Belichick: Dowling progressing, had 'good spring'

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Belichick: Dowling progressing, had 'good spring'

FOXBORO -- As soon as Patriots training camp started a slide labeled "Ras-I Dowling" was placed under the microscope. The corner is like a glittering specimen of unrealized potential and all are waiting to see how he does.

There wasn't much opportunity last season.

Dowling, the first pick of 2011's second round, positioned himself after last year's camp to start the regular season opener. But a torn hip tendon in Week 2's game against the Chargers relegated the rookie to injured reserve. Dowling practiced, he just never saw game action again.

Then came the offseason surgery, the recovery. He's working his way back.

"It's good to see him out there," Bill Belichick said the second morning of training camp. "We thought Ras-I made some progress last year when he was on the field. He wasn't able to finish the season, but that's really the key for any player is to be able to be out there, get the instruction, practice, watch it on film, correct it and do it again. Game reps. Not only to gain confidence, but the technique and execution to do it against high level competition. That's key for him...."

The 6-2, 198-pound cornerback will look to win Kyle Arrington's spot with his blazing speed. On the first day of camp he subbed in, bumping Arrington into the nickel spot. It won't be an easy battle.

He's also fighting his own history.

Dowling's health has long been a concern. Injuries limited him to just five games his senior season at Virginia. He missed the first three Patriots preseason games with a hamstring injury. All things considered, it's difficult to not have doubts.

Unless you're Belichick. The coach said Dowling had a "good spring" and was fully capable during all practices.

"He was able to do some of that last year and make some progress and I think he'll be able to do a lot more this year."

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

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Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QUESTIONABLE
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

NOT LISTED
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)