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Secondary to be challenged by Chargers; Thu. notes

Posted Sep 15, 2011

San Diego's high-octane offense poses a potentially stiffer test for the Patriots defense than they faced in Week 1. Plus, more news and notes from Thursday, September 15 at Gillette Stadium.

Chad Henne probably won’t go down in Miami Dolphins lore the Dan Marino has, but Henne certainly evoked the Hall of Fame QB against the Patriots on Monday night.

This Sunday, in New England’s 2011 home opener, they’ll face an even better signal caller in San Diego’s Philip Rivers, bigger receivers in Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd, and one of the best tight ends in the game in Antonio Gates. And let’s not overlook their talented backs, Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert.

With a short week to prepare, the Patriots can’t afford to dwell on what they may have done wrong against Miami.  

“It’s more important, right now,” cornerback and co-captain Devin McCourty told reporters, “to get better during this practice week and take that into the next game.

“This week, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd are both bigger receivers. They’re guys that can get down the field as well, so, we’ve got our hands full again. But that’s what you expect in the NFL.”

“Big, fast, can catch, wall you off. Basically, one of the best guys to do it,” safety Patrick Chung said to describe Gates. “We have to bring out A-game … Yeah, they’re great. They have the same quarterback, same players, they have a great team. They have additions there that made them a little better, too. Their running back runs hard, breaks tackles, he can catch the ball. There are a lot of threats on that team.”

“Even when we played him last year,” McCourty continued, “and they were the number-one offense, and this year they have the same type of weapons. One thing I think [Rivers] is happy about is they have a lot of guys healthy right now, different than last year when they had a lot of injuries. He has a full staff with him at the skill positions and he’s still a great quarterback.”

One way the Patriots secondary hopes to contain the Chargers is by communicating better amongst themselves on the field. With several new players, including safeties Josh Barrett and James Ihedigbo, as well as rookie cornerback Ras-I Dowling, there’s clearly room for improvement.

“You can always get better at that. We communicated well at times [against Miami],” noted McCourty.

“Last year, I came in as a rookie, and I was asked the same question, “Do you think they’ll challenge you deep?” I said, “Yeah,” and they did. This year … I’m just in my second year, we’ve got Ras out there, Kyle [Arrington], and Leigh [Bodden]. Teams are going to take their chances.”

“We kind of lean on each other, man. Definitely. They ask me questions, I ask them questions. WE just make sure we’re all on the same page. Definitely. In the meetings, when we have our own meetings, just sitting here at our lockers, we just make sure our communication is solid.”

“It’s a great challenge. They’re a high-powered offense,” remarked Ihedigbo. “You can look across all the stat lines, and they’re up there as top-ranked. It’s a good challenge as a defense and as a secondary. These games can help you make statements of who you are in the back end and as a defense when you play big-time offenses like this. We’re excited for the challenge and we’re preparing for it.”

For details on today’s Patriots practice, please visit the PFW blog.