By: Ian Logue/
August 11, 2004

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FOXBORO, MA -- The New England Patriots spent Tuesday morning working on the play-action portions of their game before working on situational plays in the afternoon as they began preparing for their preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday night.

For the new guys it will be a chance to showcase their talents as they try to earn a place for themselves on the team, although Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will be taking into account who they're lining up against. With both teams likely limiting the playing time of their starters Belichick will be evaluating the level of competition as he and the rest of the coaching staff begin making decisions of how the roster will start to shape up for this season.

The team has been making the transition from older experienced veterans to mixing in younger players, and according to Belichick there will be some veterans who will need to play well if they plan on earning a place on the team.

"We want to try to reassess veteran players,” Belichick said on Tuesday. "Guys that have been around here that we know the levels they've been at and to try to see where they are in relation to what that has been in the past. There certainly are a lot of scheme things to evaluate.”

"You kind of have to be aware of the matchups. As you're evaluating a player say, 'Who are they going against,' and ‘What type of player are they going against.' Some guys fare better against certain styles of players than others.”

Two players the Patriots won't be going up against are Eagles safety Brian Dawkins (knee) and defensive end Jerome McDougle (shoulder). Both reportedly won't play on Friday. Quarterback Koy Detmer underwent knee surgery on Tuesday and will also be sidelined.

One area that Belichick will be looking at on Friday night will be how his offense fares against the Eagles' defense. The Patriots offense has been going up against their own 3-4 defense during their practice sessions, which according to Belichick is a scheme they won't face much during the season since the majority of the teams they play against don't use it.

"The teams in our division, the majority of the teams we play will not be in a 3-4 defense,” explained Belichick. "So our guards for example, at least one guard, is probably going to have a guy lined up on him every play this year with very few exceptions and you look out there now and there is never a guy lined up on him until we go to third down sub-defense. So, we need to see that.”

"We need to see how our guards are going to block people that are lined up right on them as opposed to linebackers who are off of them. I'm not saying that is easy because it creates some other problems for them, but we need to see how they are going to play down guys.”

The biggest evaluations Friday night will be for the younger players, including quarterback Rohan Davey who is battling with Kliff Kingsbury for the number two quarterback spot behind Tom Brady. Davey, who is expected to see a lot of action on Friday, has looked good so far during training camp and even drew some rare praise from his coach on Tuesday.

"He is doing things this year that he just didn't do last year,” said Belichick. "He is much, not only more comfortable, but he recognizes things at a quicker rate and has made better decisions, hasn't gotten fooled as much, and when things have been cloudy I think he has made better decisions overall than he has in the last couple of years.”

The first preseason game means that the NFL regular season is finally getting closer, and fans will be looking forward to seeing their defending Superbowl Champions take the field on Friday night. While the score of the game won't matter much, it's a chance to get a look at players who may end up making a name for themselves. With the first cutdown just weeks away, the clock is ticking.


One young player fans won't get to see Friday night is tight end Ben Watson, who's contract holdout continues. According to the Boston Globe the sticking point remains over one year, as Watson's agent Tom Condon is growing frustrated over the Patriots insisting on his client to sign a six-year deal.

"Benjamin and his dad are asking why they're doing this and why Daniel Graham was able to land a five-year deal and he can't," Condon told the newspaper. "I told them they're doing it because they can. They've won two Super Bowls in the last three years. Benjamin is a pretty resilient kid and he doesn't think it's fair. He knows exactly what's at stake."

According to the newspaper today is the final day the Patriots, under the basic agreement, can trade Watson's rights. He can sign up until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season; after that, he will be ineligible to play this season and could reenter the draft.