Patriots keeping their eyes on Cardinals' Peterson

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Patriots keeping their eyes on Cardinals' Peterson

FOXBORO -- Patriots special teams units face a unique problem this week in Patrick Peterson.

Last season, the Cardinals rookie first-rounder returned four kicks for touchdowns, tying an NFL record. Despite his short NFL resume, he has already established himself as the kind of player around whom coaches must game plan.

Nate Ebner was still in college when Peterson was tearing up the NFL last year. But this week of film study has served as a tutorial for the Patriots special teamer as to just how dangerous Peterson can be.

How do the Patriots contain him?

"Be aware of him. Everywhere he is. In every aspect of the kicking game," Ebner said. "Do what we practice. Special teams coach Scott O'Brien put together a good scheme. We need to do it to the best of our ability to stop anything from happening. That's what we're there for."

Peterson possesses good speed -- he ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at last year's NFL Combine -- but it's his combination of skills that sets him apart, according to Ebner's scouting report.

"Big guy with a lot of speed, very explosive," Ebner said. "He's got good vision and he's strong. You gotta wrap him up."

Ebner did a good job of that against the Titans in Week 1. He finished the game with two tackles on special teams to lead the Patriots.

When he was drafted, considering his background as an elite rugby player, Ebner was expected to be a special teams ball hawk. It appears as though he's on his way.

"If a play comes to me I try to do my best to make it happen," he said. "I play the best I can every week and try and get better as the games come. Make plays as they come."

Peterson seems to live by the same philosophy. Unfortunately for the Patriots this week, plays seem to come to him more regularly than most.

On Tuesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised Peterson's work on defense as well as his ability to return kicks.

"Hes very dangerous on punt returns, that goes without saying," Belichick said during a conference call. "Hes a big guy, has good length, good speed so hes a hard guy to throw over in the secondary. Excellent ball skills. If he gets his hands on the ball, youre looking at a lot of trouble, not just interceptions but probably a run back for touchdowns, too. It would be like a punt return."

Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

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Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

FOXBORO -- After starting the offseason "five weeks behind," as Bill Belichick put it, the Patriots have caught up. 

"I think we’re probably caught up to where we are now," he said before Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium. "I think it’s being behind in draft, free agency and that type of thing.

"I think at this point, we’re ready for OTAs. We’ll be ready for training camp. I think that part of it we’ll be on schedule on. It’s the catching up on all the spring projects, draft and free agency. It’s the initial part of it."

Belichick made headlines on the morning after winning his fifth Lombardi Trophy with the Patriots when he said, "As of today, and as great as today feels and as great as today is, in all honesty we're five weeks behind in the 2017 season to most teams in the league. Fortunately we have a great personnel staff

"Look, in a couple weeks we're going to be looking at the combine, obviously the draft, all-star games have already occurred, and in a month we're into free agency, not to mention all the internal Patriots players (whose) contracts are up and we're going to have to work with in some form or fashion like every team in the league does."

Leaning on evaluations of players that began in the build-up to previous drafts, Belichick and his staff opted to trade away some of this year's draft capital for veterans like Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen. They also gave up their fifth-rounder to sign restricted free agent Mike Gillislee.

Before heading out to the team's third practice of the week -- the first week the Patriots were allowed to introduce helmets and run offense versus defense periods -- Belichick said that part of his focus will be spent on finding out how those players he picked up this offseason are progressing.

"Yeah, that’s definitely part of it," he said. "Seeing the new players, how they’re doing and also how they’re doing relevant to the rest of the other players that I’m a little more familiar with. Again, each year is a new year, so even though we’ve seen some of these guys multiple years, it’s still starting all over again, seeing where they are, how they’re progressing in their training and preparation for the season."