BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Though the competition hasn't exactly been impressive to date, the battle between Jonathan Wilhite and Darius Butler for a job in the secondary was a tight one. With second-round pick Ras-I Dowling missing nearly all of training camp with a leg injury, both former New England starters Wilhite and Butler have been battling for the team's No. 4 cornerback job and a roster spot. Butler has gotten the earlier reps in the first two preseason games, but neither guy has made many plays in either practice or game action. Sometimes a make-or-break situation brings out the best in players, but that hasn't been the case for either Butler (a former second-round pick) or Wilhite (a former fourth-round pick).
[Editor's Note: Wilhite was released by the team Monday]
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: It looks like fifth-round rookie Lee Smith and undrafted rookie Will Yeatman may be fighting it out for the third tight end role in New England, a blocking position formerly held by veteran Alge Crumpler. Smith has been underwhelming to date in training camp, while Yeatman (who was also an elite college lacrosse player) has opened some eyes with his blocking and physical style of play. Right now it looks like he could have the inside track to the roster.
ROOKIE REPORT: OT Nate Solder, the team's selection at No. 17 of the first round, has started each of the team's first two preseason games. He protected Tom Brady's blind side relatively well in Week 2, although he did allow one sack. Matt Light is working his way back to health and will likely be the regular season starter, but Solder has done a solid job and looks like he'll be ready at whatever point he's called upon. ... CB Ras-I Dowling has seen the practice field for just one day this summer thanks to a leg injury and continues to fall further behind. At this point it would seem unlikely he'll have any role, at least on defense, early in the season. ... Fellow second-round pick Shane Vereen has been held out of practice for the bulk of the summer with a leg injury. At a competitive running back position and given the complexities of the Patriots offense, he seems destined for either IR or a spot on the game day inactive list. ... RB Stevan Ridley has been impressive throughout camp, as well as in the first two preseason games. He's shown nice burst as well as better than advertised athleticism. He should have a role in New England's backfield committee as the regular season rolls around. ... QB Ryan Mallett came back to Earth a bit after an impressive debut with an interception and some questionable reads in his second preseason game against the Bucs. Though some thought he might push for the backup job, he seems entrenched in the No. 3 role.
--DT Albert Haynesworth remains day-to-day with an unknown injury that's kept him off the practice field for all but one day this summer.
--WR Julian Edelman returned to practice Aug. 20 after missing a week and the second preseason game.
--S James Sanders returned to practice Aug. 20 after missing all but a couple days of camp with a leg injury.
--WR Brandon Tate got back on the practice field after an extended absence with a leg injury.
--WR Taylor Price has not practiced since his impressive performance in the preseason opener thanks to an unknown injury.
--LT Matt Light is now taking part in full-contact team reps in practice with the first unit, after sitting out the early part of camp as he worked his way back from offseason shoulder injury. Light did not play in the first two preseason games.
--RB Kevin Faulk remains on PUP as he returns from reconstructive knee surgery and it's looking more likely that he'll open the season on PUP as well.
--LB Dane Fletcher is wearing a cast on his wrist/hand after hurting his thumb early in the second preseason game in Tampa Bay.
--RB Danny Woodhead did not practice in the first workout after the Bucs game. Woodhead took a huge hit covering a punt late in the game and had to be helped off the field by trainers. Woodhead dealt with a concussion late in the 2010 season.
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