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Patriots.com News Blitz - 8/11/2006

In today's news blitz... The Patriots open their preseason in Atlanta against the Falcons.  The Boston Globe, Boston Herald and the Providence Journal all offer a preview of the game as well as the latest storylines.  It's all in today's Patriots.com News Blitz.

Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe and Michael Felger of the Boston Herald both write that if quarterback Matt Cassel plays well in the preseason, the Patriots may be set at the quarterback spot. If he struggles, the Patriots will be pressed into bringing in a veteran (42-year-old Vinny Testaverde is atop the list of desirables) in case of the unthinkable: an injury to Brady.

Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe takes a look at how much has changed with the Patriots since we last saw them on the television eight months ago when they were thrashed by the Denver Broncos, 27-13, in their second playoff game of the 2005 season. Eight months later, Vinatieri is gone, Willie McGinest is gone, Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch is holding out, and Tedy Bruschi is recovering from wrist surgery as the Patriots return to the field tonight (8, Channel 4) at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in their 2006 exhibition opener.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that the Patriots will be missing a host of familiar faces when they take the field for tonight's preseason opener at Atlanta. Some - like Willie McGinest, Adam Vinatieri and David Givens - are gone and probably never coming back. Others - like Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison and Dan Koppen - are injured and hope to contribute when the games count for real. And then there's wide receiver Deion Branch, a holdout who should have a clearer idea of his leverage at this time tomorrow. Tonight's game could provide the Pats a preview of some of the challenges they face in a season of transition, as more and more veterans of their Super Bowl championships are replaced.

Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers an interesting look back at the players that have served as the No. 2 quarterback since Tom Brady took over the helm.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald offers an article on recently acquired wide receiver Eddie Berlin.Berlin played in 62 games since being selected in the fifth round of the 2001 draft by Tennessee out of Northern Iowa. He has 26 career receptions for 379 yards and two touchdowns, including one caught off a fake punt. He appeared in five games for the Bears last year before being released on March 17.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes offers eight things to keep an eye on in tonight's Patriots - Falcons preseason game.

Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant writes that with the regular season opener against the Bills still 30 days away, don't expect to see your favorite Patriots on the field for long in tonight's preseason opener. Although Patriots coach Bill Belichick rarely reveals his plans, even for an exhibition game, it's unlikely that Tom Brady - who didn't play at all in the 2005 exhibition opener - will make more than a cameo appearance.

Eric McHugh of the Patriot Ledger writes that if the first two weeks of training camp are any indication, plenty of footballs will be flying toward Reche Caldwell. On the New England Patriots' practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, Caldwell - a low-profile free agent from San Diego - has emerged as Brady's favorite target among a depleted receiving corps. With Deion Branch and Chad Jackson out, Caldwell has emerged as the Patriots number one receiver.

The Boston Herald's Inside Track reports that Patriots cheerleader Michelle Carlucci is vying for the title of "America's Sexiest Cheerleader". You can see her in the September edition of FHM and fans are encourage to cast their vote on FHM's website -- http://fhmus.com/nfl/

Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe offers his daily Patriots blog with notes and quotes. Reiss also offers his latest Patriots mailbag where he answers fans questions.

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