Week-to-week game plan key for Patriots offense

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Week-to-week game plan key for Patriots offense

If there's one thing we know about the Patriots' offense, it's that Tom Brady has several weapons on any given play.

But deciding which weapons to use on Sunday is a strategy that changes every week, every play.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien talked about utilizing their offensive weapons in a conference call on Monday following their 41-23 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

The topic came up because of Aaron Hernandez' big nine-catch, 129-yard game, while Rob Gronkowski finished with only four catches. Lately, those numbers had been the other way around.

Hernandez was Tom Brady's go-to target against the Broncos, but that was just something that developed as the game went on.

"I think it really comes back to the execution of our offense, as far as reading the defense and getting the ball to the right people," said Belichick.

"As much as you'd like to think that only one guy's going to get the ball, that's just not the way it works . . . If BenJarvus is open, then hopefully we'll throw it to BenJarvus. If Aaron is open, then hopefully we'll throw it to Aaron. If Chad Ochocinco's open, hopefully we'll throw it to Chad."

"They did a lot of different things to Gronkowski," said O'Brien. "They hit him at the line of scrimmage, or they put two guys on him, or whatever it was. So, whenever that happens, that means that, there's only 11 players on the field. So you can't double everybody. And Aaron benefited from that, and the backs benefited from it. And that's a good thing. So we'll just have to keep seeing how teams are playing us, and get ready game-to-game, week-to-week."

O'Brien said his receivers are taught to run "multi-purpose routes" and are -- as cliche as it sounds -- a "game plan offense."

"If they take this part of the route away, then this other part of the route should be pretty good," said O'Brien. "And that's how we've coached the passing game since I've been here. Tom does a good job of recognizing coverage, both pre-snap and post-snap, and tries to throw it to the open guy, which is always the goal here. Just get it to the open guy, the guy that's got the best chance to make yards with the ball.

"We look at the defense that we're playing that week, and we say, 'OK, how can we put our players in position to do the things that they do best, every week?' And it's a very challenging deal, not only for the coaches, but for the players."

Gronk 'taking all positives' out of new preseason approach

Gronk 'taking all positives' out of new preseason approach

For the first time since 2012, Rob Gronkowski played in a preseason game. It was uneventful, much like a majority of this training camp for the Patriots tight end. No touches, no seismic collisions, and no problems in 14 snaps. Was it worth it? Gronk says yes.

“I just felt the benefit when I was out there; the speed of the game, live game speed. It’s been a while for me,” he said. “I felt the benefit of getting in sync blocking-wise, the cadence and everything like that. I’m taking all positives out of it.”

But this isn’t even remotely following the plan over these last handful of seasons. The Pats have treated Gronk differently than just about everyone else. He wasn’t required to play in these games in August. Heck, there were times when his presence in practice wasn’t mandatory. Gronk had his own set of rules. This approach surely isn’t that.

“No matter what it is, preseason,” said Gronkowski. “I’ll be ready to play 60 minutes. The past has been the past, but it was great going out there and getting some work.”

Not exactly enlightening, but were you expecting something else?  Unless we’re getting a joint statement from Gronk INC and the Pats brass, that’s usually how these press briefings go, mixed in with the occasionally goofy Gronkowski. Yes, we got that too when Gronk was asked who would win the Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor fight.

“We don’t make predictions,” answered Gronkowski, before backing away from the podium, smiling brightly and commending himself for doing a good Bill Belichick imitation. It wasn’t all that, and maybe it wasn’t that funny, but the big fella is always looking to bring a little levity to just about any situation. 

That trend continued as we tried to delve deeper into his newfound relationship with Tom Brady’s body, Alex Guerrero. So much is made of Guerrero’s belief in muscle pliability and hydration, but there’s also that diet, and a cookbook of Brady’s to boot. The quarterback has proclaimed all of those meals to be delicious. Gronkowski gave it mixed reviews, saying some of the dishes were “kind of hard to eat” although others got the seal of approval: “they’re really, really good.”  Gronk also made sure to clarify that giving up booze in-season is the norm. 

“I don’t do that stuff right now,” he said. “It’s football time. I’ve never really have done that stuff during football time.”

But that he’s approaching the season differently is clearly a nod to Gronk’s football mortality, and the desire to wring out more than just a couple more years from his battered body. He believes Guerrero’s methods are paying dividends, though again, he wouldn’t elaborate how or compare this season to previous ones.

“It’s hard to say because I couldn’t tell you how I felt in the middle of August every single year,” said Gronkowski. “It’s always a new year, and they all blend together, and now going into my eighth season now, it just feels good to be out there practicing every day with the guys.”

Burkhead not spotted at the start of practice for second consecutive day

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Burkhead not spotted at the start of practice for second consecutive day

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady went into detail on Wednesday as to why it's important for him to play with some of his new teammates during the preseason. Even exhibition games are played at a different speed than practice, he explained, and so to be out there mimicking what will happen Week 1 is critical. Brady even went out of his way to mention Rex Burkhead specifically, saying that it was nice to get Burkhead a touchdown against the Texans last weekend. 

Might Burkhead's preseason reps be limited later this week in Detroit? The former Bengals running back has not been spotted at the beginning of Patriots practices on Tuesday or Wednesday. Injury reports are not released during the preseason, so it will be worth watching pregame Friday whether or not Burkhead is on the field and in uniform. 

Burkhead looked healthy by the end of his time playing in Houston -- his final play was a 22-yard catch-and-run touchdown -- and he spoke to reporters on Monday afternoon. 

Also missing from Wednesday's session were Malcolm Mitchell, Matthew Slater, Matt Lengel, Shea McClellin and Tony Garcia. Undrafted rookies Keionta Davis and Andrew Jelks (NFI) were present but not in uniform for the shells-and-shorts session. 

Mitchell played in New England's preseason matchup with Houston but appeared to tweak his knee during one of his first snaps on the field. He stayed in the game, but he has not been seen by reporters at either Patriots practice this week.