Notes: Physicality picking up in training camp

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Notes: Physicality picking up in training camp

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Rain forced the Patriots inside their practice bubble on Monday afternoon. The urgency imposed this week by head coach Bill Belichick and his staff forced the aggression to escalate. There were several solid hits in the nearly three-hour practice but the best action centered --- as it has for most of this training cam -- around the second-year tight ends. Rob Gronkowski delivered two crunching blocks during practice, rag-dolling linebacker Gary Guyton on one and leveling safety Sergio Brown on the other. Meanwhile, tight end Aaron Hernandez got absolutely leveled by safety Patrick Chung. "I wasn't expecting it but it was still a good little pop and it got me aggravated," Hernandez admitted. "He plays hard and you gotta be ready at all times."On Saturday, Bill Belichick spoke about how important this week of preparation was to the team. The intensity seems to have been ratcheted up accordingly. Hernandez said a hit like Chung's is necessary to prepare a player for the season. He added,"you need to learn how to hold onto the ball which we learned last week."
Hernandez put the ball on theground twice in the preseason opener. Wes Welker confirmed personnel man Nick Caserio's contention that Welker's moving well in this camp.
"I feel great," Welker said. "I feel like I've gained a step from two years ago. This is the best I've felt in a long time and I just want to continue to play well and get better." Asked which aspect seems different, Welker said, "The main thing is getting off the ball and that's something I lacked a little bit before but that was last year."As for an appraisal of Chad Ochocinco, Welkerempathized with the transition, saying, "You can't ask any more of a guy coming in here and trying to learn the offense. It's frustrating at times as it was for me whenI first got here. There's always that learning curve."Specifically, what's difficult?
"There's just so much," he said. "So much language, so many signals, so many route conversions. It's all the way around it's not one thing it's so many things."Welker deftly eluded a question about entering the final year of his contract saying he's "concentrating on the here and now." Ochocinco seemed perturbed when a sideline throw from Tom Brady wasn't where Ocho wanted. Ocho blurted out a loud, "Come on, man!" The two players had a running dialogue over the next few minutes. Defensive end Andre Carter was outstanding in 1-on-1 drills against linemen. Fellow DEs Eric Moore and Mark Anderson toiled after practice for several minutes working on their 1-on-1 moves as well. Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, James Sanders and Mike Wright all worked out separate from the team on Monday.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes

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Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes

The Patriots opened a roster spot by waiving defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, but they won't be adding a quarterback to take his place. 

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the team has swapped one defensive tackle for another by adding former Browns big man John Hughes, a 6-foot-2, 320-pounder who played under former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Mike Lombardi when Lombardi was Cleveland's general manager in 2013. 

Hughes was released last week after spending just over four years with the team that drafted him in the third round in 2012. He signed a four-year extension with the Browns last season that was worth $12.8 million. 

With the Patriots, Hughes figures to work in as part of the rotation on the interior of the defensive line along with Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and rookie third-round pick Vincent Valentine. Unlike Johnson, who was more of a penetrating pass-rusher, Hughes should factor in as more of a space-eating type. He has 5.5 career sacks in 53 games. 

Johnson is the latest in a long line of Browns who played under Lombardi to end up in New England. The two most notable Patriots who spent 2013 in Cleveland are defensive end Jabaal Sheard and running back Dion Lewis. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who arrived in New England in a trade this summer, was drafted by Lombardi's front office as the No. 6 overall pick in 2013.

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

There’s no way to spin rookie Jacoby Brissett starting a game rather than three-year NFL veteran Jimmy Garoppolo or future Hall of Famer Tom Brady as preferable.
 
But can the disadvantages be mitigated? Can the fact there is no “book” on a player be helpful?
 
“I think there’s always an element of the unknown when you’re dealing with a player or something you haven’t seen or scouted as much,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on a conference call Monday afternoon. “I don’t know if there’s an advantage there, it’s just that you don’t have as much information on a player or on some scheme that they may use, which then forces you to figure some things out as the game goes along and do some quick self-scouting as you move through the first cquarter, the first half, whatever it is, just to make sure that if it is something new you haven’t seen before, if it is a player that you haven’t played against and don’t have a lot of volume of tape on, that you have an opportunity to evaluate quickly what is going on.

"What’s happening in the game? How much of an impact is that player having? Are they trying to  do something that’s disrupting what you’re trying to do with their scheme? I think that happens a lot of weeks during the course of the year based on health and availability, new players, guys being called up, someone that just got signed and you don’t really have a lot of experience watching them play in their system. I would say that’s a common occurrence for us.”
 
With a fullback or UDFA guard pressed into duty, there’s not a helluva lot that will be altered in terms of scheme. With players like Garoppolo and Brissett, though, the Patriots' long-established offense can take on an entirely different look if different areas are emphasized.
 
For instance, jet sweep is a play the team won’t use much with Tom Brady except as a “keep ‘em honest” on the edges kind of play. With Garoppolo, quickness when he gets outside the pocket has to be respected so if he fakes that jet sweep and rolls to the outside, he’s a run-pass threat with speed and downfield accuracy. With Brissett, he’s a threat with elusiveness, size and power as a runner. Additionally, if the Patriots wanted to try the old Elway Throwback to the opposite sideline, Brissett may have more arm power than either Brady or Garoppolo.
 
McDaniels said the Patriots aren’t looking necessarily for ways to “surprise” opponents as much as they are looking for ways to accentuate players’ strengths.  
 
“We’ve got to take the guys that we get to play with, based on health and other factors, and then we consider the defense that we’re getting ready to play against, and the great players and the scheme that they use, and then we try to formulate the right plan to allow our players to go out there and play fast, play well, and do the things that suit their talents the best,” McDaniels explained. “I don’t think that our mindset has changed.

"Some of the variables have changed from one week to the next, which is always the case,  and of course, when you get a group of guys a plan and then you work so hard to get ready for Sunday or Thursday night and go out there and watch them play and execute and take care of the ball and do the things you need to do to try to win, and then they enjoy it so much, that’s really the thing that you take the most satisfaction from as a coach.”