FOXBORO, Mass. — Some leftover notes and nuggets from Wednesday’s New England Patriots media availability at Gillette Stadium:
— Patriots coach Bill Belichick knows his secondary will have its hands full this Sunday against DeAndre Hopkins, the Houston Texans’ No. 1 receiver.
“Body control, hands — he makes some spectacular catches,” Belichick said. “He’s kind of always open, because if you just put the ball where he can get it, he can get it. And no matter where the defender is, there’s some spot away from the defender that if you put the ball there, he can come up with it. He’s good at everything.”
Hopkins is one of the NFL’s premier wideouts. He led the league with 13 touchdown catches last season while ranking fourth in receiving yards (1,378) and second in catches of 20-plus yards (24) — all despite playing more than half the season with Tom Savage and T.J. Yates as his quarterbacks.
In the Texans’ Week 3 loss to the Patriots last September, Hopkins caught seven passes on eight targets from Deshaun Wason for 76 yards and also drew a pass interference penalty that picked up 34 yards.
“He’s very good at going up and getting the ball down the field,” Belichick said. “He’s good on intermediate routes, good on catch-and-run plays. He’s good in the red area, he’s good on third down. I mean, the guy’s one of the top receivers in the league. He gets the ball thrown to him a lot. He comes up with a lot of plays. Even when it looks like he’s covered, he still comes up with the ball. (He also) draws a lot of interference penalties. He’s a tough guy to stop.”
— The Patriots bolstered their offensive line Tuesday by re-signing center/guard Brian Schwenke, who was with the team for most of the summer before being released Saturday during final cuts.
“He’s picked up things well,” Belichick said Wednesday. “It looks like he has some position versatility, has some experience. (We) feel like he’s earned the spot. everybody that’s here, we feel like has earned it. That’s why they’re here.”
— In an example of Belichick’s top-to-bottom evaluation of every opponent’s roster, he noted Deshaun Watson is not the Texans’ only mobile quarterback. They also have journeyman Joe Webb, who ripped off a 22-yard run against the Patriots last season when he was with Buffalo.
“If Watson’s not in there,” Belichick said, “we’ll watch Webb. I mean, it’s not just one guy. They have other guys that can do it. So you can watch two quarterbacks do it in their offense. That’s probably as good of a look as you’re going to get.”
— One of the newest Texans spent his summer in Foxboro. Undrafted rookie safety A.J. Moore was claimed off waivers by Houston on Sunday after being let go by the Patriots one day earlier.
“I felt very thankful for the opportunity the Patriots gave me,” Moore said Wednesday, via the Houston Chronicle. “I gave it my best shot up there. They released me, so I’m here and thankful for the Texans for picking me up, and I’m coming here to do whatever they ask me to do and be a great teammate.”
So far, nine ex-Patriots have found new homes since cutdown day: Moore, running back Mike Gillilsee (New Orleans Saints), running back Brandon Bolden (Miami Dolphins), linebacker Marquis Flowers (Detroit Lions), defensive end Eric Lee (Lions), defensive tackle John Atkins (Lions’ practice squad), cornerback Cyrus Jones (Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad), punter Corey Bojorquez (Buffalo Bills) and cornerback Ryan Lewis (Bills).
— Speaking in a conference call with New England reporters, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt discussed his return to the field after missing most of last season with a broken leg.
“I could tell people I’m feeling unbelievable,” Watt said. “I could tell people I’m feeling terrible. They’re not going to believe me and they’re not going to care until I step on that field and prove it for real. Sunday’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to hitting the field and just playing the game.”
Injuries have limited Watt, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, to just eight games over the past two seasons.
Thumbnail photo via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images