Brady on swapping Connolly for Koppen


Brady on swapping Connolly for Koppen

By Mary Paoletti Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
FOXBORO -- New England's Week 1 battle with the Dolphins was not won without a few casualties.

Starting center Dan Koppen suffered a broken left ankle Monday night. Koppen has an MRI scheduled for Wednesday to better form a plan on dealing with the damage, but a return is not imminent.

Sunday's game versus the San Diego Chargers will be just his second absence in the last five years and quarterback Tom Brady isn't happy about it. When Koppen -- on crutches, in a walking boot -- relayed the post-game diagnosis to him outside Sun Life Stadium's visitor's locker room, Brady reaction was . . . unprintable.

The pressure is on right guard Dan Connolly to plug the hole at center (and put his quarterback's mind at ease) as he did in Miami. Brady spoke about Connolly on Wednesday.

"Dan's been here for quite a while. He understands the system and he understands the calls. When you play right guard and you've got to move to center, you know the center's calls. He's been a back up center for a long time and he's expected to go out there and perform very well as he's done at right guard.

"All those guys have some terrific flexibility," Brady continued. "Coach always says, 'The more you can do around here . . . If you can only do one thing you'd better do it well.' Obviously those guys have to be able to play multiple positions."

Ryan Wendell is listed as backup center on the team's depth chart, but a calf injury has limited his participation. Still, even as a third option, Connolly is a decent one. He played well as a stand-in on Monday, not only with snapping to Brady, but helping rookie tackle Nate Solder on the line.

"Every center-quarterback relationship is special and Dan and I have I've had that for a long time," Brady said. "I've known Dan Connolly for a while -- he's been in there at center quite a bit in mini-camps, training camps and we're always preparing for guys playing multiple positions. He's done a good job of that. He did a damn good job the other night stepping in and he's going to need to be able to do that for the forseeable future."

In the end, Brady stressed that the team has to adjust and move on. No matter how big an impression the injury bomb made when initially dropped, there's no time to dwell. Especially with such a short turnaround to Week 2.

"I can't focus on what the center's doing," Brady said. "I trust those guys to do their job. I've got plenty of things to focus on. Plenty of things I need to do a better job of."

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Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language


Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language

When Kyle Van Noy was traded to the Patriots in late October, he had a lot to learn. He needed to understand the layout of his new team's maze-like facility. He needed to adjust to a new locker room. He needed to adapt to a new home. 

He also had to become fluent in a new language.

The former Lions 'backer was inactive for two weeks before he was comfortable enough with the Patriots system -- and the coaching staff was comfortable enough with him -- to get on the field. He played 29 snaps against the Niners in first game with his new club, then saw 28 plays against the Jets. On Sunday he saw his role expand as he played 40 of a possible 51 plays, which was more than Shea McClellin (38) or Dont'a Hightower (33). 

"Kyle has done a great job of working really hard to acclimate to what we’re doing, and he has had to learn really fast as far as the system, the communication, the language," said defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on a conference call Tuesday. "It’s like when you go to a different system, offensively or defensively, a lot of times it’s just learning the vernacular and the verbiage . . . That’s a big part of it. Then getting more familiar with that kind of terminology and the communication is critical because there’s a lot of calls and adjustments, things like that that we’ve got to do on the field."

Van Noy was making some of those calls himself on Sunday as he wore the green dot on his helmet when Hightower was on the sidelines. Even with the added responsibility, Van Noy was able to play freely enough that he put together what might have been the best game of his three-year career. 

Used at the end of the line of scrimmage as well as in a more traditional off-the-line linebacker role, Van Noy was effective in defending both the pass and the run: He stuffed three Rams rush attempts, he recorded a quarterback hit that led to an incompletion, he drew a holding call, and he recorded an athletic interception when he tracked a wobbling Jared Goff pass that floated over the middle after Jabaal Sheard hit Goff's arm as the rookie released his throw.

After several of his stand-out plays, Van Noy was visibly excited on the field and later on the sidelines. It was the culmination of six weeks of work, learning as much as he could from a coaching staff that was eager to teach him. 

"He’s extremely prideful in his work and his approach to the game," Patricia said. "He’s very cerebral. He’ll ask a lot of questions. He really wants to understand what we’re doing and why, which is great. We’re trying to give him those answers and insight into kind of where some of this either came from or developed or situations like that so that’s really good."