Patriots run 'D' faces challenge vs. Bills

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Patriots run 'D' faces challenge vs. Bills

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn FOXBORO It would be easy to dismiss the Buffalo Bills' early success as nothing more than an improved team getting a long overdue break from the football gods by having them open up against the putrid Kansas City Chiefs and the so-so Oakland Raiders.

But the Patriots, even with their dominance over the Bills in recent years (15 straight wins and counting), are in no position to take them for granted.

And while there are several facets of the game that will determine the outcome, it's hard to see anything being a bigger difference-maker than Buffalo's top-rated ground attack against a Patriots defensive line that was built in the offseason to control the line of scrimmage.

While New England has given up a ton of total yards (479 per game, actually) -- only one team (Miami Dolphins) have given up more yards per game than New England -- their defense against the run hasn't been too shabby with the Patriots being just one of 11 teams giving up less than 100 yards rushing per game.

New England's ability to stand pat against the Bills' attempts at stampeding them on Sunday, will go far in determining which of these two will remain among the undefeated.

"We have our hands full," said Patriots defensive tackle Vincent Wilfork. "It's going to be challenging for us once again. Every week so far, we've been challenged."

Buffalo's spread offense has shown the ability to hurt teams both on the ground and through the air.

Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, a former standout at Harvard, is the NFL's sixth-rated passer thus far this season.

He shares the NFL-lead of seven touchdown passes, with New England's Tom Brady and Detroit's Matthew Stafford.

On the ground, Fred Jackson is the league's top rusher with 229 yards. And his power rushing attack is complimented by C.J. Spiller whose speed and quickness make him a potential matchup problem for New England as well.

The Patriots have done a solid job of rotating their defensive lineman, a trend you'll see continue on Sunday at Buffalo.

"We have guys that can get it done," said Pats defensive end Shaun Ellis. "We just have to become more consistent throughout the year."

And that comes with more playing time, which is critical for a defensive unit that features a number of new faces -- Ellis included.

"You have to get a feel for each guy, and where they're going to be . . . it's all getting a feel for it," said Ellis, who spent the previous 11 seasons with the New York Jets. "I kind of put it in mind like, a jump-shooter goes out and shoots a whole bunch of jumpers all day long; just get that feel so that when he gets in games, it just comes naturally."

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

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.

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Football is coming.

The Patriots announced on Thursday that veterans will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 26 and that the first public practice will take place the following day.

Each of the team's first four practices -- from July 27-30 -- are scheduled to take place on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium "in the nine o'clock hour," according to the Patriots. Updates to the training camp schedule, including more specific start times for practices, can be found at patriots.com/trainingcamp.

The Patriots Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremony for former corner Raymond Clayborn on Saturday, July 29 around midday following that morning's training camp practice. Held on the plaza outside the Hall at Patriot Place, the ceremony will be free and open to the public.

The Patriots will host the Jaguars for two days of joint practices open to the public on Monday, Aug. 7 and Tuesday, Aug. 8. The preseason opener for both clubs will take place at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 10.