When Ted Washington priced himself out of the Patriots range last February, the club let him go to Oakland as a free agent. Through two preseason games, his replacements, Keith Traylor and first round pick Vince Wilfork, haven't come close to filling Washington's large shoes.
In the preseason opener, the Patriots allowed Philly to average 5 yards per carry with 104 yards on 21 attempts and didn't fare much better in Cincy, allowing the Bengals to rush 37 times for 155 yards for 4.2 yards per carry. The Bengals Rudi Johnson carved up the first defense for 76 yards on 16 carries, including a touchdown that came on three straight carries from the 18-yard line.
It was the Patriots run defense that crushed its hopes of defending the title two years ago when it ranked among the league's worst. When the unit continued to struggle last summer, Belichick traded for Washington. Now without him, the Patriots are struggling again.
- CB Ty Law left camp for two days last week, and the Boston Herald reported
that his absence was a reaction to his not receiving a $106,000 workout bonus
he felt he was owed. He spends his offseason working out with Bob Kersee in
St. Louis rather than at the team facility, but has apparently received the
bonus in the past. He returned Thursday and played in the Bengals game Saturday
night. Unlike the spring when he called Belichick a liar during contract extension
talks, Law remained low-key this time. ...
- CB Asante Samuel's two interceptions during the team portion of practice
last week reminded observers of the ball skills he showed in camp last summer
when he intercepted at least a dozen passes during his rookie training camp.
He missed the early summer workouts with an injury, but has returned to challenge
Tyrone Poole for the starting job opposite Law. He intercepted both Tom Brady
and Rohan Davey during that particular workout.
- The Patriots rookies were given their annual summer shave last week. The
fresh faces arrived for practice last Tuesday with Mohawks and variations
thereof. A day later, most of the rookies' heads were clean shaven.
- During a light, literally and figuratively, portion of work last week, Patriots
left tackle Matt Light won a bet with Belichick when he caught a Josh Miller
punt to earn his team a night with no meetings. The team erupted when Light
caught the ball, and then the 305-pound offensive lineman bear-hugged Miller.
Before that stunt, the big tackle attempted a field goal, but his kick spun
about 10 yards almost directly left about six feet off the ground, drawing
a hearty laugh from training camp's last crowd. Light then had fun with reporters
who questioned his weight since it has been speculated that his surgery left
him, well, light. "You guys are a terrible judge of weight. If you guys
were at a circus I would be winning the largest stuffed animal in the entire
place. I'd have them all." Light wasn't likely joking around Saturday
night when he almost got quarterback Tom Brady mauled by Bengals defensive
end Duane Clemons. Light appeared to forget the snap count and when everybody
on the field started playing, he stood in his pose while Clemons ran by him
and blindsided Brady for a sack.
- LB Rosevelt Colvin received extended playing time last week against Cincinnati
as he continues to work his way back from a fractured hip. He finished with
three tackles and half a sack. "The hip is going to be sore like it always
is," Colvin said. "It's something I'm going to have to deal with.
I feel good enough that I can go out and play and as long as I can practice,
I can play."
- Two Black hawk helicopters landed in the Gillette Stadium parking lots last Tuesday as 13 members of the U.S. 86th Medical Company (Air Ambulance) visited Patriots practice. The men were stationed at Eagle Base in Bosnia as part of Operation Joint Forge and had requested a New England Patriots flag last year. The team sent the flag and while it was flying over their Bosnian base, the Patriots were undefeated while on their way to a Super Bowl championship, a game the soldiers enjoyed from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. local time. The men presented Patriots Owner Robert Kraft with the framed flag on Tuesday before taking in the team's workout from the sideline between the Patriots practice fields.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"My name is Benjamin Watson. I am a tight end from the University of Georgia." - Newly signed first round pick Benjamin Watson to a bleacher full of fans at his first training camp practice on camp's 19th day.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
BATTLE OF THE WEEK:
Asante Samuel vs. Tyrone Poole at CB - Poole has been victimized by the long ball in camp while Samuel has had his hands on a lot of passes. Samuel must prove himself in game action before he can overtake the incumbent starter, but Bill Belichick is waiting for him to do just that.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS:
Jarvis Green vs. Ty Warren at DE - Warren has been entrenched as the starter throughout camp while Green has played with the second unit, but if the Patriots run defense doesn't shape up, Warren could be shaken out of the first group. He did lead the team with five tackles against Cincy last week, but Green was right behind with four while adding half a sack. This is one battle that could hat up as the summer progresses.
--The battle for spots at wide receiver remains tight. Rookie P.K. Sam is the sixth man right now, but there is no guarantee that Bill Belichick will keep six. Sam could end up on injured reserve if his leg injury is not healed in time for the start of the season, but that would mean he was lost for the year. Chas Gessner appears to be Sam's top competition for a possible sixth spot. If the Patriots keep only five receivers, both would have to be out unless Belichick lets go of David Patten to keep Sam's potential on the roster.
--Brandon Gorin vs. Tom Ashworth at right tackle - Ashworth returned to practice this week and has rotated in with Gorin, who took all the first team snaps over the first two weeks of training camp. Gorin struggled against the Bengals, but Ashworth also allowed a sack that resulted in a fumble.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
P Josh Miller - Yes, the punter. He has been a major upgrade over Ken Walter and while he has looked solid throughout the summer, he bombed his punts last Saturday against Cincinnati, averaging 52.7 yards on three kicks with a 42-yard net average. He was the lone bright spot in a tough week.
NT Vince Wilfork continues to get some reps rotating with Keith Traylor on the first unit, but has yet to distinguish himself. He has three tackles through two summer exhibitions, but is taking time to adjust to the nose tackle spot.
- TE Benjamin Watson practiced for the first time this week and looked solid
catching the ball, although it's obvious that he some catching up to do. He
caught two passes for 28 yards against the Bengals.
- DE Marquise Hill had two tackles against the Bengals, but is not threatening
for more playing time as of yet. Like Wilfork, he has done little to distinguish
- S Guss Scott was having a solid camp, but injured his knee against Cincinnati
and did not return. He was backing up Eugene Wilson at free safety and contributing
on special teams. The extent of his injury is unknown.
- S Dexter Reid continues to flash on both special teams and at strong safety.
With Scott on the mend, Reid could start to see more defensive snaps over
the next couple of weeks. He had two defensive tackles and two on special
teams against Cincy.
- WR P.K. Sam missed the entire week of practice with a leg injury.
- CB Christian Morton has not practiced since an early camp injury.
- CB Randall Gay, an undrafted rookie, returned to practice and after getting his hands on a couple of passes early in the week, his play leveled off. He saw very little action against the Bengals as Bill Belichick re-inserted his lethargic starting unit.
S Guss Scott suffered a knee injury against the Bengals and his status is unclear moving forward. Linebacker Matt Chatham, quarterback Jim Miller, safety Je'Rod Cherry, defensive lineman Dana Stubblefield, wideout P.K. Sam, cornerback Christian Morton, tight end Andy Mignery and running back Cedric Cobbs all missed the entire week of practice and the second preseason game. Tackles Matt Light (appendectomy) and Tom Ashworth (back) and linebacker Ted Johnson all returned to action during the week and played in Cincinnati.