Defensive reinforcements arrive
The Patriots bolstered their defensive backs corps this week after adding Ray Mickens on Monday of last week.
Mickens was able to step in and help the team during a large portion of the Miami game while the Patriots defense was in its nickel package.
"[Mickens] was basically in there when the Dolphins went to their three receiver sets," said coach Bill Belichick this Monday. "They use a lot of three receiver sets and that really had become their number one personnel grouping over the last four or five weeks. … It didn't surprise us to see them in that a lot, therefore, for the most part, we matched that with a fifth defensive back.
"Ray is a smart guy. He's an experienced guy and he has some experience in this system. He works hard. He's very conscientious. He asks a lot of questions and tries to get things done right and correctly. He really studies his game plan and studies the opponent. I think he had a good week of preparation and I thought he did a solid job [Sunday]."
Last Saturday, the team signed cornerback Antwain Spann from its practice squad, marking the third time he's been activated from the practice squad this season. Spann's contributed five special teams tackles in the five games he's played for the Patriots this season.
The team also released cornerback James Patrick from the practice squad on Tuesday.
With openings on the practice squad, the Patriots added defensive back Justin Phinisee and safety Guss Scott to the practice squad on Tuesday.
You might remember Scott, since the Patriots selected him in the third round of the 2004 NFL draft. However, he missed his entire rookie season due to a knee injury. Last season, Scott played in five games with two starts for the Patriots, recording 19 tackles (16 solo) before being placed on injured reserve. He was with the Patriots during training camp this season before being released, and played in five of the Houston Texans first 10 games this season. He also signed with the Jets for a six-day stint in late November.
Phinesee was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the seventh round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He was with Tampa Bay during its 2006 training camp and was released during the final stages of roster cut-downs. He was on Kansas City's practice squad during the month of October and the first week of November
A tight spot?
On Wednesday, the Patriots announced the signing of free agent veteran tight end O.J. Santiago and on-again, off-again offensive lineman Gene Mruczkowskito their active roster, which means the active roster is now back at its 53-man limit. The two vacancies opened up when veteran linebacker Don Davis and fullback Patrick Pass were placed on injured reserve.
Santiago, 32, is in his seventh NFL season and has played in 78 career games with 60 starts for Atlanta, Dallas, Cleveland, and Oakland. He's caught 81 career passes for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns. He practiced Thursday, but was immediately placed on this week's injury report, listed as "Questionable" with a sore foot. He'll wear jersey No. 88.
"I think O.J.'s got a good background," said coach Belichick on Thursday. "You know, coach [Pete] Mangurian had him at Atlanta his rookie year. He's a big kid. You know, he can block, has good hands, he's a pretty athletic guy. So I think [he'll] just give us a little more depth at that position. Between the running back and tight end positions, fullback, those are all interrelated offensively in one way or another. So a combination of giving us some depth there both as a blocker and a receiver, and he has a little bit of experience in the league. We'll see what he can do. I'm not sure exactly. We're late in the season and he hasn't played since training camp. We'll see where he is, but he may be able to give us some depth at that position."
The innovator of the Falcons infamous "Dirty Bird" end zone celebration, Santiago first did the dance in a game against the Patriots back in 1998.
In addition to picking up Santiago, the Pats also signed tight end Rod Trafford to their practice squad, which means the practice squad is now at its eight-man limit.
Trafford played in four career games, but hasn't been active for a regular season game in the NFL since 2004. He'll wear jersey No. 85.
The addition of these two tight ends adds depth behind injured starting tight end Benjamin Watson, who leads the team in receptions (49) and receiving yards (643) this season. Watson left the Dolphins game in the third quarter after taking a brutal hit while trying to make a catch over the middle. He did not return to the game, and was listed as "Questionable" with a sore knee on this week's injury report.