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D-line causing domino effect

Two games into the preseason, New England’s new defensive line is paying dividends.

In a way, perhaps, it's advantageous that the Patriots have their third preseason game scheduled for Saturday night, when the others have been Thursday night affairs. The third game, historically, is seen as the most indicative of where a team stands, since most of the starters on offense and defense play their most significant minutes in this game.

That means Bill Belichick and his coaching staff have extra time to prepare this week for their road tilt against Detroit.

"It's been good for us," the head coach told reporters Tuesday. "We had a chance to have a couple days off, [the] coaching staff [got] kind of organized and hopefully get pointed in the right direction. We've got a lot of things to work on this week with the players, so with the extra time hopefully we can accelerate our preparations for the start of the regular season in terms of situations and, you know, working things as we get to the start of the season that we feel like we'll need early in the year — things that we need to tune up situationally."

As Jerod Mayo sees it, communication is what needs the most work at this point on defense – echoing a point made Monday by fellow 2010 co-captain Vince Wilfork.

"We have a bunch of new guys out there. Just talking to each other and getting everybody on the same page. It's going pretty good," Mayo observed, "but at the same time, there's room for improvement."

That's particularly important this season, apparently, as the Patriots gravitate more toward an attacking 4-3 base defense from their traditional read-and-react 3-4.

But they haven't abandoned their roots entirely.

"We're a very multiple defense," asserted Mayo, "so, one week, we might come out with pressure, the next week, we might sit back in coverage. You never know, and I think that's a good quality of this defense."

The different defensive approach might require varying techniques as well from the front seven players. With more defensive linemen in the scheme this summer, Mayo and the linebackers have had opportunities to make more plays in the first couple of exhibition contests.

And so far, that's happened without the help of the biggest new name on the d-line, Albert Haynesworth, who did suit up for Tuesday's practice.

"He's a great player, and I'm sure when he's healthy, he'll get out there and make some plays for us," Mayo said.

Belichick was characteristically reserved, however, when asked about the impact of the talent influx on the defensive line.

"[We're] just trying to get everybody to understand their responsibilities and play up to their capabilities: learn the defense, understand the adjustments, start to understand different problems that the offense presents us and then we'll eventually try to put everything together in terms of our scheme – both players, how we call things, and the frequency that we call them and so forth. So, I don't know. We'll have to wait and see how it all turns out."

"That's up to Coach Belichick to evaluate us," Mayo responded to the same line of questioning. "You think you go out there and have a good practice, then all of a sudden, you watch the film and it's not as good as you though it was, or it's not as bad as you thought it was.

"Those [d-line] guys played excellent throughout the whole training camp. It's very important for all the linebackers for those guys to eat up the blockers and allow us to roam around. I'm very excited about the way we started off.

"Hopefully," the linebacker added, finishing with a tongue-in-cheek remark, "I can make the team."

For more on today's practice, please visit the PFW blog.

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