Sparano: Haynesworth will be a 'handful'


Sparano: Haynesworth will be a 'handful'

By Danny Picard Staff Reporter Follow @dannypicard
FOXBORO --Dolphins coach Tony Sparano believes Monday nightschallenge with the New England Patriots in Miami will be a "great opportunity"for his team, right out of the gate.

As confident as he sounded about quarterback ChadHennes command of the offense and about running back Reggie Bushs speed out ofthe backfield, in a conference call on Wednesday, even Sparano knows Week 1isnt going to be a cakewalk.

Part of that reason comes from what hes seen of Patriotsdefensive lineman Albert Haynesworth in the past.

Hes a good player, said Sparano, who also added hespreparing his Dolphins offense to see both a Patriots 4-3 and 3-4 defense.Hes an active player, and a big physical guy in there with Vince Wilfork,in that group that they have there. He can give you pass-rush ability, but moreimportantly, I think the guy is really active around the ball in the run game.So we have had several opportunities to play against Albert, and hes been ahandful. Sparano also said he expects to see Patriots wide receiverChad Ochocinco in multiple receiver spots on Monday night.

I would envision that they would use him in some type of arotation there, and probably try to get him in a few different spots that areout there, Sparano said. Im sure thats part of the learning curve, justgetting him in different positions to get him the ball. As for his own offense, Sparano described it as being alittle different this season, with regards to speed, especially with theaddition of Bush in the backfield.

But once again, all eyes in Miami will be on Henne, andSparano believes hes up to the challenge.

I think that Chads really had a productive preseason,Sparano said. Hes got really good command of the offense. If there wasanything good about the lockout, it was that Chad had to be out there and ranall the workouts, and all that stuff, and I think that was really helpful forhim" If you were looking for a scouting report on linebackerA.J. Edds who the Patriots just claimed off waivers then Sparano gave awayas much as he could on the former Dolphin, calling him a smart player who has agood amount of long-snapping experience, if needed.

It just ended up being numbers, really, said Sparano of why the Dolphins cut Edds.Hes a very smart player. We had 10 linebackers on the team at the time, andA.J. obviously missed a lot of time last year with the ACL. So that really wasit.

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Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

It came against a rookie quarterback. It came against an offense that averages a league-worst 15.0 points per game. It came against an offense that has fewer yards than any other. 

Still there are signs that Bill Belichick is pretty pleased with where his defense is after beating the Rams 26-10 on Sunday. One came on Wednesday when published its "Belichick Breakdown" for a closer look at a handful of plays from the team's most recent win.

Belichick called his team's third-and-eight stop with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter "probably one of the best good, team defensive plays we've had all year."

The Patriots show a five-man front, but linebacker Kyle Van Noy feigns a rush only to drop into coverage.

"Van Noy in here does a good job on the rush," Belichick said, "and also on the coverage on the back. Just good team defense. Good pass coverage down the field. The quarterback really doesn't end up having a lot of time, but there's no one to throw it to right away."

Belichick noted that all four rushers -- Chris Long, Trey Flowers, Dont'a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich -- all are able to pressure Jared Goff on the play. Combined with strong coverage in the secondary, the Rams nver really had a chance.

Belichick said it looked like a "tidal wave" of defenders bearing down on the quarterback.

"Long wins here . . . on the inside spin," Belichick said, "and Trey Flowers and Hightower both win on the little twist game inside. Then that's Rob with good speed-to-power on [Rams tackle Rob] Havenstein on the outside. Four good rushers. Plus a fifth guy...Van Noy getting that two-for-one on the guard and the back.

"Good team defense. That's great to see. A lot of hard work an execution on the practice field to make that happen."

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

FOXBORO -- They sounded like a couple of old pals. 

First it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who spoke of Ravens coach John Harbaugh during a conference call like one of his favorite fellow lacrosse dads.

"John and I saw a game a couple of years ago, a [Johns] Hopkins vs. Maryland game," Belichick said, adding that Harbaugh's love for the sport is just starting to blossom. "Yeah, I think John is seeing the light."

Belichick added that the two might be closer if they weren't competing so often, both in-season on the field and for free agents in the offseason. 

"As you know, we get into a situation like we’re in now where they have a good team, we have a good team, we’re playing a big game on Monday night," Belichick said. "Both teams are going to do everything they can to compete as hard as they can on Monday night. That’s what it is and that’s what we all signed up for. We all know that’s a part of it.

"When we’re not going head-to-head, which isn’t very often because we compete against each other in the offseason, we compete against each other to build our team and so forth, it just puts things in a little bit of a different situation."

During his press conference with reporters on Wednesday, Harbaugh echoed Belichick's sentiments. Belichick was famously one of Harbaugh's biggest supporters earlier in his career, calling the Ravens on Harbaugh's behalf when the franchise was looking for a new head coach. And if only they weren't so frequently competing against each other, they might be even closer, Harbaugh indicated. 

"I feel like we have a good relationship," Harbaugh said. "Like you said, we're probably not socializing that much, but I don't know how many coaches really do. We're all so busy. I'll see him or any coach at the Combine or at the owner's meetings, and we have a chance to talk. It's always good. I have a ton of respect for him. I really like him as a person. I think he's a great coach -- greatest coach of this generation. He's earned that title.

"And I study him. I've always studied him. I've always studied coach Belichick from when I first met him when I was an assistant at the University of Cincinnati, and he came in and just was great to be around.  [We have a] similar background with the special teams and that sort of thing. All of that kind of goes out the window when you compete against one another. It's like anything else, you want to win. I'm sure he feels the same way."

The recent history between their respective franchises is rife with emotion: There was Baltimore's irate reaction to Belichick's unusual formations in the AFC Divisional Round two seasons ago; there was the Ravens' supposed involvement in sparking Deflategate; and there was Harbaugh's subsequent denial. But Belichick and Harbaugh made it sound on Wednesday as if all's good between them.