Veteran Gerard Warren helps point this defense in the right direction.
Mike Reiss puts Jerod Mayo's performance under the microscope and highlights what stood out from the first preseason game.
1. On the second defensive play, he lined up to the right of defensive end Chandler Jones and dropped into coverage to run stride for stride with receiver Lance Moore. Drew Brees looked to that side of the field, but Mayo's coverage contributed to Brees having to go through his progressions, giving time for Jones to push the pocket and ultimately force an incompletion.
3. Solid tackle on the slippery Darren Sproles on the next play, a third-and-8, in which Sproles was brought down for a 4-yard gain.
4. Tipped pass that leads to Steve Gregory's interception early in the second quarter.
Shalise Manza Young looks back at the first weeks of camp to go over some of what we've learned to this point.
Chandler Jones is better than expected. Patriots fans rejoiced when Bill Belichick finally used a first-round draft pick on a pass rusher (and moved up to do it!), but Jones, the 6-foot-5-inch Syracuse product, was believed to come with a caveat: He might not be strong enough right away to do battle with the behemoths at left tackle and would probably be used situationally to start. But he got in the weight room in the spring and has hardly come off the field to this point in practices. On Thursday night, he gave Saints Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod all that he could handle.
Wes Welker is still Wes Welker — that is, darn hard to cover. Welker was such a story in the offseason, thanks to his franchise tag designation and then the inability of him and the Patriots to come to a longer-term contract. But things have quieted down in camp. That’s not because of lack of performance. Welker is still one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets, and is still giving defensive backs fits. He wasn’t targeted Thursday night in limited opportunities, but that won’t last long. Welker will have fewer catches this year, but it will very likely be because of the sheer number of options Brady has at his disposal, not because of a dropoff in Welker’s play.
Vince Wilfork is as steady to dominating as ever. It’s a broad spectrum between steady and dominating, to be sure, but Wilfork is both. He hasn’t gotten a lot of attention to this point in camp, but it’s probably because he’s doing exactly what has become expected of him: anchoring the defensive line and bullying offensive linemen. In one-on-ones a week ago, he lost his first matchup, against Dan Connolly, and then proceeded to take three more reps, easily winning them all with a variety of moves. If he and protégé Kyle Love can occupy interior linemen and push the pocket, it makes life even easier for the ends.
Aaron Hernandez is primed for a breakout season. When he does interviews, it seems like Hernandez gets more questions about fellow 2010 draftee Rob Gronkowski and his zany adventures than he does about himself, but that may change after this year. Provided he can stay healthy, Hernandez will likely show the league his full spectrum of talents. We’ve seen him lined up in several different spots, including the backfield, and Brady has looked to him often in camp. Tight end, receiver, running back, punt returner . . . with the ball in his hands, Hernandez is dangerous.
Stevan Ridley is the starting running back. This development hasn’t been a real surprise; of the other players New England has at the position (Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, and rookie Brandon Bolden), he was the pre-camp favorite to snag the spot. But Ridley has solidified it, showing the burst and speed that was starting to garner him carries last year before he lost two fumbles at the end of the season. Vereen is the more natural pass-catcher, which is a positive with Josh McDaniels’s fondness for screen passes, but Ridley can do that as well.
Brandon Spikes remains an enigma. Or, perhaps more accurately, a source of frustration. When he is on the field, the middle linebacker can be stellar and plays with instincts, energy, and ferocity. But it’s that "on the field" part that has become an issue. Four games lost to suspension as a rookie, half the 2011 season and all of this spring lost to knee problems. Spikes sat out the first four practices of camp, returned, and was immediately playing with the top unit, and then gave an uncomfortable interview with his helmet and tinted visor still on. After a few days, he was back on the sidelines again, not taking part last week. New England needs him, particularly now that the linebacking depth has taken a hit with Dane Fletcher’s injury.
- Paul Perillo and Andy Hart debate which of the young running backs they are most excited about for the Pats.
- Erik Scalavino notes Belichcik all but confirmed Dane Fletcher's injury is most likely season-ending.
- Friday Conference Call: Bill Belichick.
- Patriots Today - Shane shows up in opener. (2.40 min. video)
- Patriots Today - Jones explosive in preseason game. (2.03 min. video)
- Patriots Today - Strong at Safety. (2.36 min. video)
- Patriots Roster Report - The PFW crew recaps the 7-6 preseason victory over the Saints and analyzes the play of the rookies in their first game action. (15:23 min. program)
- Field Yates highlights Tom Brady's call in to the Dennis & Callahan show this morning. Brady stressed patience, reminding us that it's still early.
