New England Patriots: Danny Woodhead

Catching up with former Patriots, Week 13

December, 4, 2013
12/04/13
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Every Wednesday during the season, we'll lead off the day with a quick recap of notable former New England Patriots players and their standing with new teams.

Jake Ballard (Cardinals)
Tight end plays four offensive snaps and six on special teams in a 24-21 road loss to the Eagles. Doesn't register on the stat sheet.
Season snapshot: Has been with the Cardinals for four games since signing Nov. 4, playing 53 of 281 snaps and totaling two catches for 44 yards.

Chung
Patrick Chung (Eagles)
Safety starts and plays all 71 snaps in a 24-21 home win over the Cardinals. Has one pass defended.
Season snapshot: Has started six of 12 games and is credited with 36 tackles.

Jermaine Cunningham (Jets)
Outside linebacker plays six defensive snaps and 11 on special teams in a 23-3 home loss to the Dolphins. Doesn't register on the stat sheet.
Season snapshot: Spent the month of October with the 49ers but never appeared in a game. Signed with the Jets on Nov. 20. He dressed Nov. 24 but didn't play, so the Dolphins game was his debut.

Brandon Deaderick (Jaguars)
Defensive tackle plays 23 of 75 snaps in 32-28 road win over the Browns. Totals one tackle.
Season snapshot: Has played 288 total snaps, totaling eight tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery and one pass defended.

A.J. Francis (Dolphins)
Defensive tackle is inactive in a 23-3 road win over the Jets.
Season snapshot: Signed off the Patriots' practice squad Nov. 26,

Kyle Love (Chiefs)
Defensive tackle is inactive in a 35-28 home loss to the Broncos.
Season snapshot: After spending training camp with the Jaguars and being released before the season opener, he signed with the Chiefs on Nov. 19. Appeared in one game, playing two snaps, before being waived Dec. 3.

Greg Salas (Jets)
Receiver is targeted four times and makes one catch in a 23-3 home loss to the Dolphins. Plays 30 of 55 snaps.
Season snapshot: In four games with the Jets since making his debut Nov. 3, he has seven catches for 137 yards. Has played 118 of 231 offensive snaps in those games.

Zach Sudfeld (Jets)
Plays seven snaps on offense and 15 on special teams but doesn't register on the stat sheet.
Season snapshot: Tight end has played 103 offensive snaps in seven games. Has four catches for 56 yards.

Jeff Tarpinian (Texans)
Linebacker plays in a reserve role in a 34-31 home loss to the Patriots, totaling two tackles and a half-sack. Plays 27 of 70 snaps.
Season snapshot: After signing with the Texans on Oct. 28, has played in four games, totaling 12 tackles on defense. Has played 92 of 271 defensive snaps.

Washington
Leon Washington (Titans)
Wearing No. 26, he is the primary kickoff returner and punt returner in a 22-14 road loss to the Colts, totaling three kickoff returns for 78 yards (26.0 avg.) and two punt returns for 43 yards (21.5 avg.), with two fair catches. Doesn't play on offense.
Season snapshot: Released by the Patriots on Nov. 23; signed with the Titans on Nov. 26.

Wes Welker (Broncos)
Receiver finishes with three catches for 38 yards as his presence draws attention and opens things up for fellow receiver Eric Decker to have a big day in a 35-28 road win over the Chiefs. Plays 63 of 70 snaps.
Season snapshot: Has played 722 of 906 offensive snaps (79.6 percent), and has 68 catches for 717 yards and nine touchdowns.

Danny Woodhead (Chargers)
Running back has seven carries for 22 yards and adds two catches for 13 yards in a 17-10 home loss to the Bengals. Plays 27 of 65 snaps.
Season snapshot: Has 61 receptions for 482 yards and five TDs, and has carried the ball 77 times for 288 yards and two TDs. Has played 384 offensive snaps.

