Fleming was a member of the Patriots’ 53-man active roster until being released on Sept. 13 to allow for linebacker Deontae Skinner to make the active roster and play in Sunday’s win against Minnesota. Fleming cleared waivers after his release, giving the Patriots the opportunity to bring him back.
Fleming, a fifth-round draft pick in 2012 by San Francisco, has yet to play in an NFL game after suffering two knee injuries in 2012 and 2013.
Hauptmann, a 6-foot-3, 300 pound lineman, was most recently a member of the Cleveland Browns. He was on the Seattle Seahawks’ 53-man roster in 2013, but was inactive in 10 regular-season games, dressed for three and was inactive during the postseason.
Schwenke is an undrafted rookie who spent training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs. He spent 10 days on the Chiefs’ practice squad.
Here’s the current makeup of the Patriots’ practice squad:
RB Jonas Gray
LB Ja’Gared Davis
LB Darius Fleming
OL Chris Barker
OL Chris Martin
WR Josh Boyce
DL Kelcy Quarles
DE Jake Bequette
OL Caylin Hauptmann
DL Kona Schwenke
Belichick’s high praise for Ebner. The Patriots used special-teamer Nate Ebner on defense at various times against the Vikings. Ebner has mainly been a special-teams contributor, even going back to his college days at Ohio State, but Belichick has seen Ebner’s confidence and ability on the field grow.
“I would probably put him in the, not the all-time top, but maybe in the top 5 percent all-time of players that I’ve coached from where they were in college to how they grew in the NFL,” Belichick said. “Nate had almost no defensive experience at Ohio State. He’s adapted in a relatively short amount of time -- going into his third year so it’s really two-plus years -- adapted very well to the knowledge of our defense, to the understanding of opponents’ offenses, to instinctiveness and reading and recognition at a position that he plays right in the middle of the field, which is among the most difficult -- inside linebacker and safety, where the volume and the number of things that can happen are the greatest, where you have to really see everybody on the field, all 11 guys. His development has really been outstanding.”
“I think Rob is making strides each week in terms of what he’s been able to do for us in practice and on the field during the game. I think a little bit of it last week was situational,” McDaniels said. “We used Cameron Fleming a little bit more in last week’s game in some different situations. We did that because we wanted to add a little size and so on and so forth. That dictated some different personnel groupings on the field. But I think Rob is doing a good job. These are his first two opportunities to get out there in a game this year, and I think every opportunity that we have is just a better day to improve on where he’s at and where we’re at offensively and get him involved in different things.”
Patricia preparing for Carr. The Oakland Raiders are starting rookie quarterback Derek Carr this season. Patricia credited Carr’s football intelligence and good habits in college as reasons for his success into his young NFL career.
“Obviously this guy’s doing a good job running their offense as a rookie quarterback and someone who has come in and made some good adjustments in the game and also tries to put his team in good position to be successful out on the field,” Patricia said. “He’s really done a good job of studying what opponents are doing against him. He’s a smart guy, he’s a great athlete, he’s very fast, he’s got a good, strong arm. He can do something back there that can cause the defense to be under duress for the game. So you really have to be very disciplined and make sure you don’t get beat -- not only with his arm, but with his legs if he’s out of the pocket.”
Look out for the Wildcat package. In 2008, the Miami Dolphins utilized the Wildcat formation to perfection by scoring five touchdowns from the Wildcat against New England. With former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano on the Raiders’ sideline as assistant head coach/offensive line coach, Patricia and the Patriots are aware of the threat of the Wildcat.
“One of the coaches on their staff is obviously very familiar with us -- Tony Sparano -- and when he’s out there with the Wildcat versions we’ve seen from him in previous years, we have to be ready for all the different facets involved,” Patricia said. “It certainly will be a challenge for us to make sure we have it handled: we can recognize it, get to it and defend it.”
“I think, offensively, we could stand to get a lot more balance into our attack overall, period,” coach Bill Belichick said on Tuesday’s conference call. “We didn’t have the run-to-pass ratio in Miami and didn’t really have enough of it in the passing game last week ... so we have to do a better job as a coaching staff.
