Setting the table for Patriots-Texans

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Setting the table for Patriots-Texans

Idle Friday thoughts while cleaning out the desk drawer of my mind and riffling through Springsteen and Neil Young lyrics to find something apt to apply to this weekend's game at Gillette Field.

Wade Phillips dawdled into a verbal snafu Thursday when he used the words "not" and "a real athletic guy" when discussing Wes Welker. Phillips was actually describing Welker in relation to A.J. Green, who is 6-foot-4 and can jump out of the gym. Wes Welker is 5-9 and cannot jump out of the gym. "Ah, Welkers not Green, Phillips said. Hes a good player, but hes not that big or a real athletic guy. Hes a quick guy that gets open on option routes. The perceived slight on Welker was quickly seized upon forcing Phillips to take to Twitter to stomp out flames of indignation.

Wade Phillips @sonofbum Wes Welker is a great athlete and one of the best receivers of all time- twistthataround
Twitter. It's a helluva place.
It's been amusing this week to listen to the media weigh in on what players should and shouldn't use for motivation. Ummm, they're the players... they can use whatever they want.

You think Gary Kubiak doesn't know how to brain battle and get into some gamesmanship with the Patriots? The Texans head coach strayed from his customary sharing of injury information early in the week. Asked the status of tight end Garrett Graham, Kubiak said, "Were going to talk about injuries on Wednesday. So well update you guys. Thatll be the first time well talk about that.

Why? "Ive got a new philosophy, thats what I was told," Kubiak replied. "That was my philosophy, starting today so thats my philosophy. Well talk about it on Wednesday.The Patriots, you may have heard, are less forthcoming than most teams about injuries.

With both Brian Kelly (Everett) and Chip Kelly (Manch-vegas, New Hampshire) and Bill O'Brien (Dorchester) all being courted for NFL head coaching jobs - and opting to stay at Notre Dame, Oregon and Penn State respectively, the tide of coaches with New England (mainly Massachusetts) ties taking over top spots in the NFL was stemmed a bit. In addition to those three, Medway's Pete Carmichael (offensive assistant for the Saints) was in the mix and could soon get his shot at a head job. And the Dolphins staff is littered with Mass guys led by head coach Joe Philbin (Springfield), OC Mike Sherman (Norwood), line coach Jim Turner (Braintree), wide receivers coach Ken O'Keefe (Worcester Academy), and strength coach Dave Puloka (Arlington).

The key player on the NFC side of the playoffs? Justin Smith. The Niners defensive tackle left the game against the Patriots with a torn triceps and the decline of the San Fran defense was breathtaking. He'll be back for the Divisional Playoff game against the Packers, but what level he can play at may determine whether San Fran has another game next week.

It will be interesting to see what happens next with Armond Armstead, the defensive tackle the Patriots worked out earlier this week. Armstead went undrafted in 2012 after having a star-crossed college career at USC. Released by the CFL's Toronto Argonauts (reportedly by mutual agreement if an NFL opportunity arose), Armstead had six sacks for Toronto this past season. The 6-5, 298-pound Armstead is not eligible to be added to the Patriots roster during the playoffs because of NFLCFL rules. He could be a target for 2013, though.

Wow. The Jets Mike Westhoff, their retiring special teams coach, carpet-bombed the organization on the radio Friday morning. Given the performance of the Jets special teams in 2012, this is one of those pot-calling-the-kettle-a-glass-house deals. Here's a route to the full audio from The Joe Rose Show.

The always insightful Matt Bowen from National Football Post goes inside the Xs and Os of the Patriots play-action game against the Texans. The question to me is whether Wade Phillips has it in him to back off his blitzing nature and drop more guys into coverage and make Tom Brady process more defenders. If he doesn't, the Texans are meat.

The more I consider this Patriots-Texans game, the more I believe it won't be the same blowout as last time. Patriots 41, Texans 14.

Flashback: Belichick breaks down lasting impact of Buddy Ryan's '46' defense

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Flashback: Belichick breaks down lasting impact of Buddy Ryan's '46' defense

When news broke on Tuesday of Buddy Ryan's passing, it wasn't very long before the NFL community at large paid tribute to one of the most well-respected defensive minds in the history of the league. 

Ryan, a longtime coordinator and head coach, leaves a legacy that includes two sons -- Rex and Rob -- who have carved out length careers spent on NFL sidelines. His legacy also includes a defensive scheme that confounded offenses, particularly in 1985, when the Bears '46' defense dominated all comers. With eight men in the box and just three defensive backs, Ryan's defense could be as confusing for quarterbacks as it was intimidating.

On the day of Ryan's passing, we can add to the list of Ryan rememberances a long quote from a Bill Belichick press conference back in 2012. The Patriots were getting ready to play Rex Ryan's Jets, but as the topic of conversation shifted away from the game itself and toward football philosophies, Belichick explained how Ryan's '46' defense changed the game, and where it can still be seen today. 

(To see the video of the press conference, you can head here. It's a bit slow for the first six or seven minutes, but when Belichick is asked about the idea behind being a "game-plan offense" and which coaches inspired him to take that mindset into his own career, things start rolling. Belichick rattles off the names of those who influenced him, including Annapolis High coach Al Laramore, Phillips Andover's Steve Sorota, Navy coach Wayne Hardin, Baltimore Colts coach Ted Marchibroda and several others. He calls the list of coaches who educated him -- including his father, of course -- a "menagerie." If you're into those types of Belichick responses about football philosophy and his own personal football upbringing, it's a video that's worth your time.)

