Patriots' Moss-less offense an option play for Brady


Patriots' Moss-less offense an option play for Brady

By Mary Paoletti

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady met with the media as usual this Wednesday before Patriots practice.

Well, it wasn't quite the usual. For the first time in a long time, the quarterback stood in front of his own locker.

"Back home. Right where I belong,'' Brady said. "I feel good about being at my locker. I haven't been at my locker in a while. This is where I'm most comfortable."

The quarterback must make face time with expectant reporters -- it's just the way it goes. Doesn't mean that Randy Moss had to like it, though. Moss's locker, before he was traded back to Minnesota, was right next to Brady's. So every time the media wave rolled in, reporters and videographers and photographers crowded the area to document every word and breath that Brady uttered.

And Moss sometimes got stepped on. It drove the receiver crazy.

This season Brady moved up the line of lockers to give Moss some space. It was a goodwill gesture for a friend. But now that friend is gone and Brady is "back home."

It was an interesting point to make off the bat.

Ever since the report of a supposed confrontation between the QB and the now-moved Moss, there's been speculation on what kind of breakup he had with the team. If people wanted to draw conclusions of bitterness, they might read into the tone Brady set with the locker talk. They might put these comments about the offense under a microscope:

"You throw it to the guy that's open. I think that's what I've always tried to do,'' he said. "A guy like Wes Welker gets open a lot, so he gets the ball a lot. I don't think it's really a concerted effort to make sure everybody's got a catch coming out of a game. I don't think you've got to look to get every eligible skill guy four catches. I think the guys that are gonna get open are going to get the ball."

How can you not think back to the Jets game? Brady did make a concerted effort to get Moss involved in Week 2 and it was a disaster. The wideout caught just two of the passes he was targeted for and two attempts were picked off.

Two weeks later the execution changed. Drastically. Brady looked to Moss just once and they didn't connect. The Patriots' 41-14 win over Miami marked the first time Randy Moss didn't record a reception since November 19, 2006.

He was gone to Minnesota the next day.

Brady made no mention of Moss specifically when talking about the strengths of his remaining offensive arsenal. But he did stress his appreciation for versatility -- a trait that doesn't really describe Randy Moss.

"I don't want to ever feel like I'm out there hamstrung by the guys that are out on the field. The guys out there . . . I think the thing that's great is that they can do some different things,'' he said.

"Wes can do quite a few things as a route runner, so can Deion Branch, so can Brandon Tate, so can Aaron Hernandez, so can Rob Gronkowski, so can Julian Edelman. In certain offenses, 'This guy does this; this guy does this,' and I hear Coach Bill Belichick say those things when he's trying to coach our defense. That's not the kind of offense we want to be."

Was Brady feeling "hamstrung" by Randy Moss? Maybe. There be plenty of rumors swirling around for a while. Just don't ask the quarterback about it.

"I've moved on," Brady said. "We all have. I really don't want to talk about it anymore."

Some other talking points from TB12:

On roster moves impacting the week ahead:
"The roster's always had transition with players getting injured and players moving. I think it's something we're all used to. We put a good day of work in yesterday and I'm excited to see what we do this weekend. We've got a great challenge. I think all of us in this locker room know what kind of a beating we took from these guys last year. So we don't want that to repeat itself. "

On if he has a lasting memory of last season's playoff loss to the Ravens:
"I think we got manhandled by a team that's a damn good team. And I think everything we wanted to do going into the game we didn't do. Penalties, turnovers, couldn't convert on third down, couldn't control the tempo of the game. I've got a lot of respect for these guys; they play really hard, they're very well coached, they've got a physical front. Very emotional team. They play with energy and enthusiasm for what they're doing. You've got to be able to match that because once they get fired up it's tough to calm them down. "

On if that memory gives particular motivation for redemption:
"There's a lot of reasons for motivation and certainly, when a team gives it to you like they did, I think you're always anxious to get out there and play them again. We got a tough road. We're 3-1. We've done some good things this year but, consistently through the course of 60 minutes . . . we haven't put together a full 60-minute game yet and I think that's what it's going to take to get through these guys this week. There's no let-up in this team. There's not one area where there's a real weakness. They stop you, they score points . . . We've got to compete out there."

