Curran's 34 lines on 17 Patriots issues

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Curran's 34 lines on 17 Patriots issues

Sit down, because this will rock you to your core. Over the final seven games of the 2011 season, Aaron Hernandez was targeted more than eight times per game: Sunday, he saw six passes.

I think we know whats afoot. A phase out for Hernandez and an example of the Patriots evil genius where they sign a player to a huge contract or guarantee him nearly 10 million (in the case of Wes Welker) and then dont use him.

After watching the debacle authored by the Raiders backup long snapper Travis Goethel Monday night -- a ground ball on which the punt by Shane Lechler was aborted, a slow wobbler leading to a blocked punt and another ground ball leading to another aborted punt -- you can be sure of this: Its good to be an out-of-work linebacker with actual long-snapping abilities this week.

On the Ras-I Dowling pass interference in the first quarter, one of the contributing factors was at the snap. Dowling was still looking into the backfield when the ball was snapped and Kendall Wright was on Dowling and nearly past him by the time Dowling reacted.

The two biggest assets Stevan Ridley has as a running back are superior balance and the ability to make the first tackler miss more often than not. BenJarvus Green-Ellis ball control was enviable but Ridleys got far more explosiveness.

The new Nike pants being worn around the league? The players arent fans of them, saying they bunch up around the crotch and come down too easily in the back.

Josh McDaniels did a terrific job of throwing different formations, personnel and quick throws in during the opener. The Cardinals will have a ton to prepare for this week.

Jason McCourty didnt have friendly things to say to Aaron Hernandez when McCourty drove Hernandez out on the sideline in the second half. Ill (screw) you up all day (friend), was what the sideline mics picked up.

Went to the Mayo Bowl on Monday night at Kings in Dedham and saw Patriots guard Dan Connolly up and about, which is a good sign that the concussion he suffered Sunday was mild.

Also seen at the event, defensive tackle Gerard Warren who raised his eyebrows and smiled when asked if he might be back with the team. Tom Brady and wife Giselle Bundchen were there, too.

Their presence can cause chaos and, as a result, Brady says he sometimes takes a pass on public events to avoid detracting from the mission of them. That he showed up for Mayos event for the first time (I believe, not dead positive) was a nice gesture.

When I walked past Brady, he and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd were locked in football-related discussion. It just doesnt stop with Brady.

When you realize that the most times Chad Ochocinco was targeted last season was five (against the Giants in October) and then realize that Lloyd had eight balls thrown to him, the notion of a Welker freeze-out takes another hit. If one spot is getting more passes and the ball is thrown less (31 times) it stands to reason the target numbers will drop.

Lloyd wasnt too happy with me after Sundays game when I asked him if he slowed down on the first quarter deep ball from Brady. It was an incomplete pass, dont read too much into it, he said icily. When I told him its my job to read into things and then check if theyre right, he stared hard at me then asked for the next question. Weve since straightened it out. I share this because it helps readers understand the dynamic that players and reporters are in when a question that critiques performance arises. The player isn't going to like being second-guessed; the reporter isn't going to like having a legitimate question dismissed. It's a fine balance.

Is Richard Seymour a possible Hall of Fame player? Discuss.

Kevin Kolb will get the start Sunday for the Cardinals when they visit the Patriots, it appears. He was 6-of-8 for 66 yards directing the game-winning drive for the Cards against the Seahawks after John Skelton injured his ankle.

The pursuit speed of Chandler Jones continues to be the most impressive aspect of his game. On the strip sack that led to the Donta Hightower touchdown, Jones turned the corner on Michael Roos then accelerated in two huge steps to get to Jake Lockervery impressive.

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

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Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

Malcolm Butler was one of many not spotted during OTAs on Thursday when the media got a looksee at one of the practices.

Butler wasn’t the only one. But he did stand out as a missing player who hadn’t (to my knowledge) had a surgery but did have a contract that needs addressing. Another one? Rob Gronkowski. If we really want to extend it out, throw in Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan.

This is the point where it’s important to point out that these workouts are voluntary – VAW-LUN-TERR-EEEE! Players don’t have to be there. Additionally, I’m not even sure Butler or Gronkowski (or Ryan and Harmon) weren’t at the facility. All I know is they weren’t on the field. And, per usual, nobody’s tipping his hand as to why.

But we do have this, relative to Butler. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote Sunday that he “wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to his contract status.” Reiss said that Butler “told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, and staying off the field in voluntary workouts would be a decision that limits injury risk and also could be viewed as a statement to the organization that he's unhappy with the status quo and/or the movement/specifics of contract talks.”

In the same vein, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gronkowski opted out as well for the same reason, especially since he threw out a tweet that signaled dissatisfaction with his pact in March.

But in terms of a statement, not going to OTAs is more of a throat-clearing than a noisy proclamation.

Not to minimize the move if Butler, Gronkowski or anybody else is actually staying away because of business. The Patriots usually enjoy almost perfect OTA attendance. Also, there hasn’t been much contract strife around here for the past five seasons.

Money matters were an annual issue for the Patriots from about 2003 through 2010. Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Ty Warren, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Randy Moss, Adam Vinatieri, Mike Vrabel and – quietly – Tom Brady all had their contract dances back then. But the only one that got hairy in the recent past was Wes Welker.

