The Arizona Cardinals, fresh off a 1-3 preseason, won’t have the luxury of easing into the 2016 season.
Not there’s any easy weeks in the NFL, but the Cardinals will kick off season four of the Bruce Arians coaching tenure by hosting Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots Sunday night at University of Phoenix Stadium.
New England has been the NFL’s picture of consistency, racking up 13 consecutive double-digit win seasons and seven straight playoff appearances. Over the last five years, Belichick’s team is an NFL-best 61-19 with a win in Super Bowl XLIX.
The Patriots will look a little different Sunday. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be making his first career start in place of the suspended Tom Brady (did you hear he was suspended?). Defensive end Rob Ninkovich is also suspended — he got busted for performance-enhancing drug use and well, got the same penalty as a guy who may or may not have ordered a little bit of air be taken out of the game balls two seasons ago.
Sunday’s matchup is one of the premier games on the schedule in Week 1, and marks the Patriots’ first-ever regular-season visit to UOP Stadium, although they’ve played in two Super Bowls in the building.
All week, we’ll keep you updated on the Patriots and their preparation for the Cardinals as we go Behind Enemy Lines.
Friday, September 9
• Rob Gronkowski’s hamstring still bothering him (Boston Globe)
Rob Gronkowski has been in and out of practice this preseason, and the Patriots tight end said Thursday that he’s still not fully healthy three days before the regular-season opener.
• Patriots’ D.J. Foster keeps late sister’s memory close to his heart (Boston Herald)
He misses his big sister, Jennifer, but he isn’t without her. The image, that beautiful memory, is permanently painted over his heart with the message, “Sweet Dreams.”
• Nobody knows what Jimmy Garoppolo will be for Patriots (Boston Herald)
Appearances can be deceiving, especially when those appearances come in exhibition football games. That is why, for all the talk the past month or two of what Jimmy Garoppolo is going to be this season, the truth is nobody knows. Not you, not me and not Bill Belichick either.
“I’m just taking this like a regular Week 1, like any Week 1 I would go through,” Jones said. “A lot of people would say this is a big game for me, but I’m approaching it like any other game.”
When the initial swap was made, the Patriots received guard Jonathan Cooper and a 2016 second-round pick (61st overall). They turned the draft pick into a third-rounder (guard Joe Thuney) and fourth-rounder (receiver Malcolm Mitchell).
Mingo offers the most upside in that role because of his Jamie Collins-esque explosive athleticism. The Patriots might feel McClellin is a stouter run defender, however.
Read more at: http://nesn.com/2016/09/patriots-mailbag-barkevious-mingo-has-starting-potential-in-base-defense/
Thursday, September 8
• Scouting the 2016 Patriots (Boston Globe)
Here’s a position-by-position look at the 2016 Patriots, with a rating of how the group compares to last season.
• Bill Belichick is a master of roster manipulation (Boston Globe)
The architect of the Patriots dynasty, Belichick and his staff have made trading commodities (i.e. players and picks) an art form. It’s only fitting, as Belichick was the central figure in the biggest trade in franchise history: the 2000 blockbuster that brought him to New England from New York.
• Patriots defense poised to unleash surprise weapon on opponents (Boston Herald)
The collection of personnel Bill Belichick has assembled at defensive end and linebacker, and the interchangeable nature of the players, allows him to bring some confusion every down.
Translation? The best Patriots pass rusher will be the one the quarterback won’t know is coming.
• Malcolm Butler shows he’s more than a one-trick Super Bowl hero (Boston Herald)
Malcolm Butler is returning to the scene of the crime.
But the Patriots’ serial burglar might not appreciate his Super Bowl fame as much if he hadn’t turned it into a springboard for his career. Now, Butler is gearing up for his first appearance at University of Phoenix Stadium in 588 days.
