Patriots Focus On
By Scout.com Staff
The Patriots haven't played a game yet without strong safety Rodney Harrison, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Pittsburgh last week. But they have played three games without inside linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson, and so far those two have not been missed as much as some observers had predicted.
Bruschi's and Johnson's replacements - free agent LBs Monty Beisel and Chad Brown - rank second and third, respectively, on the team in tackles. Although no one has replaced Bruschi's nose for takeaways, Beisel especially has kept the run defense strong. The Patriots rank sixth in that department, allowing an average of 91.7 yards per game.
That will come in handy this week with San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson, the league's fifth-leading rusher, coming to town. Beisel is familiar with LT, having played against him twice a year when Beisel was with Kansas City.
Beisel started only nine games for the Chiefs in four seasons, but he looks entrenched in the New England lineup now. Beisel even seems to have passed Brown, a three-time Pro Bowler, on the depth chart. When the Patriots switch to a 4-3 look, it's Beisel, 27, not Brown, 35, who remains on the field in at middle linebacker.
"It's an ongoing (process)," Beisel said. "I think once you get to the point in the season where you're starting to game plan and doing things like that, it's ever-changing. I'm kind of at the same point as everybody else (now). I understand the base concepts of the system, both the 3-4 and the 4-3. Now it's just a matter of game planning and getting it right for Sunday."
--RB Amos Zereoue practiced with the team Thursday, one day after he signed to fill the void left by RB Kevin Faulk's foot injury. Faulk is expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a broken bone in his foot. He apparently was hurt making a 17-yard catch on the winning drive against the Steelers last week.
Faulk is the 10th-leading receiver in Patriots' history with 217 receptions for 1,935 yards and eight touchdowns. He had 13 catches this season, tying with WR Troy Brown for third place.
Zereoue, a seventh-year pro, is no slouch in the passing game, either. He had 42, 40 and 39 receptions the past three seasons with Pittsburgh and Oakland and owns three career 100-yard games.
Zereoue was not in training camp with any team, so his conditioning is a question mark.
"You can never really get in football shape unless you're playing football," he said. "I was doing some running, but as far as catching up with those guys, it's really tough right now."
--CBs Randall Gay and Tyrone Poole, both out with ankle injuries, were not on the field Thursday during the first 30 minutes of practice that the media was allowed to watch. Gay missed last week's game. Poole hasn't played since Week 1.
--CBs Chad Scott (shoulder/hand) and Duane Starks (thigh) are expected to play. Both are listed as questionable on the injury report - the same designation they had last week when they suited up against Pittsburgh.
--S James Sanders (ankle) was not on the field Thursday during the first 30 minutes of practice that the media was allowed to watch.
--WR Troy Brown has 488 career catches and needs three more to move into second place on the team's all-time list ahead of Ben Coates. Brown is also 30 yards away from bumping Irving Fryar out the No. 2 spot on the Patriots' career receiving yardage list. Brown has 5,697 yards.
--FB Patrick Pass could see more time on offense
now that Kevin Faulk is sidelined.
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