Others: Colts starting guard Donald Thomas landed on season-ending injured reserve in Week 2. ... Defensive end Trevor Scott played four games (54 snaps) with the Buccaneers before he was released Oct. 24. ... Punter Zoltan Mesko was released by the Steelers on Oct. 29 after appearing in seven games and ranking 31st in punting average (42.5) and 29th in net punting average (36.7). ... Quarterback Brian Hoyer started two games for the Browns, leading them to two wins, before tearing his ACL in his third start and landing on season-ending injured reserve.

Catching up with former Patriots, Week 5

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
5:00
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Every Wednesday during the season, we'll lead off the day with a quick recap of some notable former New England Patriots players and their standing with new teams.

Patrick Chung (Eagles)
Misses his second straight game, a victory over the Giants, with a shoulder injury.
Season snapshot: Has started three of five games and is credited with 18 tackles.

Jermaine Cunningham (49ers)
After reaching an injury settlement with the Patriots at the end of the preseason, defensive end/outside linebacker signs with the 49ers on Oct. 1.
Season snapshot: Wearing jersey No. 50, he has yet to play in a game.

Brandon Deaderick (Jaguars)
Plays 33 snaps and totals three tackles in road loss to the Rams.
Season snapshot: Has played 122 total snaps; has totaled seven tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery.

Brian Hoyer (Browns)
Quarterback tears his ACL in his third start and is out for the season.
Season snapshot: Led the Browns to two wins in two starts before his injury; 57-of-96 for 615 yards with 5 TDs and 3 INTs.

Zoltan Mesko (Steelers)
Bye week after the Steelers had dropped to 0-4 in loss to Vikings in London.
Season snapshot: 20 punts for 41.9 average (31st in NFL) and 37.6 net (27th in NFL)

Trevor Scott (Buccaneers)
Bye week.
Season snapshot: 45 total snaps at defensive end.

Zach Sudfeld (Jets)
Claimed on waivers on Oct. 4
Season snapshot: Wearing jersey No. 44, tight end was inactive for Monday's win over the Falcons.

Donald Thomas (Colts)
Lands on season-ending injured reserve after injuring his quadriceps in Week 2 home loss to Dolphins.
Season snapshot: Was opening-day starter at left guard and now faces long rehab.

Wes Welker (Broncos)
Five catches for 49 yards and one touchdown in 51-48 win over Cowboys; plays 73 of 79 snaps.
Season snapshot: Receiver has played 275 of 373 offensive snaps (73.7 percent), and has 31 catches for 315 yards and seven touchdowns.

Danny Woodhead (Chargers)
Running back plays 45 of 72 snaps in road loss to Raiders and totals nine rushes for 13 yards, and adds nine receptions for 58 yards and TD. Also fumbles (returned for TD) and is stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Season snapshot: Is second on the team with 31 receptions (for 220 yards and 3 TDs), and has carried the ball 28 times for 103 yards. Has played 154 offensive snaps.

Quick-hit thoughts around NFL and Patriots

September, 15, 2013
9/15/13
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Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the New England Patriots:

1. The composition of the Patriots’ roster is perhaps the most unique we’ve seen in Bill Belichick’s 14 years as coach. The club returned 18 of 22 primary starters this season, so there is what many would consider the ideal layer of continuity. But as of opening kickoff, the Patriots also had more first- and second-year players (21) than all but two teams in the NFL (the St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns). Makes for a different type of mix -- a contending team that from an overall perspective trends younger. The question remains: Is it the right mix?

2. The Patriots are off to a 2-0 start, which has traditionally meant good things for a team’s playoff hopes. Since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, 63 percent of teams starting 2-0 have advanced to the postseason. And here’s a key stat for those teams looking to avoid an 0-2 start on Sunday: Just 12 percent of teams that started 0-2 have reached the playoffs. The 2001 Patriots, of course, are one of the clubs that bucked the trend.