On how the offense will look:
"I don't care; whatever it takes to get the ball in the end zone. If we hand it off every play, I'm fine with that. We've got to be able to score points and scoring points comes down to executing well no matter what you call -- whether it's a deep throw or a short throw --those are always in the plan. You don't go into the game plan thinking, 'Oh, we're just going to throw a bunch of two-yard passes.' You always try to stretch the field and if we have guys open we're going to take advantage. "

On how will the offense be change without Moss:
"It's hard to say. Deion is here now and he'll probably have some different strengths than Randy. Randy can certainly do things well, but so can other guys. You guys see what they can do well if we can go out there and perform it. "

On whether or not Branch looks the same:
"I don't know. I haven't played with him in a while. He was reliable, consistent, tough, competitive . . . those are all the things that he really was. I wouldn't think he'd forget how to do those things. I think that's what he obviously enjoys. It's good to have him back."

On the "unspoken" connection he and Branch used to share:
"It'll always be there. I've thrown him thousands and thousands of footballs. I think if you pulled Troy Brown out of the announcer booth, or whatever he's doing these days in the media, and put some pads on him and I think I could throw him the football pretty consistently. The relationship I have with Deion on the field has always been a great one. I think there's always been a natural chemistry and I hope we'd be able to rely back on that a little bit. "

On if he felt the connection on Tuesday:
"Yeah. He looked the way he's always looked. He's an excellent player. I was trying to get Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to throw him the ball more, but maybe that was better for us that he didn't." Laughs

On the diversity of the offense:
"I think it's important for all the guys to be able to do different things in the offense and provide different threats so they can't say 'Oh, this guy's only going to catch these kinds of passes.' I think that one thing that's great our offense is that if they're open they're going to get the ball. I think they all know that so, line them up in different spots and see if they can get open. If they can, you throw it to them; if you can't, you go to the next guy. I know one of those guys is going to be open and it's my job to find him."

On whether or not the Patriots offense will be judged differently without Moss by opposing teams:
"I don't know. Go ask the guy in Baltimore and tell me what he says. I really have no idea how they're going to see us or what they're going to try and take away but every defense has its strengths and weaknesses. When you blitz, yeah, you get to the quarterback faster but if you miss a tackle it's a big play. When you do one, you give up the other. And that's the beautiful thing about football; trying to figure out what they're going to do when they're going to do it so you can take advantage."

On what he felt was the reason for the post-trade Moss-bashing:
"I don't know. Honestly, I didn't follow any of it. I know what I said and I wouldn't bash him. I don't think any of our teammates were bashing him. Were you guys bashing him? I wasn't."

On whether or not Moss was a negative influence in the locker room:
"No. Not at all.

"He and I get along great, we always have since the day he got here. He never made fun of my hair. All season everybody's making fun of my hair, but he never has."

On whether or not it was frustrating to initially lose Branch:
"Sure. He was a dynamic player for us in our offense and he really played big in so many big games. We had spent a lot of time together trying to get to know each other and right when we were starting to get all warmed up and lathered up, he got sent to Seattle. It's just kind of the way it's gone. And I think there are certain guys that came in that year that did a great job . . . Like I said, it's good to have him back and hopefully we can do some of those same things that he was doing for us before."

On the evolution of the system since Branch has gone and returned:
"Quite a bit. I said, 'Do you remember a lot?' Branch said 'Yeah, yeah, I got it. I know it.' And I said, 'Okay, what's this?' Branch said 'I don't know that one.' And I said, 'Well, that was one of the ones you should have known because I haven't even gotten to the stuff that you don't know yet.' Laughs I mean, there's a lot of recall. I'm sure it's like learning anything. He's a real smart guy, a real smart player so I don't think it's going to take him too long. Hopefully by Sunday."

