by Scott Benson

The morning papers take a look at the Patriots return men, and wonder if New England can afford to risk injury to key starters like Ellis Hobbs and Laurence Maroney by asking them to shag kickoffs this fall.

As far as Maroney, I’d suggest not, since he’s coming off a shoulder injury and has yet to practice fully with the team. Besides, the Patriots already have a great kick returner.

I understand the Pats defensive backfield is at risk with the absence of Asante Samuel (who am I kidding – its always at risk no matter the time and place), but come on now. Hobbs has GOT to be back there this fall. I submit as evidence Hobbs’ second-half performance in the face of the Colts comeback in the AFC Championship Game. An 80 yarder in the third quarter after the Colts had tied the game (which set up a Tom Brady to Jabar Gaffney score, and the lead), and then a 41 yarder in the final moments (which set up a go-ahead Stephen Gostkowski field goal).

You can’t buy that kind of field position. The hell with it. Hobbs, get back there.

In other news, Bill Belichick lauded cerebral centerman Dan Koppen yesterday, calling him “as good as anybody I’ve ever coached” when it comes to making line adjustments before the snap. No wonder then that Belichick locked up Koppen to a five-year deal last fall before he could reach free agency. Daniel Malloy of the Globe has our Feature of the Day on the Pats’ pivot.

The defense had a quite time yesterday, picking off Brady and Matt Cassel scrimmage passes and rubbing their nose in it. No word on if they danced on the offense’s logo at midfield, or if they imitated Matt Kranchick’s patented dance. Regardless, the display sent Brady off in a Phillip Rivers-like huff. You guys are the sorriest defense in the league!

The Pats are stockpiling Dantes – the latest (cornerback/special teamer Wesley) arriving in a trade with the Bears yesterday. And a nervous Heath Evans is strongly considering opening a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise (a ‘breaking news’ graphic ought to be running along the bottom of your screen now). Don’t be such a wuss, Heath – get that money out there! 

Time to make the donuts! Meanwhile, get all the headlines at

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