but he's competing in what appears to be a deep positional group that includes second-year players Justin Coleman and Darryl Roberts as well as fellow undrafted rookie Jonathan Jones.

Brady to serve as Michigan honorary captain Sept. 17


Brady to serve as Michigan honorary captain Sept. 17

Tom Brady will have some time on his hands the next couple of weeks. So, why not travel back to the ol’ alma mater to serve as honorary captain.

That’s what the Patriots quarterback will be doing Sept. 17 when Michigan hosts Colorado at the Big House in Ann Arbor.

Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh told the NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, another Michigan alum, that Brady will be back in Michigan for the game. 

There has been speculation that Brady will find time to work out with the Wolverines to stay sharp while he’s away from the Patriots serving his four-game Deflategate suspension. His visit with the Wolverines will no doubt fuel more of that talk. 



Phil Perry’s Patriots Roster Projection 5.0


Phil Perry’s Patriots Roster Projection 5.0

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After Tuesday's cuts, the Patriots roster is down to 75 players. That number won't last for long, though, because by Saturday at 4 p.m. the list will have to be trimmed again to 53. 

One of the names that will be lopped off the active roster will be Tom Brady's as his four-game suspension will start soon after the Patriots take on the Giants for their fourth preseason game of the year. The rest of the moves to reduce the roster are up in the air, but here is our best guess at what the final 53 will look like.


Given the way Brissett has improved from week to week since the start of training camp, it seems as though the team should be comfortable with him as its backup beginning Week 1. There may be other more capable quarterbacks who become available after cuts have been made around the league, but there is no signal-caller on the list of current free agents -- which includes Matt Flynn, Ryan Lindley and Mike Vick -- who would be a sure thing as an emergency contributor.


This is one of the more difficult positions on the Patriots roster to project. Blount and White seem to be locks as the team's top "big back" and "sub back," respectively. After that? It's a tough call. Foster, to me, looks like the type of player another team would be willing to take a chance on if the Patriots released him. Rare is the late training-camp cut who catches on with another program to join their 53-man roster, but Foster could have the skill set to warrant such a gamble. He looked quick in New England's preseason win over Carolina -- Foster's preseason debut -- and he was highly sought after as an undrafted free agent. Sub backs are key components to the Patriots offense, and if Bill Belichick believes he has a good one on his hands, he may be reluctant to part ways. Gaffney, meanwhile, has had a strong camp, but he has practice squad eligibility, and could serve as the team's emergency call-up should Blount become unavailable. Brandon Bolden is also a late cut in this scenario. A talented special teams player, Bolden has had difficulty showing consistency as a running back in camp and preseason play, with his fumble against the Bears as a noteworthy error. Bolden's value in the past has been tied to his ability to serve as a dependable backup. 


Martin still seems to be the best option for the Patriots on the back end of their depth chart at this position. He has some special teams value as a returner if the Patriots choose to use him in that role, he can play both outside and in the slot, and he's developed a rapport with Brady that was put on display at times early last season. Though Martin has missed practice time due to injury, none of the challengers for that No. 5 receiver spot, including Aaron Dobson, have done much to seize the job. 


If the Patriots go with three running backs as opposed to four, that may leave them the roster room they need to keep Clay Harbor. In this projection, however, Harbor is one of the team's final releases. He's shown proficiency as a blocker, but he hasn't been much of a factor in the passing game, catching two of three targets for 23 yards in 41 snaps. Derby, on the other hand, has shown flashes of ability -- the Brady pass he dropped against the Panthers last week notwithstanding -- that make him worthy of a roster stash even though he may not contribute a great deal with Gronkowski and Bennett ahead of him on the depth chart. 


Cameron Fleming could wind up with a roster spot should the Patriots consider his abilities as a blocking tight end to be a vital part of their run-heavy packages. He's performed well in that role over the course of his career and into this preseason. If he's not on the club, however, that won't mean those packages will be removed from the playbook. In theory, Waddle could be subbed in for Cannon at right tackle and Cannon's athleticism could help him serve the role of the blocking tight end. 


At the moment, Thuney and Kline appear to be set to start at left and right guard, respectively, but the right guard spot could be fluid depending on the health of players like Mason and Cooper. Stork's release makes Andrews the go-to guy at center, and Karras (center/guard) provides the team with some versatile depth on the inside. Should Mason or Cooper end up on a reserve list to start the season, that could open a roster spot for someone like Gaffney, Bolden, Harbor or Fleming.


This is one of the more challenging positional groups to project. Valentine impressed with his snaps against the Panthers, and the third-round pick should factor into the rotation on the interior with Brown and Branch. Kuhn provides additional depth, especially while Valentine adjusts to the pro game. The Patriots used four big-bodied tackles on the interior last year with Brown, Branch, Akiem Hicks and Sealver Siliga. If Valentine isn't ready for much more than a Siliga-style workload (about 20 snaps per game in 2015), then Kuhn would help solidify things on the interior. Penetrating defensive tackle Anthony Johnson was left off in this scenario not necessarily because he didn't perform well this preseason. He did. But the Patriots have good depth at defensive end, and several of their edge rushers can be used on the interior in passing situations. Johnson's explosiveness inside might make him an ideal practice-squad candidate.


The projection at this position has been relatively consistent throughout the preseason. Grissom seems to be the only player who has had a difficult time establishing his value defensively, but he is a special teams staple with the athleticism and upside to potentially become a contributing player on the defensive line in the future. 


Freeny signed a contract extension recently so his spot as the primary fill-in at linebacker and core special teamer is safe. Grugier-Hill dealt with an illness that forced him to miss Friday's game in Carolina, but he returned to practice on Tuesday. His presence as a hybrid linebacker-safety type who can contribute in the kicking game makes him an interesting inclusion on the initial 53-man roster.


The Patriots could decide to go with just four players at this position due in part to their depth at safety, but LeBlanc has been impressive enough to warrant consideration for a spot. His ability to play the football -- a trait that can be difficult to evaluate, Belichick admitted recently -- has been impressive.


Perhaps the deepest position group on the roster top-to-bottom, each one of these six players will be leaned on for their special teams ability in addition to whatever roles big (McCourty, Chung) or not-so-big (King, Ebner) they have defensively. 


This group is set to begin its second season together as a three-man operation when the Patriots head to Arizona for Week 1.