FOXBORO - Asante Samuel's gotten rich in Philadelphia. The former Patriot corner fled there as a free agent in 2008 for a massive deal and while he's often been scrutinized and criticized during his time with the Eagles, he's still a big play waiting to happen. "He makes a lot of plays," Tom Brady said Wednesday. "He always has made a lot of plays. He's a great player and I always loved playing against him because I really thought he brought the best out of our receivers and our passing game. He's always a threat to intercept the ball. As a quarterback, you're always paying attention to those guys."Samuel is just a brilliant player when the ball is in the air. He may not be the stiffest tackler. He may get caught out of position or being over-aggressive. But when he gets his hands on a ball, it usually sticks (final drive ofSuper Bowl 42 notwithstanding . . . gulp). "Asante does it as well as anybody I've ever played against," Brady said when asked about Samuel's ability to ballhawk. Samuel, now 30, has 42 career interceptions and two this season. Heis one of the few Patriots to go somewhere else and be even better than he was here. He's been named All-Pro each of the last two years. With Samuel on one side and the former Raider Nnamdi Asomugha on the other, the Patriots will be facing two of the most talented corners in the league. They haven't played to their resumes this year - Philly's allowed 18 touchdown passes - but their ability is unmistakeable. And the Philly defense plays fast. "They really have threats everywhere," said Brady. "They rush as well as anybody that we face. They got two of the best corners in the league in intercepting passes. They force you to throw it quick and then they're on you quick . . . They're a really dangerous group and we really have to go out and execute well, as well as we've executed all year."
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while determined to go see Foo Fighters at Fenway Park this time around.
-- In the great news department, Hingham native Brian Boyle hears cheers at practice as he returns to work for the New Jersey Devils after his cancer diagnosis. Boyle might be wearing a Devils uniform, but he knows he has all of Boston in his corner along with many, many other corners of the hockey world.
-- There is no panic with the Maple Leafs over the slow start for Mitch Marner, who has been dropped to the fourth line in the early going.
-- Wellesley native Chris Wagner is beginning to get recognized for his big hits and physical play with the Anaheim Ducks.
-- Senators prospect and Massachusetts native Joey Daccord makes an unbelievable game-saving stop for his college team.
-- For something completely different: Greg Nicotero talks about the Walking Dead premiere, and a character thought dead that might actually still be alive.
For the first six weeks of the season, Patriots veteran linebacker David Harris was little more than an insurance policy.
At $1.25 million guaranteed this season, he was one of the pricer policies on the team, but his playing time told the story of where he stood on Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's depth chart. His seven total defensive snaps slotted him in behind Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Dont'a Hightower among off-the-ball 'backers.
So when Harris saw 19 snaps -- making three tackles in the process -- against the Falcons and their speedy offensive weapons on Sunday night, it caught our attention. Here are a few of the elements that came into play, leading to Harris' increase in playing time.
1) Injuries to other Patriots linebackers created an opening for Harris. Roberts was announced as inactive prior to kickoff due to an ankle injury. Later in the night, Hightower suffered a shoulder injury that knocked him from action. That left Van Noy, Harris and Marquis Flowers as the team's linebackers in uniform. Harris got the nod over Flowers, who's primarily a special-teamer.
2) Falcons personnel called for the Patriots to use their base defense at times. The game opened with the Falcons going with a two-back set, encouraging Belichick to go with bigger personnel. The Patriots didn't have to stick with their regular group because the Falcons used primarily one-back sets over the course of the night, But even with Hightower healthy and available, what happened early in the game proved that there were certain packages that called for Harris to be on the field. He saw one early, picking up his first start as a member of the Patriots.
3) The work Harris has put in during practices and off the field allowed the Patriots coaching staff to trust him when he was called upon. Belichick has lauded Harris all season for his professionalism, and on Monday morning he continued to heap praise on the 33-year-old. "As always, I think David works hard and is very well prepared and did all of the right things that we would want him to do from an assignment standpoint," Belichick said. "He gave us some good plays, was in on a few plays. Again, handled the communication in the front well. We’ll see if we can build on it. We’ve got a lot of good play from a number of guys and he’s certainly part of that group."