By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Opportunity seized.With Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Chad Ochocinco and Brandon Tate on ice Thursday night, Taylor Price heated up.The second-year wideout who was basically redshirted as a rookie (he played only in the season finale and caught three passes), had 5 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown in the rout of Jacksonville.What's the difference between August 2010 and August 2011?"Knowing the plays, knowing the system, knowing my teammates that much more," said Price. "I got a late start last year, which didn't really help. This lockout really helped me improve, knowing my playbook, staying in shape, just learning the game of football, really getting my head in the film and really just diving in, knowing what I'm supposed to do on every play, and how to practice and play."On his touchdown catch, Price showed how putting practice into a game situation helps.
"Its a baseline in-cut," Price said of the 11-yard score in the second quarter that made the score 13-6, New England. "Quarterback Brian Hoyer made the right read, put the ball in the spot and Ive got to get myself in the back of the end zone, tap the feet down and be ready to catch, squeeze the ball and drag the feet.
There was more to it than that. Hoyer's throw was behind Price who had to plant, open his body and reach behind himself to make the grab on his fingertips. It was a remarkable catch because the ball was probably a full six feet off target.
Price said that receivers coach Chad O'Shea works with the wideouts on catching bad balls and adjusting their bodies to them in frequent drills.
"Taylor had some good plays, made a couple good catches," Bill Belichick said in what amounts to a testimonial for the normally taciturn coach. "I thought that was a tough catch he made in the end zone for a touchdown. He had a couple run after catch plays down the sideline there on the hitch pattern when he broke a tackle there by the corner.
"But again, he's done some of those things in practice the last couple weeks, but it was good to see it happen in the game. I think hes been very competitive in practice in training camp this year. The year has made a big difference for him."
The hitch was a 50-yard hookup with rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett. Jammed between that catch and the touchdown was a 20-yard slant catch-and-run where Price again adjusted to a ball thrown behind him.
I know Ive got skills," said Price, who could challenge at any of the wideout spots for time. "I believe in myself. I know Ive got the talent to play at this level. Its just about going out there and showing these teammates, getting the trust of these teammates and the coaching staff and showing that I can play. Im going to keep doing that and Im going to keep getting better.
He's on his way to doing that.