Caserio says draft deep at receiver, front-7 players

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Caserio says draft deep at receiver, front-7 players

INDIANAPOLIS - As we dive further into the 2012 draft class, it's worth noting that two perceived positions of need for the Patriots - outside receiver and edge pass rusher - are fairly well-stocked. Whether that makes the Patriots leap is another issue entirely. Bill Belichick said the edge rushers in the 2011 class were as good as he'd ever seen and the Patriots didn't pluck one in the first three rounds. But, as Patriots personnel man Nick Caserio explained, the talent is there in a draft stocked with pre-senior talent.
"This is the most underclassmen I think that actually asked for an evaluation from the league," Caserio said at the NFL Combine. "Theres depth at more positions relative to others. Id say receiver is a position of strength. The offensive line is a position of strength. The front seven is a position of strength. A lot of the players, front seven especially that were down at the Senior Bowl, are some of the better players in this draft. I think its a good draft. Like every year, each position has a little more depth or balance relative to others. Thats kind of where it is right now as we sit here at the combine.

With the Patriots playing a base 4-3 defense to begin the 2011 season then shifting to more 3-4 later in the year, Caserio was asked if scheme mattered in terms of deciding where to rate players. A good question. Caserio was a little vague in his answer though, saying they'll look at versatility. "You look at the front seven in general terms because you could really shift back and forth depending on whether it was the team or opponent we were playing," Caserio explained. "At the end of the year, we were playing a little more odd fronts. We played, I think, 65, 70 percent of the snaps were sub defense. Were a multiple team, so, you look at those front seven players in general terms and then you get them into your program and figure out where their skill set is best going to be utilized."One place the Patriots are well-stocked is the interior defensive line with young players like Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Ron Brace and Myron Pryor (although Brace has been a bit of a disappointment). One spot that's very weak in this draft is safety. And the Patriots are very thin at that spot.

Thursday's Patriots-Bills practice report: Garoppolo, Brissett practice again

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Thursday's Patriots-Bills practice report: Garoppolo, Brissett practice again

FOXBORO -- The Patriots held a walkthrough on the field behind Gillette Stadium one day after both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) tested their arms during the team's practice in full pads n Wednesday.

Both quarterbacks were back on the field, but for the second consecutive day they were limited, according to the injury report. That injury report was, in fact, unchanged from Wednesday's, meaning tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) and linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) were also limited. 

There was one significant alteration to the Bills practice report, however, as tight end Charles Clay (knee) was back on the field Thursday. Receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) remained out. 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick described Watkins' explosive abilities in Buffalo's passing game earlier this week. 

"Watkins is big, he is good after the catch, he’s obviously good on the deep balls," Belichick said. "But he is good on catch-and-run plays. He can take those intermediate routes or crossing routes and turn a 10, 15-yard catch into 40. So, a hard guy to tackle, big, fast, very athletic."

If he can't go, the Bills will have to find other ways to try to manufacture yardage. 

Here's Thursday's practice participation report for the Patriots and Bills.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
TE Charles Clay (knee)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)