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Patriots notebook

Shuffling up in secondary

Barrett, Brown get look at safety

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / September 2, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - Most observers have been saying that safety is potentially the weakest position on the retooled Patriots’ defense. While the team has actively been looking for a player to add to the secondary since training camp started, it also curiously subtracted its most consistent player this week by releasing James Sanders.

But Sanders isn’t coming back, having signed a one-year deal with Atlanta a day after he was cut.

So now the Patriots will work with what they have. Last night, that meant giving Josh Barrett a look next to Patrick Chung to start the game against the Giants.

If you’re unfamiliar with Barrett, you’re excused: though he has been with the Patriots for a year, it was the first time he has been in uniform. New England claimed him last August after the Broncos designated him waived/injured; Denver fully expected he would clear waivers and be placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. But the Patriots claimed him and he was placed on their IR list.

Barrett still wasn’t practicing as training camp began, but he returned to the field a couple of weeks ago and saw his first action last night. He had four tackles.

When Barrett came off the field, Chung was paired with Sergio Brown.

Brandon Meriweather did not play until the third quarter. It could have been because the Patriots know what they have in him, and the coaching staff wanted to get a longer look at Barrett and Brown.

“I don’t know my situation,’’ said Meriweather, who is in the final year of his contract. “I think our coaches do a great job rotating all us in and playing a lot of guys. Getting a lot of guys a lot of playing time with other people to see how they play together, so you know you never know your situation until it’s time.’’

Asked if there could be anything read into the order in which players were deployed, coach Bill Belichick said, “I think some of that is reflected by the way it was played last week. We want to see different people with different people on our team and against different people with our opponents.’’

Learning on fly The newest Patriot, defensive back Antwaun Molden, played in the second half last night, just hours after arriving in Foxborough after being claimed on waivers.

“It was nonstop for me,’’ said Molden, who was waived by Houston. “I got in about 1:30 a.m. and was handed a playbook and I had to just get in and go. The coach just said to be ready for all aspects of the game, defense, special teams, and I was told to just be ready.’’

Molden had three tackles and two pass breakups.

Line ’em up New England’s defensive line rotation was finally more in line with what has been theorized since the team brought in a gaggle of new players. Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis got their first action in a Patriots uniform, with Haynesworth starting at tackle alongside Vince Wilfork and Ellis beginning at left end opposite Andre Carter.

During the first quarter, Gerard Warren and Myron Pryor came in at tackle, while Mike Wright and Rob Ninkovich took snaps at end.

Nearly all of the Patriots’ presumed starters played, beginning with Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and Chad Ochocinco. On the offensive line, Matt Light started at left tackle and first-round pick Nate Solder was at right tackle, with Sebastian Vollmer getting the night off.

Backs to the wall Rookie Shane Vereen was in uniform, the first time he suited up this preseason. Fellow first-year running back Stevan Ridley played in the first two exhibitions, but has not practiced since . . . A few other players weren’t available last night, including receiver Taylor Price, cornerback Leigh Bodden, running back Eric Kettani, linebackers Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes, and offensive linemen Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly . . . Over 200 servicemen and women from all five US military branches were on hand for a pregame ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Monique Walker and Julian Benbow of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com.

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