Belichick: Guys have some catching up to do

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Belichick: Guys have some catching up to do

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
FOXBORO The New England Patriots are gearing up for their third preseason game, a game that's often seen as the first real opportunity for starters to see extended playing time.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick doesn't downplay the importance of Saturday's game against the Detroit Lions. But in true Belichickian fashion, he's not putting too much stock in the game, either.

"Every game presents challenges and opportunities, gives our team a chance to go out there and perform against another team and evaluate," he said. "Each game is different, each matchup is different so absolutely, it's a great opportunity to face an explosive team like Detroit. This will be a real good test for us, in all three phases of the game."

Here are some of Belichick's thoughts on other topics discussed during his afternoon press conference:

On having Leigh Bodden back
BB: "He's had a good camp. He's played both inside and outside. It looks like he's healthy. He's had a chance to participate. He's taken a lot of snaps. He looks like he's fine."

On seeing Ras-I Dowling on the field
BB: "The guys that have missed time, have some catching up to do. It's good to see every player out there, good to see every player that has missed time, come back and rejoin the team and be able to practice. It's good for the team, it's good for those individuals because I know they're working hard to get back out there. It's a positive step."

On the challenges for players entering their second year
BB: "By Year Two the other teams -- not that they don't do it during the course of the first year -- but I think by the end of your first year, other teams have a pretty good scouting report on each individual player. There's a pretty good body of work, for the most part. Sometimes your rookie year, your skills or some of the things you do, might sneak up on some people or they may not be as prepared for you individually. It kind of works the other way around, too. Rookies don't have the kind of preparation in some cases, some teams don't know them quite as well."

Anything from the league on Haynesworth
BB: "Whatever the league does, they'll announce."

The importance of technique and where his players are now
BB: "In the NFL, you build your fundamentals in technique in the offseason program, and then in the spring and then in training camp. As you get into regular season, it's harder and harder to allocate the time to individual technique because your preparation team-wide consumes so much time. With all the different schemes you face weekly and the smaller roster size and limited amount of practice reps that you have relative to the number of things that can happen in a game, you spend more time in team-work than individual, fundamental skills. The time to build those, is early in the season."

The progress of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski
BB: "Every day they work hard, have gotten better. They came in last year they certainly know a lot more now; they know a lot more now about what we're doing, they know a lot more now about what our opponent's are doing. They have a better understanding of how to play the game at this level. Their year of experience, is invaluable. They started at a much harder level. Both have had a good camp."

On Haynesworth's court case being wrapped up on Monday
BB: "It's a personal matter, so I don't have any comment on that."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track. 

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

Ever since Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders to give him the highest average annual contract value in league history, some version of the same question has been posed over and over again. 

What does this mean for other quarterbacks looking for new deals? 

Despite the fact that Carr's average annual value surpasses the previous high set by Andrew Luck ($24.6 million), and despite the fact that Carr's contract provides him the security that alluded him while he was on his rookie contract, his recent haul may not mean much for the likes of Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and other top-end quarterbacks.

They were already expecting monster paydays down the road that would hit (or eclipse) the $25 million range, and Carr's record-setting contract may not even serve as a suitable baseline for them, as ESPN's Dan Graziano lays out.

So if Carr's contract did little more for upper-echelon quarterbacks than confirm for them where the market was already headed, then does it mean anything for someone like Jimmy Garoppolo? 

Carr and Garoppolo were both second-round picks in 2014, but from that point, they've obviously taken very different roads as pros. Carr started 47 consecutive games in his first three years and by last season he had established himself as one of the most valuable players in the league. Garoppolo, by comparison, has started two games. 

Both players still hold loads of promise, but unless Garoppolo sees substantial playing time in 2017 and then hits the open market, he won't approach Carr's deal when his rookie contract is up.  

ESPN's Mike Reiss projected that a fair deal for Garoppolo on the open market might fall between the $19 million that was guaranteed to Chicago's Mike Glennon and Carr's contract, which includes $40 million fully guaranteed and $70 million in total guarantees, per NFL Media.

Perhaps something in the range of what Brock Osweiler received from the Texans after Osweiler started seven games for the Broncos in 2015 would be considered fair: four years, with $37 million guaranteed. Because Osweiler (before his deal or since) never seemed as polished as Garoppolo was in his two games as a starter in 2016, and because the salary cap continues to soar, the argument could be made that Garoppolo deserves something even richer. 

Though Garoppolo is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency following the 2017 season, there is a chance he doesn't get there quite that quickly. The Patriots could try to come to some kind of agreement with their backup quarterback on an extension that would keep him in New England, or they could place the franchise tag on him following the season. 

Either way, Garoppolo will get paid. But until he sees more time on the field, a deal that would pay him in the same range as his draft classmate will probably be out of reach.