On the toughness of Baltimore's defense:
"They create a lot of issues with their different packages and their blitz packages and where they line up. They do try to cause some confusion. We may move around a lot but they move around a lot and sometimes you want to settle yourself down to see what they're doing. And sometimes you're snapping the ball not quite sure if you got everything picked up but you gotta do the best you can do against a defense like this. They're one of the best defenses in the league and they've been that way for a long time."

On whether or not the Ravens defense will look different without Ed Reed:
"Yeah. I'm happy about that."

Mary Paoletti can be reached at Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

NFL Draft picks No. 25-31: Broncos move up to grab QB Lynch


NFL Draft picks No. 25-31: Broncos move up to grab QB Lynch

No access at Gillette? No first-round pick unless the Patriots make a swap into the latter stages of the round? No problem. We're all over it from the palatial offices here in Burlington. We go pick-by-pick through the first round.

Steelers: Artie Burns, CB, Miami

Mike Tomlin had to be a little bit miffed when he saw the Bengals take Williams Jackson III with the No. 24 pick. The Steelers needed a corner in the worst way, and their division rival took the top available player at that position one slot ahead of them. Credit Pittsburgh for sticking with its plan if it works out, though. Burns is a corner who has all the traits you could ever want -- length, athleticism, ball skills -- but he's going to need work on his technique if he wants to slow down AJ Green twice a year. 

Broncos: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

He may not be ready to start right away, but the Broncos knew what they were doing when they traded up. Lynch is a big-armed quarterback who at 6-foot-7 has enough athleticism to be able to roll out and make throws on the run -- something that will be asked of him in Gary Kubiak's offense. Mark Sanchez still may be Denver's best bet in Week 1, but if Lynch even approaches his potential in Year 1, he could see some starter's snaps. 

Packers: Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA

He's not built like BJ Raji, but Clark will help fill left the void Raji left behind when the veteran defensive tackle walked away from the game this offseason. A strong player who hasn't yet turned 21 years old, Clark has all kinds of upside to offer Mike McCarthy's defense. 

49ers: Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford

The Niners traded up to this spot, leading many to believe that they'd go after a quarterback. Connor Cook, perhaps? Instead they made the oh-so-flashy move to lock up a guard. Garnett had a lot of success in Stanford's pro-style offense playing alongside left tackle Kyle Murphy. Garnett is a machine in the running game and should be a longtime starter. 

Cardinals: Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss

Arizona came into the draft pretty well-set offensively so adding an explosive presence on the interior like Nkemdiche helps make them a more well-rounded roster. He has plenty of off-the-field concerns, but if he can keep his head on straight, this will represent great value for coach Bruce Arians and Co. The Patriots offensive line will have its hands full Week 1 with Nkemdiche, Chandler Jones and Calais Campbell to worry about. 

Panthers: Vernon Butler, DL, Louisiana Tech

The Panthers could've used a corner or a receiver. A defensive end might've made sense, too. Instead, they went after this big-bodied monster. Weighing in at over 320 pounds, Butler handles his weight well and should be able to help collapse opposing offensive lines at the next level. A defense that was already very good just got a little better up front. 

Seahawks: Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M

The Seahawks (and quarterback Russell Wilson) can breathe easy as they escape the first round with some much-needed offensive line help. There are some questions as to where Ifedi will play on the line -- is he a guard or a right tackle? -- but his length and overall athleticism should help him turn into a building block in the trenches.

Who could the Patriots have had at No. 29?


Who could the Patriots have had at No. 29?

Had their first-round pick not been confiscated by Roger Goodell and Troy Vincent, who might the Patriots have selected with the 29th overall pick?

A very good football player. And that’s where the sting is. Yeah, it sucks if Tom Brady sits four games and that’s going to put the Patriots a couple steps back in 2016.

But players like Reggie Ragland, Myles Jack, Sterling Shepard, A’Shawn Robinson, Derrick Henry, Kevin Dodd or Jarron Reed all could have been Patriots and instead fall to the teams behind them

On the bright side, the Patriots can now partake in the 2016 NFL Draft.

On the down side, there were so many options. Jack, seen as a top-five talent, has injury concerns that caused his red-flagged posterior to slide tragically down the board. The UCLA linebacker is way, way, way deeper in his free-fall than anyone expected.

