NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS UPDATE 

lBROWN WORKING HARD TO HELP NEWCOMERS SUCCEED

As Boston Globe staffer Amalie Benjamin reminded readers on Friday, when the Patriots overhauled their wide receiver group -- mostly because of the losses of David Givens (planned) and Deion Branch (unplanned) -- they knew it might make more work for Tom Brady or receivers coach Brian Daboll.

But they likely didn't think about how much more work it would create for Troy Brown.

Though Brown ranks fourth on the team in receiving yards, the additional work has come from the help he has to give to his fellow wideouts. As the only receiver with prior experience with the Patriots, Brown has become a sounding board for the newbies, some of whom have needed a little time before finding their stride in the offense.

Like Jabar Gaffney.

"He's our leader," Gaffney said, crediting Brown's help for his continued improvement. "He's had to kind of guide the receiver corps because all of us are new in the system. We're always at him, on the field, in the meeting room. We just toss him any question. We can't go to each other, so we go to him to get the right answer."

After joining the Patriots Oct. 9, Gaffney had faded into the background before announcing his true arrival to New England fans against the Jets last Sunday, when he had three catches for 65 yards. Despite averaging 42 catches over his four-year stay in Houston, Gaffney was slow to integrate himself into the Patriots' offense.

"It felt real good, felt real good," Gaffney said of his breakout performance, which included a 33-yard catch that started a 31-second, fourth-quarter touchdown drive. "I've just been waiting around patiently and they called my number this past Sunday. I was able to go out there and produce. It felt good out there. It always feels good making catches, helping the team. We didn't come out with a victory, but it felt good."

Before Sunday, Gaffney had just one catch for 4 yards as a Patriot. He had spent his time learning, catching passes in practice from Brady, bonding with fellow University of Florida alums Reche Caldwell and Chad Jackson, and soaking up the knowledge of the guy in the locker room with the most experience at wide receiver in the Patriots' system.

The offensive personnel are getting more familiar with each other, although that hasn't resulted in wins the past two weeks. Both Gaffney and Caldwell had impressive games against the Jets, and Brady thinks good times might be in sight for his crew.

"We're still working. It's been a process with this team and I think we've come a long way in 10 weeks," Brady said. "The first week, we looked entirely different than we do now. The types of plays we're running and the types of routes we're running -- it's coming together. I think there are a lot of things that we can do better. I remember the first week where we hardly completed any passes. At least this last week we were hitting a few of them."

And Gaffney, who was released by the Eagles in September, is finally beginning to feel more comfortable catching passes from Brady, more comfortable as part of the offense.

Having never caught fewer than 34 passes in a season in his NFL career, Gaffney wasn't going to be content waiting forever. He just needed to have, as he put it, his number called.

"Jabar is going to be a good player in this offense," Caldwell said. "He showed it last week. He went out there and made some good plays, big plays down the field where we haven't had that much this year. He came in and made the plays that was called for.

"When you have a guy who can stretch the field and you've got other guys who can get open, I think it's very important. They can't just key on one person. There's other guys out there they have to worry about. ..."

In a related note. ... SI.com insider Peter King noted on Friday that with Doug Gabriel having gone cold, Caldwell's been the Patriots' best wideout weapon. King added: "He could have a 100-yard day in Green Bay. ..."

One last note here. ... Rookie tight end Dave Thomas was added to the injury report. He's probable with a groin injury.


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