Patriots players take advantage of bye week


Patriots players take advantage of bye week

FOXBORO -- With a bye week's worth of practices about to conclude on Wednesday, it's time to look at what's in store for the Patriots during their next couple days off.

Coach Bill Belichick held practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, following Sunday's win over the Dallas Cowboys. The reason for those practices, he said on Wednesday, was to give his players an opportunity to improve their game in a few areas. Hence, the "situational" tone of both practices this week.

Following Wednesday's practice, Belichick said he'll then give his players an opportunity to "get some rest, relax a little bit, and get away from football for a couple of days."

Then, they'll return to Gillette Stadium next week to prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I'll definitely take a little bit of a break here in the next couple of days," said Belichick on Wednesday. "Slow it down a little bit, and see if I can get caught up."

As for the players, some -- like Wes Welker -- will go home to be with family, and some -- like Matthew Slater -- will stick around New England.

"I'll probably be in here every day," said Slater. "Still trying to get healthy and just take care of my body, and enjoy a little down time."

During that down time, most of the players who spoke on Wednesday said they would watch football on Sunday. Tight end Rob Gronkowski said that he'll "definitely" be watching the Pittsburgh Steelers' game, mainly because that's who the Patriots will play following the bye.

Other than that, Gronk said he plans on hitting the weights and "getting his body right" during the break.

While home in Oklahoma City, Welker plans to also take advantage of a few days off. But he admits, this isn't time to party.

"It's not like spring break," said Welker. "It's more of everybody understanding that you still have your workout and still do some of those things, but you're not out there running routes and doing all those things that you do on a daily basis."

As for the coaching strategies, Belichick talked about the "misconceptions" of how much more work is put in during the bye week, including advanced scouting.

"We have people in our organization that work on, not this weeks opponent but next weeks opponent, but starting this week so that when we finish with that game," said Belichick. "We have a lot of information thats already prepared the film is broken down, the reports are written on personnel and tendencies and we have individual reports and films of each individual player, how they play, their strengths, their weaknesses, their tendencies, things like that, so thats already there. So we do that on a weekly basis anyway.

"Next week, well start working on the team after Pittsburgh the next week. We kind of have that weekly time by certain people in our organization. Theyre always a week ahead. And then there are others of us that are focused on the week that we have and really dont get to that next team until were done with the team were currently competing against. Now, will some of those people maybe get a little bit ahead of getting ahead? Im sure they will. But thats kind of how it works. Were on sort of the same routine every week."

Belichick also said that the same goes with self-scouting.

"I think it is a little of a misconception," said Belichick. "We dont just self-scout during the bye week. We do it on a weekly basis. We look at our games that we feel like our opponents are looking at, whatever that constitutes. What are they seeing? Does that affect what we want to do? Do you want to change that? Do we want to not change it? And if we do want to change it, how do we want to change it? Thats something that you do every week.

"The bye week, you have a little bit more time. Maybe if you wanted to not just look at the description of the plays or a written report of the plays, maybe you actually go to those plays and say, Okay, not what do they have on paper, but let me actually go look at the plays and see whats happening on our third down or our inside runs or our outside runs or our kickoff returns or whatever it is. You have an awareness of that on a weekly basis anyway. You know what youve been doing the last couple weeks. You definitely sit down at some point during the week and look at that. How many times have we called this in this situation? Whats our run-pass breakdown? Whats our blitz breakdown? How many left returns have we run? How many right returns have we run? What tendencies are we forming? Again, tendencies are like anything else, when its 50-50, 60-40, 65-35, how hard can you bank on 60-40? But when its 90 percent or 95 percent that certain things are happening, thats pretty predictable.

"And sometimes its okay," added Belichick. "Look, Nolan Ryan is on the mound, hes going to throw a fastball. Thats no secret. Is he better off throwing a fastball than a change up? Yeah. Hes going to throw a fastball. Lets see who can hit it. I dont say you have to change up all the time. You just have to know what youre doing. If you want to say, Okay, they know its coming, its our best thing, were going to do it anyway, lets see if they can stop it,' thats alright. You just have to know what youre doing. If you say, Well, we think theyre not going to adjust to it, and they do because its something you do all the time, then you dont want to put yourself in that position. But its not something that just happens during the bye week. It happens every week. Could you take a little longer look at it during the week? Yeah, absolutely and thats a good thing to do. But its something we do on a weekly basis."

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."