Romo a wild card for Patriots defense


Romo a wild card for Patriots defense

FOXBORO The Dallas Cowboys' much-maligned quarterback Tony Romo will remain a polarizing fixture in Big 'D' until he wins a Super Bowl or gets run out of town -- whichever comes first.

He has shown the ability to dominate a game, then completely disappear when he's most needed in another.

Love him or hate him, one thing most agree on -- Romo's play will have a major impact on the outcome of Sunday's game against New England.

While watching him on video certainly helps the Pats in their preparation, Romo's unpredictability on any given play only adds to the challenge.

"He's very mobile. No play is really ever dead with Romo," said New England cornerback Devin McCourty. "Even when guys get to him, he can escape."

But unlike most mobile quarterbacks, Romo has the ability to still hurt teams in the passing game even with a 300-plus pound defensive behemoth breathing down his neck.

"He has that ability, no matter what side of the field he's on, left or right," McCourty added. "He can turn his shoulders and throw the ball vertical. In the secondary, we have to stay on our guys and stay ready no matter what he does back there."

The decision on whether to scramble or stick tight in the pocket varies from one opponent to another, from one play to another.

"If they have a great front-four, you want to move around and help your protection by sliding the front, things like that," Romo said. "If you feel comfortable with the matchups you might stay in the pocket. It's just relative to the opponent. Each week we kind of do things differently. We're not the same team every week."

And Romo, good or bad, is definitely not the same quarterback.

In a 27-24 season-opening road loss to the New York Jets, Romo was at his worst when the game mattered most.

A week later, playing with a fractured rib, he rallied the Cowboys to a 27-24 overtime win over San Francisco.

The first two weeks of the Cowboys season provided further proof that when it comes to Romo, you never really know what you're going to get from one game to the next.

While Romo's scrambling ability certainly puts stress on the secondary, New England's defensive line could make their jobs a lot easier.

Shaun Ellis said the key for the Pats defensively will be to "execute the game plan, make it hard on him, put pressure on him and hopefully he'll make a mistake."

Ellis added, "he's different. He has his own style, the way he goes about his operation. We'll definitely have our hands full. They have great receivers, and are well balanced. And they have him throwing to them."

And when it comes to the up and down play, Romo will be the first to acknowledge that this season -- so far at least -- has been one with equal highs and lows for him and the Cowboys (2-2).

"For every game that's the other way, there's another one the other side," Romo said. "Everyone is good in this league. You have to minimize turnovers in key situations. We did that for two of the games and two of the games we didn't. That's really what it comes down to."

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."