“I have to do a better job to create a little more balance on our team offensively with our personnel, our play-calling, our plays and so forth. Because we have a lot of good players. We have to be more effective,” he said.
With a large amount of the passing game going through wide receiver Julian Edelman and 17 targets to tight end Rob Gronkowski, the question comes up of whether Brady trusts his other receivers.
“I don’t think it’s a lack of communication or a lack of being on the same page,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday. “First of all, we only threw the ball 21 times or whatever it was the other day. And many of those were in two-receiver type settings or came out quick in three-step drops, and a lot of times the coverage dictates where the ball goes.
“I don’t think it was a case of Tom [Brady] misreading the coverage or looking even at a specific direction. We have all our guys in the pattern, and Tom is capable of reading the coverage out and throwing it to the right guy, and he does a great job of that. Sometimes that means the ball is going to go certain places more than others, and there is always a place to start with your read. And sometimes, if the guy happens to be open right away, then you don’t need to go any further.
“We always will try to be balanced and distribute the ball to all of our skills players. We feel like we have capable tight ends, capable receivers, capable backs. And it never is our intention to go into the game and say only throw the ball to one or two guys in a particular situation.”
McDaniels added that he expects the skill players to get involved, and there will be many opportunities to do that throughout the season.
One skill player under a microscope is wide receiver Danny Amendola, who is expected to be the No.2 wide receiver on the roster.
When asked if Brady trusts Amendola, McDaniels said he's confident he can get the job done.
“I think Danny has shown that he can be an obvious contributor in our offense,” McDaniels said. “He did it last year -- played through some different things. And came up huge for us in a number of situations in a number of games. So I have a lot of confidence in Danny.
“I have a lot of confidence in all of our receivers, backs, tight ends in the passing game. I would anticipate that, like I said, we will go forward and the ball will get distributed to a lot of those guys -- they can do a lot of good things with it.”
The New England Patriots have two players suspended for the season’s first four games in cornerback Brandon Browner and wide receiver Brian Tyms. Browner was initially suspended for a full-season in 2013 but already has his suspension reduced during the offseason to four games.
“Certainly nothing that I can share with you because I don’t have any idea -- no knowledge at all -- zero,” Belichick said on Tuesday’s conference call. “You would have to talk to the league or other people that are involved with that.
“Drug policy in the NFL is an extremely confidential and sensitive area. I would say that in most cases you probably know more about it than I do. We don’t have any knowledge, input or really involvement whatsoever in the league’s drug policy and any information that we get comes from wherever it comes from -- I don’t even know where it comes from. I’m not even sure exactly how the process works from the other end.”
Belichick affirmed that if and when the changes are made that the team will deal with the Browner and Tyms situations individually.
“I just know that when we receive information that we act on it as we receive it,” Belichick said. “And it’s not anything that I am involved in whatsoever other than being the recipient of the information of suspension or if it is revoked, or amended or adjusted or whatever. I am just the recipient of that information. I am not in any way, shape or form whatsoever involved in any part of the process.”
As of now, five players are set to be to be reinstated and two players are supposed to have reduced suspensions (Link: http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/11535705/five-nfl-players-reinstated-new-drug-policy). Former Patriots and current Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, Rams receiver Stedman Bailey, Cowboys defensive back Orlando Scandrick, Giants lineman Eric Herman and former Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy will be reinstated. Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon and former Colts wide receiver LaVon Brazill will have year-long suspensions reduced to 10 games.
There is no word on whether Browner or Tyms will have their suspensions reduced or lifted.
“So whatever happens, when it is announced that we know about it, then we will deal with it,” Belichick said. “Until then, it’s 100 percent out of our hands.
