Tebow's presence complicates Patriots' preparation


Tebow's presence complicates Patriots' preparation

FOXBORO -- In the NFL, you must turn the page quickly. The Patriots have been acknowledging that all week as they try to move on from last Sunday's loss in Seattle and prepare for this Sunday's game against the New York Jets.

The transition from the Seahawks to the Jets isn't a seamless one, though. Mainly because of the wrinkle that is Tim Tebow.

Sure, from the outside, Tebow hasn't been anything close to the game-changing player he was last year, when he took the football world by storm. But in fairness to Tebow, that's because he hasn't been used anywhere close to as much as he was while the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

Though Mark Sanchez' numbers aren't great, he's still the Jets' starting quarterback. In fact, Tebow has only thrown the ball three times in six games, completing two of those passes for 32 yards.

"They're running the ball well and Sanchez is playing well these last couple weeks," said Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo on Thursday. "They're a dangerous football team. They have a great offensive line, a couple good running backs that are a different, change-of-pace type of backs . . . They have a lot of different weapons."

As Rex Ryan's original plan was drawn up, Tebow is one of those weapons, and he's been used in many different ways this season. Which is why the Patriots have the unusual task for preparing for a backup quarterback in a somewhat unfamiliar manner.

"He's obviously a guy that can run the ball," said linebacker Rob Ninkovich. "He's a strong guy.

"Last year, obviously, we saw him a few times. (The Patriots played Denver twice, once in the regular season and once in the playoffs.) So we've seen him. That helps us out.

"You've got to give him attention," added Ninkovich. "Because, you never know what game they're going to keep him in there longer, or have more of a focus on him during that game. So obviously, our defense has to respect the wildcat-type offense."

Mayo said he's never had to prepare for a backup quarterback like this before. But that's because Tebow isn't your everyday backup QB.

"He doesn't only play quarterback," said Mayo on Thursday. "He plays a lot of different spots. So I don't know how much he'll be playing quarterback against us, but we'll be ready for it.

Tebow has rushed the ball 18 times for 64 yards. He's also lined up at wide receiver, and even has recorded two tackles this season.

"Well, obviously, he has a specific skill set," said Mayo. "He can do a lot of different things. Special teams, playing quarterback, and sometimes he lines up at wide receiver. So he does a lot of different things for them.

"You always have to know where he is. But at the same time, he's a football player, just like everyone else."

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."