PATRIOTS: Weekend Notes

The San Diego Chargers travel to Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots in what will be another tough challenge for the Patriots' defense. LaDanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles are homerun threats every time they touch the ball. Add in the injury woes to the picture and the Patriots job is tougher still. Get inside for the weekend notes and gameplan.

PATRIOTS: Weekend Notes
By Staff

With backup RB Kevin Faulk listed as out for this week's game against San Diego, the Patriots signed former Steelers and Raiders RB Amos Zereoue on Wednesday. That was the highest-profile transaction in a two-day flurry of moves involving six players.

Zereoue, 28, has played in 81 games with 17 starts over six seasons in Pittsburgh (1999-2003) and Oakland (2004). Last year he led the Raiders with a modest 425 yards, the lowest team-leading total in franchise history. Faulk's foot injury left the Patriots with only two running backs on the roster - starter Corey Dillon and FB Patrick Pass.

To make room for Zereoue, the Patriots released WR Andre' Davis, who had been obtained in a trade with Cleveland last month. Davis had been inactive for each of the first three games with a foot injury, although he likely would not have suited up anyway even if he had been healthy.

--The Patriots also signed free-agent DB Michael Stone and re-signed G/C Gene Mruczkowski. Stone, a second-round draft pick of Arizona in 2001, can play cornerback and safety and has contributed on special teams. Mruczkowski, whose brother Scott is a Chargers rookie offensive lineman, played in 10 games last season in a reserve role and on special teams. He was released on Sept. 3.

--The team also placed SS Rodney Harrison (knee) on injured reserve, waived LB Wesly Mallard and signed OL Ryan Krug to the practice squad.


--LT Matt Light will miss this week's game. Light suffered a leg injury against Pittsburgh last week and is out indefinitely.
--RB Kevin Faulk will miss this week's game. Faulk suffered a foot injury against Pittsburgh last week.
--CB Tyrone Poole, who has sat out the last two games with an ankle injury, missed at least a portion of practice on Wednesday and is listed as questionable.
--CB Randall Gay, who sat out last week with an ankle injury, missed at least a portion of practice on Wednesday and is listed as questionable.
--CBs Chad Scott (shoulder/hand) and Duane Starks (thigh) also missed at least a portion of practice on Wednesday and are listed as questionable. However, both played last week after being listed as questionable.
--LB Don Davis could see action this week at safety. He played there last year when injuries hit the secondary and proved surprisingly adept. He has the size (6-1, 235 pounds) and speed to match up with Chargers TE Antonio Gates.

GAME PLAN: Defensively, the Patriots always begin by trying to take away the opponent's main weapon, which in this case is Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson. Much as they bottled up Pittsburgh's Willie Parker last week, the Patriots likely want to focus their efforts on Tomlinson (27 carries for 217 yards and two touchdowns in the team's last meeting, in 2002). Ordinarily, they would dare QB Drew Brees to beat their secondary. That could be dangerous, though, considering Brees completed 19 of 22 passes against the Giants last week and has a tight end in Gates who could be a real handful for safeties Wilson and Scott. Offensively, the Patriots would like to be balanced but with RB Corey Dillon still struggling to find running room they likely will take to the air against a San Diego pass defense that has not distinguished itself.


Chargers PR/KR Darren Sproles vs. Patriots' coverage teams - The Patriots tightened up in this area last week against Pittsburgh, although they did allow a late 44-yard kickoff return that proved costly. Sproles, the 5-foot-6 rookie, is averaging 31.9 yards on kickoffs.

Patriots C Dan Koppen vs. Chargers NT Jamal Williams - Koppen has had his work cut out for him this season, tangling with Oakland's massive Ted Washington and Carolina's sturdy front four. Now he goes against San Diego's All-Pro.

Patriots MLB Monty Beisel vs. Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson - Beisel has been solid so far in helping to fill the void left by the losses of Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson. Beisel is second on the team in tackles and must be on his game against Tomlinson, who rushed for 192 yards against the New York Giants last week.

INJURY IMPACT: The loss of Harrison is a severe blow to both the run and pass defense. The Patriots figure to use Guss Scott at strong safety, although they could mix and match with Davis and/or rookie safety James Sanders, who is nursing an ankle injury and has yet to play this season. Rookie Nick Kaczur filled in after Light was hurt last week. He could get the start, or rookie left guard Logan Mankins could slide out to left tackle (he played there in college). In that scenario, Russ Hochstein would play left guard.

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