1. Concern over Tom Brady's over-reliance on Julian Edelman.
2. Improvement on defense in Week 2 against the Vikings.
3. One way to gauge a step in the right direction for the Patriots' offensive line.
4. Penalties piling up on the Patriots.
5. Differing views on Dont'a Hightower.
6. Media coverage of top NFL headlines over the past week.
Points per game
This week: 8th (25.0)
Last week: Tied-16th (20.0)
Last season: 3rd (27.75)
Raiders in 2014: T-28th (14.0)
Points allowed per game
This week: 14th (20.0)
Last week: 26th (33.0)
Last season: 10th (21.12)
Raiders in 2014: T-21st (24.5)
This week: 28th (10 of 31, 32.3 percent)
Last week: 23rd (5 of 17, 29.4 percent)
Last season: 16th (83 of 221, 37.6 percent)
Raiders in 2014: 31st (5 of 21, 23.8 percent)
This week: 25th (opponents 11 of 24, 45.8 percent)
Last week: 27th (7 of 13, 53.8 percent)
Last season: 26th (98 of 232, 42.2 percent)
Raiders in 2014: 29th (14 of 27, 51.9 percent)
This week: T-2nd (plus-5, 7 takeaways, 2 giveaways)
Last week: T-11th (plus-1, 3 takeaways, 2 giveaways)
Last season: 8th (plus-9, 29 takeaways, 20 giveaways)
Raiders in 2014: T-20th (minus-2, 2 takeaways, 4 giveaways)
Red-zone offense (based on TD percentage)
This week: T-8th (4 of 6)
Last week: T-1st (2 of 2)
Last season: 15th (36 of 65)
Raiders in 2014: T-1st (3 of 3)
Red-zone defense (based on TD percentage)
This week: 6th (opponents 3 of 7)
Last week: T-10th (3 of 6)
Last season: 16th (28 of 50)
Raiders in 2014: T-7th (4 of 9)
EXTRA POINT: In a stat right in Bill Belichick's wheelhouse this week, the Patriots lead the NFL with 263 penalty yards assessed against them. The Raiders have the fewest penalty yards assessed against them, 44.
The overwhelming majority of emails to this week's Patriots mailbag center around the offense and its over-reliance on receiver Julian Edelman. So while the team restored order with a 23-point road win over the Vikings, emailers don't seem too pleased.
This is where I think it's important to have some perspective that it's only Week 2.
I'm not saying the over-reliance on Edelman is not an issue with which to have some level of concern, but from a league-wide perspective, there isn't a team that has it all figured out right now. Take note, for example, that the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks lost their Week 2 game in San Diego.
So let's be straightforward about the issue, but also avoid falling into the predictable trap of focusing on one problem all week (e.g., poor play at the line of scrimmage in the opener) and then not addressing it once it's fixed before moving on to the next issue.
Here we go.
This marks the second Patriots game of the season for the trio, as they called the season-opener.
Patriots broadcast pairings
at Dolphins: Gumbel, Green, Washburn
at Vikings: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Jenny Dell
vs. Raiders: Gumbel, Green, Washburn
One leftover from last week's broadcast, via analyst Dan Fouts on Julian Edelman: “Josh McDaniels told me that he's in the facility at 5 in the morning each day, before even the coaches get there. Hardest worker on the team.”
Those words, and more, were delivered by Woodson after the Raiders were smoked by the Texans, 30-14, in their home-opener on Sunday (box score).
Bill Belichick will naturally remind his Patriots players that anything is possible in the NFL, and that if they take the Raiders lightly, they could be upset. He'll also likely detail some of the Raiders' individual strengths, pointing out the eclectic mix of experienced veterans and rookies playing key roles.
With an average age of 27.02 on their opening-day roster, the Raiders are the oldest team in the AFC and the second-oldest in the NFL. The Patriots, for a contrast, had an average opening-day age of 25.79.
The numbers for the Raiders are skewed by some of their free-agent signings this offseason, which include Woodson (re-signed), defensive end Justin Tuck, outside linebacker/defensive end LaMarr Woodley, receiver James Jones and running back Maurice Jones-Drew. But then consider that the Raiders are starting rookie quarterback Derek Carr (second round, Fresno State), linebacker/defensive end Khalil Mack (first round, Buffalo) and left guard Gabe Jackson (third round, Mississippi State), and one sees that they are also relying on youth at critical positions.
