Tuesday Practice Wrap: Mallett getting nod?

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Tuesday Practice Wrap: Mallett getting nod?

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Reading the tea leaves a little bit from Tuesday's practice, Ryan Mallett could be seeing quite a bit of time against Tampa. The rookie quarterback took nearly all the second-team reps during the Patriots morning workout. Brian Hoyer ran the scout team. Mallett, who had a very nice debut last week against the Jaguars (12 of 19 for 164 yards and a touchdown), may be making a play for something more than the third string role. The Patriots are clearly high on the rookie's promise. His size, explosive arm and early command have been eye-opening. If Mallett is creating a bigger role for himself and does challenge for the backup spot behind Tom Brady, it will be thanks to his performance rather than any shortcoming from current backup Brian Hoyer. The difference between the two is a matter of arm strength. Mallett's is rare. Hoyer's is average. If Mallett can develop similar accuracy and grow quicker with his reads, he'll be hard for Hoyer to hold off. But any leapfrogging by Mallett figures to be some time away still. This is pure conjecture but -- based on history -- Brady will likely get the start on Thursday night and play into the second quarter at least before giving way to relief. Hoyer didn't have the greatest practice. He was picked in rapid succession by safety Patrick Chung and corner Leigh Bodden. Monday's stir caused by Sergio Brown taking first-team reps next to Chung at the safety spot should be tempered some. Brandon Meriweather was back taking most of the first reps along with Chung. The recent visits from assorted free agent safeties and a sketchy camp from Meriweather has sparked speculation he's not long for New England. But, truth be told, the Patriots are currently light at the safety spot. James Sanders has been injured and hasn't practiced much at all. Meanwhile, the team still hasn't replaced Jarrad Page who left as a free agent. They need more from Meriweather, no question. But safety pairings are often mixed on this defense so the apparent elevation of Brown should be taken witha grain of salt. In the Patriots' four-man front, Andre Carter is at RDE, Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love are the tackles and Mark Anderson was the LDE. The ends are ever-changing but -- for now at least -- Wilfork and Love seem to be the tackles on first and second-down. Chad Ochocinco beat Brown like a drum on a deep post pattern. Wideout Darnell Jenkins, who appeared a little shaken up during Monday's practice, returned for the shorts and shells practice on Tuesday. So too did running back Stevan Ridley. Among those missing from the workout wereAlbert Haynesworth, Brandon Spikes (whose malady hasn't prevented him fromcontinuing to tweet barely intelligible verse throughout the day), rookie running back Shane Vereen, rookie corner Ras-I Dowling, DL Mike Wright, wideouts Julian Edelman and Taylor Price and -- for the second straight day -- defensive endLB Jermaine Cunningham. Ochocinco's optic gold and yellow cleats didn't help him on a field goal attempt near the end of practice. He missed. So too did fellow wideout Wes Welker. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Collins gets his pay day as Patriots prepare for Super Bowl

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Collins gets his pay day as Patriots prepare for Super Bowl

NFL Siberia can’t be all that bad. The Cleveland Browns have signed Jamie Collins to an extension that keeps him off the free agent market.

The former Patriot, stunningly shipped out of town on Halloween, has agreed to a reported four-year, $50 million deal with $26M in guaranteed money.

As eyebrow-raising as the move was at the time, this is an all’s well that ends well story.

Collins, a reluctant Patriot once it came clear the team wouldn’t to aim a confetti cannon of money at him, gets the desired big-dough deal. He didn’t drape himself in glory with his level of play this year in New England, but his agitation over making $900K this year was understandable.

The Patriots -- who made the deal not knowing exactly how it would work out with Collins’ fleet of replacements (primarily rookie Elandon Roberts and, October acquisition Kyle Van Noy) -- have played better defense since Collins has been gone and are headed to the Super Bowl.

Would they have been better if Collins stayed? The answer to that is a question: Which version of Collins, the irked one or the motivated one?

Collins did nothing to veil his desire for a huge contract, saying at the end of the season he’d stay with the hapless Browns if the money was right. Now that he’s decided the money was right, what kind of Collins will the Browns get? With $26M guaranteed, the Browns have tethered themselves to the 27-year-old Collins for a chunk of his prime. The shorter term is ideal for Collins because -- if he performs to his capability -- he’ll be able to see another lucrative deal before he’s too aged.

The deal will certainly be noticed by Collins’ former teammates, primarily Donta Hightower who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

The Patriots could franchise Hightower (last year’s tag number was more than $14M) but that’s not going to be ideal for either side. Hightower will want to get the windfall of guaranteed money that comes with a long-term deal and the Patriots may be reluctant to pay that much to a player that’s got an injury history and plays one of the game’s most violent positions.

A lot’s going to happen between now and the time the Patriots have to make their decision. A good deal of it will happen in the next 12 days. If Hightower stealthily saves the Super Bowl as he did in 2014 with his first-down tackle on Marshawn Lynch … how do you put a price on that?

Andy Dalton named Tom Brady's Pro Bowl replacement

Andy Dalton named Tom Brady's Pro Bowl replacement

With Tom Brady spending this week and next preparing for the Super Bowl, Andy Dalton has been named his replacement in the Pro Bowl. 

This will mark Dalton’s third Pro Bowl appearance. He finished fourth in the AFC in passing yards (4,206) and tied for 10th with 18 passing touchdowns. Brady threw 10 more touchdowns in four fewer games. 

Though he’s often skipped the actual games, this was the 12th season in which Brady was named to the AFC’s Pro Bowl roster. He’s been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the last eight seasons.