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

Gronkowsk hoping to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon

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Gronkowsk hoping to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowsi had what was, for him, an incredibly quiet game against the Texans on Thursday. He saw 14 snaps and ran just one route. He did see a target from rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett when he ran that route, but it floated high over his head and sailed out of the end zone incomplete. 

In his first game action since suffering a hamstring injury on Aug. 15, the Patriots chose to being their All-Pro tight end along slowly, but he's hoping that he'll be more involved in the very near future. 

"You’ve got to be careful with any injury, but I mean, if you research hamstrings, if you know anything about hamstrings, you’ve definitely got to be careful," he said. "You’ve got to progress. You can’t just hop back in and be full-go 100 percent. I wish it was like that. I can’t wait until I’m going freakin' crazy out there again. So I’m just progressing myself into it and feeling better every single day."

Gronkowski was back on the practice field for his team's workout in full pads on Wednesday. He was spotted running through drills and catching passes from tight ends coach Brian Daboll, and he did not appear to be visibly limited. After running around in a game, albeit briefly, Gronkowski explained that he experienced no setbacks.

"I felt good, definitely," Gronkowski said of playing under the lights. "You’re always sore no matter what after playing a game. No matter if you play 10 plays or 70 plays, [you’re] definitely sore like any other game. But no setbacks. No nothing. Feeling good and just progressing every day."

Regardless of who happens to be playing quarterback for the Patriots against the Bills on Sunday -- whether it's Jimmy Garoppolo or Brissett, both of whom practiced Wednesday -- having Gronkowski on the field and closer to his usual level of participation should help. 

"They’re doing very well, very excellent," Gronkowski said of Garoppolo and Brissett's performances with Tom Brady out. "Every single day, they’re just trying to improve and progress every day. This week, you just see everyone throughout the team, everyone is just trying to progress . . . The coaches do a great job of getting the quarterbacks prepared. If there is something there that we need to get on the same page with the quarterbacks on, we’ll talk, but the coaches do an excellent job of getting the quarterbacks ready."

Patriots re-sign DT Anthony Johnson to practice squad

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Patriots re-sign DT Anthony Johnson to practice squad

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have re-signed defensive tackle Anthony Johnson to their practice squad, the team announced. 

Johnson, 23, made the Patriots out of training camp after putting together an impressive preseason in which he recorded five quarterback pressures and was in on two sacks. In two regular-season games, he played 43 snaps as an interior pass-rusher, registering one quarterback hit and one hurry. He was inactive for New England's Week 2 game against the Dolphins. 

The 6-foot-2, 295-pounder was released earlier this week in order to clear room for free-agent defensive lineman John Hughes to be added to the roster. Hughes checks in at 6-2, 320 pounds and would serve more as a space-eating defensive tackle than Johnson, who was used as more of a penetrating pass-rusher. 

In order to make room for Johnson on the practice squad, the Patriots released offensive lineman Ian Silberman.