3. For all the scrutiny the Patriots’ rookie receivers have been under for the first two games, somewhat overlooked is that top draft pick Jamie Collins has played sparingly on defense (six of 138 snaps, including penalties). When the Patriots drafted Collins 52nd overall out of Southern Mississippi, there was some question as to how he’d fit in the team’s scheme -- pure defensive end/pass-rusher or more of an off-the-line linebacker? The Patriots have worked him mostly at linebacker, and the feeling here is that once he fully starts to grasp the team’s scheme, assuming there are no injuries to other linebackers, we’ll begin to see him integrated into the mix a bit more. In his limited snaps Thursday night against the New York Jets, Collins dropped into coverage or spied quarterback Geno Smith as the Patriots tapped his speed and athleticism. Until he’s a more regular defensive contributor, he will make his biggest contributions by playing on each of the “Big 4” special-teams units.

[+] EnlargeJamie Collins
AP Photo/Bill WippertThe Patriots appear to be working top draft pick Jamie Collins slowly into the defensive mix.
4. I thought last Sunday’s Patriots-Bills season opener revealed one of the flaws behind the Bills’ all-the-time up-tempo approach. At a point when the clock was their ally in the fourth quarter, quarterback EJ Manuel was snapping the ball with more than 20 seconds left on the play clock. The up-tempo offense is catching on across the NFL, and while the Philadelphia Eagles' approach in the first half of their opening victory over the Washington Redskins was electric, I think teams who only play in one gear are going to quickly find out there needs to be some flexibility and level of comfort to downshift when the situation dictates.

5. There is second-guessing and then there is first-guessing. The defection of running back Danny Woodhead from the Patriots to the San Diego Chargers struck me as puzzling when it happened, and those thoughts are revisited in the wake of the Patriots losing running back Shane Vereen for at least eight weeks with a wrist injury. How nice would it be for the Patriots to have Woodhead as an insurance option? Assuming that Woodhead would have accepted a similar deal in New England (contract here), I still don’t understand why he’s still not with the Patriots.

6. Also in the puzzling category: The Patriots going with LeGarrette Blount as their primary kickoff returner when 2012 Pro Bowl returner Leon Washington is on their roster.

7. I didn’t think Jets offensive lineman Nick Mangold took a cheap shot at Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib at the end of Thursday’s game, even though he probably can expect a fine from the NFL. Talib, who never should have returned the interception because it wasn’t a smart situational play (just stay down and the game is over), was sort of tiptoeing along the sideline, and I thought it was a bang-bang play. More so than Mangold, I’m interested to see how hard the NFL comes down on starting Jets right guard Willie Colon, who tossed aside referee Carl Cheffers to get into the scrum. That’s one of the biggest no-nos in the game and earned Colon an ejection and at least a $25,000 fine.

8. Here’s one stat from each of the Patriots’ AFC East rivals that caught the eye this week: Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson has started every game since joining the team as a first-round draft choice in 2006. Impressive durability and dependability and a good pick by then-Jets coach Eric Mangini. … Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake is off to a strong start after notching 2.5 sacks in the opener at Cleveland. Of his 45.5 career sacks, 30.5 have come on the road. Would have thought those numbers would be flipped. … With the Bills losing to the Patriots in Doug Marrone’s coaching debut last Sunday, first-year Bills head coaches are now 0-17 in their opening games (1960-present). The Buffalo News has the forgettable breakdown.

9. When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit the Patriots next Sunday, would anyone be surprised if rookie Mike Glennon is the team’s starting quarterback? This was foreshadowed at the Patriots-Buccaneers joint practices in August. After watching Josh Freeman in the regular-season opener against the Jets last Sunday, and hearing coach Greg Schiano on Thursday telling reporters about how Freeman (no longer a captain) overslept and missed a team photo, it seems like it’s more a matter of when than “if” on a torch-passing from Freeman to Glennon. Maybe it happens in the Buccaneers’ home opener Sunday against the Saints.

