Cleaning out the Patriots notebook

Cleaning out the Patriots' notebook with some quick-hit thoughts on a day off for players:

1. Backup quarterback spot in good hands. What the Patriots experienced in 2008 when Tom Brady was injured in the first quarter on opening week is a reminder that the backup quarterback should never be overlooked. Along those lines, it's clear the strides that have been made by second-year signal-caller Brian Hoyer. He was 8-of-15 for 94 yards against the Falcons on Thursday, playing behind a leaky offensive line. The week before, he was 8-of-13 for 106 yards against the Saints, again playing behind a line that has struggled in pass protection. Bottom line: With Hoyer on the field, the Patriots have scored four touchdowns (3 rushing, 1 passing) and haven't turned the ball over. The backup spot looks to be in good hands.

2. Outside linebacker & backup offensive line are concerns. While the Patriots have put together two strong preseason performances, the spots that look like potential trouble are outside linebacker and backup offensive line. When Bill Belichick considers personnel additions or trades, these figure to be two areas on which he'll be focusing.

3. Crumpler's leadership on display. Here is a behind-the-scenes nugget from the postgame locker room: After a media member approached veteran tight end Alge Crumpler to point out his strong block on Fred Taylor's 28-yard touchdown run, he put his index finger up to his mouth, smiled, and said something along the lines of "Shhh ... This isn't about me. I want the whole [locker] room to have success." When the Patriots signed Crumpler, they knew they were getting a strong blocker. One wonders if they also realized what type of leader they'd be getting, as well.

4. Sixth receiver might be a luxury team can do without. With the Patriots using tight end Aaron Hernandez in a variety of roles, including split wide as a receiver, it could impact the scenario of keeping six receivers on the roster. Special teamers Sam Aiken and Matthew Slater -- currently projected as No. 6 and 7 on the depth chart -- should be on guard.

5. Ron Brace shows encouraging signs. Defensive lineman Ron Brace was on the field for approximately 25 snaps at left end against the Falcons -- coming on for starter Gerard Warren -- and was credited with three tackles, a pressure and a forced fumble. He looked like he held his own, which is good news for the Patriots as they try to fill the void created with Ty Warren being placed on season-ending injured reserve. "Everybody is three weeks ahead of me, so I have to play catch-up," Brace said after the game. "Just getting back out there was good."