Fanene's versatility important to Pats


Fanene's versatility important to Pats

It was the second day of NFL free agency when Jonathan Fanene got the call.

Bill Belichick was on the other line. Exactly what was said, we dont know but it was all Fanene needed to hear to make New England his new home.

I had a chance to go and do some visits, but I didnt want to go, Fanene said. When I first got the call from Bill I was so excited I wanted to make a move and come out here.

The 6-foot-4, 292-pound 30-year old defensive end has played the last seven seasons in Cincinnati, after they drafted him in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He saw increased playing time from 2005-2009, peaking at 16 games, 10 starts, 36 combined tackles, six sacks, and a 45-yard pick-six.

2010 a contract year looked to be the season hed make the jump, but an early-season hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve. That led to a one-year deal back with the Bengals on short money for the 2011 season.

Fanene made 24 tackles including 6.5 sacks in 16 games just two starts for Cincinnati in 2011, but that was enough to catch the eye of the Patriots.

I guess they watched film on me and I guess what they need to build up the pressure or pass rush up here, Fanene said. So I guess whatever they see in me they brought me up here to help the team.

As it stands, the Patriots are out 20 sacks between Mark Anderson, who signed with the Bills, and Andre Carter, still a free agent. Its clear the Patriots zoned in on making up for some of that with recent additions of Fanene, who is a balanced run and pass defender, and rookies Chandler Jones and Donta Hightower.

The rookies will get their wake-up call in no time, but for Fanene, its already happened. He noted that there were a lot of differences between Cincinnati and New England, but elected to pick out just one.

I see guys focused more. And not just a workout, but everything that we do out here is more like a team effort. And guys really welcome me inside the locker room. Its not about all the talking and all the media and TV stuff, but its more like hard working and just do your job.

Who better than Chad Ochocinco former teammate (and, shall we say, media showboat) of Fanenes in Cincinnati to express that message?

Yeah, I talked to him a little bit last week and he just tried to put me on the game, and let me know whats going on out here, Fanene said of Ochocinco. This is not Cincinnati, this is not a regular team this is like real business now. So Im trying to get on my two feet and work.

Belichick has always valued players who can do multiple things, and Fanene fits that mold. His versatility will be big for the Patriots next season, and hes got the right attitude about that gift.

If they tell me to play nose, Ill play nose. 3-technique, 6-technique, 7-technique, outside end, special teams, Im doing it, he said.

Theres a lot of good things out here. Theres a winning franchise first of all. Its a blessing to be here and be part of the Patriots. I told myself I just want to do the best I can do out here so we can win.

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars


THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There's nothing like a visit from the Jacksonville Jaguars to make the Tennessee Titans remember how to protect their home field.

Marcus Mariota threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns to end his home struggles and the Titans had their highest point total of the season in a 36-22 victory over the Jaguars on Thursday night.

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Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up


Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up

FOXBORO -- Once the Patriots traded AJ Derby to the Broncos for a fifth-round pick earlier this week, they were left with just two tight ends on their roster. While those two tight ends -- Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett -- have played as two of the best tight ends in football this season, it's a position group that has been considerably thinned. 

Until coach Bill Belichick adds another player at that spot, James Develin would be the logical "next man up." A position group unto himself as the team's lone active fullback -- the other fullback in the locker room is practice-squad player Glenn Gronkowski -- Develin meets with Patriots tight ends and coach Brian Daboll on a daily basis because the fullback and tight-end responsibilities in the Patriots offense are similar, particularly in the run game.

As much time as he spends with that group, Develin tries to absorb what he can when it comes to the nuances of the position. 

"I always kind of try to prepare, obviously, for my fullback role, but then in any other role that I might be called upon for," Develin said on Thursday. "A couple years ago, we had a bunch of injuries during the offseason program, during OTAs, and I filled in a little bit at tight end. I try to keep myself familiar with all those techniques and that tight end role so if the day were to come where I needed to go out there and do it, I'd be able to go out there and do it."

When the Patriots began the season relying more on the run, Develin was called upon to play a relatively significant role in the offense. He averaged 21.3 snaps per game through the first three games of the season, but that number has fallen to 13.6 since Tom Brady's return from a four-game suspension. Still, his role can be a critical one. 

The Patriots' running game faltered last season after both Blount and Dion Lewis went down with season-ending injuries. Having Develin in the mix as an extra blocker would not have guaranteed a more efficient attack, but it may have helped the team's running-game woes late in the year. 

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels now has the luxury of bringing Develin onto the field when he wants some added muscle for his blocking schemes, and should the Patriots need a tight end in a pinch, Develin could do that too.

"A lot of times, especially in the blocking game, really the only difference [between fullback and tight end] is that I'm five yards off the ball in the backfield and they're up on the line," Develin said. "The angles are a little bit different. But a lot of times the assignment is typcially the same thing. It's just the technique of getting there and the angles that you take.

"Then in the passing game, as a tight end, there's just a lot more routes and stuff like that. I try to work on that to help me as a fullback to be a little bit better in space . . . It's a sybiotic relationship." 

As it is, Develin will line up occasionally outside. Though not a threat as a receiver in that spot in the same way that Gronkowski or Bennett would be, he understands some of the different looks tight ends have to be comfortable with.

If an emergency arose and he was asked to fill that role, he wouldn't hesitate.

"There's a little bit of carry-over depending on what we're doing or whatever play we have called where I'll line up on the line," he said. "But that's kind of what a fullback has to do. You kind of have to be able to be thrown into whatever position on the field that you gotta do and you gotta just do your job."