Brady, Belichick playing it safe with Colts

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Brady, Belichick playing it safe with Colts

FOXBORO -- Why are the Patriots trying so hard to sound wary of the Indianapolis Colts?

"We don't take anything for granted," Tom Brady said in his weekly press conference. "When the ball's kicked off it doesn't matter what their record is, it doesn't matter what our record is. The team that's going to win is the team that plays the best that day.

"You can't go in there and go, 'Ohh, we're the Patriots . . . Colts. We're going to win this game and move on.' That's not the way we approach it, and that's not the way it works. Not in the NFL."

Awfully nice of you, Brady, but the Colts are a bad football team.

They were expected to flounder without Peyton Manning, but they're actually drowning. Very, very slowly. New England's three-game winning streak isn't expected to break over Indianapolis' knee, during a Sunday game so uninteresting it got flexed out of prime time.

The words "trap game" aren't even relevant.

Not only because there's no monster matchup after Week 13 (next up: the NFC East's cellar-dwelling Washington Redskins) but because the popular opinion is there's no conceivable way New England loses to Indy. Are the Colts on pace for their best rushing season since 2007? Yes. On the backs of Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, and Delone Carter they're projected to finish with 1,584 yards on the ground. Is defensive end Dwight Freeney 0.5 sacks away from 100 in his career? Yes. He currently ranks third in the NFL among active players.

But it's hard to give the numbers credence when they don't add up to wins. Indianapolis has played five teams -- Kansas City, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and Carolina -- that are are now below .400 and couldn't summon enough strength to beat any of them. How can this be a meaningful game for New England?

Surely, the Patriots' mettle will be better tested by any of the other 30 teams who are not 0-11.

Yeah . . . I dont agree with that, Bill Belichick said Wednesday. So, you can go ahead on your soliloquy about that, but I just dont agree with that. You dont think you can gauge a team based on how a player blocks Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis? I mean, who else would you gauge it against? Are you kidding me?

"Covering Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, and Pierre Garcon -- you dont think you can gauge your coverage based on those players? I dont care what their record is. You dont think theres better receivers around than them? Better pass rushers than Freeney and Mathis? I mean, Im not sure what games youre watching here.

Imagine if New England lost.

The fallout would be worse than that following last season's 34-14 loss to Cleveland. That was a trap game. The Patriots visited the Dog Pound the week before back-to-back clashes with the Steelers and Colts. Cleveland dismantled them in shocking fashion. The media 'Ooh'd' and 'Ahh'd' that the Browns toppled a titan to add to their 2-5 record. And this was two weeks after Cleveland pulled off a stunner against New Orleans.

Imagine if Brady starts slowly and throws the ball at his tight ends' feet; Wes Welker is covered and Deion Branch can't gain separation; members of the secondary tackle each other; New England's D-line can't put a lid on Carter and Brown. Just picture the Patriots worst possible day and Indy's best -- whatever alternate universe where that scenario may occur.

Brady says he can.

"You guys don't play," he spat (gently). "You don't have to drop back and find the open guy with two guys breathing down your throat. You don't have to cover Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clarke and tackle those guys. They're damn good football players and they've proven that year after year against us.

"We go out expecting to get their best. Their best has been very, very close at times this year. They played Pittsburgh very well. So when you see them play a team like Pittsburgh well, actually better than we played them, then you understand they can certainly beat us if we don't go out and play well. If we allow them to do the things they want to do."

It's true the Colts came close against Pittsburgh.

Ben Roethlisberger had to drive 60-yards to get the go-ahead Steelers field goal with just four seconds left on the clock. Indianapolis' defense had three sacks, forced three turnovers and even scored a touchdown. Bottom line: It wasn't enough. As the case has been all season.

Still, the Patriots fear the chance -- or the possibility of the chance -- they could be the hump Indy claws over. In that case, it would be better to create a sense of urgency ahead of time.

'See? We told you they were good.'

Good thinking.

Report: Patriots sign nine undrafted free agents

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Report: Patriots sign nine undrafted free agents

The Patriots have reportedly added nine undrafted free agents after selecting nine players in the 2016 NFL Draft.

DJ Foster, RB/WR, Arizona State
Shaquille Powell, RB, Duke
De’Runnya Wilson, TE/WR, Miss State
Steven Scheu, TE, Vanderbilt
Woodrow Hamilton, DT, Mississippi State
CJ Johnson, LB, Mississippi State
V’Angelo Bentley, CB, Illinois
Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn
Cre’Von LeBlanc, CB, Florida Atlantic

Foster is arguably the highest profile player the Patriots signed and was filmed celebrating the moment.

Foster has the versatility the Patriots looks for. He played running back over his first three collegiate seasons before shifting to wide receiver. He finished his career at Arizona State with 666 total touches for 4,813 yards and 32 touchdowns.