It’s still too soon to know if any of these will get contentious. When will we know? When either a player or his agent spouts off. Or, when someone’s a no-show at mandatory minicamp beginning June 7.

That would amount to a shot across the bow. Of all the players likely to take that shot, Butler seems a reasonable bet. His base pay this season is $600K after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015 that saw him check the opposition’s best wideout on a weekly basis. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year. He deserves longer-term security than he currently has. Gronkowski has a lot less to kick about. He may make less than lesser players, but he also was the league’s highest paid tight end when he was missing scads of games due to injury.

After Butler, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower would figure to have the strongest cases to want new deals and want them snappy. Ryan and Harmon would be right behind those two. Then Jabaal Sheard.

Sheard, Hightower and Collins were all on the field Thursday. 

Can the Patriots get all these guys reupped? Will they even try? How do they have them prioritized? If the guy who howls loudest gets to the front of the line, the time to make some noise is close.

But we have yet to hear any of these players loud and clear. 

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia and Bogaerts Stay hot

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Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia and Bogaerts Stay hot

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 5-3 win over the Blue Jays:

 

QUOTES

 

* “I benefited from good defensive plays and hard hit balls at people and guys just making plays. Whether you feel good or not you have to have good things happen out there on that field.” David Price said on his successful start against Toronto.

 

* “He woke up this morning more sore than when he left here last night . . . Didn’t want to push it. We’re hopeful he’ll back in the lineup tomorrow.” Farrell on David Ortiz being a late scratch prior to Sunday’s game.

 

* “It’s always great to avoid a sweep . . . We battled hard the whole game and had great at-bats the whole game.” Mookie Betts said on winning the final game of the series against Toronto in a postgame interview with NESN.

 

* “On a day when we were thin with the amount of usage we’ve had, Clay stepped in.” John Farrell said on Clay Buchholz’s relief appearance for Boston in the 10th inning.

 

* "It definitely felt a little different . . . Got to help the team any way I can . . . Glad I could contribute today . . . All in all it's sort of a learining experience for me and I'm sure I'll get better at it as we go." Clay Buchholz said on his first relief appearance of the season for the Red Sox out of the bullpen.

 

 

NOTES

 

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 22 games in his 1-6 performance.

 

* Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to six games with an RBI single in the sixth. Pedroia has also hit safely in 23-straight games against Toronto

 

* Clay Buchholz made only his third career appearance as a reliever for the Red Sox, striking out one and allowing no runs in the tenth. His last relief appearance came on 8/17/08.

 

 

STARS

 

1) Dustin Pedroia

 

The second baseman continues to dominate the Blue Jays, finishing 2-6 with the game-winning double.

 

2) David Price

 

Boston’s ace answered the call in his most important start as a member of the Red Sox, even though he didn’t get the win he only gave up two earned runs off five hits and three walks

 

3) Mookie Betts

 

Entering the game with one hit in his last 20 at-bats, Betts went 2-4 with two walks, scoring two runs.

First impressions: Boston's lineup bails out the snake bitten bullpen

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First impressions: Boston's lineup bails out the snake bitten bullpen

First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-3 win over Toronto:

 

The Red Sox bullpen coughed it up in the eighth in the second consecutive game.

After coming into a difficult situation in the eighth, Heath Hembree grooved a 1-0 fastball to Encarnacion for his 10th homerun of the season.

Hembree missed with his fastball middle-in, when Christian Vazquez set up down and away. That’s a miss that can’t happen against a hitter who’ll make you pay every time. Hembree entered the game locked-in, but lost his focus in the eighth.

 

Clay Buchholz's successful inning in reliefer doesn mean anything, yet. can’t pitch from the bullpen either.

He has a long was to go before he proves any value in the bullpen. The only guarantee right now is Buchholz can pitch more then one inning. He has to churn out more appearances like Sunday to be usable for the Red Sox.

 

The real David Price has arrived.

Boston’s ace showed up when he was needed. And he did it against a strong, streaking lineup, without having to strike everyone out.

After coughing up a two-run homerun to Jose Bautista and walk Josh Donaldson, he regained his composure to get out the deadly Edwin Encarnacion and one of yesterday’s villains, Justin Smoak.

And after Boston got him a one-run lead in the following half-inning, Price came out with 89 pitches to his total and only threw seven in the sixth.

That extended his outing by an inning and gave Boston’s bullpen some extra rest.

 

Blake Swihart looks like a natural in left field.

Even though his trade value is highest as a catcher, Swihart looks very comfortable in left. The question that remains with the change is his bat. If Swihart hits the same playing in left as he does behind the plate then there’s limited value in keeping him in left field once Brock Holt is healthy.

 

Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts’ at-bats in the sixth completely threw off R.A. Dickey’s start.

In addition to Mookie Betts breaking up the no hitter before Pedroia came up, Boston’s men up the middle extended their hitting streaks after grueling at-bats.

The two saw 19 pitches between them both, taking six balls apiece. With the knuckleball being unpredictable to begin with, it became that much harder for Dickey to get the ball by Boston’s two and three hitters.

After that, he got into another full count with Shaw, walking him after seven pitches.

Once he hit Hanley Ramirez in a 1-0 count that marked the 11th ball of the inning after throwing 25 in the previous five innings.

Dickey clearly tried to change his approach with hitters figuring out the knuckler the third time through, which led to his earlier than expected exit after throwing five innings of no-hit baseball.