For safe picks, there were a fleet of Alabama players sitting there. The linebacker Ragland is a classic two-down inside linebacker who could thump. Kind of a better Brandon Spikes. Robinson’s a penetrating defensive lineman that gets the job done with power and athleticism. Henry was the Heisman Trophy winner at running back, Dodd is a destructive edge rusher from Clemson who is on the rise and Reed was a classic nose-tackle also from Alabama.

Then there was my guy, wide receiver Sterling Shepard. Plus a few good corners. None of whom will be in New England.

Said NFL Network host Rich Eisen as pick 29 came up and a picture of a cascading fountain was broadcast, “It would have been lit up Patriots colors. But we all know why it isn’t.”

NFL Draft picks No. 17-24: Texans, 'Skins, Vikings make run on WRs


NFL Draft picks No. 17-24: Texans, 'Skins, Vikings make run on WRs

No access at Gillette? No first-round pick unless the Patriots make a swap into the latter stages of the round? No problem. We're all over it from the palatial offices here in Burlington. We go pick-by-pick through the first round.

Lions: Taylor Decker, OT, OSU

Former Patriots personnel man Bob Quinn plucks a 6-foot-7, 310-pound mass of humanity and bad humor. The skinny on Decker is that he’s a Sebastian Vollmer-type according to He can play either tackle spot, strength, size and toughness are not an issue so it’s a low-risk selection which is a bright way to begin one’s GMing tenure.

Falcons: Keanu Neal, S, Florida

Following on the heels of Quinn, the Scott Pioli-Thomas Dimitroff grabbed a big-hitting safety who can play up in the box in run-support and also cover the tight ends and backs. Regarded as one of the best hitters in the draft.

Colts: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama

Ryan Grigson could screw up a one-car funeral when it comes to the draft. But, knowing he couldn’t butcher yet another first-round pick, he must have had someone put in the sensible selection for him. Kelly won’t mess anything up. And he could be devastating if the Colts ever run that long-snapper and Griff Whelan play again. (I know. Whelan is a Dolphin now…)

Bills: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

The Bills add a 6-3, 269-pound edge rusher whose forte is ripping into backfields and will be a big personality for the Bills. Alongside Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes, Lawson steps right in to the vacancy left by the disinterested Mario Williams. Lawson is more of a strength rusher like Jabaal Sheard than a long angular guy like Chandler Jones.

Jets: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

Kind on an undersized linebacker but a tremendous athlete who can cover at the second level with his 4.47 speed. Also had the best vertical and broad jump at the Combine. He’s 6-1, 232 pounds and will probably need some help from his scheme to get the best out of him. The Jets outstanding defensive front could afford head coach Todd Bowles with the bodies to do that for Lee.

Texans: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

Very fast, outstanding athlete, has hands like feet. Anyone that watched the BC-Notre Dame game at Fenway Park witnessed just how bad Fuller’s hands are. Taking him with LaQuon Treadwell on the board still seems a monumental misstep by head coach Bill O’Brien and GM Rick Smith.

Redskins: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

Washington somewhat reluctantly gave quarterback Kirk Cousins the franchise tag because they had no other options and wanted to see what he could do before anteing up huge for a long-term deal. At least he’s got a real good young weapon at his disposal to help him make his dough. A 6-1, 202-pounder with excellent hands and the ability to go and get the ball in the red zone, smart pick.

Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi

A 6-2, 221-pounder who slid because of his 4.64 40 but is a physically dominant player because of the size, strength, smarts combo. Just a really, really strong player who works hard, blocks fiercely and goes to a good NFC team on the rise. You look at all the burners who get drafted in the 20s and flame out, taking a player like Treadwell who may be a half-step slow but can use his body to win is a smart play.

Bengals: William Jackson III, CB, Houston

Long corner who has very good ball skills and makeup speed. He’s not exceptionally strong so while he’s willing to be physical he gets jostled a little bit. In the AFC North, he’ll be fine against everyone but the Steelers who will give him all he can handle. The Senator says, “He’s better than Eli Apple, as far as I’m concerned.”