INSIDERS: News, Notes and Rookie Report

The New England Patriots roster is full of veterans and unproven rookies, the challenge now for the coaching staff becomes one of determining which 53 players will help the team in the 2005 campaign. NFL Scout takes a look at the roster and provides whis week's News, Notes and Rookie Report.

INSIDERS: News, Notes and Rookie Report
By Staff


-- Coach Bill Belichick always emphasizes situations and through two preseason games, he's not happy with the way his team has played in the most critical of those situations. His team will work on those this week and hope to improve them before flying to Green Bay to take on the Packers.

"I think obviously third down is an area that we need to emphasize," he said. "(We haven't done) very well in that. In the red area, both offensively and defensively, that (hasn't been) particularly good either. I think we can incorporate a little more time there. We can continue to work on situation football. We've been doing that for the past couple of weeks. The things that we've done, we need to continue to work on and there are other things that we haven't gotten yet."

-- RB Corey Dillon missed the week of practice preceding the Saints game and then sat out the game as well because he was his wife, who delivered the couple's baby girl.

-- QB Doug Flutie, like Tom Brady, made his preseason debut against the Saints. Unlike Brady, though, the 42-year-old quarterback had an arousing start. He entered the game with the Pats on the New Orleans 3-yard line and handed off to rookie fullback Kyle Eckel for a touchdown. His next possession came after a long kickoff return game the Pats excellent field position at the Saints 41. He hit Dwight for 12 yards before connecting with rookie Jason Anderson for a 29-yard touchdown. His last series started with a 49-yard Patrick Pass run, but sputtered from there and ended in a field goal.

-- WR Deion Branch has yet to play in a preseason game this summer, but insists that he is as healthy as he has ever been.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I was excited to get out on the field and play. It is fun for me to get with the young guys and see the look in their eyes. That is part of where the enthusiasm comes from. I still enjoy playing." -- 42-year-old quarterback Doug Flutie, who made his first Foxborough appearance as a Patriot since Dec. 3, 1989.


BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Doug Flutie vs. Rohan Davey for the backup QB -- Flutie sat out the preseason opener, and Davey struggled with his passing accuracy during his chance to play. Davey sat out the second game, and Flutie completed 3 of 4 passes for 52 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown strike. He appears to have a leg up in the battle to backup Tom Brady. Bill Belichick said the spot remains up for grabs.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: James Sanders vs. Dexter Reid for reserve S -- Reid played decently on special teams as a rookie in 2004, but is being pressed hard for his job by the rookie Sanders, who in addition to playing special teams, has been a regular in the team's dime defense ahead of Reid.

Tom Ashworth vs. Brandon Gorin for starting RT - An injury to Gorin slowed this hot competition and given Ashworth a clear leg up to reclaim his starting job.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: S Rodney Harrison - Despite a pair of defensive holding penalties against New Orleans, Harrison gets the nod with a standout effort. He finished the second preseason game with 10 first half tackles, and interception and two passes defensed, one of which came on a crushing blow to tight end Ernie Conwell, who couldn't hang on to the pass after being drilled.


-- LG Logan Mankins continues to perform well as the starter at left guard. He shook off any nerves for the second preseason game and competed well against a solid Saints defensive front. He will start the season opener.

--CB Ellis Hobbs returned four kickoffs for 111 yards including a 53-yarder that led to an eventual touchdown against New Orleans. He also continues to earn playing time in the first unit nickel and dime packages while working with the regular defense with the reserves. He did allow a touchdown when he broke on pass and failed to break it up, which allowed New Orleans wideout Devery Henderson an easy score.

--T Nick Kaczur is playing with the second unit at right tackle and battling expected inconsistency at this point in his rookie season. He has shown up well at times, but been badly beaten as well. He briefly saw action with the first unit earlier in camp, but those reps seemed to dissipate.

--S James Sanders maintained his spot as the dime back and as a special teamer. He looks to be on his way toward securing a roster spot. He remains slow in making his reads, but he looked to improve from the first game to the second.

--QB Matt Cassel came back to earth in his second preseason game, completing 7 of 11 passes for 69 yards while being sacked three times, including one on which he fumbled. New Orleans recovered the loose ball and returned it for a game-clinching touchdown. Six of Cassel's seven completions and 62 of the 69 passing yards came during a two-minute situation in the fourth quarter with New England trailing by 10.

--WR Bam Childress continues to make a bid for a job. He made three catches for 27 yards against New Orleans while also returning a kickoff 31 yards.

--WR Jason Anderson is trying to overcome long odd and earn a roster spot. He had two receptions for 34 yards in the second game, including a 29-yard touchdown reception that was his second TD catch of the preseason.

--DL Mike Wright is making a case for a job. He covered kickoffs early in the first half against New Orleans and also saw some time on the defensive line earlier than expected. He recorded just one tackle.

INJURY REPORT: The lower left leg injury linebacker Mike Vrabel suffered in the preseason opener kept him out of action against the Saints. Cornerbacks Randall Gay and Duane Starks; wide receivers David Terrell, P.K. Sam, Bethel Johnson and Cedric James; safety Guss Scott; running backs Cedric Cobbs and Chad Morton; linebacker Andre Torrey; offensive lineman Brandon Gorin; tight end Jed Weaver and defensive lineman Santonio Thomas all missed practice time and the second preseason game with various undisclosed ailments. Belichick has classified them all as day-to-day. Cornerback Hank Poteat and defensive lineman Dan Klecko both had to be helped off the field during the Saints game, although either appeared seriously hurt.

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