Curran: Patriots, beware of Ochocinco


Curran: Patriots, beware of Ochocinco

By TomE. Curran
So let's get this straight. Bill Belichick was so pissed at Wes Welker's veiled swipes at Rex Ryan that he sat him down for the first series of a playoff game. A PLAYOFF game. Wes Welker. Aguy who battled back from a blown ACL in order to be ready ahead of schedule for this regular season. A guy who's caught 466 balls and 24 touchdowns in 65 games (including playoffs). A guy who generally wouldn't say s if he had a mouthful. And he gets punished pretty severely for a one-time verbal wobble? Compared toChad Ochojohnson, Welker is talkative as a window sill, inflammatory as a dandelion.
Yet we're all speculating on the possibilitythat Ochojohnson -- a man more brand than football player -- is legitimate quarry for the Patriots?It's the slow season. Chad's got his shortest, tightest skirt on and is stepping off the sidewalk to stick his bald head in the window of every passing car.But how plausible is this notion? I know the respect Belichick has forChad's game (can I call him Chad? I'm going withChad).Between both press conferences and normal conversation, I'veheard enough to know that Chad was -- at one point -- the receiver Belichick most admired. For a five-season stretch - 2003 through 2007- he caught 462 balls (92 per season) for an average of 1,374 yards and 43 touchdowns. ThenChad turned 30. In the past three seasons, he caught 192 balls (64 per season) for an average of 793 yards and 17 total touchdowns.He's on the decline. Not useless, not at all. Look at whatTomBrady did forDeion Branch, a playerseeminngly washed up whenhe arrived in New England back in October. But can Belichick convince Chad to give up cold turkey his"look at me" persona andbe a football drone?Just as important, can Brady? Forget the outward bouquet-tossing. He'd had all he could stand of Moss by the time Moss was dealt. The need to be fed the ball, the tepid effort on balls that needed extra effort, the resultant interceptions when he didn't compete . . . all of it came to a head against the Jets in Week 2. Moss saw four passes his way in the next two games and went buh-bye. Chad's every bit as demanding. And a helluva lot more verbal about it on Twitter and in the locker room. Or at least he has been. Will Brady -- coming off another surgery and a soul-crushing playoff loss -- be excited about having a high-maintenance receiver in his huddle after finding all the success he did with a bunch of team-first guys?Seems a stretch. Then of course there's the fact that Chad is UNDER CONTRACT AND CAN'T BE TAMPERED WITH!Already, this seems lost on one coach. Hue Jackson, the new man in charge of the Raiders, claimed Chad is his "son." We'll see what Rex Ryan says in response to Chad and Terrell Owens both saying they want to play for the Jets. Bengals owner Mike Brown can do vindictive. Think he'll want to release Chad so he can go sign where he wants? Or that he'll deal Chad to a place he's openly whored himself out to? At this rate, Ocho's probably piled up enough comments to get one of those "conduct detrimental to the team" punishments and get his posterior put on ice. Which is another dynamic to watch for. I'm hesitant to dismiss out of hand the idea that Belichick would want to coach Chad. Look at the track record -- no coach has made more unconventional personnel decisions than Hoody. But look at the makeup of the Patriots, their youth and need to keep maturing. Look at the recent history of how things went with a high-maintenance wideout with a me-first attitude. Consider the seriousness of Tom Brady and the grabassery Chad is constantly involved in.
When you look at it, it hardly seems logical. Tom E. Curran canbe reached at Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Belichick explains matching in the secondary

Belichick explains matching in the secondary

FOXBORO – Here’s a leftover from last week I’m dredging up because it’s really instructive in giving insight to something we all flap our arms about: how the Pats decide whether to play zone, man-to-man or match receivers with their secondary.

The jumping off-point was asking about Trumaine Johnson -- a long-tall corner for the Rams. As Belichick about Johnson and the difficulties he poses, at 6-foot-2, it brought to mind the team’s acquisition earlier this season of Eric Rowe. The 6-2 corner they got from the Eagles filled a need in that the Patriots other corners are not very tall, headlined by 5-9 Malcolm Butler.

So I asked Belichick if the team strives to have different sized players in the secondary.

“That’s if you move them around,” he explained, meaning size only matters if you intend to put size-on-size. “If you don’t move them around, if you play a guy at one positon and he plays on the right side or the left side, you cover the guy that’s over there, which I’d say is more the situation than not. There are some teams or some situations where you’ve got him, he’s got the next guy, you’ve got somebody else, but I’d say that’s by far the lower percentage of the plays, by far. Generally, you see a corner play – some games are different. We’ll match to this guy and somebody else matches to that guy. Teams will do that. There’s some of that, but by and large, most teams play at one position and whoever is in that spot, that’s who they cover.”

