Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

August, 21, 2011
8/21/11
6:00
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Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. Second-year Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher has been wearing a cast on his right wrist that extends up over his injured thumb. It's unclear how the injury will affect Fletcher's availability, but it's a setback for a promising young player who had been coming on strong.

2. The Colts are preparing for the possibility that Peyton Manning (neck) won't be ready for the season opener. Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky are the top backups currently on the roster. Interesting read from Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star on how the Colts' backup plan is lacking.

3. I'm sure Bill Belichick has already looked closely at Friday night's Dolphins-Panthers preseason game. The Dolphins looked sharp, leading 17-0 at the half, and Belichick often talks about how the first game of a season is one of the most unpredictable. If the Dolphins play like they did Friday in the season opener -- with running back Reggie Bush as a dual threat and quarterback Chad Henne staying interception-free -- that will be a tougher game than anticipated from this view.

4. That's a lot of money for the Cardinals to give receiver Larry Fitzgerald, but what's the alternative? I see it as a move they had to make. Fitzgerald is their marquee player.

5. If Patriots coaches ultimately decide to play their best five offensive linemen, one possibility they might consider is moving first-round pick Nate Solder to right guard. After tackle Nick Kaczur hurt his back playing guard last year, I'd be reluctant to go that route. At the least, it prepares for an emergency situation during a game if the team dresses just seven linemen.

6. Two rookie pass rushers who generated a lot of Patriots-based discussion leading into the draft showed up for their teams this week -- Browns defensive end Jabal Sheard had a forced fumble and recovery, while Texans outside linebacker/defensive end Brooks Reed had two sacks and two forced fumbles. Those are the players I'm watching closest when factoring in the value of Patriots second-round pick Ras-I Dowling.

7. Tough week for the Chiefs. First, coach Todd Haley doesn't come across well for his post-game interaction with Ravens coach John Harbaugh (link), then first-round draft choice Jonathan Baldwin is reportedly injured in a locker-room fight with Thomas Jones (link). General manager Scott Pioli can't be pleased.

8. Still wondering why Lofa Tatupu hasn't signed with a team yet. The Patriots are thin at linebacker, and with their new-look scheme, he would fit well in the middle.

9. Patriots safety Bret Lockett, a "bubble" player to make the roster, tore his groin Thursday night, according to Jeff Howe of NESN.com. It looked serious when it happened and I think the Patriots knew it; that's why they signed free-agent safety James Ihedigbo so quickly.

10. The Patriots reportedly had a scout at Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor's workout Saturday. I wouldn't read any more into it than due diligence. The best teams always cover their bases.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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