Patricia wary of Tennessee's weapons

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Patricia wary of Tennessee's weapons

The Titans team New England will play in Week 1 is not the same that got buried under a 59-0 Patriots avalanche in 2009.
Kerry Collins? Gone. Vince Young? Gone.

Tennessee is now lead by second-year quarterback Jake Locker. Have your doubts? Probably. Nobody's seen him start an NFL game before.
But Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia found some nice things to say on his Tuesday conference call.
"I think you can definitely see just the ability he has to be able to run their offense," Patricia said, "recognize what the defense is doing, get the ball to the appropriate people versus whatever the defense may be running, and be able to read the coverages and get the ball to the soft spot in the defenses."
Even though Chris Johnson fell off in production last year, and has underwhelmed during this preseason (more on him in a minute), Locker will have others to look to.
"They have a lot of different weapons they can use offensively along with obviously a great coaching staff to utilize all those players," Patricia explained. "So, weve got to just really pay attention to all of them, make sure we understand whos out on the field and make sure we understand what packages they're running in the game. I dont really think you want to single anybody out; they obviously have great players at every position."
Rookie Kendall Wright will also be making his first career start on Sunday. Part of the opportunity comes from first-round talent Kenny Britt's one-game suspension, but Wright has also made a case all his own for snaps.
He hooked up with Locker for four catches, 44 yards, and a 10-yard touchdown in Tennessee's 32-27 preseason win over Arizona.
"Hes got good speed; he can get down the field vertically on seam routes, go routes, things like that," Bill Belichick noted Tuesday. "They also threw him a lot of slip screens in college, catch and run type plays; hes had some of those with the Titans as well. He has good ball skills, good ability to run after the catch. Hes a 200-pound guy, hes a pretty solid guy thats big, that can run -- not big, big but hes got good size.
"Hes been a very productive player. Hes already had good production in preseason and he had good production in college so he finds a way to get open. Obviously quarterbacks have confidence in him in terms of getting him the ball and the coaches do in some of the plays theyve designed for him. Im sure theyre happy with him; hes been a good addition to their team. He looks like a good football player."
Speaking of good football players, Belichick made it clear he doesn't care that Johnson's stats have fallen off. So what if he only had 26 rushes over 10 yards last year? So what if he only had four touchdowns?

So what if the guy's preseason yards per carry was just 2.9?
Belichick won't call Johnson anything but "very dangerous."
"His production speaks for itself," the coach said. "Hes really an outstanding player with the ball in his hands in the passing game, in the running game, inside runs, outside runs, draws, screens. Everybody is at the point of attack because he has the speed to start one way and go the other to get back to the cutback backside of the defense or bounce out in either direction.
"It's a big challenge for our defense."
Bigger than in the last meeting between these two teams, anyway.

Goodell or Trump? Kraft fields question on who will visit Gillette next

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Goodell or Trump? Kraft fields question on who will visit Gillette next

FOXBORO -- With NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in Atlanta for the NFC Championship game, his second visit to Atlanta in the last month, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft was posed an interesting question during his pre-game interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Who would make it to a game at Gillette Stadium next: Goodell or Donald Trump?

The newly-elected president, of course, is a friend of the Krafts and a Patriots fan who has visited Foxboro for games on more than one occasion over the years. 

"I'm gonna let you," Kraft said, "place the over-under on that . . . We're happy. Whoever wants to come can come. Donald has done this [radio] show before . . . He was great. He's a big Patriot fan."

Here are a few more quotes of note from Kraft during his interview with The Sports Hub's Marc Bertrand and Chris Gasper . . . 

On the Colts firing general manager Ryan Grigson, who helped spark Deflategate: "Who? Yeah. You'd have to ask Jim Irsay about it. He'd be the one to ask. That game might've been Ryan's pinnacle, I don't know. Jimmy can talk about what's going on with the Colts. We're fortunately playing football today."

On Rob Gronkowski, who was a guest at Robert Kraft's home for a pre-AFC title game party Saturday: "He's doing great. He was funny. He was engaging with the crowd . . . He looks great . . . He didn't look like a guy who was hurting."

On if the Steelers called to apologize for Mike Tomlin's comments last weekend, calling the Patriots a-holes: "No, but we wouldn't have expected them. There was nothing to apologize for."

On his memories of the Kraft family's first postseason game (Sunday's is their 40th) as owners of the Patriots: "We went to Cleveland. It was Bill [Belichick]. Bill eviscerated us. It's nice to have him on our side this time."

Patriots make Floyd a healthy scratch for AFC title game

Patriots make Floyd a healthy scratch for AFC title game

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will go with four receivers against the Steelers as Michael Floyd has been listed as a healthy scratch for the AFC title game. 

PATRIOTS-STEELERS PREGAME

The Patriots had all five of their wideouts -- Floyd, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola -- available to them for Sunday's matchup, but they're opted to use the four who are most experienced in the team's offense. 

Hogan (thigh), Mitchell (knee) and Amendola (ankle) were all listed as questionable going into the weekend, but all have been deemed physically ready to play as their team vies for a Super Bowl berth. 

Floyd had his worst game as a member of the Patriots last week in the Divisional Round against the Texans. On two routes, both slants, Floyd ran the pattern in such a way that there appeared to be some miscommunication between him and quarterback Tom Brady. One was picked off and the other was almost picked. 

Floyd admitted as much last week, saying that there are still intricacies to the Patriots offense that he needs to pick up -- including exactly how Brady wants certain routes run.

Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans last week but felt optimistic soon thereafter that he'd be good to go for the conference championship. Mitchell hasn't played since suffering a knee injury against the Jets in Week 16. 

Other Patriots inactives for Sunday include quarterback Jacoby Brissett, running back DJ Foster, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, safety Jordan Richards and corners Justin Coleman and Cyrus Jones.