Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Opportunity knocks for Pierre Woods

LBs: Opportunity knocks

By Christopher L. Gasper

December 1, 2007

FOXBOROUGH - Defensive coordinator Dean Pees is an optimist. He sees the loss of starting outside linebacker Rosevelt Colvin, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday because of a foot injury, as an opportunity, not an obstacle.

"When somebody else has a problem or is injured it provides an opportunity for somebody else, so you hope that somebody else can step up," said Pees. "Whenever you lose somebody, like when we lost Rodney [ Harrison] in the secondary or [Richard] Seymour up front, you lose depth, too. Somebody has got to just pick up the slack, and we've got to keep going and guys have got to fill in."

Pees has employed a five-man rotation at linebacker this season with Mike Vrabel and Colvin manning the outside spots and Tedy Bruschi, Junior Seau, and Adalius Thomas sharing snaps inside. When Colvin left during the third quarter of last Sunday's 31-28 victory over the Eagles, Thomas, a Pro Bowl outside linebacker last season with the Ravens (the Patriots' opponents Monday night), slid back to his old spot and Seau played full time inside.

That's a lot to ask of the 38-year-old Seau, who has shined as a situational player, considering he has ended each of the last three seasons on injured reserve. Pees acknowledged the team tries to "take reps off of" some players, but said he's not more concerned about Seau or Bruschi, 34, the two elder members of the linebacking corps.

"We're going to need to try to find somebody that we can rotate in there now," said Pees. "That's always good for the front seven to be able to rotate guys in, if you have them."

The most-appealing option may be second-year outside linebacker Pierre Woods. The undrafted free agent out of Michigan showed marked improvement during the preseason, finishing with 17 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Woods has been credited with just two defensive tackles this season, but he is the Patriots' leader in special teams stops with 14.

"He's a guy that has been a legitimate backup and he's a guy that we are hoping that we can get in the mix," Pees said. "He's done a great job on special teams for Brad [Seely]. He's working hard and he's getting better all the time. We're hoping that he just keeps progressing like that and, if he does, then he's certainly going to give us some depth where we need it."

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