10a. When the Patriots played the NFC West in the 2008 season, it was a division that many viewed as the worst in football. In fact, when analyzing how the Patriots went 11-5 that season with untested Matt Cassel replacing the injured Tom Brady, many pointed to an easier schedule that included four winnable games against NFC West opponents. Five years later, some might make the case that the NFC West is now the best division in football. For those who have doubts, tune in to Sunday night's San Francisco 49ers-Seattle Seahawks game. On a related note, Seattle might have the best home-field advantage in the NFL; it’s a great, underrated environment for football that is now receiving more attention because of the team’s emergence. But it was like that even before the Pete Carroll/Russell Wilson regime.

10b. My rankings on the best divisions in football: (1) NFC West, (2) NFC East, (3) NFC North, (4) NFC South, (5) AFC North, (6) AFC South, (7) AFC East and (8) AFC West.

10c. Random question: When did the NFC suddenly become so much deeper than the AFC? Seems like yesterday it was the other way around.

Woodhead: Great to have the bolt on

March, 20, 2013
3/20/13
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Former Patriots running back Danny Woodhead was formally introduced as a San Diego Charger on Wednesday afternoon after signing a two-year contract (terms undisclosed).

Following three years with the Patriots, it was different seeing Woodhead in a blue Chargers shirt.

"It's great to have the bolt on," he said, referencing the team's logo.

Woodhead looked back to his time with the Patriots once in his remarks, touching on being part of a tight-knit running back corps.

"From the sounds of it, it's a great room and a tight knit group [in San Diego], and that's what I'm used to; in the past years, close-knit guys," he said.

To watch the video from the Chargers' website, CLICK HERE.

Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt sees Woodhead "adding another element" to the team's attack.

Woodhead's Pats future in focus

January, 24, 2013
1/24/13
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Patriots running back Danny Woodhead was a guest on ESPN.com’s “Football Today” podcast with Ross Tucker, with producer Jay Soderberg chipping in on the interview.

The interview with Woodhead begins at the 23-minute mark, and is tied to some promotional work that Woodhead is doing with Hood and its sportsmanship/scholarship program.

SportsNation

How big of a priority is it for the Patriots to re-sign Danny Woodhead?

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    57%
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    19%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,576)

Woodhead hasn’t decided if he’ll watch the Super Bowl, as the Patriots’ loss in the AFC Championship Game is “still a little fresh.” At the same time, he was reflective on the 2012 season.

“I felt like it was an unbelievable team to be a part of -- a bunch of great guys, great coaches, a great organization,” he said. “It wasn’t fun to end up losing at the end of the year, but only one team is happy at the end of the year and that’s the Super Bowl champs. That’s part of the NFL, part of the game.”

Woodhead is one of the Patriots’ notable free agents this offseason, but he said he hasn’t given his future much thought at this time.

“With the game being so fresh, that’s more so what I thought about. I haven’t even taken anything into consideration,” he said.

Woodhead played 34 percent of the offensive snaps for the Patriots this season, behind only Stevan Ridley (45 percent) at running back. He didn’t miss a game and was one of the club’s most reliable and consistent players in a change-of-pace “passing back” type of role.

But one question for 2013 is if the Patriots see Shane Vereen filling more of that role, or maybe even Jeff Demps. Stevan Ridley (third year) and Brandon Bolden (second year) are also under contract at the position.

The answer is likely to come down to cost, as it often does. The Patriots would presumably like to have Woodhead back, but with their other options in house, they will likely set a price they are willing to pay and not move too far from it. That could open the door for another team to swoop in and make Woodhead an offer he can’t refuse.

YOUR TURN: How would you approach Woodhead’s free-agent status if you were the Patriots? Share thoughts in the comments section of this blog entry.

Jones (ankle), Woodhead (thumb) practice

January, 16, 2013
1/16/13
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring/knee) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (forearm/hip) were not spotted at the start of Wednesday's practice, the team's first before Sunday's AFC Championship game.