For more on the Raiders, below is our weekly primer.
Head coach: Dennis Allen (3rd year)
Offensive coordinator: Greg Olson
Defensive coordinator: Jason Tarver
Special teams: Bobby April
General manager: Reggie McKenzie
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, OFFENSE
1. QB Derek Carr. He beat out veteran Matt Schaub for the starting job and started his career 7-of-7 in the season opener against the Jets but then has run into a rough patch. His size (6-3, 214) and quick release reminds us a little bit of Patriots rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (6-2, 225).
2. WR Rod Streater. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Streater can fly and is also shifty after the catch. The Raiders signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Temple in 2012, and Streater broke out in his second season, totaling 60 catches for 888 yards (14.8 avg.) and four touchdowns. When paired with former Packers receiver James Jones, it's a 1-2 combination that can threaten the deep part of the field but there is a question whether Streater will play Sunday after undergoing an MRI for a hip flexor.
3. RB Maurice Jones-Drew. The longtime Jacksonville Jaguar is in his first year with the Raiders and split carries with Darren McFadden in the opener before missing Week 2 with a hand injury. His status is unclear for Sunday's game in New England.
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, DEFENSE
1. S Charles Woodson. The 37-year-old is one of the more remarkable stories in the NFL in the sense that he's still playing at a high level. His diving interception in the season opener against the Jets was as impressive as it gets. This is his second stint with the Raiders. He began his career with Oakland -- from 1998-2005 -- before playing for the Packers (2006-2012) and then re-signing in Oakland. He has at least one interception in each of the last 17 seasons.
2. DE Justin Tuck. The longtime Giant (2005-2013), who contributed to breaking the hearts of the Patriots in two Super Bowls, signed with the Raiders as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.
3. LB Khalil Mack. The 6-foot-3, 252-pound linebacker has some similarities to Vikings rookie Anthony Barr in that he plays both off the line and will move down to the line as an edge rusher. He was a highly-touted draft pick because of his pass-rush skills and athleticism, but that hasn't necessarily shown itself to this point.
OTHER NOTES: This is viewed by many analysts as a make-or-break type year for Allen as head coach. ... Kicker Sebastian Janikowski, a first-round pick of the Raiders in 2000, is still booming the ball. ... The Raiders play in London in Week 4, making this a tough travel stretch for them. They also visited the Jets in Week 1. Based on their opening schedule, it's no surprise that the Raiders travel more miles than any team in the league this season. They are planning to leave for London from Massachusetts. ... Long snapper Jon Condo was with the Patriots in 2006, which is when the Raiders signed him and he's been snapping for them since. ... Receiver Andre Holmes, who spent time on the Patriots' practice squad in 2013, was claimed by the Raiders on waivers that year. Holmes mostly shows up on special teams, and had five catches for 45 yards in mop-up duty in Week 2. ... Former UConn players Tyvon Branch (safety, 7th year) and Sio Moore (linebacker, 2nd year) are starters on defense.
1. Rookie center Bryan Stork entered the game with 9:24 remaining and played 12 snaps (including penalties). Of the 12 he was run-blocking on every play but one. On his first two plays, the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Stork showed good strength against rookie defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (6-5, 310). On Stevan Ridley's 16-yard run (5:57 remaining), Stork fired off the ball and created some push in the middle as the defender he was blocking winds up on the ground. His two shotgun snaps were solid. Those were valuable reps for Stork, who looks like he’s ready to compete for more playing time.
2. First-round draft pick Dominique Easley flashed some of his athleticism on his interception (6:37 remaining), leaping high into the air at the line of scrimmage in an attempt to bat a pass before having the awareness to locate the deflected football off the shoulder/helmet of running back Matt Asiata and the hand-eye coordination to catch it while diving. After the game, Easley wanted to make sure that football made it home with him. It was a memorable first interception.
