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Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe reports that linebacker Dane Fletcher may be lost for the season after injuring his knee early in the first quarter in Thursday's 7-6 preseason win over the New Orleans Saints. Young writes that Fletcher got hurt while on punt coverage and appears to have a torn anterior cruciate ligament. "After lying on the turf for a few moments, he was helped off the field by two members of the training staff and immediately brought to the locker room," writes Young. Fletcher has been the top backup to linebacker Brandon Spikes, but with Fletcher out, Young writes that rookie Dont'a Hightower will likely fill that role going forward.

Field Yates of writes that second-year running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen both had solid performances in Thursday's preseason opener against the Saints. Ridley finished the night with 40 yards on eight carries with a long attempt of nine yards, while Vereen racked up 64 yards on 11 carries. "Preseason or not, it was a solid step for the 23-year-old, who logged just 15 carries as a rookie in 2011," Yates writes of Vereen. Yates adds that Vereen's strong showing could ramp up the competition between him and rookie running back Brandon Bolden, who ran for 23 yards on 8 carries in his first NFL action.

Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe observes that rookie defensive end Chandler Jones shone in his NFL debut on Thursday night. Jones worked with the starting defense and played for much of the first two quarters. "I had Jones for five total quarterback pressures, including two holding penalties, in 14 dropbacks," writes Bedard. Bedard adds that Jones "factored into at least two stuffed runs" and "really had Saints LT Jermon Bushrod on his heels from the first dropback (second snap)." Bedard also notes that the Patriots secondary looked strong in coverage, and that Saints quarterback Drew Brees was having "a really tough time finding open players."

Mike Reiss of writes that the first unit of the Patriots offensive line struggled to protect quarterback Tom Brady on Thursday night, especially left tackle Nate Solder. "The 2011 first-round draft choice is being called upon to replace veteran Matt Light at left tackle, and his first audition didn't inspire much confidence," writes Reiss. Solder got called for two holding penalties in the first quarter. Reiss notes that the rest of the offensive line wasn't much better, as they allowed Brady to get driven into the turf for a sack and a forced fumble that ended the team's second drive.

Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald notes that while the offense wasn't impressive, New England's defense put together a solid effort in Thursday night's preseason win. Howe writes that the defensive line got "consistent pressure on the Saints' passers, as defensive ends Trevor Scott and Jake Bequette each notched a sack, and the Pats racked up five quarterback hits." Howe adds that the passing defense was strong as well, particularly over the middle, where safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory each recorded an interception.

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