Patriots look ahead to dealing with WR Bryant

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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 tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Is Tom Brady mentally ready to finish his career elsewhere?

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Is Tom Brady mentally ready to finish his career elsewhere?

The discussion on the future of Tom Brady is only going to intensify as the days, months or years tick off his career. Will that legendary career end as a member of the New England Patriots? Listen to the insightful discussion on this week's "Quick Slants The Podcast". Tom E. Curran says Tom Brady is mentally prepared to finish his career elsewhere.

Tom E. Curran, Phil Perry, and guest Mike Giardi have a spirited discussion about which quarterback should start against the Bills.

Curran and Bills columnist Tim Graham put Rex Ryan on the couch.

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Jamie Collins says he'll play quarterback for Patriots if they need him

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Jamie Collins says he'll play quarterback for Patriots if they need him

FOXBORO -- It's looking more and more like the Patriots will have options at quarterback Sunday against the Bills. Both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett threw at practice on Wednesday, and it appears that at least one of them, if not both, will be available for the final game of Tom Brady's suspension. 

Patriots receiver Julian Edelman is the likely candidate to jump behind center should the team run into an emergency, but on Wednesday another player threw his hat into the ring. 

"Yeah, I'll play," said linebacker Jamie Collins. "Whatever it is. I don't care what the level is. I don't care what the level is. Whatever it is they need me to do, I'm doing it."

That would be some kind of show.

At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, and with remarkable closing speed, Collins would be an intimidating run-first signal-caller. He's listed at two inches shorter and five pounds heavier than Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, and his NFL Scouting Combine 40-yard dash time was only 0.05 seconds slower than Newton's. 

Just to take this pie-in-the-sky idea even further, Collins can throw, too. Or he could at one point in time. He played quarterback at Franklin County High in Meadville, Miss. before heading off to Southern Mississippi to play all over the Golden Eagles defense. As a high school senior, he cracked 1,000 yards both on the ground and through the air.

Asked if he saw himself back then as a future star in the NFL as a passer, Collins shook his head.

"Nah," he said. "I ain't even see myself as a quarterback in the NFL."

The Patriots would be just fine with Collins sticking at linebacker. He had one of the best games of his career against the Texans last week, racking up 14 tackles and picking off Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler. He also made the calls in the middle of the defense, which is a job that typically falls to Dont'a Hightower, but Collins took over with Hightower out with a knee injury.

"Jamie Collins, he's a beast, man," said safety Duron Harmon after the game. "I tell you what, I've seen a lot of football players play, and he's definitely one of my favorite players to just watch. You just get caught up sometimes seeing all the amazing stuff he does on the field, you just sit in awe. I'm so happy he's on my team, I'll tell you that."

And the team is happy he's at linebacker. But imagine him at quarterback?