STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
BATTLE OF THE WEEK:
The running back battle is shaping up as an interesting one. With Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk secure in their roster spots, Mike Cloud, Patrick Pass and Fred McCrary are battling for what could be two spots, especially when Klecko is factored in as a fullback. The team also has used Richard Seymour as a short-yardage fullback and when tight end Benjamin Watson arrived in camp as the third tight end, it creates a numbers crunch among those two positions. It's likely that the Patriots will keep three tight ends, but only one fullback. That could leave McCrary on the outside of the roster crunch along with Cloud. Pass, who is not a true fullback, but offers more versatility, could take the lone fullback roster spot. The Patriots would then use the combination of Klecko, Seymour and the tight ends as true lead blockers when needed.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS:
Jarvis Green and Dana Stubblefield vs. Ty Warren at defensive end. Warren did not impress in the preseason opener vs. Philly, which could open the door for Green to make a move. Stubblefield is behind both while he learns the defense, but could emerge as August progresses. None of the three registered a tackle against the Eagles.
The wide receiver battle continues to be hotly contested. Players like Chas Gessner and Michael Jennings have impressed, but won't likely have enough to crack the roster. Troy Brown's work on defense as a corner could be Belichick's effort to create depth at corner while keeping one less player at that position and making up the spot at receiver. It seems J.J. Stokes has virtually no shot to make the club.
Je'Rod Cherry has been a regular among the Patriots' special teams since 2001 and one of the team's better players in the kicking game, but with rookie safeties Dexter Reid and Guss Scott ahead of him defensively and also contributing on teams, Cherry's job could be in jeopardy. Shawn Mayer also is in the mix as a special teams player. With the possibility of Belichick keeping six receivers, one of these players could be the odd man out.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
WR David Patten. He has been consistent throughout camp, showing excellent stretch-the-field speed along with the ability to make the tough catch. He grabbed a 19-yard reception and a 9-yard touchdown pass in the team's preseason 24-6 win over Philly and also covered kickoffs and returned a kickoff 34 yards in his only attempt.
NT Vince Wilfork has clearly moved onto the second team behind Keith Traylor and is now looking for consistency. He had an up-and-down preseason opener with one tackle on a nice play where he shot through to make a stop after a 1-yard gain. He was double teamed at times up front, but late in the game was handled one-on-one by a reserve center for Philly. He has improved throughout camp, but as Belichick would say, he has a ways to go.
- TE Benjamin Watson's contract dispute should be all but over and he should
be in camp this week playing catch-up. It would be surprising to see him play
this week against the Bengals.
- DE Marquise Hill did not have a tackle against the Eagles and like Wilfork,
has a long way to go, but is starting to show glimpses of why the Patriots
thought highly of him. Technique-wise, he is doing well, but is still trying
to learn the scheme and make necessary adjustments.
- S Guss Scott may be further along than any of the other Patriots rookies.
He started on special teams and has been the third safety behind Eugene Wilson
and Rodney Harrison. He has done a nice job grasping the Patriots defensive
system. He had one tackle against the Eagles.
- S Dexter Reid also has fared well for the most part. He has played more
of a strong safety role, backing up Harrison while also contributing on special
teams. He had three tackles against the Eagles while playing run support.
He and Scott appear to be giving New England the safety depth it lacked last
- WR P.K. Sam pulled up lame running a deep route on Aug. 8 and missed the
entire week of practice and the preseason opener.
- CB Christian Morton has not practiced since an early camp injury.
- CB Randall Gay, an undrafted rookie, also missed the entire week, putting a damper on his fast start to training camp.
Tight end Zeron Flemister became the second Patriots player to head to injured reserve with a ruptured Achilles, joining defensive lineman Rodney Bailey. Long snapper Lonie Paxton was removed from the active/PUP list and began practicing. The following players missed some if not all of the week's practices, most with undisclosed injuries: wideouts David Givens, P.K. Sam and Bethel Johnson; offensive linemen Tom Ashworth (back) and Matt Light (appendectomy); linebackers Matt Chatham and Ted Johnson; defensive backs Christian Morton, Randall Gay and Je'Rod Cherry; running backs Kevin Faulk and Cedric Cobbs; punter Cody Scates and quarterback Jim Miller. None of those players played in the game against Philly.
- LB Justin Kurpeikis, who spent a stint on the Patriots practice squad last
season, has started to make his case for a job. He made the defensive play
of the week when he stepped in front of a Kliff Kingsbury pass and returned
it about 50 yards for a touchdown. Kurpeikis has been playing outside linebacker
opposite Tully Banta-Cain with the second team defense. He led the Patriots
with nine defensive tackles in the team's preseason opener and added one special
- QB Tom Brady has been in fine form this summer. He threw his first training
camp interception of training camp in his 17th practice and then opened the
preseason connecting on 3-of-4 passes for 31 yards and a touchdown before
exiting. Brady has an even better command of the offense he is running and
is being given much more freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage.
- WR Michael Jennings has very little chance to crack what is considered a
deep wide receiving corps, but the former college sprinter should hook on
somewhere if let go if not with the Patriots' expanded 8-man practice squad.
Jennings caught a touchdown pass from Rohan Davey in the exhibition opener
and beat cornerback Earthwind Moreland on a deep ball for a touchdown in practice
last week. Jennings, like many of the other Patriots receivers, is on the
small side at 5-11 (with cleats on), 175 pounds and has no chance to beat
out the likes of Troy Brown, David Patten, Bethel Johnson, David Givens or
Deion Branch. Even if the Patriots keep six receivers, rookie P.K. Sam will
likely get the last spot.
- CB Asante Samuel is working opposite Terrell Buckley with the second team
defense behind Tyrone Poole and Ty Law, but after missing the early part of
training camp, Samuel has picked up where he left off a year ago when he showed
a nose for the ball while winning the team's nickel back job. He had a pair
of interceptions during a practice last Thursday and could start to push Poole
for his starting job.
- WR David Patten, who missed 10 games last season with a knee injury, is trying to put rumors of his demise to rest. He has had a strong camp, proving that his 2003 knee injury hasn't cost him his speed. He then caught two passes for 28 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown grab in the exhibition opener. He received a $250,000 roster bonus this spring, which offered a semblance of security, but his play this summer has validated that payment.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"I'm like an addict now. I gotta have my drug and that drug is the Super Bowl." - Tight end Christian Fauria.