Here is Belichick's response to a question from Sports Illustrated's Greg Bedard, then of the Boston Globe, concerning Ryan and his '46' scheme. A tip of the hat to Chris B. Brown of Smart Football for pointing out the quote on Twitter early Tuesday. 

Q: You mentioned Buddy Ryan earlier. How come we don’t see more 46 defense? I’m not talking about for a full season – not everybody is the ’85 Bears, but in a one-game situation. Is it because of the quarterbacks and the shotgun?

BB: "A lot of the success that Buddy had with the 46 defense came in the ‘80s when there was a lot of two-back offense. It was one of the things that probably drove the two-back offense out. If you remember back in the ‘80s when Buddy was in Philadelphia, he had a lot of trouble with the Redskins and their one-back offense, a lot of trouble. There were a lot of mismatches of Art Monk and Gary Clark on the middle linebacker and stuff like that.

"I think the 46 was really originally built for two-back offenses, whether it be the red, brown, blue and the flat-back type offenses and eventually even the I-formation. I think it still has a lot of good application; a lot of teams use it in goal-line situations. They either use a version of it like a 5-3 or cover the guards and the center and however you want to quite fit the rest of it, but that principle you see a lot in goal-line, short yardage situations. You see it and some teams have it as part of their two-back defensive package.

"As it has gone to one-back and it’s gotten more spread out, if you’re playing that, it kind of forces you defensively to be in a one-linebacker set. You lose that second linebacker and depending on where the back lines up and what coverage you’re playing, then there’s some issues with that. If you’re in a one linebacker defense and you move the back over and the linebacker moves over then you’re kind of out-leveraged to the back side. If you don’t move him over, then you’re kind of out-leveraged when the back releases and that kind of thing.

"There are some issues there that, I’m not saying you can’t do it, but you have to work them out. In a two-back set, I’d say it was probably a lot cleaner and it always gave you an extra blitzer that was hard for the offense. Even if they seven-man protected on play-action, there was always an eighth guy there somewhere. You didn’t have to bring all eight; if you just brought the right one and they didn’t have him or somebody would have to have two guys and that creates some problems.

"I think that’s what Buddy, really, where the genius of that was. He had by formation a different combination and group of blitzes so depending on what formation you were in, then he ran a blitz that would attack that formation and then when you changed formations, then he would change blitzes. Now, plus the fact [he] had Dan Hampton, Richard Dent, Mike Singletary, [Otis] Wilson, [Wilbur] Marshall, that was a pretty good group there. You could have probably played a lot of things and that defense would have looked pretty good, especially when they put Hampton on the nose. That was pretty unblockable."

Amendola forced Brady to break a ping pong paddle in first week with Patriots

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Amendola forced Brady to break a ping pong paddle in first week with Patriots

Tom Brady has never been one to hide his emotions when he's on the field, and it sounds like he's not much different at the ping pong table.

When asked about Brady during an interview on ESPN's NFL Insiders show, Patriots receiver Danny Amendola recalled one story from his first few days at Gillette Stadium back in 2013.

"He's the best teammate," Amendola said. "He's so competitive . . . I remember one story, it was my first week in the building and he wanted to play some ping pong. I didn't know how to go about it. I knew I was better than him, [but] I didn't want to beat him too bad because I wanted him to throw me the ball.

"I knew I was better. Needless to say, his competitive nature unleashed a broken paddle by the end of it. It's the reason we love him, and the reason why he's the best quarterback."

That first encounter at the ping pong table didn't seem to hinder Amendola's relationship with Brady in the least. In their first game together, Amendola fought a groin injury and still ended up with 10 catches for 104 yards in a win over the Bills. Since then, when healthy -- and particularly since New England's most recent run to a Super Bowl title -- Amendola has established himself as one of Brady's most trusted targets.

Amendola and the rest of the Patriots are facing a start to the regular season without their No. 1 quarterback as Brady awaits a decision from the Second Circuit on whether or not it will rehear his case against the NFL. Should backup Jimmy Garoppolo take the reins in Brady's place, however, Amendola said he'll be confident. 

"He's a great player," Amendola explained. "He's been in the system a couple of years now and he's learned a lot. He's picked up everything that Tom has taught him and then also what coach [Bill] Belichick has to offer him. So we're all excited to see where he goes and see what the future holds for him."

Amendola says he feels 'really good' following offseason surgeries

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Amendola says he feels 'really good' following offseason surgeries

Danny Amendola did not participate in OTA or minicamp practices that were open to reporters, but that doesn't mean he's ailing. 

"I feel really good," Amendola said while paying ESPN's NFL Insiders show a visit. "I had a couple minor procedures done after the season. Everybody knows how long the season can be. I wanted to go into next season feeling as fresh and ready as I can."

Amendola joined a relatively long list of Patriots regulars -- including LeGarrette Blount, Julian Edelman, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon -- who were not spotted during spring workouts. There exists, however, some optimism that he'll be ready to participate in training camp.

Though Amendola has battled nagging injuries in three seasons with the Patriots, he's often played through them rather than miss time. The 30-year-old wideout has played in all but six regular-season games since 2013.

Amendola is coming off of his best year in a Patriots uniform, finishing 2015 with 65 catches for 648 yards and three scores. He now helps make up a receiving corps that will include Edelman, newly-acquired wideouts Chris Hogan and Nate Washington, Aaron Dobson, DeAndre Carter, Chris Harper and rookies Malcolm Mitchell and Devin Lucien.