Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pierre Woods Steps Up

In third year, LB gains attention

By Rich Thompson

July 28, 2008

FOXBORO - The third season is a transitional moment in a player’s career where he either catches on or catches a bus.

Patriots outside linebacker Pierre Woods enjoyed an excellent opportunity to catch on during yesterday’s double sessions at training camp. With incumbent weakside linebacker Mike Vrabel on the physically unable to perform list, Woods received extensive reps as coach Bill Belichick began focusing on situational football.

“Pierre had another good offseason this year,” Belichick said. “I thought he did a good job in the spring, and sometimes it’s hard to tell when exactly that experience really transfers to confidence and aggressiveness and performance on the field.

“That’s where it looks like he’s headed this year in training camp. He’s playing with a lot of confidence, both in the running game and the passing game. We know he’s athletic from his play on special teams and he’s taking this opportunity to get a little more playing time in camp.”

Woods had four good years at Michigan but didn’t accomplish enough to warrant being drafted out of college. He signed with the Patriots on May, 8, 2006, and made the squad as a special teams player. In 16 regular-season games last year, he led the team with 22 special teams tackles.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Woods is now fighting for a starting job at a position that experienced significant turnover in the offseason and gained strength with the selection of Jerod Mayo in the first round of this year’s draft.

“I’m into hard work and hard work is paying off,” Woods said. “I’m out there willing to learn and to work hard and be coachable.”

The Patriots have five rookie linebackers in camp alongside veterans Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi and Adalius Thomas, who have a combined 32 years of NFL experience. Even though he hasn’t had any significant playing time at outside linebacker, Woods is way ahead of the rookies in doing things the Belichick way.

“This whole offseason, I’ve worked on so many different things - like coverage and hand placements and all the drills you see us doing out here,” Woods said. “You have to work on everything that’s tangible with football.”

The 3-4 defense used by the Pats depends on linebackers that can get to the quarterback from the edge. Vrabel registered a career-high 12 sacks last season, and that skill has been instrumental to his staying power. Sacks are the glamour statistic of the front seven - and Woods hopes to get his share this season.

“That’s something I’m definitely working on and my confidence is growing,” Woods said. “It’s something I can see myself doing, but you have to stay in the film room studying and learning different formations, sets and what teams do.”

Woods’ third-year sense of urgency has not gone unnoticed.

“He’s still got a long way to go and a lot of things to add,” Belichick said. “But Pierre is one of the hardest workers and he tries to do everything right.”

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