Mankins, O-line always prepared to speed things up

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Mankins, O-line always prepared to speed things up

FOXBORO -- There are a few guarantees in life, one of which being that the Patriots will go no-huddle at some point on game days.

You know it, I know it, and the Ravens know it.

New England's ability to speed things up is one of its biggest reasons for continued success on the offensive end. That, and some guy named Tom Brady. The two go hand-in-hand.

But while Brady is busy calling out plays, it's on the offensive line and rest of the offense to be all-ears in order to be on the same page.

"We have words for everything," Logan Mankins said. "So, the play is run, and then Tom will make a word -- he calls out some words and some of them mean the play and some of them don't. So, we just have to know which ones are live and which ones are not."

It's more than just listening though. The entire offense -- including the offensive line -- has to be physically ready for the rapid pace. That's done between games, during practices and in the weight room.

"Well, you know it is tough sometimes on the conditioning," Mankins admitted. "But we're pretty conditioned for an offensive line, if you would call us conditioned at our position. But yeah, a lot of time we catch them off guard; they're not lined up. A lot of times that works to our benefit, sometimes it doesn't. Because guys aren't where you expect them to be or where they should be, so you get confused a little, but I think for the most part we've done a pretty good job of getting everyone in the right direction on the right guys. So when you do catch them off-guard it works out pretty good sometimes."

But the hurry-up style of play isn't welcomed with open arms by some teams and players around the league. Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo made headlines last Sunday when he criticized the Patriots for playing that way.

Ayanbadejo tweeted, "New England does some suspect stuff on offense. Can't really respect it. Comparable to a cheap shot B4 a fight."

Then, "Are you watching the game Pats vs. Texans? If so you see the hurry snap offense catch em B4 they set up. It's a gimmick."

Ayanbadejo didn't stop there though. He called out the Patriots for Spygate as well.

That led one reporter on Thursday to ask Mankins if comments regarding Spygate, such as the one Ayanbadejo made, bothered him?

"No, that was a long time ago," Mankins said.

"It doesn't get under your skin at all?" the reporter followed up.

"No, but you are," Mankins said with a smile.

And on Sunday, the Patriots hope to get under the skin of the Ravens any way they can and as fast as possible.

Haggerty: It's time for Pastrnak to take a step forward

Haggerty: It's time for Pastrnak to take a step forward

BRIGHTON -- The third season is usually a pivotal one when it comes to an NHL player's development and trying to forecast exactly how high their ceiling will be.

So it is for David Pastrnak, who is expected to take a major leap forward in his third year after showing flashes of great promise in each of his first two seasons.

“The [World Cup] is done, so now all of my focus is on being as ready as I can for this upcoming season,” said Pastrnak, 20, who threw probably the biggest hit of his career on unsuspecting teammate Patrice Bergeron when the Czechs played Team Canada in the preliminary rounds. “I feel way bigger, very comfortable on the ice, and I obviously feel really good right now.”

Pastrnak has had moments of dazzling brilliance in Boston so far while riding the usual learning curve that every young player travels in Claude Julien’s system. In addition, injuries last season sidetracked his development process.

Pastrnak put up 21 goals and 55 points between Boston and Providence as the youngest player in either league as an 18-year-old rookie two years ago. Last season he had 15 goals and 26 points in 51 games for the Bruins while also missing significant time because of a fractured foot. The injury not only sidelined him for a few months but also made it difficult for him to jump onto the moving train of the NHL regular season once he was ready to return.

Just as the former first-round pick was really catching fire at the end of the year, time ran out on a Bruins team that had a few too many older veterans with empty gas tanks after being ridden hard throughout the season. Pastrnak scored goals in each of the final couple of games, and showed off the game-breaking ability that should be on full display if he's healthy and placed in a position to succeed.

His World Cup stint ended on a high note, as he played his best game of the tourney against Team USA, though he didn’t make a major impact in the elite international competition. He put on five pounds of muscle during the offseason and clearly looking bigger and stronger at 189 pounds after ending last season closer to 180.

Part of that is the natural physical maturation process for somebody Pastrnak’s age as he gain’s “man strength”, and some of it was a dedicated effort. He worked out in Boston with the B’s training staff for much of the summer for the first time in his career.

The expectation is that Pastrnak is going to be running on the right wing with David Krejci on Boston’s second line, and the search in training camp is for a left wing who can bring added playmaking ability and maybe a little size and strength to the mix. In a perfect world Krejci and Pastrnak will develop into the same dynamic, two-way combination of Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

Pastrnak and Krejci could be a lethal offensive duo to be sure, but they’ll also have to pay attention to the little details if they want to stay together playing for Julien. Perhaps with that in mind, Julien was looking to temper expectations for Pastrnak

“I don't know if [the World Cup experience] accelerates expectations. But it's certainly encouraging to see that a guy that's got that experience to go and play at that level, and made himself better,” said Julien. “We know he's skilled and we know he's fast, and he's also gotten stronger. He's taking steps in the right direction here. We can look at those guys that are first overall picks and say, wow, some guys are exceptional.

“Some of the guys, you've got to give them time to grow and develop. That's what we need to do with David Pastrnak. I think we've got to stop putting expectations too high for him, and allow him to grow properly. He's going to have some growing pains and there are still some things he's going to want to get better at. There are still some things that he's going to want to learn that we're going to want to teach him. Let's give him that opportunity to grow properly without the extra pressure and extra expectations that maybe are not realistic.”

One would argue Pastrnak put those expectations on himself when he posted the 21 goals and 55 points as an 18-year-old, but that’s neither here nor there. Instead, the Pastrnak development project can, and should, be one of the things considered when we evaluate Julien’s current ability to get the most out of his young prospect-type players.

The bottom line with Pastrnak and the Bruins is this: It’s his contract year and motivation should be sky high. The Czech youngster is one of the few people who can step up and help fill the offensive void left by the free-agent departure of Loui Eriksson. Expectations are much higher for an experienced, talented 20-year-old than they are for a wide-eyed 18-year-old, and Pastrnak needs to make a big stride forward. Now is the time for Pastrnak to show all he’s learned, and completely unleash the array of offensive skills that caught everybody’s eye in the first place.

The Bruins need Pastrnak, and young players, to step up and start taking ownership of the hockey team.