Pouliot a reliable replacement for B's

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Pouliot a reliable replacement for B's

BOSTON -- The next five games present quite a challenge for Benoit Pouliot.

The athletic, gritty winger has been elevated to Bostons top left wing position skating alongside Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin while Brad Marchand is serving out his five-game suspension. That means he's been thrust into a primo offensive spot where he can succeed offensively in a way that hasn't always been possible during his stints in Montreal and Minnesota. Pouliot matched a career-high with three assists while filling in for a flu-ridden Marchand during the Bs blowout victory over the Calgary Flames last week, and added a power play goal as an insurance marker in Bostons 5-3 decision over the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday night.

Its the perfect temporary promotion for Pouliot, who plays with some truly skilled offensive players while showing off his skating speed. His coach laughed at the notion that it's not always Gazelle-like, but Pouliot has an unconventional way of throwing off opponents with a forecheck attack that seems to be all gangly arms and legs.

Hes a good skater," said coach Claude Julien. "He doesnt always look elegant, I guess, but he can skate, and hes pretty shifty. Maybe because of the way he skates, hes hard to predict. He really is.

But he does a good job, like I keep saying about, on the forecheck. He comes at you, and you dont know what angle Pouliot is going to be coming at you, and hes got a good stick.

His speed is good, and obviously he scores a goal tonight because hes in front of the net, and hes not afraid to go to those areas. Hes got good size, hes got good speed, and, again, he doesnt seem to have any fear. The one thing I know is that he feels very comfortable with this group of guys, and that he knows everybodys got everybodys back, so wherever he has to go. I think hes developed that confidence as the team has moved on here this year.

Pouliot has a goal and four points in the last three games, and has fired off nine shots while making noise with a suffocating forecheck and tough physical play right on the edge. That sounds awfully Marchand-like when you think about it, doesn't it?While Marchand is an incredible top-line value out and will be missed during his five-game suspension, it would be short-sightedto overlook Pouliots offensive upsides and ability to create exotic-looking offensive rushes up and down the ice. Nobody would have ever thought Pouliot could effectively replace Marchand at the beginning of the season, but that's the evolution of the former Habs underachiever.

Pouliots speed, tenacity, force of will, willingness to play the body and partially out-of-control enthusiasm have allowed the energy line forward to step into Marchands shows rather easily while wreaking havoc in the attack zone. Theres only one Nose Face Killah, but Pouliot is doing a rather nice facsimilie ofthe resident 5-foot-9 rabble-rouser at a time when the Bruins could really use him.

Garoppolo: Get the little things corrected, or they'll bite us in the butt

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Garoppolo: Get the little things corrected, or they'll bite us in the butt

 

This felt like a step backward for Jimmy Garoppolo. 

The preseason had been shaping up so nicely for him, too. He'd be able to ride the wave of momentum following his strong performance last week against the Bears, and carry that into Carolina, where he would take on a very good defense on the road. What better way to simulate what he'll see in Week 1 of the regular season in Arizona?

Then something happened. Garoppolo, who looked cool last week at Gillette Stadium, seemed rattled by the Panthers defense. The quarterback who hadn't turned the ball over all preseason very nearly gave it away twice. Whereas he made calculated risks in the red zone last week, this week there were head-scratchers in the same area. 

"Ups and downs," said Garoppolo, who beat the Panthers, 19-17, and finished the game 9-for-15 for 57 yards. "Just little things here and there we need to get corrected. We’ll take care of it."

Garoppolo's first third-down throw foreshadowed what was to come for the Patriots on third down Friday night. He threw what should have been an easy interception for linebacker Luke Kuechly when there was a miscommunication between him and receiver Julian Edelman. 

Edelman stopped and turned for a pass a few yards off the line of scrimmage. Garoppolo targeted him as though he was still moving, hitting Kuechly between the numbers at the Carolina 12-yard line.

The team started the night 0-for-7 on third down.

