Patriots Notebook: Moss, The Draft & More

Aaron Hernandez

With two picks in each of the first four rounds the New England Patriots will have plenty of options in next year's Draft to find Randy Moss' replacement. But who will replace Randy this season?

The people in charge of evaluating upcoming drafts on a yearly basis tend to think next year's draft will be deep, particularly at wide receiver, which could be good news for the Patriots.

After dealing Randy Moss to Minnesota for a third-round pick, the Patriots now have two picks in each of the first four rounds of the 2011 draft. Four of those picks, including the one acquired Wednesday in exchange for Moss, come courtesy of trades. Earlier this season, they acquired a fourth-round choice in 2011 in exchange for running back Laurence Maroney.

The player who could benefit the most from the Moss trade is rookie TE Aaron Hernandez, who already leads the team with 240 yards on 18 catches.

Hernandez has shown he can be a force over the middle and certainly isn't afraid to bang heads with linebackers and safeties.

Now that Moss is gone, the Patriots figure to score more touchdowns on plays within the red zone, whether it's on the ground or through the air. Hernandez has the potential to be a red-zone threat because of his size and speed.

Mad At The Media
Several players admitted they were ticked off because the general consensus last week was that Miami would defend its home turf on Monday Night Football. The Patriots wound up with a 41-14 win.

Every staff member of the team's in-house publication, "Patriots Football Weekly," picked Miami, which head coach Bill Belichick admits can sometimes serve as bulletin-board material.

"I think you always try to ... every time you go into a game try to go into it with a mindset you're going to put everything into it you possibly can, but sometimes a game has a special element that makes it unique from the other 15, and sometimes that can be a positive push or motivation or whatever you want to call it," Belichick said, "but in the end, once the game is kicked off, it comes down to execution. I think motivation is a little bit overrated."

O'Brien Is Truly Special
The biggest key to Monday's win was the Patriots' performance on special teams. They scored a touchdown on a blocked field goal and a kickoff return, showing clear signs that special teams coach Scott O'Brien is much more comfortable in his second year with the Patriots.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as football coach, period," Belichick said. "I think he does great job of coaching football players in whatever the capacity is. Anytime you're with group of players for a year, you just have better sense of their strengths and weaknesses. He's done a real good job of putting guys in spots. We had production in preseason in different phases of kicking game; we also had some breakdowns. It is always easier in the second year to have a sense of the aptitude, capacity and skill set."

Patriots Get Solid Return On Investment In Tate
--WR Brandon Tate returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown for the second time in 2010 when he scored on a 103-yard return against Miami.

Tate took the second-half kick 97 yards for a score in the season opener against the Bengals. Tate's 103-yard return is the second longest kickoff return in team history, just five yards behind the 108-yard return by Ellis Hobbs against the Jets in 2007.

Tate is the first Patriots player to return two kicks for a touchdown in a season since Kevin Faulk had two returned for a touchdown in 2002. The team record for most kickoff returns for a touchdown in a season is three by Raymond Clayborn in 1977.

Tate's stock dropped in the 2009 NFL draft after the talented WR/KR sat out his senior season at UNC due to a knee injury. Tate tried to make a go of is last year, but landed on I/R After sitting out the first part of the season on the PUP list.

Smart Move By Arrington
--CB Kyle Arrington's 35-yard returned of a blocked field goal is the Patriots' first touchdown off a blocked field goal since Raymond Clayborn scored on a 71-yard return at Houston in 1987. That field goal was blocked by Andre Tippett.

The Patriots also became the first team in NFL history to score a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown, a kickoff return for a touchdown, a blocked field goal for a touchdown and return an interception for a touchdown in the same game.

When asked if he thought about diving on the ball, Arrington told reporters that wasn't the idea. Scoring was.

Ninkovich Gets A Two-fer
--LB Rob Ninkovich recorded his first two NFL interceptions in Monday's win at Miami. He picked off Dolphins' QB Chad Henne in the first quarter for his first NFL interception and then registered his second interception in the second quarter.

This marks the first time that a Patriots' player has registered at least two interceptions in the same game since CB Leigh Bodden had three against the Jets last year, and it's the first time that a Patriots' linebacker has recorded two interceptions in a game since Junior Seau did it in 2007.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- The number of games the Patriots have lost in October since 2003. They are 26-5 overall in October during that stretch.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's kind of hard to come to work in your own back yard and have your beat writers for your own team that they see you every day, and every last one of them go against you." -- NT Vince Wilfork on people picking against the Patriots last week.

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