For only the second time this season the New England Patriots had 100 percent practice attendance. This morning's practice was headlined by the return of running backs Shane Vereen and Leon Washington, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, cornerback Aqib Talib, and newly acquired nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga. At their weekly press conferences, both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady seemed to be in an exceptionally positive mood as they discussed their week ahead as they prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It must be nice for Bill Belichick to finally have full attendance at practice. After weeks and weeks of injuries, for now, the Patriots are at 100 percent. Today's practice marked the return of Shane Vereen, Leon Washington, Tommy Kelly, and Aqib Talib. All four players should play an integral part on the team once they return to the field.
Vereen can't play until Week 11, but he will be an immediate upgrade in the passing game over Brandon Bolden. Both Kelly and Talib will significantly improve the defense, which has struggled as of late. And finally, Washington could finally give the Patriots a star kick-returner if he manages to stay healthy this time. After the Week 10 bye, the Patriots will be locked and loaded as they head down the final stretch of the season.
Sopoaga sports number 90
On Tuesday evening the Patriots acquired nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga from the Eagles, and he was thrown right into practice this morning. Sopoaga was given number 90, which was last worn by linebacker Niko Koutouvides. Expect him to play on first and second down, but to substitute out in passing situations.
Evolving towards the 3-4
I believe the Patriots are shifting towards a more traditional 3-4 defense for base packages. Two weeks ago against the Jets, the Patriots open up the game in the 3-4, only to see them go straight back to the 4-3 after getting shred. However, last week the Patriots went right back to the 3-4 when in their base-package, and stayed with it throughout the game.
The acquisition of Isaac Sopoaga probably signals the beginning of a full move to the 3-4. He can play as a traditional nose tackle, which will allow the Patriots to rotate the two defensive ends. Rob Ninkovich will stand up as an outside linebacker, and we could see Chandler Jones doing the same if Jamie Collins continues to struggle. For better or worse, this will definitely change the look of this defense.
Quotes of the day
Belichick is a happy man
Maybe Bill Belichick is still feeling jolly after the Patriots' Halloween party on Monday night, or maybe he's ecstatic to have 100 percent attendance at practice. Either way, we got to see the fun side of Belichick this morning. When talking about preparing for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Belichick joked, "Yeah, let Solder take some plays back their at quarterback." Let him take some plays as the scout team quarterback. That's' what he's like, you see guys hanging on his legs, his waist, he stiff arms them, and he still throws the ball 40-50 yards down the field." Belichick continued to heap praise onto Big Ben, "He doesn't run away from people very often, he just runs through them or finds enough time for the receivers to get open."
When asked if he'll go out as a pirate again on Halloween, Belichick smiled and said, "It'll be a game-time decision. I don't want to get too predictable." In short, that basically wraps-up his entire game plan with the Patriots: don't be predictable.
Beware the Brady run
Bill Belichick was asked about Terrelle Pryor's 93-yard touchdown run against the Steelers this past week and he replied, "I'm sure they're not worried about us doing that even after Tom Brady's fourth-down run." Belichick, in good spirits, was then asked if Brady's 8-yard run often feels like a 93-yard run. "Tom doesn't run often but I'll say one thing, when he decides to run, he picks his spots and he usually does the right thing. He catches the defense and our coaching staff by surprise when he does that." And the fans too, Bill. We're all holding our breath, just like you.
Us and Them
When asked about the past success the Steelers have and how it's unfortunate that they are only 2-5 on the season, Belichick said they are still a lot like the Patriots. "They're in a bunch of close games that could've gone either way. When you look at them, I think you see a good football team that's kind of like us." He continued, "A couple plays one way or the other in any of those games, you could have a big swing in what a lot of team's records are."
Belichick is correct with his statement. The Steelers have lost by seven points or less four times this season. If things were just a little bit different, the Steelers could be coming to Foxboro with a more respectable record.
Brady the Cowardly Lion
To be sure, Tom Brady was asked if he was "Courage the Lion" or "The Cowardly Lion" from The Wizard of Oz on Halloween. Brady confirmed that he was, in fact, The Cowardly Lion. He said that he actually played that part in a play during elementary school. Brady said, "So I was drawing back on some past experience"
When asked if he remembers any lines, Brady smiled and said, "I can sing the whole song." The entire room burst into laughter as Tom begin to jokingly sing. Man, I would've loved to hear him sing this:
Mr. Instincts, Troy Polamalu
Both head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady had high praise for Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. Belichick said, "I'd say he's instinctive. Sometimes he's guessing or taking chances, but he's right most of the time." Brady expounded on this, saying that Polamalu doesn't have a clearly defined role, so he has the ability to use those instincts to his full potential. "Safeties are typically the last line of defense, but he's a guy that even though he's a safety, he still makes plays in the backfield." Brady went on to say, "Some of the best safeties I've ever played against, they know when the moment is, they feel it, and that's when they hit it."
Go Red Sox!
Tom Brady said that he'll make sure that his son stays up to watch tonight's Boston Red Sox game, as they look to win their third World Series in the past nine years. "I've seen a lot of it. It's great. They got a great chance to win and I'm hoping they'll pull it out. Everyone here is excited." Realizing the potential of tonight's game, Brady said, "I want to make sure my son stays up to watch the game because you never know if it'll happen again. Especially your hometown, it'll be an exciting thing for our city."