With matching receivers being the exception rather than the rule, the next logical question is why? Why would you let a little guy cover a big guy if you also have a big guy who could cover?

Because offenses make it complicated, Belichick answered.

“The easiest thing in the world is for one player to match another,” he explained. “‘OK, you go cover this guy.’ Alright, great. But what do the other 10 guys do? That’s the problem. It’s easy to matchup one guy. That’s simple. What do the other 10 guys do? What if he’s here? What if he’s there? What if he goes in motion? What if he’s in the backfield? What if it’s this personnel? What if it’s that personnel in the game? Then how does all the rest of it matchup? That’s where it gets tricky.  You can be spending all day, literally, on that. OK yeah, you take this guy but what are you going to do with the other 10?”

Belichick also delved into other options including a coverage concept the Pats used when Darrelle Revis was here. Giving Revis the opponent’s so-called No. 2 receiver and doubling the No. 1.

“You can matchup and put your best guy on their best guy, or you can matchup and put your best guy on let’s call it their second best guy and put your second best guy on their best guy and double him,” Belichick said. “If you’re going to put your best guy on their best guy and double him anyway then you kind of lessen the matchups down the line. It’s like setting a tennis ladder, or whatever. If you put your bad guy at one and you win two through seven, great. If you put your best guy at one and he gets beat by their one and then your two versus their two, you know. That’s what you’re doing. You have a three to four-man ladder there with the receivers and your DB’s [defensive backs], except we don’t have to match them that way. You can match them however you want.”

It’s a fascinating discussion and it comes into play the next two weeks as the Patriots will see a true test with receivers like the Ravens Steve Smith and Denver with Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.

The Patriots will have decisions to make. Chances are they’ll use a little bit of everything. But these are some of the the things they weight when doing so.

Call-up coming? Belichick likes what he's seen from p-squad receivers


Call-up coming? Belichick likes what he's seen from p-squad receivers

The Patriots find themselves in a difficult spot following Sunday's win over the Rams: They are a team that likes to lean on three-receiver sets, yet they have only three healthy receivers.

Danny Amendola suffered an ankle injury during a punt return over the weekend that further thinned an already thin position group. The healthy receivers left on the depth chart are Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and rookie Malcolm Mitchell.

The Patriots will in all likelihood make an addition to their 53-man roster at some point in order to bolster their depleted receiving group, and in a way, they've been preparing for this.

With just four true receivers on the active roster, the team has been adding and subtracting wieoutes on their practice squad for much of the year. They began the season with rookie seventh-round pick Devin Lucien and fourth-year wideout Devin Street on the p-squad. On Sept. 14, they added DeAndrew White as a third receiver on the 10-man unit, giving them a relatively unusual amount of practice-squad depth at one spot. 

After Street was signed away by the Colts, the Patriots gave practice-squad shots to Da'Ron Brown and Shaquelle Evans. Neither of those players stuck, but Lucien and White have.

"I think they’ve made good progress . . . They both have been consistent," Bill Belichick said during a conference call on Tuesday. "They’ve been out there every day. They work hard. They’ve made plays for us in practice on the scout team against our defense, so overall our guys on the practice squad do a good job.

"They certainly help us get ready for the games by simulating our opponent’s schemes and playing styles and at the same time they’ve improved with their individual skills and techniques. Both of those guys – they’ve done a good job for us."

ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss reported on Sunday that the Patriots voluntarily increased the salary of White (from the minimum of $6,900 per week to $10,000 per week), perhaps an indicator that he's the favorite as a call-up to the 53-man roster.

White, who has been named one of New England's practice players of the week three times this season, is in his second year out of Alabama. He was signed by San Francisco in May of 2015 as an undrafted free agent, and he played in four games as a rookie, catching two passes for 18 yards. He also returned six kicks and returned one punt for the 49ers.

There are free-agent options available to the Patriots should they choose to go that route.

Keshawn Martin, who was released by the Niners on Nov. 8 and is a free agent, could be an attractive option given his punt-return experience and his understanding of the Patriots system. Others who are out there and have spent time with the Patriots include Aaron Dobson, Nate Washington and Kenbrell Thompkins.

Should the Patriots feel as though they would be straining to add a receiver to the 53-man roster, they could find some help with the depth they have at running back. Dion Lewis, James White and DJ Foster are all capable pass-catchers who have the ability to line up wide or in the slot. Foster, who was a college teammate of Lucien's for one season, played receiver as a senior at Arizona State.