"It’s my fault. I can’t put it in the linebacker’s hands like that," said Garoppolo, who insisted splitting reps in practice wasn't to his detriment. "It’s just bottom line. Just got to be smart. It’s tight windows, tight throws. Just got to finish with touchdowns."

Later in the game, Garoppolo didn't recognize a Panthers pressure, he took a glancing blow from a defender and escaped the pocket. Rather than throw the football away, he tried to make a positive play and was stripped from behind by linebacker Thomas Davis. 

Patriots running back James White was there to pounce on the ball, and Garoppolo was fortunate to escape with his turnover column clean.  

Still, Garoppolo knows there are adjustments to make. In order to give the Patriots a chance to beat the Cardinals in Week 1, he'll probably have to play better than he did on Friday. 

“We’ll do our best to get in there,” Garoppolo said. “We have two weeks until then and we’ll work. There’s little things here and there. Overall, there’s some good things that we did tonight. 

"We just have to get the little things corrected or they’re going to bite us in the butt. We’re going to work our tails off to get to that point. We’ll get there.”

Running back D.J. Foster making a late push for Patriots roster spot

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Running back D.J. Foster making a late push for Patriots roster spot

CHARLOTTE – D.J. Foster began making his case to stick on the Patriots’ 53-man roster Friday night against the Panthers.

An undrafted pass-catching back from Arizona State who’d missed almost all of training camp with an unknown injury was pretty persuasive. He caught three passes for 33 yards, showing nice burst, carried twice for 9 and returned a punt for 16. He saw his action late in the third with fellow rookie Jacoby Brissett in at quarterback.

Foster punctuated his first reception – an 11-yard screen that Brissett (9-for-9 for 85 yards and a touchdown) – by lowering his shoulder and delivering a blow that Foster said he wanted to “get that adrenaline going.”

“It felt great,” said Foster. “It had been a long time. I was telling some guys, that was the first time I’d gotten hit since college. It felt good to get back out there. The coaches gave me a chance to get out there and show what I could do.”

James White will be the Patriots sub-back (or third down back or pass-catching back or whatever you want to call him) until Dion Lewis returns from his knee malady. But Foster showed the acceleration and quickness that made him such a productive player for the Sun Devils. With 222 receptions for 2,458 yards and another 2,355 on the ground, Foster would fit nicely in an offense like the Patriots that uses the short and intermediate passing game so well.  

He hasn’t had much chance to make a case to stick and the Patriots – with White, LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney, Brandon Bolden and Joey Iosefa all in the mix – may have to take their chances with releasing Foster and hoping he goes unclaimed so New England can bring him back for their practice squad. It’s a risk, but other teams are encountering the same issues at cutdown time. Do they pluck a player they passed on in the draft and put him on their roster ahead of players they’ve been working with since the spring?

Bill Belichick wasn’t effusive in his praise for Foster but did indicate it was a good opportunity to at least see him in game action.

“We played a couple of guys that haven’t gotten much playing time so we got a chance to look at them,” he explained. “D.J. is one of those so we wanted to give him a few opportunities to handle the ball because he hasn’t done it this year. I thought he did some good things. There are a couple of things that he could do a little better but we’ll look at the film and see how it goes. He did a couple of things with his chances out there.”

To make the most of those chances, Foster said he avoided getting too hyped before getting on the field.  
 
“Just keeping my calm and hearing the playcall and just doing the mechanics and all the fundamentals of being in the backfield (was the focus),” said Foster. "Coach Ivan (Fears, running backs coach) did a great job of keeping me mellow. I felt healthy, I felt really good. I got some punt returns, some kick returns, some special teams. I was seeking contact to get that adrenaline going.

“It’s a long process,” he acknowledged. “Talking to the veteran guys, they said it’s a long process. I knew battling my injury and come back healthy, I came back strong and I felt ready.”

We’ll see if it’s enough to carve out a niche on the roster. The cutdown to 75 players comes Tuesday.