Pats send Wilhite to IR; Belichick lauds Brady

191543.jpg

Pats send Wilhite to IR; Belichick lauds Brady

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - Jonathan Wilhite, whose moments of solid play in 2010 were somewhat lost in the shuffle, won't get another chance to shine this season. He was sent to injured reserve on Wednesday with a hamstring injury. His hip has also been a sore spot for him. A fourth-round pick out of Auburn in 2008, Wilhite worked his way up the depth chart to become a starter in 2009, but the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder's play was just OK as the Patriots defense as a whole struggled. This season he was supplanted by a few players - Devin McCourty, Darius Butler and Kyle Arrington among them - and became mostly an off-the-bench situational guy. "Jonathan's situation just wasnt improving the way that he hoped or we hoped it would, so we had to move along there," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots filled Wilhite's roster spot with a defensive lineman who most recently played with the Panthers, Louis Leonard. At 6-4, 325, Leonard is a product of the Fresno State program coached by Friend of Belichick, Pat Hill. "Leonard is a guy that has a little experience in the league; defensive lineman is a position that we're kind of short on; we just had five at the game last week," Belichick offered. "Hopefully he can give us a little depth there if he can get ready to go. I don't know; we'll see how it goes." The Patriots' most recent acquisition before Leonard was defensive end Eric Moore, who had consecutive impressive plays against the Bears (strip sack and a tackle for loss). Belichick explained that defensive line is a position players can quickly assimilate to. "Relative to other positions, there's not as much for a defensive lineman to know assignment-wise," Belichick explained. "The big thing for most of those guys, really defensive lineman is to be able to play with good technique, with good leverage, defeat run blocks or defeat pass blocks and rush the passer. So if you can play with good technique within the framework of assignments which, again, its not a massive assignment situation there. Jim Corbett of USA Today was in Foxboro to take the temperature of the NFL's hottest team. He posed a question to Belichick about Tom Brady's improvements that the coached warmed to. "Tom works hard on the little things," Belichick observed. "I think that's one thing as a coach that you really respect and admire about Tom. He's always working on the little things. It might be on one thing that could come up on one play and that one play might happen twice a season; who knows? He just continually prepares at a very high level, both the opponent and the opponents scheme and personnel. He continues to try to have a better understanding of our offense and what options there are on certain plays, certain situations, the way a team plays it."Brady'spayoff for that preparation,Belichickbelieves, islike unearthing little secrets. "He does a lot of things well, but he knows there are things he can improve on and he's always working to get better at those," said his coach. "Sooner or later, you'll see one come up in a game that maybe hasn't come up in a month or six weeks or a year. He'll be able to make a play on that. I think that's a very satisfying thing for him that he can say, 'Hey, this didnt happen when it happened a year ago or whatever and here we had a chance to get it and we got it.' You feel good about that. So, I think that's kind of what Tom Brady does. He does all the things that you expect him to do and a lot of the little things Somewhere along the line those little things help him make a play. It might be a long way back in the history books where you find, but there's a teaching lesson in there somewhere that he picked up on."Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language

van_noy.jpg

Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language

When Kyle Van Noy was traded to the Patriots in late October, he had a lot to learn. He needed to understand the layout of his new team's maze-like facility. He needed to adjust to a new locker room. He needed to adapt to a new home. 

He also had to become fluent in a new language.

The former Lions 'backer was inactive for two weeks before he was comfortable enough with the Patriots system -- and the coaching staff was comfortable enough with him -- to get on the field. He played 29 snaps against the Niners in first game with his new club, then saw 28 plays against the Jets. On Sunday he saw his role expand as he played 40 of a possible 51 plays, which was more than Shea McClellin (38) or Dont'a Hightower (33). 

"Kyle has done a great job of working really hard to acclimate to what we’re doing, and he has had to learn really fast as far as the system, the communication, the language," said defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on a conference call Tuesday. "It’s like when you go to a different system, offensively or defensively, a lot of times it’s just learning the vernacular and the verbiage . . . That’s a big part of it. Then getting more familiar with that kind of terminology and the communication is critical because there’s a lot of calls and adjustments, things like that that we’ve got to do on the field."

Van Noy was making some of those calls himself on Sunday as he wore the green dot on his helmet when Hightower was on the sidelines. Even with the added responsibility, Van Noy was able to play freely enough that he put together what might have been the best game of his three-year career. 

Used at the end of the line of scrimmage as well as in a more traditional off-the-line linebacker role, Van Noy was effective in defending both the pass and the run: He stuffed three Rams rush attempts, he recorded a quarterback hit that led to an incompletion, he drew a holding call, and he recorded an athletic interception when he tracked a wobbling Jared Goff pass that floated over the middle after Jabaal Sheard hit Goff's arm as the rookie released his throw.

After several of his stand-out plays, Van Noy was visibly excited on the field and later on the sidelines. It was the culmination of six weeks of work, learning as much as he could from a coaching staff that was eager to teach him. 

"He’s extremely prideful in his work and his approach to the game," Patricia said. "He’s very cerebral. He’ll ask a lot of questions. He really wants to understand what we’re doing and why, which is great. We’re trying to give him those answers and insight into kind of where some of this either came from or developed or situations like that so that’s really good."