Offensive continuity key for Brady, Roethlisberger

571312.jpg

Offensive continuity key for Brady, Roethlisberger

FOXBORO Every year, there are jobs to be won and lost in training camp and to a lesser degree, during the season.

This holds true for both New England and Pittsburgh . . . except at one position.

That would be quarterback, arguably the most important position on the field.

Having stability at this critical position is one of the reasons the Patriots and Steelers are once again among the top teams in the NFL.

The Patriots are led by Tom Brady, in his 12th season having spent the past decade as New England's man under center.

"It's been very important for me to never really change offenses or learn new terminology," Brady said. "We've just built on it over the years - the things I learned 12 years ago when I came here. It's great for a quarterback to have that continuity with coaching and obviously the terminology of the plays. It's been a huge benefit."

There's no question the Steelers have benefited from having Ben Roethlisberger, in his eighth season, as the team's starting quarterback ever since he was a rookie.

"Continuity, particularly at that position is a big positive of course," said coach Mike Tomlin. "It expands the things that you're capable of doing."

However, there's a not-so-great side about having the same guy year after year.

"I also think that you have to guard against getting too comfortable sometimes," Tomlin said. "It also sometimes potentially breeds a lack of communication or assumptions and that can be dangerous. There are some positives and there are some negatives you have to weigh on a daily basis."

For Roethlisberger, the positives far outweigh the drawbacks.

"It's great," said Roethlisberger, who has been the starting quarterback on a pair of Super Bowl champion teams (2006 and 2009) in Pittsburgh. "I've always said that I felt bad for someone like San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who I think in about five years had four offensive coordinators, or whatever the ridiculous number was.

"That's really hard for a quarterback. Any time that you can get familiarity with a coach, with a coordinator, with a play-caller, whoever it is, it definitely makes it a lot easier for you."

Scaramucci says Kraft gave Super Bowl LI ring to Trump

cp-trump-kraft-082117x.jpg

Scaramucci says Kraft gave Super Bowl LI ring to Trump

Anthony Scaramucci isn't afraid to say stuff. This time, it involves the Patriots. 

The outspoken former White House communications director follows over 180,000 Twitter accounts. One of them is @rslashpatriots, who asked about Robert Kraft's Super Bowl rings via direct message. 

Putin famously stole Kraft's Super Bowl XXXIX ring while Kraft was visiting Russia in 2005. According to Kraft, he took out the ring to show it to Putin, but Putin put it in his pocket and left without giving it back.

Now that Trump has Kraft's ring, Kraft theoretically only has three of a possible five Super Bowl rings now. Guessing he could get new ones made. 

Availability key for Rex Burkhead during transition to Patriots

patriots_rex_burkhead_081917.jpg

Availability key for Rex Burkhead during transition to Patriots

It can be difficult to pick up the Patriots offense even for players who are on the practice field on a daily basis. For those who aren't? They have some catching up to do. 

It remains to be seen just how much, if at all, that reality will impact how Patriots running backs are deployed moving forward.

Though Mike Gillislee was given what looked like typical "big back" responsibilities early in training camp when the pads were introduced -- he had back-to-back touchdown runs during one of the first goal-line periods of the summer -- he's hardly practiced at all since then, sidelined with a reported hamstring issue. 

During joint practices with the Texans last week, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about the difficulties that a new player faces when he's trying to learn a system and a new set of teammates without the benefits of practice time.

"Yeah, well that’s one of the challenges of training camp," Belichick said. "No pads in the spring so you only have so many padded practices and preseason games at this time of year. Each one that’s missed is an opportunity to improve on the field, but what we can’t do is let what we can do take away from what we can’t do.

"The things that we can do in terms of training or whatever drills or learning experience we can gain, we have to try to gain as much as we can. And then when the opportunity comes to do the things that we can’t do, we have to be able to take advantage of that. Look, this is not the first time a player has ever missed a practice in training camp, so let’s not act like this is an historical event. Every team deals with it every year, but you do the best you can with it. You work through that players individual circumstances and where your team is and you do the best that you can with the opportunities that you have."

Though there's plenty that Gillislee can do in terms of workouts and sitting in on meetings, contrast his situation with that of Rex Burkhead, and the difference in the number of on-the-field opportunities for the two players has been stark.

Burkhead has been present and on the field for the vast majority of Patriots training camp practices, and In Saturday's game against Houston, he saw 13 snaps, finishing with seven carries for 20 yards and three receptions for 50 yards. One of those catches went for a 22-yard touchdown where he freed himself from linebacker Zach Cunningham with a nifty move over the middle of the field. 

"Rex has missed very little time," Belichick said when asked about Burkhead's progress on Sunday. "He’s basically been out there every day and we’ve worked with him in all areas of the game that we think he can contribute in, which is all three downs offensively and the four phases of special teams that he’s been involved with, from Day 1."

Burkhead, who signed a one-year deal with the Patriots this offseason after four years with the Bengals, has been used in a variety of roles, as Belichick alluded, including in hurry-up packages and on the goal line. His frame (5-foot-10, 210 pounds) and his skill set could make Burkhead a viable option as the team's "big back" should Gillislee miss time in the regular season. But he's also a more-than-capable pass-catcher, as he showed against the Texans. 

How he'll be used when the games matter remains to be seen, but he's available, and at this point that may be his most important quality.