Patriots look to improve red zone offense

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Patriots look to improve red zone offense

If there are seven deadly sins in football, failing to convert in the red zone is one of them.
The Patriots were ranked No. 4 in red zone scoring (touchdowns only) last season at 65.05 percent. Though three games in 2012, they're No.16 with 50 percent success (6-for-12).
In Sunday night's 31-30 loss to Baltimore, New England scored six on 3-of-5 red zone opportunities. Tom Brady said in his post game press conference that his team needs to start winning close games. With the Patriots' two losses being by a total of three points, the red zone would be a good place to start.
Bill Belichick shouldered the load on his Tuesday conference call.
"It starts with us, it starts with coaching, making sure we have a good plan, making sure that we put our players in the best possible position to be productive and to be able to do their jobs, making sure that the plays that we run we practice, we know what to do, we can execute so if something different happens down there, which is always a problem because it all happens so fast.
"Theres so little space that youre involved in, all the plays just happen much quicker than they do out in the field. Running game, the holes close quicker; passing game, there are smaller windows and less space to throw in and all that.
"When we get inside the five-yard line, our goal-line type offense, we have to be able to get it in down there as well as from farther out. We just have to keep working on all those things and try to do a better job of them. I think we have good players and we have good coaches and weve certainly scored plenty of points down there in the past and weve gotten down there plenty of times. We just have to make a little more out of it, have to come out of there with more touchdowns and fewer field goals."
The Patriots coach had even more to say about red zone logistical difficulties.
Though there's less area to cover, which is obviously ideal for offenses, that area is packed in tightly with defensive land mines. Normal game rhythm gets thrown out the window and adjustments must be made instantaneously.
No space to throw, no room to run.
In the first quarter Sunday, New England was poised to strike on the Baltimore 20. Brady went back into shotgun and tried to find Julian Edelman on a third-down post route. Ed Reed made an excellent play to crush Edelman and force the incomplete.
The next missed opportunity came when the Patriots got to the 8 by third-down. Baltimore's 'D' was solid all series, and even though New England got into prime position, the Ravens were able to continue pressure and force a field goal.
Especially disappointing for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is the fact they'd converted a similar series in the two-minute offense before halftime.
"We only go out there for one reason on offense and thats to try to score seven points every time we possess the ball," McDaniels said. "Its something that I think you just continue to work at. The red zone is always a tough place. Things happen faster down there and theres a mix of pressure and coverage that you have to be able to adjust to during the course of the play. We can improve in that area of the field as well."

Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes

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Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes

The Patriots opened a roster spot by waiving defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, but they won't be adding a quarterback to take his place. 

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the team has swapped one defensive tackle for another by adding former Browns big man John Hughes, a 6-foot-2, 320-pounder who played under former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Mike Lombardi when Lombardi was Cleveland's general manager in 2013. 

Hughes was released last week after spending just over four years with the team that drafted him in the third round in 2012. He signed a four-year extension with the Browns last season that was worth $12.8 million. 

With the Patriots, Hughes figures to work in as part of the rotation on the interior of the defensive line along with Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and rookie third-round pick Vincent Valentine. Unlike Johnson, who was more of a penetrating pass-rusher, Hughes should factor in as more of a space-eating type. He has 5.5 career sacks in 53 games. 

Johnson is the latest in a long line of Browns who played under Lombardi to end up in New England. The two most notable Patriots who spent 2013 in Cleveland are defensive end Jabaal Sheard and running back Dion Lewis. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who arrived in New England in a trade this summer, was drafted by Lombardi's front office as the No. 6 overall pick in 2013.

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

There’s no way to spin rookie Jacoby Brissett starting a game rather than three-year NFL veteran Jimmy Garoppolo or future Hall of Famer Tom Brady as preferable.
 
But can the disadvantages be mitigated? Can the fact there is no “book” on a player be helpful?
 
“I think there’s always an element of the unknown when you’re dealing with a player or something you haven’t seen or scouted as much,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on a conference call Monday afternoon. “I don’t know if there’s an advantage there, it’s just that you don’t have as much information on a player or on some scheme that they may use, which then forces you to figure some things out as the game goes along and do some quick self-scouting as you move through the first cquarter, the first half, whatever it is, just to make sure that if it is something new you haven’t seen before, if it is a player that you haven’t played against and don’t have a lot of volume of tape on, that you have an opportunity to evaluate quickly what is going on.

"What’s happening in the game? How much of an impact is that player having? Are they trying to  do something that’s disrupting what you’re trying to do with their scheme? I think that happens a lot of weeks during the course of the year based on health and availability, new players, guys being called up, someone that just got signed and you don’t really have a lot of experience watching them play in their system. I would say that’s a common occurrence for us.”
 
With a fullback or UDFA guard pressed into duty, there’s not a helluva lot that will be altered in terms of scheme. With players like Garoppolo and Brissett, though, the Patriots' long-established offense can take on an entirely different look if different areas are emphasized.
 
For instance, jet sweep is a play the team won’t use much with Tom Brady except as a “keep ‘em honest” on the edges kind of play. With Garoppolo, quickness when he gets outside the pocket has to be respected so if he fakes that jet sweep and rolls to the outside, he’s a run-pass threat with speed and downfield accuracy. With Brissett, he’s a threat with elusiveness, size and power as a runner. Additionally, if the Patriots wanted to try the old Elway Throwback to the opposite sideline, Brissett may have more arm power than either Brady or Garoppolo.
 
McDaniels said the Patriots aren’t looking necessarily for ways to “surprise” opponents as much as they are looking for ways to accentuate players’ strengths.  
 
“We’ve got to take the guys that we get to play with, based on health and other factors, and then we consider the defense that we’re getting ready to play against, and the great players and the scheme that they use, and then we try to formulate the right plan to allow our players to go out there and play fast, play well, and do the things that suit their talents the best,” McDaniels explained. “I don’t think that our mindset has changed.

"Some of the variables have changed from one week to the next, which is always the case,  and of course, when you get a group of guys a plan and then you work so hard to get ready for Sunday or Thursday night and go out there and watch them play and execute and take care of the ball and do the things you need to do to try to win, and then they enjoy it so much, that’s really the thing that you take the most satisfaction from as a coach.”