Dennard was on the field for the final play of Sunday's win over the Houston Texans, so his absence at Wednesday's practice was a surprise.

Meanwhile, defensive end Chandler Jones (ankle) and running back Danny Woodhead (thumb) were on the field for the start of Wednesday's practice. Both players were injured in Sunday's game and did not return.

The Patriots practiced inside Gillette Stadium in cold and rainy conditions.

Injured Woodhead questionable to return

January, 13, 2013
1/13/13
4:54
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead left in the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Houston Texans with a left thumb injury. The team announced his return was questionable.

Woodhead immediately came off the field after taking a hand-off on the Patriots' first offensive play of the game. He then departed for the locker room accompanied by team medical personnel.

The 27-year old Woodhead played in all 16 games this season, making two starts.

UPDATE: Woodhead did not return to action, although he was on the Patriots' bench from the second quarter on.

Explaining Woodhead over Ridley

September, 24, 2012
9/24/12
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Many fans in our ESPNBoston.com in-game chat last night were scratching their heads over why Danny Woodhead was getting more offensive snaps in the backfield than Stevan Ridley.

Ridley, after all, had established himself as the team’s top ball carrier and had nearly 200 rushing yards over the first two games of the season. So why, then, was Woodhead on the field for 51 of the team’s 82 snaps while Ridley only got 26 snaps?

Here are a couple of our pundits with their takes on the playing time discrepancy:

* ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss: With the Patriots pressing the issue with the no-huddle, it called on third-down/passing back Woodhead getting the majority of the snaps over Ridley. The Patriots were going primarily with their three-receiver package and playing fast. They wanted a change-of-pace back, a top pass-protector, in the game for that. The Patriots have done this for years. Think back to the mid-2000s, when they often subbed in Kevin Faulk over Corey Dillon in these packages.

* ESPNBoston.com's Tedy Bruschi: The Patriots have defined roles for their running backs. When they want a physical presence with the run game, Ridley comes in. Bring in the tight ends, run the zone blocking scheme, let him stretch the defense and make one cut and run downhill. He's the best they have to do that. Woodhead's role is the sub back. Runs out of shotgun. Draws. Not the workhorse back, but a complementary back when they are in their spread packages. That's what they were majoring in last night.

The Patriots lined up in a three-receiver set on 60 of 82 snaps last night.

Camp Confidential: New England Patriots

August, 9, 2012
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- You would think there was a playoff game at Gillette Stadium this week.

Patriots logoIn front of a packed house, the New England Patriots hosted the New Orleans Saints for a pair of high-quality joint practices. Even famous musician Jon Bon Jovi and supermodel (and Tom Brady's wife) Gisele Bundchen showed up for a glimpse of the action.

The talent on the practice field was immense. You had future Hall of Famers Brady and Drew Brees at quarterback, Pro Bowl tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham and two hungry defenses eager to improve. The tempo was fast and intense.

The Patriots could have easily practiced against themselves this week like the rest of the league. But there is a method to Bill Belichick's madness. It's Super Bowl or bust for New England. And even in August, the Patriots want to test themselves as much as possible against another playoff contender.

"We know that there are a lot of other great organizations and teams and players and coaches out there," Belichick explained. "It’s a good challenge every week, and certainly the Saints are one of the top teams in professional football. As I said, they're well-coached, they have great talent, good players, good scheme [and] they win a lot of games. We played against them two years ago, practiced against them two years ago in their championship season. There isn’t any team we have more respect for than the Saints from top to bottom."

The reigning AFC champions are loaded. Their roster is deeper and more talented than last year's team that finished 13-3. With the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL, the Patriots are expected to match or surpass last season's win total. Some pundits even believe a 16-0 regular season is within reach. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.

THREE HOT ISSUES

1. How much better is the defense? The Patriots' defense has improved. New England was ranked 31st in total defense and 31st against the pass in 2011. So the Patriots cannot get much worse.

