Secondary A Primary Concern

The Patriots continue to tweak their defensive lineup, making changes nearly every week. Darius Butler has seen his role decrease along with Brandon Meriweather in favor of newer faces. Monday night's game against Miami is another opportunity to get it right.

When Kyle Arrington replaced Darius Butler in the starting lineup at cornerback in the Week 3 win over the Bills the move drew a lot of attention.

A week after the former second-round pick had been abused by the Jets during just his seventh career start, he was replaced by a second-year former undrafted player out of Hofstra making his first NFL start.

The Butler benching was just the latest in a long line of changes in the New England secondary lineup over the last year as a struggling secondary has failed to find any continuity. The new-look unit against Buffalo actually marked the 10th different starting lineup in the defensive backfield in the previous 19 regular season games over the last year-plus.

That's about as far from continuity as you can get, and according to head coach Bill Belichick it's nowhere near an ideal scenario.

"I think it's important in every area," Belichick responded when asked about seeking continuity in his young secondary. "There's a lot to be said for just working together, seeing things together. So much of football is everybody seeing the same picture. As we kind of say: 'seeing it through one set of eyes.' If three or four guys see the same thing, then they'll all have the same reaction. If two guys see it one way and two guys see it another way, then probably somewhere along the line it's not all going to fit together."

Some of New England's changes over the last year have been injury related. Leigh Bodden (shoulder) opened the season on injured reserve, relieving the team of its returning No. 1 corner.

But many of the changes have been more production related. Brandon Meriweather earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement last season, but has found himself playing in only sub packages in the early going of 2010.

Heading into the team's Week 5 bye, improving the overall pass defense and the play of the struggling secondary will clearly be one of the areas of focus of New England's self scouting.

Ideally, at some point, Belichick - who's essentially the defensive coordinator on a Patriots coaching staff that goes without the title of coordinator on either side of the ball in 2010 - will find a lineup he can settle on. He admits that might be a step in the right direction in terms of improving results against opposing passing attacks that have had way too much room to work in the first month-plus of the new season.

"There's a lot to be said for the more you do it, the more you can see it the same, then the better the execution is going to be," Belichick concluded.

UNDER THE RADAR: Safety Jarrad Page joined the Patriots in a trade with the Chiefs after training camp. But he's worked his way more into the mix each week and is seeing increasing rotational reps in an unproven secondary.

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 - Number of weeks the Patriots will go before returning to AFC East divisional play. After playing the Jets, Bills and Dolphins on consecutive games over the last three weeks, New England doesn't return to the East until a Week 13 Dec. 6 Monday night affair with the Jets in Foxborough.


PLAYER NOTES

--OT Nick Kaczur missed the first month of the regular season after summer back surgery. Kaczur has not even stepped on the practice field since the first week of training camp and would seem to still be a ways away from becoming a game-day option on the offensive line.

--RB Fred Taylor has missed increasing time in recent weeks with a toe injury. The veteran saw limited reserve action in the first games of the seasons before missing practice last week and sitting out the Monday night trip to Miami.

--CB Terrence Wheatley has spoken about his desire to get back into the mix in the Patriots unsettled secondary, but the third-year former second-round pick has yet to return to the practice field after missing the last couple weeks with a foot injury.

--RB Thomas Clayton was re-signed by the Patriots off the Browns practice squad last week. Clayton spent the summer and preseason with New England and adds depth to a backfield that dealt with injuries to Kevin Faulk and Fred Taylor in the wake of Laurence Maroney being traded to the Broncos. Because he was signed off another team's practice squad, by rule Clayton will have to spend at least three weeks on New England's active roster.

--OL Rich Ohrnberger was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster in advance of Monday night's trip to Miami to take on the Dolphins. Ohrnberger played in three games for New England a year ago, all in reserve action.

This report courtesy of The Sports Xchange.


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