Caserio: Welker's got his quickness back


Caserio: Welker's got his quickness back

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - There were times last year that Wes Welker acknowledged he wasn't quite back to where he was pre-ACL blowout. But inthe face of the "Wes Welker, Miracle Baby!" propaganda that followed his return from a blown ACL, the fact he wasn't 100 percent was glossed over. The numbers early in 2010 showed it, though. He didn't have more than 70 receiving yards in a game until mid-November. And his lack of acceleration and ability to power through tackles was evident as his YPC total dipped. Only once in his first eight games did he have more than 9 yards per catch. But then he averaged more than 11 YPC in six straight games. His YPC in four years with the Patriots is 10.5. Welker's built on that progress in this training camp and that's caught the eye of Patriots' Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio. "Wes is having a really strong camp," Caserio said when evaluating the wide receivers as a whole. Asked for more on why Welker's seemed strong, Caserio added, "He always competes, always works hard. He looks like he's regained the quickness level relative to where it was (prior to blowing out his ACL in the 2009 regular-season finale). Wes works hard and he's been a productive player and looks confident. He catches the eye a little bit and done some things that look real good." Caserio spent a few minutes evaluating the Patriots' personnel at safety and Brandon Meriweather in particular, saying, "He's a player with versatility. He's played corner, safety, 'star' (that's the DB lined up on the offense's slot receiver).He's been productive. He's got experience. Is it perfect? No. Is he trying hard to get better? That's the most important thing. Each year is its own entity. You're looking for improvement over the course of time and I think Brandon's done that." Despite their work done at other employers, Caserio said the Patriots can't just presume high-level play from guys like Shaun Ellis and Albert Haynesworth. "Until player is in your program and in your system you actually don't know until they actually start practicing," Caserio explained. "It's no different than Randy (Moss) a few years ago ... until the player is in your program and in your system, with all due respect to how they've played and how they've performed withtheir other team, itreally doesn't matter. ... You have an idea, just sort of a gauge, 'Here's what their skill set may be.' But until you have them under your control a little bit it's sort of hard to evaluate that. .. a player can only do what he's able to do."Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars


THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There's nothing like a visit from the Jacksonville Jaguars to make the Tennessee Titans remember how to protect their home field.

Marcus Mariota threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns to end his home struggles and the Titans had their highest point total of the season in a 36-22 victory over the Jaguars on Thursday night.

Click here for the complete story

Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up


Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up

FOXBORO -- Once the Patriots traded AJ Derby to the Broncos for a fifth-round pick earlier this week, they were left with just two tight ends on their roster. While those two tight ends -- Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett -- have played as two of the best tight ends in football this season, it's a position group that has been considerably thinned. 

Until coach Bill Belichick adds another player at that spot, James Develin would be the logical "next man up." A position group unto himself as the team's lone active fullback -- the other fullback in the locker room is practice-squad player Glenn Gronkowski -- Develin meets with Patriots tight ends and coach Brian Daboll on a daily basis because the fullback and tight-end responsibilities in the Patriots offense are similar, particularly in the run game.

As much time as he spends with that group, Develin tries to absorb what he can when it comes to the nuances of the position. 

"I always kind of try to prepare, obviously, for my fullback role, but then in any other role that I might be called upon for," Develin said on Thursday. "A couple years ago, we had a bunch of injuries during the offseason program, during OTAs, and I filled in a little bit at tight end. I try to keep myself familiar with all those techniques and that tight end role so if the day were to come where I needed to go out there and do it, I'd be able to go out there and do it."

When the Patriots began the season relying more on the run, Develin was called upon to play a relatively significant role in the offense. He averaged 21.3 snaps per game through the first three games of the season, but that number has fallen to 13.6 since Tom Brady's return from a four-game suspension. Still, his role can be a critical one. 

The Patriots' running game faltered last season after both Blount and Dion Lewis went down with season-ending injuries. Having Develin in the mix as an extra blocker would not have guaranteed a more efficient attack, but it may have helped the team's running-game woes late in the year. 

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels now has the luxury of bringing Develin onto the field when he wants some added muscle for his blocking schemes, and should the Patriots need a tight end in a pinch, Develin could do that too.

"A lot of times, especially in the blocking game, really the only difference [between fullback and tight end] is that I'm five yards off the ball in the backfield and they're up on the line," Develin said. "The angles are a little bit different. But a lot of times the assignment is typcially the same thing. It's just the technique of getting there and the angles that you take.

"Then in the passing game, as a tight end, there's just a lot more routes and stuff like that. I try to work on that to help me as a fullback to be a little bit better in space . . . It's a sybiotic relationship." 

As it is, Develin will line up occasionally outside. Though not a threat as a receiver in that spot in the same way that Gronkowski or Bennett would be, he understands some of the different looks tight ends have to be comfortable with.

If an emergency arose and he was asked to fill that role, he wouldn't hesitate.

"There's a little bit of carry-over depending on what we're doing or whatever play we have called where I'll line up on the line," he said. "But that's kind of what a fullback has to do. You kind of have to be able to be thrown into whatever position on the field that you gotta do and you gotta just do your job."