Foster has Patriots' scout team on the run

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Foster has Patriots' scout team on the run

FOXBORO --New England's preparation for the Texans ground game is something like a symphony.
It starts with simulating Arian Foster.The running back's 351 rushing attempts and 15 touchdowns led the NFL in 2012's regular season.
"It comes down to a lot of film study," said Patriots rookie Brandon Bolden. "It sounds very boring, but it's just a lot of film study. We just try to give the defense the best look as possible, just try to imitate them as best as possible.
"Patience is a big part of his game. It's a very big part. He tries to set things up and he works around it. We're not him exactly, but we can try to do the stuff that he kind of likes to do."
"Shane Vereen, Woody Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, all of them. . . they're different than Foster, but it's close enough, certainly good enough for our defense to work against," said coach Bill Belichick. "Those guys make good cuts, they see holes well. I think our backs do a good job giving us the look on the scout team in the running game."
Houston's penchant for zone blocking can make things interesting.
The Texans' offensive linemen rely more on athleticism than muscle in creating running lanes. They are disciplined, coordinated. They will trick opponents, double-team them, cut block them.
Yet another challenge for the Patriots scout team.
"I think its harder actually to simulate, to get all the offensive linemen it doesnt matter who you play its usually harder to get them too, to get the blocking schemes kind of exactly the way the other team does it," Belichick noted. "Its probably easier for the runner than the overall blocking patterns, depending on how each team does it during the week. You have to try to get all those guys coordinated."
Defensive end Rob Ninkovich elaborated on the challenge of facing a fleet-footed offensive line.
"This team does a good job of all moving together," he said. "All the offensive linemen are athletic and they can move, so the challenge is, for us as a D-line, to play strong and be fast, kind of reset the line of scrimmage. That's your job, really, is to get those guys knocked back and not be run into the sideline."
For the Patriots, knocking O-lineman back starts with nose tackle Vince Wilfork.
"Playing cut blocks is always a big challenge when youre facing a team like this because it seems like I dont care if youre getting cut on the front side or the back side, that running back sees it and he hits it right off that cut block," said Wilfork. "So up front its going to be very important for us to try to stay on our feet and make sure that we are playing our blocks pretty good."
New England's defense held Foster to 46 rushing yards when the teams met December 10. Houston gained just 100 ground yards on the night.
The Patriots offense did its part by jumping out to a 28-0 lead, thereby forcing the Texans to air the ball out. Foster's 15 carries in Week 14 marked his third-lowest single game total of the season.
But Wilfork feels like the run defense can hold its own. The Patriots are preparing for, expecting Houston's best shot. They will be ready.
"Weve faced it, weve seen it a bunch of times, so we kind of know how we want to play this game. If we play it the way that we need to play it, well be okay."

Friday, Aug. 26: Coyotes keep taking on dead money in latest deal

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Friday, Aug. 26: Coyotes keep taking on dead money in latest deal

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while finally catching up on “The Man in the High Tower” on Amazon.

*The Coyotes and Panthers executed a trade sending Dave Bolland to Arizona, and it’s not exactly great news for Gary Bettman with Arizona continuing to take on a lot of dead money.

*Alex Pietrangelo was appropriately humbled to be named the 21st captain in the history of the St. Louis Blues.

*The Colorado Avalanche have a new head coach, and his name is Jared Bednar, who it is said will get the players to play hard for him.

*The footage of somebody in full goalie equipment running away from a burglary scene is something out of a movie.

*The New York Rangers can never have enough depth, and that’s why they added Brandon Pirri to the mix on Thursday.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker says Lawson Crouse brings the total package in the trade from Florida to Arizona, and he also brings a player that can take a hell of a hit as he was the guy that got rocked by Charlie McAvoy at the World Junior Showcase earlier this month.  

*It’s only 15 days until the US National Team Development Program gets going with their 2016-17 schedule: here it is in full.

*For something completely different: can you see David Ortiz’s face in this corn maze? This could be like an ink blot test.

 

Foster playing catch-up, could help his cause vs. Panthers

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Foster playing catch-up, could help his cause vs. Panthers

FOXBORO -- When DJ Foster took the field for Patriots OTAs, he looked as advertised: quick, a crisp route-runner, and the owner of a pair of dependable hands. But that was back when players wore shorts to every practice. Since then, the undrafted rookie running back out of Arizona State hasn't had the opportunity to do much other than work on his conditioning while the majority of his teammates practiced. 

That could soon change. Though Foster has dealt with what he calls a "nagging" injury throughout much of training camp, he felt well enough this week to return to practice, and on Friday night he is likely to see preseason game action for the first time this summer.

The reason Foster's preseason debut could carry some importance is that he happens to play a position that may qualify as the thinnest on the Patriots roster right now. Because sub back extraordinaire Dion Lewis will not be healthy enough to start the season, and because coach Bill Belichick opted to part ways with veteran Donald Brown recently, the team is low on numbers in their running back room.

If Foster can capitalize on the opportunities he's given, he may make a case for a roster spot. James White, who is expected to be Lewis' primary replacement, is the other lone true sub back on the roster. Brandon Bolden can fill in at that role on an emergency basis, and Tyler Gaffney has shown he can catch the football when asked, but neither has the kind of pass-catching upside of Foster, who played receiver for the Sun Devils as a senior and racked up 222 receptions during his four-year college career. 

Foster has only so much time to prove he's worthy of a job. The Patriots have to reduce their numbers to 75 by Aug. 30. They need to be down to 53 by Sep. 3. Foster could be a tantalizing prospect to stash on the practice squad, but surely he'd like to make a push for a greater role. 

He explained this week that, despite his recent physical limitations, he won't be holding back whenever he does get a chance to prove himelf. 

"The coaches do a great job at just kind of making sure I'm OK and stuff," he said. "For me, when I'm in there, do what I can, give everything I got -- every rep, every chance I get with the reps. Stay in the playbook, stay involved in the meetings, and just try to learn as much as I can. Whenever I do get an opportunity, go out there and make the most of it."

Against the Panthers, the Patriots coaching staff will have to balance the need to evaluate players like Foster against good competition versus getting the entire team ready for Week 1. For example, they'd like to get a good look at Foster, whose practice reps were next to nil before this week. They'd also probably like to get White as many reps as possible so that he's prepared for the Cardinals. 

Who should play when? And how many snaps do they need? 

"You can’t see D.J. Foster play in this league. You have Arizona State film but that’s all you have, and some of the spring work that he did which is obviously encouraging," Belichick said earlier this week. "We still have him, but there’s just no body of work. Donald Brown, you can see Donald Brown . . . Players like D.J., it’s hard. You don’t have much to go on. But maybe he’ll be able to do more. We’ll get an evaluation of him soon, hopefully."

Friday night could be the night.