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Patriots notebook: Defense catches a break

The Giants will be without some big names today.

The Patriots defense could use all the help it can get. And due to some major injuries for the Giants, they’ll get some.

was announced Saturday that leading wide receiver Hakeen Nicks
(hamstring), leading running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and starting
center David Baas (knee) are
all out for today’s game in New England.

a pretty significant blow to the running and passing game, and one that
could give the Patriots the edge they need on defense. That being said,
don’t expect the
Giants passing offense, to all of a sudden, stall. Wide receiver Mario
Manningham has caught five or more balls in his last three games, and
hauled in his first TD of the season in last week’s 20-17 win over the

Giants breakout star Victor Cruz looks to pick up the slack for Nicks.
While Nicks leads the team in receiving yards with 575, Cruz is right
behind him with 497 yards,
while also having one more TD (four).

Cruz has made some big plays,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “He’s
been a young man who has tried to learn the game. He had a very short
season a year ago,
he had no work in the offseason, he’s probably a little bit behind, but
nevertheless, I’d like to think he’s a sponge.

just learns every day, learns more and more about his position, his
role, learns about coverage, learns about the way people are playing
him, but he will go get the
ball and he does have a capacity to make plays.”

The Giants passing game will still be a problem, and they’ll probably
air out the ball even more now that Bradshaw and Bass are out.

running game will, however, take a big hit. Without Bradshaw and Baas
there isn’t a big run threat, and there isn’t a strong blocker up the
middle. This could allow
the Patriots to gamble more on blitzes, and get to Eli Manning before he can

so, Brandon Jacobs could provide even more tackling issues for the
Patriots. At 6-foot-4, 264 pounds, Jacobs is a beast. He’s been at odds
with the Giants at times
during his career, so if there’s ever a chance for him to make a
statement about his game, it’s today. If it’s not him, Bill Belichick
will be ready for whoever the Giants trot out there.

got several backs,” Belichick said. “They’ve used [D.J.] Ware for him,
at times anyway, and of course [Brandon] Jacobs and [Da’Rel] Scott, so
we’ll be ready
for all of them. Scott is really fast, Jacobs is a big guy, is a
powerful guy and Ware is, I’d say, similar to Bradshaw in a lot of ways.

use [Ware] in the passing game, he’s quick, he’s kind of an elusive
guy. I’m sure that he could do or would do some of the things that
Bradshaw does. They use all
those guys a little bit anyway. They’re all productive so whichever ones
we get, we’ll be ready for.

Brace yourself

The Patriots announced Saturday that defensive lineman Ron Brace was activated from the PUP list to the 53-man roster.

Brace, a veteran of two NFL season, was drafted by the Pats with the 40th
overall pick in 2009. He’s played in 22 games and made 37 total
tackles. He, along with recently activated DE Brandon Deaderick, look to
add a youthfulness to an old defensive line anchored by
Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter.

no means will Brace or Deaderick play a major role at this point – they
haven’t been active long enough – but they’ll prove to be reliable
fill-ins when the Patriots
get into a certain rotation of linemen.

is working hard and he’s getting a lot of snaps,” Belichick said. “You
can see it a little bit every day. It’s still a lot of ground to make up
but he’s
certainly closing the gap. I think all four of those guys, hopefully –
we haven’t really seen Marcus [Cannon] play – but Brandon and Ron and
Kevin [Faulk] have all played for us in the past and I think they’ll all
be able to help us and we’ll see how it goes
with Marcus.”

wasn’t activated yet when Belichick spoke about him on Friday, but
spoke about the good progress he was making towards a return. Asked if
Brace brought a different
element to the defensive line than Deaderick, Belichick spoke on what
both players bring.

both big players, big, physical guys,” he said. “They’re a little
different playing style. I think Ron is more of an inside player;
Brandon really has a lot
of position versatility – he’s played inside and outside for us. Ron
played end in the 3-4 when we were in more of an odd front so he played
out on the tackle too.

just two young guys that are healthy that can give us more depth and
help that group. It’s good to have them out there. We’ll try to get the
most productive guys
we can out on the field.”

Three Patriots to watch

Wilfork -
Wilfork could be poised to have a field day with the Giants’ O-line banged up. The Patriots have no excuse for not applying pressure
to Manning this week. And could we see a Haynesworth sack?!

Chung -
It’s not so much that Chung will have a good game, it’s that he
HAS to. It’s safe to say he or the rest of the Patriots secondary hasn’t
done its job this
season, and it has to start today.

Welker -
Welker has been human over the last two weeks, and well, that’s
just not acceptable. Giants cornerback Antrel Rolle called Welker a
“monster elite receiver,”
but in the same breath said he was going to shut him down. We’ll see
about that.

Three Giants to watch

Manning -
He lost his best wide receiver and his go-to running back, so
things won’t be easy for Eli. Still, Brady finds ways to win no matter
what, and if he’s in
Brady’s class, he should be able to do it too.

Jacobs -
Jacobs wants more respect. He’ll get a chance to earn it today.
The bruiser could prove to be lethal in goal-line situations, a spot
that the Patriots
have actually done alright in this year. Or, Jacobs could be a

Tuck -
This guy is a beast, and he will line up against rookie right
tackle Nate Solder. This could be the Giants’ best matchup going into
the game, and Tom Brady
will have to keep an eye on Tuck.

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