Stay tuned for more…

'Football makeup' central to Pats draft picks

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'Football makeup' central to Pats draft picks

FOXBORO – The Patriots added nine players through the draft this weekend.

And when you looked at their resumes and backstories, almost all of them had one of those “Patriot markers” on them. Some had a character trait. Some were from a program that the Patriots particularly trust. Some showed the ability to overcome adversity or be adaptable. And there weren’t any guys that seem to present off-field risks.

None of these markers, of course, are guarantees of anything. They’re all in their early 20s, still in their formative years. There’s no way to project how money, geography, opportunity and competing at this level will change them.

The football, said Nick Caserio, obviously comes first. But who a young player is has to be a big part of the equation.

“It’s everything,” said the Patriots Director of Player Personnel. “I mean, it really is. We try to look each position on the board, each position they have their own particular factors and position skill set that we evaluate and we go through and we assign a grade …There’s certain things that a corner’s going to have to be able to do. There are certain things that a tight end’s going to have to be able to do. Everyone has their own particular skills that they’re going to have to do. Will he check every box? Well maybe not but does he check enough?

“The most important thing is to take the strengths of a player and try to put him into position to where he can utilize those strengths. Not ‘well he doesn’t do this’. Then we won’t put him in that position hopefully. So [we] try to identify what the skill is, how well they do it, and then put them in a position where they can actually see it. So there’s the physical component.”

Then, Caserio said, there’s the projection of how the person will perform.

“Call it ‘football makeup’ component is a central part of it as well,” he said. “Look, we’re not perfect. Some players work the way we think (others don’t). It comes with the territory. But you’re trying to create a profile of the player within our building and then how he’s going to handle everything that comes along with being a New England Patriot. Being in the program, the demands that we place on those players, so you factor everything in. Some players, they may check every single place both from a physical standpoint and from a football-makeup standpoint and you have others that maybe they check enough of them and then you feel comfortable about that level.”

Rolling through the players they took, it’s interesting to try and see what may have been a “football makeup” draw with each. Second-round corner Cyrus Jones played for Nick Saban at Alabama. He’s played in the biggest games and shown well in them. He’s a film junkie. He tackles well. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s not the biggest corner. But he’s got an edge and he excels on special teams.

Third-rounder Joe Thuney is “very productive, very durable, very bright; probably as intelligent as anybody at that position,” said Caserio. He also can play anywhere on the line. Smarts and versatility are highly valued by the Patriots.

Third-round quarterback Jacoby Brissett is a gifted, charismatic leader who’s had a relationship with Bill Parcells since Brissett was in high school. “I can't even describe what type of person he is and what he's meant to my life,” said Brissett. “Just him grooming me as a man and preparing me for tough times, hard times, good times. He's been so helpful to me throughout this process and just keeping my steady and keeping a good head on my shoulders and you know I just can't thank him enough.”

Third-rounder Vincent Valentine from Nebraska? Versatile big man who can play all over the defensive line.

Malcolm Mitchell, the Georgia wide receiver? You couldn’t find a more likable and genuine kid, it seems. And the scouting report offered by longtime draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki? “A tough, passionate, crafty slot receiver who can be trusted to move the sticks in critical situations … Brings similar energy, toughness and attitude as Steelers 1998 third-round pick Hines Ward. Smart and versatile enough to contribute in multiple roles perhaps even at cornerback where he began his Georgia career and could be most attractive to a veteran coaching staff such as the Patriots or Steelers.”

Kamu Grugier-Hill? A safety who can play at the linebacker level and has huge special teams upside that comes with a recommendation from Eastern Illinois college teammate Jimmy Garoppolo. Another sixth-rounder, Elandon Roberts? Big-time character guy who doesn’t have great measurables but had great production. Seventh-rounder Ted Karras? A four-year starter at guard in the Big Ten with Illinois. Seventh-round wideout Devin Lucien? Dedicated student who was able to switch from UCLA to Arizona State as a graduate transfer and still go out and be very productive with the Sun Devils in his final collegiate season.

There aren’t any real injury dice rolls.

There any character dice rolls.

The “football makeup” seems to be there.

Now?

“They have no idea what they’re getting into,” said Bill Belichick on Saturday night. “It’s not their fault. We all had to go through it at some point or another. They’re going to get a big dose of what they probably haven’t had a whole lot of, certainly any time recently. It’s a big load. The competition level is going to step up. The volume is going to step up. It’s not a scholarship. In college they can’t take them away from you. In the NFL you’re fighting for a job so it’s a whole new ball game.”

In the end, football ability will be the main determinant as to whether they stay or go. But the Patriots made sure that – at least on the surface – they all appear to have the ability to withstand what’s going to be coming at them.