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Patriots.com News Blitz - 8/7/2012

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Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com reports that linebacker Brandon Spikes was a "notable absence" from practice on Monday morning. Spikes has been limited so far this preseason as he recovers from off-season knee surgery. "Given Spikes' recent injury history and offseason knee surgery, coupled with how the defense seems to take on a different personality when Spikes is on the field, his absence was the most newsworthy item from practice," writes Reiss. Reiss adds that defensive tackle Kyle Love was back on the field Monday after getting poked in the eye and leaving practice on Sunday.

Leonard Neslin of the Boston Globe writes that Tuesday's joint practice with the New Orleans Saints will be a good measuring stick for Patriots coaches to evaluate their players. "It's exciting for all of us. You get a barometer to where your team might be at this point," notes Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio. Neslin writes that Caserio sees the Saints as a "very balanced" team offensively and a team that has "a lot of disruptive players on their front seven" on the defensive side of the ball. The Patriots and the Saints will hold a joint full-pads practice on Tuesday and a walkthrough on Wednesday before their preseason game on Thursday night.

Field Yates of ESPNBoston.com lists the competition between cornerback Devin McCourty and Saints wide receiver Marques Colston as a matchup to watch in Tuesday's joint practice with New Orleans. Yates writes that McCourty has had "an up-and-down camp thus far" and will be "put to the test" against the 6-foot-4, 225 Colston. Among other matchups to watch, Yates also highlights defensive end Chandler Jones against the Saints offensive tackles and receiver Brandon Lloyd against the Saints defensive backs.

Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe believes that cornerback Ras-I Dowling has made great progress so far in training camp. "Physically, he has been much-improved from where he was in the off-season practices, and now he has started making plays on the ball," writes Bedard. Bedard notes that Dowling made a "terrific break" on the ball during Sunday's practice on a Tom Brady pass to receiver Brandon Lloyd near the sideline, and that Dowling "jumped the route like he knew it was coming." Bedard adds that the next step for Dowling will be performing well in Thursday's preseason game against the Saints.

Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald writes that receiver Brandon Lloyd's confidence level is high as the regular season approaches. Howe notes that Lloyd has impressed in camp, and that he "glides outside the numbers and make difficult grabs look stress-free." Lloyd told reporters on Monday that he feels like "every ball is catchable," and Howe writes that this remark shows the receiver's "self-sustaining demand to perform." While Lloyd's transition into the Patriots offense hasn't been flawless, Howe notes that the "big plays exist" and that the receiver "looks comfortable making them."

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