Haley knows defense faces a tough test

589844.jpg

Haley knows defense faces a tough test

FOXBORO -- Todd Haley knows his defense faces a tough test on Monday night. He realizes all of the options that Tom Brady has to utilize.

And forget about preventing the Pats from putting points on the board. The Kansas City Chiefs coach said in a conference call on Wednesday, that it's going to be tough enough to just slow them and their no-huddle offense down.

"Offensively, Tom looks like he's playing at as high a level as we've seen him play," said Haley. "He's got a lot of good -- some veteran, some young -- developing players that look like they all have a chance to be really, really good.

"What Welker's doing to this point is just phenomenal. Having coached receivers for a long time, I know he was really, really good, but what he's doing right now is just off the charts. And then throw in the fact that Gronkowski has 700-plus yards and you still have a guy like Deion Branch over there, and Chad Ochocinco and Hernandez, and the two running backs I really, really like, including Woodhead.

"So up front, they're as solid and sound as any team we've seen, as far as protecting the quarterback," added Haley. "And they look like they have a chance to keep getting better. It's a great challenge for our defense to even slow down this offense."

Haley went on to praise New England's tight-end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who are a major part of the Patriots' offense.

"Both of these guys are really playing well, Hernandez and Gronkowski," said Haley. "Players that I, personally, really thought a lot of, coming out of college. We spent time with both of those guys at the combine. We spent a lot of time watching tape. They're players that I really, really thought had a chance to be good, and they haven't disappointed."

Gronkowski's name will be fresh in Kansas City's mind, as he was all over the game film from New England's 37-16 win over the New York Jets on Sunday night.

Brady found Gronkowski eight times for 113 yards and two touchdowns in that win. And on Wednesday, Haley compared him to . . . former wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

"Gronkowski is just a physical presence that, much like some receivers that I've coached in the past -- like a Keyshawn Johnson or somebody like that -- once the quarterback understands that you can throw it to him when he's covered, that's always a great trait or characteristic to have," said Haley. "If you're a guy catching the ball from a quarterback, and the quarterback knows he can throw it when you're covered, which obviously Tom does a bunch, that's just a testament to Rob and really how good he is able to position and use his body to make catches on top of it. Just great, great hands."

Fridays' Patriots-Ravens practice report: Richards returns to the field

Fridays' Patriots-Ravens practice report: Richards returns to the field

Friday's practice participation/injury report for Monday night's Patriots-Ravens game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
TE Martellus Bennett (ankle/shoulder)
DB Jordan Richards (knee)
LB Elandon Roberts (hamstring)
DB Eric Rowe (hamstring)
WR/SpT Matthew Slater (foot)

BALTIMORE RAVENS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Crockett Gilmore (thigh)
LB Terrell Suggs (not injury related)
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh)
C Jeremy Zuttah (not injury related)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
G Alex Lewis (ankle)

FULL PARTICIPATION
G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

Mitchell rising fast but somehow totally unaware of fantasy football

patriots-hogan-mitchell-120416.jpg

Mitchell rising fast but somehow totally unaware of fantasy football

FOXBORO -- It seems unlikely that a 23-year-old who has spent much of his life around sports would be unaware of how fantasy football works. But Malcolm Mitchell insisted on Friday that he was that 23-year-old. 

Over the last seven days, Mitchell has been the second-most added player in ESPN.com fantasy leagues behind only Steelers tight end Ladarius Green. The rookie wideout went undrafted in many fantasy leagues before the start of the regular season, but his production has spiked over the last three weeks making him one of a hot commodity for people headed into the fantasy playoffs.

In wins over the Niners, Jets and Rams, Mitchell has caught 17 passes for 222 yards and three scores. 

"I have family members mention it, but I never know what they're talking about," Mitchell said when asked if he was asked about his newfound popularity among fans of fantasy football. "I'm not sure how that works. If someone said it, I'd probably have no idea what it means."

A fewer lockers down from Mitchell is the stall of rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who cut into Mitchell's back-and-forth with reporters joking, "I've got him on my team!"

Mitchell's confusion over the phenomenon that is fantasy football seemed to be genuine as he asked questions about how teams operate and what fantasy free-agency means. 

Those who've picked him up probably don't mind that Mitchell is in the dark on the subject -- and the same goes for the Patriots coaching staff, it's safe to assume -- as long as he continues to do his job as well as he's done it in recent weeks.