When the New England Patriots erected a Tom Brady mural on both sides of the lighthouse at Gillette Stadium, with Brady’s No. 12 on the top, it was noted by New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton on Twitter. Payton’s tweet has more than 3,000 retweets and 6,000 “likes.”
Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and Patriots reporter Mike Reiss take an in-depth look at Sunday night’s matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots in a battle of the two conference championship game losers.
Gronkowski’s inclusion on the team’s first injury report of the season Wednesday adds context to what he’s been facing health-wise. Gronkowski took himself out of a joint practice with the Chicago Bears on Aug. 15 after attempting to catch a pass from quarterback Tom Brady along the sideline. He returned to practice Aug. 24, but didn’t play in either of the final two preseason games, which wasn’t a major surprise considering Gronkowski hasn’t played in the preseason since 2012.
For the Patriots to have success and come out of Brady’s suspension with a winning record, the impetus is on the team’s defense, more than Garoppolo, to get it done. New England has all the piece to be considered among the best defenses in the NFL, and it’ll get to prove that Sunday night against a high-powered Arizona Cardinals offense.
New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said Wednesday he’s experiencing a “smoother operation” now that Tom Brady’s four-game Deflategate suspension has begun.
One day later, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked if he agrees: Are things running more smoothly with Brady out of the mix?
He did not appreciate the question. “That’s his opinion,” Belichick responded, referring to Garoppolo.
Wednesday, September 7
Although a large mural of Tom Brady is visible from both sides of the lighthouse at Gillette Stadium, the keys to the New England Patriots’ offense have officially been handed over to Jimmy Garoppolo for the next four weeks.
Rob Gronkowski is still nursing the injury that held him out of practices late in training camp. Gronkowski was one of seven players limited in practice Wednesday.
Gronkowski was one of seven players limited in practice Wednesday.
Sunday’s game will be the New England Patriots’ first at University of Phoenix Stadium since Super Bowl XLIX — the contest that introduced the world to Malcolm Butler.
When Jimmy Garoppolo was preparing to enter the 2014 NFL Draft, Bruce Arians saw a lot of Tony Romo in the young quarterback — and not just because the quarterbacks are from the same school.
• Carson Palmer on Tom Brady: You get busted, you suffer consequences (Boston Globe)
All the way on the other side of the country, nearly 3,000 miles from Gillette Stadium, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer stoked a Deflategate flame during a news conference Wednesday.
Tuesday, September 6
• Danny Amendola pronounces himself fit for the opener (Boston Globe)
After missing the entire preseason while recovering from offseason knee and ankle surgeries, Amendola declared himself ready to play in the season-opening game against the Cardinals in Arizona Sunday night.
• Patriots trade Josh Kline to Eagles for cornerback Eric Rowe (Boston Globe)
Coach Bill Belichick told WEEI that Rowe “could possibly be a matchup-type of coverage player. Maybe he’ll be able to play safety. We’ll have to wait and see.”
• Patriots a work in progress, but with real games to play (Boston Globe)
“I don’t think you really know your team until the middle of October, especially now with limited training camp,” he told reporters Tuesday before the Patriots practiced in Foxborough to prepare for Sunday’s season-opener in Arizona.
“Our focus is on the Cardinals. That’s who we play this week. All the other decorative and marketing things and so forth are not really part of the team’s preparation,” Belichick said. “We’re focused on Arizona.”
In addition to Gronkowski and Hightower, two other players on the current 53-man roster were named captains, safety Devin McCourty and perennial Pro Bowl special teamer Matthew Slater.
At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, and with 31.5-inch arm length, he has good size and length for a cornerback. Some teams viewed him as a solid press corner coming out of the 2015 draft, while others projected him to safety, but most seemed to be in agreement that he was a top-50 talent regardless.
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 11, at Arizona Cardinals, 8:30 p.m.
One could make the case that this is as challenging of an opening game as the Patriots have had in Belichick’s 17 years as head coach. It was going to be a major test, even if Brady was at quarterback. Record: 0-1.
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