Dowling lands on IR; Faulk, Deaderick activated

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Dowling lands on IR; Faulk, Deaderick activated

PITTSBURGH - Batten down the cornerbacks. The Patriots are just heaving them overboard this week.

On Friday, came the surprise release of Leigh Bodden. Saturday afternoon, it's rookie Ras-I Dowling being placed on season-ending injured reserve with what the Boston Herald reports is a torn tendon in his leg.

The loss of Dowling, a second-round pick whose time at Virginia was marred by myriad injuries, leaves the Patriots with just four active cornerbacks heading into Sunday's game against the Steelers - Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Antwaun Molden and Phillip Adams.

Molden and Adams are players the Patriots signed after they were released by the Texans and Niners, respectively.

The Dowling move puts the release of Bodden in a different light. Even though Dowling has been injured, it figured he'd be good to go in the near future. Why else would they release Bodden with so little depth? But the fact Dowling's season ended a day later makes the Bodden release a standalone move.

Whatever was said in the Friday morning meeting Bodden had with Bill Belichick, it's clear the two sides believed they were better off without each other and - given Dowling's situation - the Patriots had apparently had it with Bodden.

Bodden was never a visible disruption in the locker room and, quite often, you can sense a player who's discontented by his actions.

The Patriots have two practice-squad corners they could elevate to the roster next week. Meanwhile, Asante Samuel has been voicing his discontent in Philadelphia with his role on the Eagles. A trade for their former Pro Bowler seems a stretch from a "locker room fit" perspective. Samuel, while a very good performer, isn't what you'd call a team-first guy and he left a sour taste in Foxboro.

As for the activations, it will be interesting to see what extent the Patriots rely on Kevin Faulk as the 35-year-old returns from last season's knee injury. Brandon Deaderick will help provide some depth on the defensive line, which is needed since Myron Pryor and Mike Wright have both been IR'd.

Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language

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Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language

When Kyle Van Noy was traded to the Patriots in late October, he had a lot to learn. He needed to understand the layout of his new team's maze-like facility. He needed to adjust to a new locker room. He needed to adapt to a new home. 

He also had to become fluent in a new language.

The former Lions 'backer was inactive for two weeks before he was comfortable enough with the Patriots system -- and the coaching staff was comfortable enough with him -- to get on the field. He played 29 snaps against the Niners in first game with his new club, then saw 28 plays against the Jets. On Sunday he saw his role expand as he played 40 of a possible 51 plays, which was more than Shea McClellin (38) or Dont'a Hightower (33). 

"Kyle has done a great job of working really hard to acclimate to what we’re doing, and he has had to learn really fast as far as the system, the communication, the language," said defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on a conference call Tuesday. "It’s like when you go to a different system, offensively or defensively, a lot of times it’s just learning the vernacular and the verbiage . . . That’s a big part of it. Then getting more familiar with that kind of terminology and the communication is critical because there’s a lot of calls and adjustments, things like that that we’ve got to do on the field."

Van Noy was making some of those calls himself on Sunday as he wore the green dot on his helmet when Hightower was on the sidelines. Even with the added responsibility, Van Noy was able to play freely enough that he put together what might have been the best game of his three-year career. 

Used at the end of the line of scrimmage as well as in a more traditional off-the-line linebacker role, Van Noy was effective in defending both the pass and the run: He stuffed three Rams rush attempts, he recorded a quarterback hit that led to an incompletion, he drew a holding call, and he recorded an athletic interception when he tracked a wobbling Jared Goff pass that floated over the middle after Jabaal Sheard hit Goff's arm as the rookie released his throw.

After several of his stand-out plays, Van Noy was visibly excited on the field and later on the sidelines. It was the culmination of six weeks of work, learning as much as he could from a coaching staff that was eager to teach him. 

"He’s extremely prideful in his work and his approach to the game," Patricia said. "He’s very cerebral. He’ll ask a lot of questions. He really wants to understand what we’re doing and why, which is great. We’re trying to give him those answers and insight into kind of where some of this either came from or developed or situations like that so that’s really good."