The Patriots invested all their draft picks except a seventh-rounder in defense. The biggest coups were first-round picks Dont'a Hightower at linebacker and defensive end Chandler Jones. Both rookies received a lot of reps with the first team this week and appear to be learning fast. They also provide athleticism and aggressiveness to New England's front seven.

Second-round pick and defensive back Tavon Wilson also has looked better than advertised. Belichick received a lot of criticism for drafting Wilson that high when most projected him to be a fifth- or sixth-round pick. Free agent Steve Gregory also is New England's starting safety and is an upgrade over the rotating door New England had at the position last year.

With a high-powered offense, the Patriots don't need a top-10 defense. But if the defensive-minded Belichick can get this group in the top 20, New England will be very hard to beat.

"We're just trying to be aggressive and be competitive in everything out there," Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty said of improving. "From the front all the way throughout the secondary, guys are just trying to develop an attitude. Defense has a lot to do with attitude and how you approach the game, so we’re trying to keep attitude and trying to do it day in and day out."

[+] EnlargeNate Solder
Stew Milne/US PresswireSecond-year left tackle Nate Solder has shined early in Patriots training camp.
2. Who will man the offensive line? It is difficult to gauge the performance of the offensive line in training camp. About half of training camp practices are in shorts, and that significantly reduces contact in the trenches. But replacements need to be ready because four of New England's starters from last year are injured, retired or contemplating retirement.

New England's offensive line is a M.A.S.H. unit. Starting guards Logan Mankins (knee) and Brian Waters (personal reasons) have yet to practice with the team, and starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer has a back injury. Longtime starting left tackle Matt Light retired, and so did free-agent signee Robert Gallery.

The Patriots are trying to find the right combination up front in training camp in preparation for Week 1 of the regular season. So far, the best lineman in camp has been second-year left tackle Nate Solder, who gained some starting experience last year in his rookie season.

Holdovers such as guard Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell and Marcus Cannon are all trying to carve out roles -- at least until starters Mankins, Vollmer and (maybe) Waters return. Brady and the Patriots will pass the football a lot this year, so development of the offensive line is important.

"We're going to play whoever is here, and whatever happens, we're going to be here working hard," Solder said this week.

3. Who will run the football? Dependable tailback BenJarvus Green-Ellis bolted to the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency. That leaves second-year tailbacks Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen trying to pick up the slack in 2012. Neither player has much experience. Ridley did pretty well in limited playing time his rookie year, amassing 441 yards and a touchdown. Vereen was injured most of his rookie season and wasn’t a factor.

Ridley has the inside track and has looked impressive. He has good vision and burst. Ball security has been the only question. But Ridley believes he made rookie mistakes that he will fix in Year 2.

"This year I'm going to go and do the best that I can to keep the ball high and tight," Ridley said. "I know that if I can keep the ball in my hands, I'm going to be on the field. So my work is cut out for me."

Backup running back Danny Woodhead also will assist Ridley and Vereen, particularly on third downs.

Reason for optimism

This is the best collection of talented skill players Brady has ever had. If everyone stays healthy, I do not see any reason the Patriots cannot be near the top of the league in scoring and passing offense. New England should average at least 30 points per game.

Brady has a Pro Bowl tight end in Gronkowski, a Pro Bowl receiver in Wes Welker, a top-five tight end in Aaron Hernandez and a much-needed deep threat in Brandon Lloyd. The Patriots' passing game should be able to do it all. Brady can go underneath to Welker and Gronkowski or deep to Lloyd and Hernandez. It will be very difficult for opponents to game plan.

"We're not taking anything for granted," Brady said. "We're trying to come out and string practices together."

Reason for pessimism

I'm still not confident in New England's secondary. This was the weakest part of the Patriots last year, and 2012 could be a repeat.

Cornerbacks McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore and Ras-I Dowling all have question marks. The Saints’ offense had their way with New England’s corners during this week’s joint practices. No one among the Patriots’ corners made enough plays to really stand out.

