McDaniels explains Lloyd's shaky Sunday

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McDaniels explains Lloyd's shaky Sunday

Brandon Lloyd didn't have a normal Sunday. In fact, he was as quiet as he's been since the 2008 season when he was a spare part on the Chicago Bears.

The Patriots outside-the-numbers wideout had one catch for 6 yards. He was targeted on eight Tom Brady throws. Three of the incompletions could be classified as drops since they were on Lloyd's hands or body and not hauled in.

Earlier this year, Lloyd had a three-catch, 34-yard day against the Broncos. Last year, he had a a three-catch, 29-yard day when he was targeted 12 times for the Rams. In 2010, while with Denver, Lloyd had two catches on 11 targets for 31 yards. But you have to go back to December 2008 when Lloyd failed to catch the only pass he was thrown in a game between the Bears and Jaguars to find a less impactful day.

Asked about Lloyd failing to answer the bell, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels explained Lloyd's role was "having an opportunity to go down the field on some of those different play-action plays."

On the three missed connections with Tom Brady, Lloyd slid and took it off the chest on a deep in-cut; he also dove and had a ball slide out of his normally vise-like grip. Finally, Brady hit him in the throat with a bomb down the sideline with a possible game-ender that Lloyd bumbled away.

"A couple of those catches would have been great catches and the funny thing is that we always anticipate that he is gonna do it because he has so many times previously," said McDaniels. "I think he will going forward. I think it was a matter of one of those days where we were close on some of those deep throws, there were some missed opportunities there and I'm sure Brandon would like to make some of those plays."

Lloyd has not been a disappointment on the field. He's got 35 catches for 407 yards and a touchdown. You can quibble with the yards after catch numbers (not very many since Lloyd goes down faster than a metal balloon when he makes a catch in traffic). You can quibble with his yards per catch average (11.6, which is less than the Patriots slot receiver and one of their tight ends). But you can't argue he hasn't been an outside upgrade.

Practice, said McDaniels, is where the down-the-field progress must be made.

"We gotta work hard in practice," said McDaniels. "I think that's where the timing and chemistry (blossoms) and then those deep throws that obviously have a lower percentage chance of working. You really gotta work hard in practice as much as you can in those couple of days during practice each week to try and master some of those things to improve it as best we can."

The mercurial Lloyd hasn't been available much after games. Entreaties to speak after the Seattle loss and during the past week were met with icy, wordless stares.

McDaniels said the Patriots need to continue to be diverse in where they throw to loosen up room for Lloyd on the edges.

"I don't think that's been a normal thing for Brandon to go like that and have one catch on so many different targets but it's not just him we have some other things we can do better to help some of those plays and situations," said McDaniels. "We have to do a good job of making sure that everybody's targeted inside the numbers, outside the numbers, down the field and put as much stress as we can on the field."

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

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It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.