3. On the one play in which Brady was sacked, it was left guard Marcus Cannon who couldn’t hold his block as backup defensive tackle Tom Johnson powered through to bring Brady down. It looked like Cannon got too high in his stance after getting pushed back by Johnson’s initial contact.
4. On the final offensive drive, Josh Kline replaced Cannon at left guard for his first action of the season.
2. Leading 24-7, it was almost as if the Patriots used the third quarter to get tight end Rob Gronkowski going. After playing just eight snaps in the first two quarters, Gronkowski was on for 17 of 25 snaps in the quarter. Two of the first three plays of the quarter went to Gronkowski on quick-hit passes.
3. When the Patriots’ inability to capitalize on offense is noted by Brady, one factor within that is Brady’s own decision-making. For example, on third-and-2 on the first drive, his throw Julian Edelman down the left sideline seemed low-percentage in that situation. While Edelman had a 1-on-1 matchup and did create slight separation against the cornerback, it appeared that Brady locked in to it from the get-go and never truly considered other higher-percentage options.
4. Dont'a Hightower is off to a strong start this season and seems to be thriving with the opportunity to rush the passer. His bend around the edge was impressive on third-and-7 with 7:39 remaining, and he used his power and hand technique well to beat highly touted left tackle Matt Kalil and sack Matt Cassel. Hightower is a tweener at 275 pounds -- part defensive end/part linebacker -- and that was a good example of how he can be effective as an end-of-the-line player rushing the passer.
5. I wonder if defensive end Chandler Jones might hear from the league office for his hit on right guard Brandon Fusco on Logan Ryan's interception return that wasn’t (Ryan was ultimately ruled down at the spot of the interception). Looked borderline from this viewpoint.
6. Speaking of Jones, while his blocked field goal and scoop-and-score was the top highlight, his nitty-gritty work defending the run was also impressive. He had his way with tight end Rhett Ellison once again, shedding his block and limiting running back Matt Asiata to a 2-yard gain (8:28). Under Bill Belichick, the Patriots like their end-of-the-line players to set a strong edge and be willing run defenders. Jones shined in that area, which probably fires up the coaching staff as much, if not more, than what he does from a pass-rush perspective.
“We just have to find ways to get everybody the ball and spread it around to different guys,” Brady said on Monday morning in an interview with WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan.
Through two games, Edelman has 12 receptions for 176 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Brady is 44-of-78 for 398 yards and two touchdown passes. That means about 27 percent of Brady’s completed passes and more than 44 percent of all of Brady’s passing yards are to Edelman.
“I’m going to go out there and do my job and that’s to get open and catch the ball,” Edelman said in the locker room on Monday when asked about sharing the football in the passing game.
“I’m not the quarterback, so I’m sure -- it’s only two games, there’s a lot of season left -- there’s going to be games where other guys are going to get more rocks than me. But, I’m just going to continue to try to get better and do my job.”
Only tight end Rob Gronkowski has more targets (17) than Edelman (15). But from an efficiency standpoint, Edelman is the most productive of the receivers with 10-plus targets as he has caught 80 percent of passes thrown his way.
Edelman says the lack of distribution in the passing game is no cause for concern.
“It’s two games. We are just trying to go out there and we are trying to get better.”
Brady acknowledged that he needs to get wide receivers Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell and tight end Tim Wright more involved in the offense, but put the blame on himself for not distributing the ball to them.
Wright said whether he is targeted is not his call to make, but rather a product of Brady’s decision-making and the game plan. In the case of Sunday’s game and so far this season, Edelman’s No. 11 jersey is the one Brady keeps seeing open.
“When your number is called to make the play, that’s how things went yesterday,” Wright said. “[Brady] was delivering to a receiver that came up with some great plays. [Edelman] got it done for us.”
Wright thinks the offense has a lot of room for improvement.
“At the end of the day, we are just trying to go back into the game plan and try to focus on areas we can clean up things,” Wright said. “Just the little things -- the small details that we can count on toward the end of games with those conversions and coming out with those touchdowns. It’s going to get us over the edge.”
