FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Undrafted rookie Sterling Moore has played only four games with the New England Patriots — and already he’s tutoring other members of the makeshift secondary.

The group has been hit so hard by injuries that even wide receiver Julian Edelman has filled in.

But while the defensive backs keep learning, the Patriots keep winning.

“We have confidence in each other out there,” Moore said Thursday. “With the new guys it’s all about having confidence and playing confident because when you play confident you play fast. That’s one thing that we emphasize.”

This week, the Patriots signed defensive back Nate Jones, an eight-year veteran who was cut by the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 5. He could play Sunday when New England (8-3) tries to stretch its winning streak to four games against the Indianapolis Colts (0-11)

“He’ll come and ask me some questions and, hopefully, I know the answer and a lot of times (I) have,” said Moore, a starting safety the last three games. “When a new guy comes in, it’s everybody’s job really to get him caught up because we’re all part of one team.”

Moore didn’t join that team until he was signed to the practice squad on Oct. 5. Since then, he was signed to the active roster, released, re-signed to the practice squad and finally added to the active roster on Nov. 9.

The reshaping of the secondary began during the exhibition season when the Patriots released veterans Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, Darius Butler, Brandon McGowan and Jonathan Wilhite. Second-round draft choice Ras-I Dowling started the first two games at cornerback before going on injured reserve.

Starting safety Patrick Chung missed the last three games because of a foot injury and cornerback Devin McCourty, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last season, missed the last two with a shoulder injury — suffered when he was hit by his teammate, Moore.

The Patriots have allowed the most yards passing in the NFL, partly because they’ve led most of the games, forcing opponents to throw, and also because newcomers and backups are learning on the job.

“I feel like I’m getting there,” Moore said. “It’s one thing to see the game plan and everything on paper, but once you get out there — it’s been a couple of weeks now — so I’m starting to get a little bit more comfortable with that.”

Edelman had plenty of studying to do. The college quarterback was moved to receiver as a rookie in 2009 and is the Patriots’ primary punt returner. In the past two games, he’s been given a few plays in the secondary and done fairly well.

“Obviously, we don’t have a lot of (players) there and he’s done a great job of trying to step in and learn what we’re doing and try to do it to a competitive level and he’s definitely done that,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He’s a smart guy and he does have a little bit of an instinctiveness and also a set of skills that are conducive to both spots.

“What you want physically from your slot receiver is pretty similar to what you want physically from your slot corner or vice versa. I think the fact that he’s played in there gives him some understanding of what that position is from the other side of the ball.”

Special teams captain and wide receiver Matthew Slater also saw time in the secondary in his first two seasons, 2008 and 2009.

“It was intimidating as a rookie,” he said. “You feel like you’re back in school again. I think I made more note cards my rookie year than I did all of college trying to learn the playbooks.”

Edelman seems to be is adapting quite well.

“It’s hard enough to learn your assignments on one side of the ball, but to do it on both is challenging.” Slater said. “But Julian’s a smart kid. He works hard. And he’s always a guy who’s put the team first.”

On Thursday, Chung, McCourty, starting safety James Ihedigbo and cornerback Antwaun Molden were limited in practice by injuries — so Edelman could be covering receivers again Sunday.

“He’s meshed well,” Moore said. “He’s in our defensive meetings so he knows the terminology. It’s little things that we haven’t run in a long time, since he’s been on defense, that you might have to get him caught up on, but he’s doing well.”

 


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