Perhaps the biggest problem is New England's corners are not shutdown, man-to-man defenders. That forces New England to play a lot of zone to try to get stops. That leads to a bend-but-don’t-break mentality we saw last year.

Expect many opponents to attack New England's cornerbacks until this group proves it can cover and shut down receivers consistently.

OBSERVATION DECK

    [+] EnlargeAaron Hernandez
    AP Photo/Robert E. KleinNot many tight ends have the athletic ability to be a punt returner. The Patriots' Aaron Hernandez does.
  • Speaking of McCourty, he is playing exclusively at corner in training camp. It shows the coaching staff is comfortable that McCourty will bounce back from a shoulder injury and poor play that led to a position change to safety late last season. McCourty is competing hard and trying to get back to his rookie form, when he made the Pro Bowl in 2010.
  • How athletic is Hernandez? New England is experimenting with its No. 2 tight end at punt return and running back. Hernandez did a good job running the football in the Patriots' playoff win over the Denver Broncos. It was a nice wrinkle added by Belichick. Hernandez is elusive in the open field and has good hands, so returning punts could make sense as another way to get the ball into Hernandez's hands.
  • I'm not sure why more teams do not have joint practices in training camp. Both the Patriots and Saints gave rave reviews of how well things went this week. It was well organized; both teams got a lot of work done; and there were no injuries. Most importantly, it is a change of pace from hitting your teammates the entire summer. In talking with players, they got a kick out of practicing against an unfamiliar opponent.
  • The Brady-to-Lloyd combination is still a work in progress. Brady missed Lloyd on several opportunities this week, as the first-time teammates continue to work on their chemistry. Lloyd is the best deep threat Brady has had since Randy Moss. Brady and Moss got on the same page quickly in their first season together. Brady hopes for the same results with Lloyd.
  • Keep an eye out for undrafted rookie defensive end Justin Francis. I wasn't familiar with the Rutgers product before my training camp visit, but after a few practices, I noticed Francis stood out. Francis has a good motor and athleticism for a defensive end. Francis is a sleeper pick to make New England's 53-man roster, but he must show that he can translate his play on the practice field to the preseason games.
  • The No. 2 quarterback race between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett favors Hoyer at this stage of camp. Hoyer had a solid week of practice leading into Thursday's preseason opener. Hoyer was more accurate and made some nice throws. Mallett has a lot of physical ability but has a lot to work on. He had trouble with taking some of the velocity off his passes when needed. The preseason games will matter most, but Hoyer has the lead so far.
  • Linebacker Bobby Carpenter has been a pleasant surprise for New England. The former first-round pick has underachieved at his previous stops in Dallas, Miami and Detroit. But Carpenter has fit in well as a backup linebacker for the Patriots in training camp and is in good shape to make the team. Carpenter even got a little work with the first team this week because of injuries.

RB Woodhead appears to injure left ankle

October, 2, 2011
10/02/11
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OAKLAND -- Patriots running back Danny Woodhead appeared to suffer a left ankle injury late in the first half. He did not return to the field to start the second half, but the team has not issued an injury announcement.

Woodhead hobbled to the sideline and was trying to walk off the injury before the intermission.

Woodhead had two carries for 13 yards in the first half. The Patriots still have BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie Stevan Ridley to lean on in the backfield (along with rookie Shane Vereen).

After a Ridley 33-yard touchdown run on the first series of the second half, Vereen took Woodhead's spot on the kickoff coverage team, the first action of his NFL career.

Video: Exclusive with Danny Woodhead

April, 5, 2011
4/05/11
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While visiting ESPN headquarters on Tuesday, Patriots running back Danny Woodhead spent time with ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss to answer some questions from our users. In part one above, Woodhead talks about his motivation to prove people wrong, the NFL lockout and his relationship with Tom Brady.

In part two of the interview, (click here) Woodhead touches on the possibility of being on the cover of Madden '12 and the highlights of his day at ESPN.