- Mike Reiss shares some quick-hit weekend thoughts from the Patriots and around the league.
- Karen Guregian keys in on five talking points at this point of the preseason.
- Field Yates mentions some areas of interest leading into the week.
- Greg A. Bedard gives us a rundown of Sunday afternoon's light practice. A practice record of six drops and four interceptions total.
- Mike Reiss wraps up the key storylines from day 18 of camp.
- Jeff Howe tells us what happened at the Pats shorts-and-shells practice Sunday, who was there and who didn't practice.
- Mike Reiss & Mike Rodak report Brandon Spikes returns to practice and Rob Gronkowski sits out.
- Mary Paoletti sends us a Postcard from Camp: Brian Hoyer got significant time under center. Not pretty for the offense.
- Mike Rodak gives us an updated health report for the team.
- Mike Reiss reviews the new-look defense, saying Belichick's leaner, more athletic front seven makes a good first impression against the Saints.
- Paul Kenyon predicts the NE defense will be better this season than last, although that's not exactly going out on a limb.
- Jeff Howe takes note of the improvements the Pats have made in their pass defense over the middle this summer.
- Mike Petraglia wants to get one thing straight: These are not the 2007 Patriots.
- Field Yates brings up some options the Patriots may use to replace Dane Fletcher, assuming he's out for the season.
- Tom E. Curran reports that with the ACL injury to Dane Fletcher, the role of coverage linebacker falls to veteran Bobby Carpenter.
- Jeff Howe reports Logan Mankins feels good to get back out on the practice field after the first significant injury of his career.
- Shalise Manza Young reports that Logan Mankins is back in pads after only six months removed from undergoing surgery for a torn ACL.
- Christopher Price notes the O-line should get a boost with the return of the sheriff.
- Jeff Howe reports DE Jake Bequette hopes his versatility will lead to playing time.
- Mark Daniels reports rookie DE Jake Bequette spends his free time watching tape and evaluating his technique to make sure he gets it right.
- Christopher Price takes another stab at his final 53 forecast. Deion Branch in, Donte' Stallworth out. But things could change.
- Zuri Berry offers his second projection of the Pats' 53-man roster with a few slight changes for the team in key positions.
- Paul Kenyon feels the ground game is in good hands with Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.
- Mark Farinella writes about Alex Silvestro making the transition from DE to TE.
- Mark Daniels notes Ross Ventrone is looking to stick around for good.
- Karen Guregian checks in with Kevin Faulk who found it "totally weird" watching Thursday's preseason action on the TV.
- Mike Rodak notes the NFL is still waiting on the new IR rule that was passed by the owners in May.
- Tom E. Curran shares his impressions from the first half of the Patriots' 7-6 win over the Saints.
- Mike Rodak wraps up his second-half review of Thursday's preseason opener.
- Tony Massarotti sees plenty of room for improvement for the Patriots.
- Mike Reiss examines the fullback presence and the I-formation.
- Christopher Price tells us how Alabama coach Nick Saban breaks down Belichick's hybrid/subpackage defenders.
- Mike Reiss shares some thoughts on Plaxico Burress.
- Jeff Howe Patriots Notebook: Derek Dennis knew what was coming when he got cut by Miami in the first episode of Hard Knocks; There's no indication if a contract is in the works between Plaxico Burress and the Patriots; NE has shown interest in veteran OT Chad Clifton, but there haven't been any plans for a workout; Marcus Cannon has assumed a starting role in the absence of Sebastian Vollmer; Matt Kopa will be out a month with a sprained ankle; Kyle Hix and Dustin Waldron were also injured last week.
- Andy Benoit (NY Times) New England Patriots, 2012 NFL season preview.
- James Walker (ESPN) Plax to the Pats? No thanks.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Pats aren't expected to sign Plaxico.
- James Walker (ESPN) AFC East preseason stock watch.
- Peter King (SI) MMQB: Rookie QBs star; Dolphins' Johnson tempted fate; more camp lessons. Chandler Jones gets some love.
- Marc Sessler (NFL.com) Six early-impact NFL rookies. Chandler Jones makes the list. "This man has havoc written all over him."
- 'Consistency' is the goal with these rookies in August. (Nat'l Football Post)
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Chad Johnson was on a "one-strike" arrangement.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Actual sports highlights return to your morning routine. NBC Sports Network debuts The 'Lights, a 20-min. loop of highlights w/o the chatter.