Patriots rookies start fast, but still on learning curve

FOXBOROUGH — Three of the Patriots’ defensive standouts from Sunday’s 34-13 win at Tennessee are rookies — defensive end Chandler Jones sacked Jake Locker, linebacker Dont’a Hightower scooped up the resulting fumble and ran it in for a touchdown, and defensive back Tavon Wilson intercepted Locker earlier in the second quarter.

Jones, Hightower, and Wilson were picked in the first two rounds of the draft, but they have plenty to learn, coach Bill Belichick said — as do all the rookies.

“These guys, are you kidding me? They played one game,” Belichick said before practice Wednesday. “I don’t think any rookie has all the answers after one game. I mean, it’s one game.

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“It’s going to get a lot harder for them before it gets easier, I’ll tell you that.”

Quarterback Tom Brady is in his 13th season. But he remembers the early days, and said it’s the responsibility of the veterans to make sure first-year players don’t get caught up in results — good or bad — after one week.

“Those are some of the things that all veteran players talk to some of the younger players about,” Brady said. “You have to realize, with the four preseason games and one regular-season game, it’s five games but really it’s no games. Five games is almost half a college season.

“I think the important thing is to make the improvements on a daily basis so when you’re in November and December, you’ve really progressed.”

Normal appearance

Brady appeared without any bandage on his nose, which was bloodied on a sack against the Titans. Some wondered whether the nose had been broken. It sure didn’t look that way Wednesday.

“It feels a lot better,” said Brady. “It’s OK. My wife likes it, so I’m good.”

Tough test

As Brady and many of the Patriots are quick to point out, there’s lots of football to be played, starting with Sunday’s home opener against Arizona. But the defense the Cardinals played in a 20-16 opening win against Seattle stands out; Arizona is currently the NFL’s fourth-best defense, third-best against the pass.

The Seahawks were held to 254 total yards, just 139 through the air. Arizona had three sacks and an interception. With Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett up front, and Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, and Patrick Peterson in the secondary, it’s a group that has the Patriots’ full attention.

“That pass rush puts a lot of pressure on the offense, and the corners are able to make plays out there, so if you’re making a lot of mistakes offensively and you’re in a lot of long-yardage situations, that’s the ideal situation for that active defense,” said receiver Brandon Lloyd. “If you can stay out of those situations, and you can minimize the unforced errors, then you’ll be in position to pretty much call the game how you want.”

The Cardinals denied the Seahawks inside the 10-yard line in the game’s final minute to hold on for the win.

“They really try to play to the strength of their players,” Brady said. “They have a very disruptive front — Dockett and Campbell are really impressive players. It’s a very physical team, they’re fast.”

Connolly sits

Offensive lineman Dan Connolly was the only Patriot not to practice Wednesday. Connolly, who has had concussion issues in the past, left Sunday’s game with a head injury after lining up as a fullback on Stevan Ridley’s 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. He did not return to the game, but passed a concussion test on the sideline and was cleared by a neurologist Tuesday to resume practicing, according to a league source. He could still be held out of practice by the team — and possibly not play Sunday — as a precautionary measure . . . Running back Shane Vereen was on the field. He suffered a foot injury in the preseason against Tampa Bay Aug. 24. Vereen was limited, as was cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), tight end Daniel Fells (shin), offensive linemen Nick McDonald (shoulder) and Sebastian Vollmer (back), and cornerback Sterling Moore (knee). Quarterback John Skelton was the only Cardinals player to miss Wednesday’s practice. He sprained his right ankle in Sunday’s win . . . The Patriots made a minor practice squad move, releasing tight end Alex Silvestro and signing safety Chyl Quarles, who was released Aug. 31 by the Ravens . . . What is Lloyd looking forward to in his first game at Gillette Stadium as a member of the Patriots? Looking skyward. “We start opening day at a visiting stadium, so you get two flyovers,” Lloyd said. “We got a flyover in Tennessee, and we’ll get a flyover here in New England, so that’s exciting.”