Woodhead on to Round 3 of Madden vote

April, 4, 2011
4/04/11
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Madden 12 Cover VoteESPN.com IllustrationDanny Woodhead will take on Aaron Rodgers in the next round.

Patriots running back Danny Woodhead got past Hakeem Nicks in the second round and is now among the eight finalists vying for the cover of Madden 12.

Round 3 of the bracket-style fan vote pits Woodhead against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. You can vote at ESPN.com starting today until April 11.

Among the other players still alive for the honor are Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson, Michael Vick and Patrick Willis.

Also, Woodhead will be stopping by ESPN.com’s SportsNation on Tuesday at 1 ET to chat with fans. Send in your questions now.

Video: Woodhead's unlikely story

January, 16, 2011
1/16/11
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Looking for something to pass the time before kickoff? You’ve got to check out this 5-minute Danny Woodhead video feature (see above), which chronicles the Patriots running back’s unlikely journey to the Patriots. The feature kicks off with home video of a 4-year-old Woodhead watching the Patriots on TV.

And while you’re at it, check out Elizabeth Merrill’s feature on Woodhead that ran earlier this week.

Running back tandem reflects

January, 12, 2011
1/12/11
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The Patriots’ top two running backs stepped to the podium Wednesday in Foxborough for separate news conferences, and each was asked about the other as part of the interview.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead have a lot in common: Both were undrafted and both entered this season with little expected from them.

Here is a sampling from the Q&A for each:

Green-Ellis:

Q. Can you talk about Danny Woodhead and the way you guys complement each other?

A. “Me and Danny, like I said, we both work extremely hard at practice. Our lockers are both next to each other and we spend a lot of time together. We have some days where we’re here 12 hours out of a day. I see the guys up here more than I see my own family, so we have to develop a good relationship.”

Q. Why do you think you and Danny work so well together?

A. “’I'm not sure. I guess it’s just a good complement. We just try to do our best. I don’t know how well it works or how well it doesn’t work. The only thing I know that we do is we just try to go out there and work hard and whatever plays are called, just run them to the best of our ability and let everything else take care of itself.”

Woodhead:

Q. Why do you think that you and BenJarvus Green-Ellis complement each other so well?

A. “I don’t know; do we complement each other well? I’m not one to judge. More than anything, I think Benny and I just go out and work as hard as we can every single day, out in practice [or] whether it be in the meeting rooms. And we try to do what we can for when our time comes -- maybe to get the ball or block or whatever it may be to help out the rest of our teammates.”

Q. Have you guys become close given how much time you spend together?

A. “Benny and I, he’s one of the people right from the get-go that helped me out, and so did Freddy [Taylor], Sammy [Morris], [Kevin Faulk] -- everyone’s helped out. The whole running back room, I think, is a very close-knit group."

Patriots quick to turn the page to Bears

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
1:10
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- How much did Patriots head coach Bill Belichick want players to turn the page after their big win over the Jets on Monday night? So much that he did not even show the team film from the game, opting instead to begin preparations for the Bears.

“I haven’t even looked at the film. We’re moving right on to the Bears,” cornerback Darius Butler said. “Obviously they’re a good team, and so we have a lot to do to prepare for those guys.”

“We’re with the Bears now, that’s the most important thing,” running back Danny Woodhead said. “You’re a little behind when you have a Monday night game, so we have to use every single day that we have and make sure that we’re ready.”

Woodhead, who on Monday night became the first Patriots running back to gain more than 100 yards receiving since Kevin Faulk did so in 2003, wasn’t even willing to discuss the 45-3 win.

“That’s not even anything we’re talking about,” Woodhead said. “That’s the past. There’s a big game this weekend and we have to start getting ready.”

The Bears come into the game at 9-3, locked in a tight NFC North race with the Packers.

“We have to hit the ground running right now,” Woodhead said. “Preparation is key."

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