Report on rookies has local ties

Matthew Slater hasn’t even played a real game for the New England Patriots, and already he’s revealed his true colors. Blue, white and yellow.

The former UCLA player wears blue when he plays defensive back, white when he’s a receiver, and yellow when he’s both at the same practice. He’s also a kick returner -- he could start there this season -- and outstanding at covering kicks.

Slater, the son of Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater, is just the type of player Patriots Coach Bill Belichick loves -- one who can play several positions. “That’s something they preach here: The more you can do, the more you can do,” Slater said.

In an exhibition game Thursday, Slater made an outstanding play when he stripped New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw of the ball on a third-down run. So as it stands, he appears to be in prime position to make the final roster today, when NFL teams are required to pare down to 53 players.


A look at the other rookies with local connections and their chances of sticking around:

Sure things

* LB Keith Rivers, USC/Cincinnati -- Because of a contract holdout, the ninth overall pick missed the first 10 practices of camp. “He’s still adjusting to formations,” Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer told the team’s website this week. “We’ve got to go back and get him a few more reps.” Regardless, Rivers should be a good pro.

* DE Lawrence Jackson, USC/Seattle -- Against Minnesota, Jackson sacked former teammate John David Booty and forced him to fumble. He also showed his range, running 20 yards downfield to chase down a running back. The Seahawks see him as a guy who’ll pick up six or seven sacks as a rookie.


* T Sam Baker, USC/Atlanta -- A fixture on USC’s offensive line, Baker is poised to be the same for the Falcons. Atlanta liked him enough to trade up to get him in the first round, and he’s already the starting left tackle.

* DT Sedrick Ellis, USC/New Orleans -- An ankle injury has kept him from much game action this summer, but that’s been largely precautionary. Ellis, who will start, has been effective in practice against the run and pass and in a game Thursday blasted through Miami’s line to strip quarterback Chad Henne of the ball.

* TE Fred Davis, USC/Washington -- Davis is in a prime position, learning behind veteran Chris Cooley. He will compete for the backup job with eight-year pro Todd Yoder. During the exhibition season, Davis was third on the team with 10 receptions for 85 yards.

* G Chilo Rachal, USC/San Francisco -- The only Trojans junior in this year’s draft class has shown a lot of promise. The second-round pick has played both guard spots as a backup this summer and will probably get a fair share of action in regular-season games.


* CB Terrell Thomas, USC/New York Giants -- Thomas has shown some impressive flashes at camp. He’s nursing a sore hamstring now and is third on the depth chart at right corner behind Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters.

Good bets

* LB Bruce Davis, UCLA/Pittsburgh -- The Steelers invested a third-round pick in Davis, so he’s likely to make the final cut. That said, the team is looking for more from him. After an exhibition game against Philadelphia, Coach Mike Tomlin told reporters Davis was “active, not to be confused with productive.”

* QB John David Booty, USC/Minnesota -- Booty has the qualities coaches want in a third quarterback: smart, good listener, won’t make trouble. Barring any strange twists, he’ll edge Brooks Bollinger for the third spot and be in purple for the opener at Green Bay. In Thursday’s exhibition finale, Booty played the entire first half and, after having his first pass intercepted, finished having completed eight of 15 for 93 yards.


* RB Chauncey Washington, USC/Jacksonville -- Washington made a strong late bid to make the team by gaining 68 yards in 11 carries and making four catches for 40 yards in the Jaguars’ exhibition finale. His summer totals: 38 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown; 12 catches for 75 yards.

On the bubble

* T Drew Radovich, USC/Minnesota -- The Vikings really liked what they saw early from Radovich, who was working with the second team at left tackle. However, he suffered a dislocated shoulder early in camp and has been rehabbing ever since. Look for the Vikings to find a way to keep him, probably by stashing him on the practice squad.

* FS Chris Horton, UCLA/Washington -- The Redskins cut veteran safety Vernon Fox this week, a sign that they like young safeties Horton and Kareem Moore. Horton, a seventh-round pick, had two sacks in his first exhibition game. He’s got a good chance to make the practice squad.



* LB Thomas Williams, USC/Jacksonville -- A fifth-round pick, Williams is in a three-way battle to make the roster with Tony Gilbert and Lamar Myles. Williams made nine tackles (six solo) in games, but his best hope is to make the practice squad -- in Jacksonville or elsewhere.

* C Matt Spanos, USC/Miami -- Spanos, who was not drafted, probably will be caught in a numbers crunch. The Dolphins signed former Rutgers offensive lineman Pedro Sosa this week and seem to like him. Spanos is also competing with rookies Donald Thomas and Mike Byrne.

* FS Dennis Keyes, UCLA/Arizona -- Even if he doesn’t make the Cardinals’ roster, Keyes has a story to tell his grandkids one day. He returned an interception 84 yards for a touchdown in an exhibition against Kansas City.


* CB Trey Brown, UCLA/Chicago -- The Bears must like something about Brown because they’ve been working him into their nickel packages. That means they think he’s savvy enough to handle the complexities of those schemes. Even though the Bears released fellow Bruin Ricky Manning Jr., presumably creating room for another defensive back, Brown will be hard-pressed to stick with the team even though he had an interception in the final exhibition game.

* DE Alex Morrow, USC/New York Giants -- Morrow, a reserve for the Trojans, had a good camp and might have worked his way onto the Giants’ practice squad. He had five tackles during the exhibition season.

* DT Kevin Brown, UCLA/Seattle -- Although the Seahawks are short on defensive tackles, Brown will make the practice squad -- at best. He was not able to attend mini-camps because of a graduation rule, and that hurt his chances.