Welker: Brady 'wants to do great and he is great'

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Welker: Brady 'wants to do great and he is great'

FOXBORO -- Thursday was not a good day to be Tom Brady's chin strap.
During the portion of practice in which the Patriots worked on their hurry-up offense, he dropped back and hit safety Steve Gregory square in the chest with a pass intended for someone else. Gregory plucked the ball out of the air and ran for a lengthy interception return before he was herded out of bounds. Brady ripped at the white piece of plastic hanging from the sides of his helmet and took a knee among the other offensive players who were sitting out of the drill. His no-huddle drive had been cut short, and he wasn't happy about it.
"He was pretty fired up," said Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker. "He's his own biggest critic. As much as coach even stays on him and everyone else, he's his own worst enemy sometimes. It's great to see. He cares. He wants to do great, and he is great."
Welker's right. Brady is great. Almost all the time. When he's been at his best during training camp, the ball comes out of his hand quickly, and it almost always finds the mitts of his intended target. Whether he's squeezing a pass in a tight spot on the goal line or lofting a fade route to one of his outside receivers, the ball usually ends up where it's supposed to be.
That's what made Brady's day on Thursday stand out so glaringly. He was long with a few of his passes. Others were deflected by defenders. In one stretch during 11-on-11 play, he went 1-for-6, with his last five passes falling incomplete. One was batted down by the defensive line. The next was too long for receiver Britt Davis. After that he fired a pass through Welker's hands on a bubble route. Following an incompletion to avoid a "sack" by Rob Ninkovich and an overthrow to an open Rob Gronkowski, Brady's series was over.
On the sidelines, before the first-team offense's next set of plays, Brady worked on hitting Aaron Hernandez with passes from just five yards away. Those kinds of short passes weren't the ones he was missing during practice, but it was clear he wouldn't let a bad five minutes in practice ruin the rest of his afternoon. He wasn't standing and watching, letting his frustration stew as he waited for his turn to throw. He was making the most of his time while on the field. Welker said that -- good day or bad -- Brady is constantly trying to improve his connection with his receivers.
"I think it's something you constantly work on," said Welker. "You try and get on the same page, understand. I try to win all my routes and know that he's going to put the ball where he needs to put it. It's an ongoing deal to get that chemistry."
Brady threw the interception to Gregory just a few minutes later. And though he was angered by it, Welker said those plays help make Brady the quarterback he is.
"It's good to see he's human sometimes," said Welker. "Everybody has bad plays out there. It's how you bounce back from them, how you go out there and compete and keep fighting and how you get after it out there. He's always understanding that and knowing if he makes a bad play he's going to come back ten times better the next time."

Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language

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Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language

When Kyle Van Noy was traded to the Patriots in late October, he had a lot to learn. He needed to understand the layout of his new team's maze-like facility. He needed to adjust to a new locker room. He needed to adapt to a new home. 

He also had to become fluent in a new language.

The former Lions 'backer was inactive for two weeks before he was comfortable enough with the Patriots system -- and the coaching staff was comfortable enough with him -- to get on the field. He played 29 snaps against the Niners in first game with his new club, then saw 28 plays against the Jets. On Sunday he saw his role expand as he played 40 of a possible 51 plays, which was more than Shea McClellin (38) or Dont'a Hightower (33). 

"Kyle has done a great job of working really hard to acclimate to what we’re doing, and he has had to learn really fast as far as the system, the communication, the language," said defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on a conference call Tuesday. "It’s like when you go to a different system, offensively or defensively, a lot of times it’s just learning the vernacular and the verbiage . . . That’s a big part of it. Then getting more familiar with that kind of terminology and the communication is critical because there’s a lot of calls and adjustments, things like that that we’ve got to do on the field."

Van Noy was making some of those calls himself on Sunday as he wore the green dot on his helmet when Hightower was on the sidelines. Even with the added responsibility, Van Noy was able to play freely enough that he put together what might have been the best game of his three-year career. 

Used at the end of the line of scrimmage as well as in a more traditional off-the-line linebacker role, Van Noy was effective in defending both the pass and the run: He stuffed three Rams rush attempts, he recorded a quarterback hit that led to an incompletion, he drew a holding call, and he recorded an athletic interception when he tracked a wobbling Jared Goff pass that floated over the middle after Jabaal Sheard hit Goff's arm as the rookie released his throw.

After several of his stand-out plays, Van Noy was visibly excited on the field and later on the sidelines. It was the culmination of six weeks of work, learning as much as he could from a coaching staff that was eager to teach him. 

"He’s extremely prideful in his work and his approach to the game," Patricia said. "He’s very cerebral. He’ll ask a lot of questions. He really wants to understand what we’re doing and why, which is great. We’re trying to give him those answers and insight into kind of where some of this either came from or developed or situations like that so that’s really good."