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Patriots notebook

Belichick needs player to fit bill

With Faulk gone, options explored

In need of a third-down back, Patriots coach Bill Belichick could look to newly acquired Danny Woodhead. In need of a third-down back, Patriots coach Bill Belichick could look to newly acquired Danny Woodhead. (Stephan Savoia/Associated Press)
By Michael Vega and Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / September 25, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — Two days after placing running back Kevin Faulk on injured reserve, Patriots coach Bill Belichick assessed the difficulty of moving forward on those third-down situations in which Faulk had been featured.

“I think that’s a challenge that we have offensively,’’ Belichick said yesterday. “Can we do what we’ve done and have another player or person do what he did? Or have another combination of players do what he did? Or are we a little different right now? Do we find a little different way of doing things?’’

That is likely to be the case when the Patriots host the 0-2 Bills at Gillette Stadium without Faulk, who suffered a torn ACL in his right knee last Sunday in a 28-14 loss to the Jets. Someone, or several people, will be required to fill the void left by Faulk.

“That’s the decision you have to make,’’ Belichick said. “How much do you want to stay the same, how much can a person — whoever it is — do what you’ve been used to doing, or would it be more beneficial to push things in a little different direction and do it that way? That’s the kind of challenge you go through when you change a key player like that.’’

While it is difficult to replicate Faulk’s skills on third down, the Patriots do have several options. One is Danny Woodhead, who was signed last Saturday after he was released by the Jets. The 5-foot-9-inch, 185-pound Woodhead, in his third season, projected as a third-down back with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

“He actually made [the Jets] as a receiver and played kind of in between receiver and a sub back for the Jets,’’ Belichick said this week about Woodhead, who won consecutive Harlon Hill Trophies as the best player in Division 2 at Chadron State, where he finished his career with 9,749 all-purpose yards. “I’d say that’s the type of player he is, yes.’’

Then there’s Julian Edelman, who has been limited in practice by a sprained foot after making his season debut against the Jets, and Wes Welker, who acknowledged Thursday he was not 100 percent recovered from the left knee injury he suffered in last year’s regular-season finale. Randy Moss even seemed to throw his hat into the ring when he was spotted at yesterday’s practice wearing No. 33 in honor of Faulk.

“I think everybody has to pick it up,’’ Welker said. “Kevin was a huge loss, especially on those third downs, so I think everybody’s going to have to pick it up and pick up the slack where Kevin was such an integral part of our offense and make some plays on those key downs.’’

Bills coach Chan Gailey acknowledged that Faulk “made a lot of plays for them through the years and his savvy is hard to replace.’’ While Gailey was uncertain how the Patriots would proceed without Faulk, he was certain of one thing: “They’ll get somebody ready and somebody will do a good job. That’s the way they’ve always done it there. Whoever it is, you’ll have to stop him.

“It’s not like you can say, ‘Hey, we can just forget that position and what that position does.’ We’ll have to know where that person is, whoever it is, and make sure we get somebody attached to him or near him or at least discourage [them] from using him as they would Kevin.’’

Moving up?
Shawn Crable will be promoted from the practice squad for tomorrow’s game, filling Faulk’s roster spot, according to NFL sources.

Crable, drafted in the third round in 2008, has yet to play a regular-season down, spending the better part of his first two seasons on injured reserve.

The 6-foot-5-inch linebacker said in the offseason he knew he was entering a make-or-break year, only to be cut on the eve of training camp.

He was re-signed to the Patriots’ practice squad earlier this month.

Crable will likely play primarily on passing downs to try to help generate a pass rush.

Hot corner

Kyle Arrington, a special teams ace, took a number of snaps with the first-team defense at cornerback this week over Darius Butler, according to a league source. Butler started the first two games opposite rookie Devin McCourty.

Butler was pulled late in last Sunday’s loss to the Jets after picking up back-to-back pass interference penalties and he was beaten by Braylon Edwards for a second-quarter touchdown and a 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter. Edwards was thrown to six times and had five receptions.

With Terrence Wheatley out with a foot injury, which could sideline him through the bye week, the Patriots have little depth at the position.

Jets’ Smith fined
The NFL fined Jets safety Eric Smith $7,500 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Welker in the first quarter last Sunday.

Welker was momentarily shaken up and had to leave the game for one play after being attended to by the medical staff. Smith, meanwhile, was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness. The fine was for striking a defenseless receiver.

“Eric came up to me during and after the game and apologized,’’ Welker said Tuesday. “He didn’t mean to. It was just trying to make a physical football play, and that’s what it came down to. I don’t have any ill feelings about that play or anything else.’’

Last resort
With an offense ranked last in the NFL (averaging a paltry 176 yards), the Bills will try to shake things up by going with former Harvard quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick over Trent Edwards against the Patriots. “We needed to do something to create a spark for our offense,’’ Gailey said. “We’ve been very lethargic the first couple of weeks and we’re trying to find the right combination for our football team. Obviously, that one wasn’t what it needed to be, so we changed some running backs, we changed some other people around, some receivers, and we thought it was time to change the quarterback and see if this one gives us a little bit better opportunity to win.’’ . . . Nick Kaczur (back) and Wheatley were listed as out for the third week in a row on yesterday’s injury report. Edelman came off the report. Taylor Price (ankle) was listed as questionable; he did not practice yesterday following his limited participation Thursday. Fred Taylor went from limited participation Thursday to full participation yesterday and is probable. The Bills reported linebacker Paul Posluszny (knee) as out and linebacker Keith Ellison (knee), guard Andy Levitre (neck), and safety Cary Harris (hamstring) as probable.

Monique Walker of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Michael Vega can be reached at bega@globe.com.

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