Pats Camp Roundup: Ocho elevates his game


Pats Camp Roundup: Ocho elevates his game

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Chad Ochocinco, slippery-fingered for too many days early in training camp, had the best day I've seen him have. His shining moment? Elevating between rookie corner Malcolm Williams and safety Sergio Brown to make a leaping 50-odd-yard reception on a bomb from Tom Brady. As for the drops? Didn't see one. A collection of other observances from a three-hour Saturday practice: The Patriots will have a day off Sunday. Rookie first-rounder Nate Solder caught a punt at the end of practice that gave them the day off. Figure they probably would have gone until he got it right though. The best10 minutes or so of practice were the 1-on-1 tackling drills between tight ends, running backs, wideouts and the secondary players. Best Hit? Bret Lockett guessing right on a shimmy by Wes Welker and taking the wideout down hard. Best Truck? Undrafted rookie Will Yeatman, who goes 6-5, 268, running over 6-foot, 200-pound Matt Slater. Yeatman didn't bother to put a move on and Slater was left crumpled for a few moments before struggling up. Worst Whiffs? Brandon Meriweather getting out-quicked and out-efforted by Julian Edelman and Stevan Ridley on back-to-back reps. Meriweather failed to even make contact on each play. Albert Haynesworth, Matt Light, Kevin Faulk, Ron Brace, Brandon Tate, Brandon Spikes and Mike Wright were among those sitting this practice out. Wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea talked about the importance of having experienced wideouts like Wes Welker and Deion Branch to tutor Chad Ochocinco as he becomes enmeshed in the Patriots schemes. "I think that having two veteran football players, Wes Welker and Deion Branch, has greatly helped Chads development here early on learning the offense," O'Shea explained. "Its very important that they have open communication on the field, which they have had. Theyve done a great job in the meeting room with Chad. Theyve done a great job on the practice field. Were all working together to get better and thats what theyve done."Our focus at the receiver position right now is fundamentals, getting open and catching the football," O'Shea explained. "Weve worked very hard at practice on being fundamentally sound and along with that, obviously, you have Chad Ochocinco whos running the offense with two veteran football players who know the offense. So, were working very hard on the fundamentals along with learning the offense."Aaron Hernandez had a slew of diving catches during practice. The work of the tight ends early in camp - Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, but also rookie Lee Smith and Yeatman - has been eye-opening.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars


THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There's nothing like a visit from the Jacksonville Jaguars to make the Tennessee Titans remember how to protect their home field.

Marcus Mariota threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns to end his home struggles and the Titans had their highest point total of the season in a 36-22 victory over the Jaguars on Thursday night.

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Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up


Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up

FOXBORO -- Once the Patriots traded AJ Derby to the Broncos for a fifth-round pick earlier this week, they were left with just two tight ends on their roster. While those two tight ends -- Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett -- have played as two of the best tight ends in football this season, it's a position group that has been considerably thinned. 

Until coach Bill Belichick adds another player at that spot, James Develin would be the logical "next man up." A position group unto himself as the team's lone active fullback -- the other fullback in the locker room is practice-squad player Glenn Gronkowski -- Develin meets with Patriots tight ends and coach Brian Daboll on a daily basis because the fullback and tight-end responsibilities in the Patriots offense are similar, particularly in the run game.

As much time as he spends with that group, Develin tries to absorb what he can when it comes to the nuances of the position. 

"I always kind of try to prepare, obviously, for my fullback role, but then in any other role that I might be called upon for," Develin said on Thursday. "A couple years ago, we had a bunch of injuries during the offseason program, during OTAs, and I filled in a little bit at tight end. I try to keep myself familiar with all those techniques and that tight end role so if the day were to come where I needed to go out there and do it, I'd be able to go out there and do it."

When the Patriots began the season relying more on the run, Develin was called upon to play a relatively significant role in the offense. He averaged 21.3 snaps per game through the first three games of the season, but that number has fallen to 13.6 since Tom Brady's return from a four-game suspension. Still, his role can be a critical one. 

The Patriots' running game faltered last season after both Blount and Dion Lewis went down with season-ending injuries. Having Develin in the mix as an extra blocker would not have guaranteed a more efficient attack, but it may have helped the team's running-game woes late in the year. 

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels now has the luxury of bringing Develin onto the field when he wants some added muscle for his blocking schemes, and should the Patriots need a tight end in a pinch, Develin could do that too.

"A lot of times, especially in the blocking game, really the only difference [between fullback and tight end] is that I'm five yards off the ball in the backfield and they're up on the line," Develin said. "The angles are a little bit different. But a lot of times the assignment is typcially the same thing. It's just the technique of getting there and the angles that you take.

"Then in the passing game, as a tight end, there's just a lot more routes and stuff like that. I try to work on that to help me as a fullback to be a little bit better in space . . . It's a sybiotic relationship." 

As it is, Develin will line up occasionally outside. Though not a threat as a receiver in that spot in the same way that Gronkowski or Bennett would be, he understands some of the different looks tight ends have to be comfortable with.

If an emergency arose and he was asked to fill that role, he wouldn't hesitate.

"There's a little bit of carry-over depending on what we're doing or whatever play we have called where I'll line up on the line," he said. "But that's kind of what a fullback has to do. You kind of have to be able to be thrown into whatever position on the field that you gotta do and you gotta just do your job."