Who Will Step Up In The Secondary?

The New England Patriots secondary is a work in progress. Some might call it a list of walking wounded. Choose your own description, but realize one thing; the team is looking to put healthy bodies into the mix who can actually help. After Duane Starks was placed on the reserve / injured list, the search was on for someone willing to step in and fill his shoes. That someone may be yet another rookie, or it could even be an experienced veteran from the offense.

Who Will Step Up In The Secondary?
By Site Staff

The spotlight won't be on Duane Starks anymore. Now it might shine on Ellis Hobbs and Hank Poteat.

By placing the embattled Starks on injured reserve on Thursday, the Patriots left themselves, at least temporarily, with only four cornerbacks.

Asante Samuel has been a starter since the midway point of last season. Randall Gay, who subbed for Ty Law last year, would be the logical choice to replace Starks. But Gay is fighting a nagging ankle injury that knocked him out of Monday night's loss to the Colts. And even if he were healthy he might be needed at strong safety.

That should translate into more work (and maybe even a starting job) for Hobbs, a third-round rookie, and/or Poteat, a six-year veteran who signed with the team in October. Neither player has started a game in the NFL.

"I've seen opportunity the whole time," said Hobbs, who has worked in substitution packages and on special teams, where he averages a team-best 24.1 yards per kick return. "But now I really feel like opportunity is going to meet preparation. We're going to see if I'm prepared. I feel like I've done my best to prepare. I feel like the coaches have done a good job of preparing me. It's just a matter of execution now."

Poteat signed with the Patriots in January and played in all three playoff games, including the Super Bowl XXXIX win over Philadelphia. He was with the Patriots in training camp but was released.

"I knew something good would happen eventually," said Poteat, who previously spent time with Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. "It was definitely nice to come back here because I've put a lot of time in here and I've developed some friendships. I also knew the defense pretty well, so I felt pretty comfortable here."

Coach Bill Belichick said receiver Troy Brown has not practiced with the defense recently but has been "on alert" all season. Brown did double duty as a slot cornerback last season when injuries claimed both starting cornerbacks - Law and Tyrone Poole.

NOTES

--DL Mike Wright could see a lot of playing time against Miami since three of the Patriots' top four defensive ends - Richard Seymour (knee), Ty Warren (hip) and Marquise Hill (ankle) - have missed practice this week. Wright subbed for an injured Warren in the second half last week.
--LB Tedy Bruschi has made 19 tackles in his two games back since suffering an off-season stroke.
--WR David Givens (42 catches for 477 yards) is on pace for career highs in both categories.
--QB Tom Brady is the league's fifth-rated passer (97.0). That would be a career-best rating should he maintain it for the entire season.
--RB Corey Dillon has one 100-yard game this season, against Atlanta in Week 5. At this point last year he had four, en route to a career-high nine.
--T Brandon Gorin likely will start at RT against Miami if Tom Ashworth can't go. Ashworth has not practiced this week with a knee injury, although he was moving around the locker room without a limp on Thursday. He is listed as questionable on the injury report.
--WR/PR Tim Dwight ranks fifth in the league in punt return average (9.4) with a long of 29.
--P Josh Miller ranks third in the league in punting average (46.8) and sixth in net average (39.3).


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