]()One of the major concerns for many Patriots fans entering camp was a lack of depth at linebacker. Just more than a week into practice, those fears may have been realized.
With Tedy Bruschi and Chad Brown both on the shelf, reportedly with wrist injuries, the Patriots already thin corps has taken on anAlly McBeal look lately. As a result, there may be some changes in store for Bill Belichick's defense.
Tuesday afternoon's practice featured a 4-3 base set with veteran free agent acquisitionBarry Gardner manning the middle linebacker spot. Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin manned the outside positions behind a front that included Ty Warren and Mike Wright outside and Le Kevin Smith and Vince Wilfork inside. The team also worked plenty of four-man fronts during the morning session.
Obviously the alignment doesn't necessarily mean the end of the 3-4. Belichick spends plenty of time every year working on a variety of fronts and looks and this camp has been no different. But perhaps with such a paucity of depth at linebacker he believes he'll need more 4-3 work – at least early in the season if Bruschi is out for any extended period.
That wasn't the only change to the daily routine for the defense. Eugene Wilson, who has spent most his time working at corner during camp, continues to work back at safety, lining up with Artrell Hawkins along with corners Ellis Hobbs andAsante Samuel.
Who's hot: Patrick Cobbs – The little-known running back has made the most of his limited opportunities during camp. While the likes of Corey Dillon,Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk getting the bulk of the attention, Cobbs has shown a nice burst through the middle and good hands coming out of the backfield. On Tuesday he played the role of Atlanta's Warrick Dunn and he certainly did the Pro Bowler justice with several nifty cuts and runs. Cobbs seems like an ideal practice squad candidate.
Who's not: Troy Brown – The normally reliable receiver had a case of the dropsies during the afternoon practice. On consecutive reps during a seven-on-seven drill, he dropped well-thrown passes from Tom Brady, the latter of which bounced high in the air after he failed to hold it. Roughly 30 minutes later, Brown spent some extra time catching passes from Brady on the side.
Play of the practice: Josh Miller unleashed a titanic punt during a drill midway through the practice. Faulk was lined up around the 15-yard line and had to run back into the end zone but never got a chance to catch it because the ball bounced off the crossbar.
Let's get loud
As is his usual custom, Belichick turned up the music in an effort to simulate the noisy game conditions sure to meet the team in Atlanta's Georgia Dome. Bon Jovi was once again Belichick's artist of choice during a team period where the offense ran against a scout team defense.
Brady and the passing game were sharp at the outset, completing five of their six attempts. The lone incompletion came when Brady and Reche Caldwell, for one of the few times during camp, looked to be on different pages. The two came right back and hooked up on the next two plays.
The Patriots signed wide receiverEddie Berlin. The 5-11, 195-pound wideout is entering his sixth NFL season but has just 26 career receptions in 62 games. Berlin was originally a fifth-round pick by Tennessee back in 2001 and spent his first four years with the Titans. He played all but five of his career games with Tennessee and recorded 24 of his 26 catches, including a career-best 20 for 278 yards in 2004. Despite that, the Titans cut him the following year and he signed with Chicago but made just five appearances and caught two passes for the Bears. …
The afternoon practice featured helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. … Troy Brown and Benjamin Watson, each of whom missed the morning session, suited up for the afternoon. … Bruschi, Chad Brown, Chad Jackson, John Stone, Jarvis Green and Marquise Hill all missed both practices while Richard Seymour,Randall Gay, Rodney Harrison, Daniel Graham andGarrett Mills were given the afternoon off. … Nick KaczurandPatrick Pass remained on PUP. …Ryan O'Callaghan worked with the first unit at right tackle, rotating with Brandon Gorin. … The Patriots closed practice with two-minute work and were very sharp. Brady hit on consecutive passes to Brown, Watson (deep down the seam) and Caldwell to get inside the 5-yard line. After an incomplete pass off Faulk's hands, Brady kneeled on the ball and then spiked it on the following play to set up a field goal. … Matt Cassel took over with the second group but didn't fare nearly as well. His first pass was dropped by Bam Childress and his second was incomplete along the sideline. He rebounded with a nice 20-yard dart across the middle to Childress, and then narrowly missed connecting with David Thomas down the seam. A short completion to Rich Musinski was followed by a Maroney drop with 45 seconds left. Maroney caught a dumpoff over the middle, but as the clock wound down his last-ditch attempt went offErik Davis' hands and was intercepted by rookieWillie Andrews.