Sometimes it's obvious. Other times, it's a bit more challenging to isolate one thing that stands above the rest when it comes to what the Patriots must address.
It's obvious this week, as the Patriots lead the NFL with 28 total penalties after picking up 15 against the Vikings. Of those 28, four have been declined.
What in the name of Ed Hochuli is going on here?
The Patriots are usually one of the NFL's least-penalized teams.
Last year, they had 82 penalties all season (69 accepted), the second-lowest total in the league. They had 98 accepted penalties in 2012 (ninth fewest) and 80 in 2011 (fifth fewest).
This year, they're on pace for 224 total penalties (192 accepted), and host the Raiders on Sunday.
Tedy Bruschi has told the story in the past about how when the Patriots struggle with fundamental plays, like the quarterback-center exchange, coach Bill Belichick will sometimes make reference to the local high school team: "If we can't execute that, we can't win football games, whether it's against Foxborough High School or the Minnesota Vikings."
That's what I thought about Sunday when the Patriots were penalized for being offsides on a kickoff for the second week in a row. That's just bad football, as is jumping offsides or being in the neutral zone.
While the Patriots' overall numbers are a bit skewed because of a few late penalties Sunday when the game was already decided, the Patriots have had too many of those "bad football" penalties in the first two games.
The way to fix it is simple. Play smarter football.
2. The “IBM” was at its best on Julian Edelman's 9-yard touchdown catch. CBS’ on-field microphones clearly picked up quarterback Tom Brady’s audible, as he told center Dan Connolly “I’m back!” to go from under center to the shotgun. So at the last possible second, with the play clock winding down, Brady audibled out of the play based on a pre-snap look (the Vikings showing double-A gap blitz) and got the Patriots into a play where they scored a touchdown. Textbook. That’s one part of Brady’s game that probably doesn’t get enough attention. Sometimes it’s not just about making the play; it’s about putting the offense in the right position to make a play.
4. Revis also showed up in run support, bringing down running back Matt Asiata on a direct snap (0:49) and 4-yard run. Revis showed nice anticipation again to quickly identify the play and race past the player who was supposed to block him, receiver Greg Jennings.
5. This might be a game where fullback James Develin sees a few more missed blocking opportunities than the norm when he reviews the tape. Brandon Bolden's run for no gain (13:30 remaining) came as he ran into the back of Develin, who couldn’t break through to the second level based on the push the Vikings had generated. In the first quarter, on Stevan Ridley's second run (2 yards, 10:20), it looked like Develin missed a linebacker on the second level.
7. Just as was noted in the first quarter, if referees are going to consistently enforce a new point of emphasis, one would think Cassel could have been flagged for his cadence once again (14:18). This might be the type of situation where one referee calls it one way and another is more lenient.
8. One play that highlighted the general improvement from the offensive line was Edelman’s 44-yard catch-and-run. Against a four-man rush, each lineman either won his assignment or fought to a stalemate. Of particular note was the teamwork between right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, right guard Jordan Devey and Connolly as they worked together to effectively combat a stunt.
9. Devey had some tough moments in the season opener, but he appeared much steadier in this game. On Ridley’s 7-yard run (5:51), Devey was effective on the second level, showing athleticism to get there and square up his block on a linebacker. Coach Dave DeGuglielmo had his blockers ready to go in this one.
10. Cornerback Logan Ryan's solid series midway through the second quarter highlighted both the team’s quality depth at the position and also why Ryan is a strong prospect in his second season. Ryan showed the speed and instincts to mirror Patterson on a slant, is competitive in 50-50 situations from a ball disruption standpoint and helped produce a third-down stop with a strong tackle of Asiata. Ryan is technically third on the Patriots’ depth chart behind Brandon Browner and Alfonzo Dennard, but he’s proven to be a starting-caliber player. One play he’d like to have back: Patterson’s 26-yard catch-and-run (2:00) when it appeared he should have been playing outside leverage and got caught inside.