Patriots look ahead to dealing with WR Bryant


Patriots look ahead to dealing with WR Bryant

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.comFOXBORO -- In April 2010, the Patriots had a chance to draft Dez Bryant, arguably the most explosive player coming out of college. Holding the 22nd pick, New England traded with Denver to get out of that selection. Then sitting at 24, the Patriots made a deal with the Dallas Cowboys to move back to the 27th spot. Dallas took Bryant. The Patriots took cornerback Devin McCourty and, with the third-round pick they acquired, New England also grabbed Taylor Price. Plenty believed the Patriots were in more desperate need of an offensive complement than another corner. Especially after the 2009 season devolved into Tom Brady pummeling passes at Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Bryant seemed a sensible pickup.Sunday, Bryant and McCourty will match up a few times at Gillette Stadium as the Cowboys visit. Bryant has certainly had his on-field moments for Dallas -- two punt return-touchdowns in 2010, an explosive stretch from Week 6 through Week 10 where he caught 23 balls for 326 yards and four touchdowns. But he's also battled back, ankle (sprain and a break) and quad injuries that cost him games last year and made him look useless at times this year. McCourty, who was brilliant in 2010 but spotty through the first three games of this season, is back on the uptick. But Bryant will posea familiar problem to the Patriots' DBs. He's tall, strong and can leap -- the wideout type that's been hard for New England to hold in check. "Big, strong receiver," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "Catches the ball well. Had a couple of punt returns last year that went the distance. He can run, he can break tackles, he's good with the ball in his hands, big target. I don't know how you can overthrow the guy, he's built like a tight end. He's big, he's strong, he's got good speed, returns kicks."Throught the first three weeks of the season, the Patriots saw five receivers similar to Bryant in size and athleticism. Brandon Marshall, Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson, David Nelson and Donald Jones combined for 30 catches for 555 yards. On one hand, that's an awful track record. On the other, the Patriots corners and coaching staff should presumably improve in dealing with these types of players. "Seems like we've got one every week or more than one in some cases," Belichick agreed when asked if the treetop wideouts the team has seen help them prepare. "Through the course of the season and even through the preseason, you've probably seen the fast guys, the quick guys, the big guys, the run-after-catch guys, the guys that are real good blockers, crack blockers, reverse guys. It's good for us. We see that in practice too." All those reps in games and during practice -- Chad Ochocinco and Aaron Hernandez would be the best Patriots comps for those big receivers -- should have an impact. "We emphasize that a lot," Belichick said, referring to the practice of comparing techniques from previous gamesto the ones coming up."And that transcends every play." Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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."