Notebook: Roster Battles Heat Up

Kevin O'Connell

Do the Patriots have the right players on the roster to make it through the year? Top Camp battles. Rookie report and more...

ROSTER NOTES:

--CB Mike Richardson was released Aug. 17.
--DL Le Kevin Smith was traded to the Denver Broncos Aug. 17, reportedly in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick in next year's draft. That pick is expected to be passed along to Oakland to complete New England's earlier trade for Derrick Burgess.
--WR Shun White was placed on the Reserve/Military list Aug. 17, returning to active duty in the Navy.
--RB Chris Taylor was signed Aug. 17. The former Texan had been out of football since his release by Houston with an injury settlement last October.
--DB Roderick Rogers was signed Aug. 18. Rogers is a former undrafted free agent who previously spent time with the Broncos and Vikings. He played two games in Denver in 2007.
-- OL Nick Kaczur signed a three-year extension with the Patriots. The deal is worth $13.7 million and includes a $3.5 million signing bonus with base salaries of $2.7 million (2010), $3.4 million (2011) and $4.1 million (2012), according to reports
-- CB Jonathan Wilhite missed the second preseason game with a reported shoulder injury, though it's not believed to be serious.
-- QB Kevin O'Connell, who served as Matt Cassel's backup in New England as a rookie last fall, entered after Tom Brady was through against the Bengals. O'Connell completed 8 of his 15 pass attempts for 84 yards and led the second offense on a two-minute drive to a field goal just before the half in the 7-6 loss. He made a couple really nice throws but continues to be far too inconsistent. It doesn't look like he's made huge strides over the offseason, and that's why his primary competition, Andrew Walter, was brought on board early in camp to add veteran depth to the position.
-- DT Myron Pryor, a sixth-round pick, continues to get some rotational reps with the first-team defensive front.
-- S Pat Chung got a chance to return punts in the second preseason game. His first attempt was a muff that New England recovered, his second went for six yards.
-- OT Sebastian Vollmer earned practice reps with the first unit at both left and right tackle last week, before seeing significant action on the left side with the second offense against the Bengals.
-- LB Shawn Crable was shaken up against the Bengals and did not finish the game.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Kevin O'Connell vs. Andrew Walter for the No. 2 QB job -- Walter got his chance when he came in at quarterback following Tom Brady against the Eagles in the preseason opener. The former Raider completed 5 of his 9 passes for 62 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. This past week O'Connell, who served as Matt Cassel's backup in New England as a rookie last fall, entered after Brady was through. O'Connell completed 8 of his 15 pass attempts for 84 yards and led the second offense on a two-minute drive to a field goal just before the half in the 7-6 loss. He made a couple really nice throws but continues to be far too inconsistent. It doesn't look like he's made huge strides over the offseason, and that's why Walter was brought on board early in camp to add veteran depth to the position. The former third-round pick had a tough career in Oakland, but it looks like he'll be given every chance to win a job in New England this summer as he get more comfortable with the offense. Coming into camp the No. 2 job seemed to be O'Connell's to lose. He hasn't done that yet, but he also has nailed down the role either.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: The secondary continues to be an area to watch in New England. Jonathan Wilhite sat out the second preseason game with a shoulder injury, but he's expected to retain his role as the team's starting left corner. Rookie Darius Butler started in his absence and played well. Veteran Shawn Springs made his New England debut in the game, seeing reserve action on the outside with Butler sliding into the slot. Terrence Wheatley struggled in the loss, giving up an all-too-easy touchdown to Chris Henry and trailing receivers throughout the night. New England's new-look defensive backfield remains a work in progress and a highly competitive spot.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: RB Fred Taylor -- The first-year Patriot made his debut in New England with a start in the second preseason game against the Bengals. He looked comfortable on the opening series as the single back in New England's four-wide, no-huddle march against Cincinnati. Taylor finished with just 26 yards on seven carries, although he added a catch for 12 yards. He may have had a disappointing close to his career in Jacksonville, where he averaged just 3.9 yards a carry last fall, but Taylor seems to have plenty of hop left in his step. He looks quick, decisive and youthful in training camp reps and preseason action.

ROOKIE REPORT: CB Darius Butler got his first start against the Bengals, playing well in the 7-6 loss as he tallied five tackles, a pass defensed and a half a sack. He continues to show the ability to play both on the outside and in the slot. ... S Pat Chung got a chance to return punts in the second preseason game. His first attempt was a muff that New England recovered, his second went for six yards. ... OT Sebastian Vollmer earned practice reps with the first unit at both left and right tackle last week, before seeing significant action on the left side with the second offense against the Bengals. ... DT Myron Pryor, a sixth-round pick, continues to get some rotational reps with the first defensive front.

INJURY REPORT: CB Jonathan Wilhite missed the second preseason game with a reported shoulder injury, though it's not believed to be serious. ... DL Mike Wright missed the Bengals game with an undisclosed injury. ... WR/PR Julian Edelman limped off after a punt return against Cincy. ... RB Sammy Morris missed a week of practice and the second preseason game with an undisclosed injury. ... LB Paris Lenon has now missed two weeks of practice and game action with a leg injury. ... TE Benjamin Watson continues to battle an undisclosed injury. ... LB Shawn Crable got shaken up against the Bengals and did not finish the game.

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