Patriots prepare for new-look Dolphins

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Patriots prepare for new-look Dolphins

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn These are not your Don Shula-coached Miami Dolphins.

And no one will confuse current quarterback Chad Henne with Bob Griese, or Daniel Thomas with Larry Csonka.

But these Dolphins, on paper at least, are decent.

So there's actually some substance to the "that's-a-pretty-good-team . . ." spiel that Bill Belichick and just about every NFL coach this time of year, shovels out on to the public.

Belichick, in his weekly press conference leading up to the season opener against Miami, spoke on the challenge presented by opening at Miami.

"It's always tough to go on the road in this division, to play down there this time of year," Belichick said. "Miami has played well in the preseason games. They have a lot of weapons on offense. They're a big, physical defensive team. Have good speed and athleticism with their linebackers and defensive backs and much improved in the kicking game from where they were last year. They'll be a big challenge for us."

The Dolphins also have, to a certain degree, an element of surprise with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and running back Reggie Bush.

"With Brian Daboll there now, he has some new ideas," said Belichick of the former Patriots assistant. "How much they'll retain from last year, how much they'll put in new, how many new things they have with a player like Reggie (Bush) that they haven't shown -- that's a big question mark, too. No question, from a preparation standpoint there are a lot of possibilities and we know they won't be able to do all of them. We just don't know which ones they'll do or which ones they'll feature. From a game plan standpoint, that's difficult."

Here are Belichick's thoughts on a few other topics Tuesday.

On how the Patriots use their safeties
BB: "To put safeties in that category was the way it was many years ago when you had a lot of two-back offenses and one safety traditionally played closer to the line of scrimmage and another safety traditionally played in the deep part of the field. As the game has evolved, over the last Id say 20 years, offenses have done a much better job of trying to make your strong safety play free safety, make your free safety play strong safety, not let your defensive players get comfortable playing where they want to play and make them play where you dont want them to play. In our system, we have always taught our safeties both positions. If theyre on the strong side of the formation or on the weak side of the formation, inevitably there are going to be times when the offenses are going to do that and force you to do that and then sometimes we, by game plan, adjust that from week-to-week on what specifically we want them to do. Sometimes we can control who is the strong safety and who is the weak safety but a lot of times we cant so they really need to learn both responsibilities for when it gets to that point, which like I said, inevitably it does."

On how Deion Branch looked in camp
BB: "Deion has had a pretty good camp; hasnt missed any time at all and that was something he wasnt able to do last year. We had to manage him a little bit in practice but he was, I think, in good condition. He took certainly his share of reps out there in training camp and I thought he looked good doing it. I think hes in position, based on what Ive seen so far and what he has done in training camp and preseason, I think hes ready to have a good year. (He) works hard, gives us good leadership at that position, very smart player, instinctive player, knows what to do, does the right thing and is very dependable. I think everybody in the organization feels good about counting on Deion. Hes a very consistent guy every day. Every time the ball is snapped he almost always does the right thing, does it the way you want him to do it. We all have a lot of confidence in Deion.

On Brandon Spikes' offseason
BB: I couldnt really describe any players offseason - we didnt see any of the players in the offseason. I thought Brandon got off to a good start in preseason and then he missed some time and so hes a little behind with the time that he missed, but hes back on the field now and working hard on getting back; his conditioning and all his timing and all those things. Well see how quickly he can get back to where he was at a few weeks ago. Its unfortunate that he missed a little bit of time because he was doing well, but hes back out there now and looks like hes doing OK now. Well see how quickly he can get back up to that level, that speed."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Easley on character concerns: 'It's all rumors' until sources step forward

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Easley on character concerns: 'It's all rumors' until sources step forward

When Dominique Easley was released by the Patriots this spring, it wasn't because he wasn't productive when he was on the field. In fact, on a per-snap basis, he was one of the most productive interior pass-rushers in the league last season, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Instead, there were some off-the-field factors, as well as injury concerns, that led to the Patriots choosing to cut ties with their 2014 first-round pick. 

As our Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran put it, there were "philosophical differences" between Easley and the team.

Other, more scathing reports of Easley's impact in New England were released, including one report from the Boston Globe that included a quote from a former teammate saying he was a "locker room cancer."

Since then, Easley has landed with the Rams and has a chance to contribute to one of the most talented defensive lines in football. In an interview on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Phil Savage and Amber Theoharis, Easley said he hopes that his new team will get to see that he's a better person than some have indicated.

"Just really," Easley said, "just hopefully that the Rams get to see what a great person and a great hardworker I am, and really, just a great person."

Easley went on to say that he's not sure who would speak of him negatively or why. He explained that it's not his "main goal" to prove there's nothing to worry about with his character, but clearly it's somewhere on the list. 

"There's been, obviously, stuff said about me," Easley said. "We don't know where it came from. I would say the person doesn't want to come out and say it, neither. As far as I know, it's all rumors until that person comes out and say that it was from them, and they can prove that they actually know who I am, or been around me long enough to know who I am and how I am as a person."

PFT: NFL plans to interview Manning about Al Jazeera PED allegations

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PFT: NFL plans to interview Manning about Al Jazeera PED allegations

Peyton Manning is retired, but that doesn't mean he's exempt from the interviews that the NFL plans to conduct as it looks into the allegations made by Al Jazeera's December PED documentary. 

It was reported last week by USA Today that the league's senior vice president of labor policy and league affairs Adolpho Birch informed the NFLPA that players named in Al Jazeera's report would be interviewed in July. 

Among those scheduled to be interviewed are Packers linebackers Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews and Steelers linebacker James Harrison. Former Packers linebacker Mike Neal will also be interviewed.

(Harrison has taken issue with the league's request, and said on social media that he would only meet with the league if commissioner Roger Goodell showed up to his home.)

Manning was not mentioned in the letter obtained by USA Today detailing the league's interview plans, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk followed up on Monday to see if the NFL intended to speak with Manning. It does.

The former Broncos and Colts quarterback has been very vocal about just how strongly he denies Al Jazeera's claim that his wife, Ashley, received HGH for his use. Despite the fact that he's no longer playing, it will come as no surprise if, given his stance, Manning cooperates fully with the league as it seeks more information regarding the report. 

As Florio points out, if Manning hopes to return to the NFL at some point as an executive -- as many believe he will -- this is something he'll want to put to bed beforehand. That process will start with an interview.