Despite more than a dozen years of NFL action each, both Fred Taylor and Joey Galloway are in the preliminary stages of getting a feel for their new place in the New England offense.
Taylor started all 13 games he played with Jacksonville in 2008, but totaled just 556 yards on 143 carries with one score. His 3.9 yards-per-carry average tied a 11-year career low, just the second time he'd averaged worse than 4.1 yards a carry. Though he remained healthy, his line did not and his production took the hit just a year after he'd earned his first Pro Bowl trip with 1,200-plus yards.
Galloway, on the other hand, did not stay healthy last fall in Tampa Bay. He played in nine games with just four starts for the Bucs, when he was limited by an ankle injury. He recorded only 13 catches for 138 yards. Although he, too, was but one season removed from a very productive 1,000-yard season in 2007.
The pair is now in the same boat -- grizzled, graying veterans trying to keep pace in a new place. But according to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, their stories really aren't all that different when it comes to the heat of training camp action than that of the 78 other players on the roster.
"I think every new player on the team is kind of in the beginning, starting from the same spot. Certainly, some players have a lot more background than others and sometimes there's more carryover from what we're doing with one player than another," Belichick said. "But you never know exactly what that is until you get the player in there and start working with him."
Taylor started by working in the rookie minicamp in May. Anything but a rookie, the 33-year-old veteran with more than 11,000 yards in the NFL showed up ready to get a jump on getting acclimated in his new home.
"Joey and Fred have both done a great job of that and Fred, in particular, is very, very professional in terms of his attentiveness, note-taking, attention to detail and he really works hard to try to get the information and the plays and his assignment and techniques done the way the coaches ask him to do them. He's just exceptional," Belichick said.
But getting comfortable on the practice field and transferring it to the game field can be two different things. Taylor sat out the preseason opener in Philly before he had seven carries for 26 yards against the Bengals.
Galloway played against the Eagles, but went without a catch. He also had a glaring goal line drop on a slant, a missed would-be touchdown opportunity in his first work with Tom Brady. He too bounced back with a pair of catches for 19 yards in the second exhibition affair.
"That was one of the things that happened faster than what I expected," Galloway admitted later of the TD drop. "With Tom's arm, believe me, if you are a millisecond off of turning your head that ball will be past you. That ball hit me in my arm before I could see it was coming, so you have got to be on your game every single play. That was one where the timing was a little off on my part, so I have to learn from that."
Galloway has had a few other similar experiences over the course of the summer, getting a crash course in a complex, adjustment-heavy New England passing scheme.
"It's just different. Every system is different," he said. "Each system at this level is complex. When you're the new guy on the block you have to learn things and try to catch up. With these guys here, they've been doing it and doing it well for a while now, so for a new guy to come in and try to learn it and then try to do it at their speed is tough, and it's a lot of work. I've come a long way and I've got a long way to go."
The same can be said for Taylor as he works into New England's running back-by-committee backfield that churned out 2,278 yards without him a year ago. Whatever his role or reps, he's not worried.
"I'm here to do a job," Taylor said simply. "Whenever they call my number I'll be ready."
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