What if refs get better? And 34 lines on 17 topics

What if refs get better? And 34 lines on 17 topics

By Tom E. CurranFOXBORO - So here's a dynamic to watch as the replacement referees get ready for their closeup this weekend. What if they ... do OK? What if the level of competence is indistinguishable from the work of the normal refs? The rush to pillory the replacements and have fun at their expense has been swift. I've gotten more than my share of shots in. But we all need to remember the weekly hand-wringing we do over calls missed and blunders executed by the regulars on the regular. The inevitable mistakes of the replacement crews have to be seen through that lens. Because the replacements will improve as time passes. If the negative impact they have in Week 1 is negligible, the leverage twists back to the league. And the specter of the replacements improving will make some of the holdout officials get a little nervous, especially when they start to weigh the chance of losing their part-time job which pays more then 150,000 a year. I have heard the words, "air traffic controllers" used this week. It's a reference to 1981 when Ronald Reagan fired the striking air traffic controllers, replaced them and simply moved forward. It's a risk the idling officials have to weigh while they wait for massive screw-ups by their replacements which will impact the game they presumably have a reverence for. Of course, if an owner like Jerry Jones loses a game because of a replacement officials incompetence, it will be interesting to watch how quickly his tune changes. Now, 34 lines on 17 MORE topics. If Brian Waters wants to play football this season, he'll be doing it for the Patriots. Unless someone blows their doors off with a trade offer, an unlikely scenario. I'm still a little stunned by the release of linebacker Bobby Carpenter. But it shows two things: 1) the surprising rise of Nate Ebner; 2) Bill Belichick's commitment to playing subdefense with five and six defensive backs even more than last year. Dan Koppen was a great guy to cover and - for a fifth-rounder - a tremendous success story. But the Patriots gave him every chance to emerge and show he could still do it at the level that would make him impossible to cut and he couldn't. If Koppen's final game was against the Giants, he went out with a verbal bang. When referee Don King couldn't get the call straight and the chaos was obvious, Koppen yelled from the sidelines, "Hey (posterior orifice)! Hurry the (freak) up!" The Patriots released Eric Kettani from their practice squad on Tuesday. I never really saw the appeal of even keeping him for that. Ras-IDowling's best days are ahead of him but he was outplayed by both Kyle Arrington and Marquice Cole in camp and games. We'll see who Matt Patricia wants playing outside when the Patriots go to nickel and Arrington or Cole slides inside to play the slot receiver. Stephen Gostkowski has had enough of Zoltan Mesko invading his locker space. Gostkowski put a thick piece of white tape down as a line of demarcation to guard against the punter's seepage of socks, etc. The Patriots first two opponents this year are the Titans and Cardinals. They outscored those two teams 106-7 combined the last time they met (47-7 in 2008 for the Cardinals, 59-0 in 2010 for the Titans). Tuesday night, the NFL Network replayed the Super Bowl. It's like watching a movie again and seeing all kinds of things of great import that got missed the first time around. The avalanche of bad luck, gaffesand big plays missed by the Patriots was too much to overcome. One that got lost was Rob Ninkovich jumping offsides on a third-and-7 at the Giants' 11 when a pass fell incomplete allowed the Giants to continue a fourth-quarter drive that ultimately ended with them pinning the Patriots at their 8. Never mind the fumbles that went unrecovered. Or the tipped pass on the Patriots final drive that was intended for a good-to-go-for-35-yards-or-so Deion Branch. Why am I discussing this? Not sure. But the catch Wes Welker wasn't able to come up with? It was almost identical to a clutch catch made in the Patriots-Giants regular season game by...Jake Ballard. Last wordson Ryan Mallett, who I don't believehas shown enough to be a twisted ankle from starting at quarterback.If Tom Brady's down for six games,Brian Hoyer might not win you games, but he won't lose them....don't feel that way about Mallett right now. Tweeted this Tuesday but, by the end of the week, you'll wish Devin and Jason McCourty shared a room and not a womb. IDENTICAL TWINS EVERYONE! Mayo Bowl III is at Kings in Dedham on September 10. Bang it here for the details. The first Quick Slants of the season is Thursday night, 7 p.m. Paoletti is geared up for 2012 so you'll want to tune in.

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."