PATRIOTS: Belichick Making The Right
By Scout.com Staff
Bill Belichick readily acknowledges he can't keep everyone. He understands that with success and production come always-increasing salary demands and he accepts that players that have performed for him - guys like David Patten and Joe Andruzzi - will leave to be paid more elsewhere.
It's the same every year with different names departing. Ted Washington, Mike Compton, Bobby Hamilton and Damien Woody left last year. Belichick moved on and replaced Tebucky Jones and Lawyer Milloy before 2003's championship season. And there have been others - Brandon Mitchell, Marc Edwards, Antowain Smith, Terry Glenn, Chad Eaton and Greg Spires - to name a few.
He replaced them all with barely a hitch. And it looks like this year's offseason will end up as productive as most of those Belichick has enjoyed in New England.
He loses Patton and replaces him with David Terrell and Tim Dwight. Combine the two veterans with young players like Bethel Johnson and P.K. Sam and Belichick feels like he can replace Patten's production from within that group rather than simply tabbing one guy to do it.
Andruzzi leaves and Belichick drafts two offensive linemen in the first three rounds who can play both guard and tackle while also having two players who have been around as developmental types for two years in Gene Mruczkowski and Russ Hochstein. From within that group, he figures he can replace his free agent loss.
When Ty Law became a salary cap casualty, the Patriots traded for Duane Starks, drafted Ellis Hobbs and signed veteran Chad Scott. With young players Asante Samuel and Randall Gay trying to build on a strong 2004 season and Tyrone Poole returning from the injured list, Belichick hopes he can replace Law's production even if he doesn't find one specific guy with Law's knack for making big plays.
Go down the roster and it's more of the same. There are 16 linebackers on the roster after Tedy Bruschi's announcement that he won't play because of the stroke he suffered in February. Belichick figures that someone from the group will emerge, particularly free agent signings Chad Brown and Monty Beisel.
The lone exception to his team-building philosophy might be at nose tackle, where second-year man Vince Wilfork is the only experienced player, and he has started all of six NFL games there. The Patriots cut 2004 starter Keith Traylor and have only Ethan Kelley, who has played in one NFL game, behind Wilfork. Belichick's decision not to further address that position may be an indication that New England will play more 4-3 defense this year. If Wilfork goes down, Belichick may not have a choice but to go that route.
But overall, he has addressed virtually every team need with quantity as much if not more so than quality. It is a team-building approach that has helped the Patriots build a deep bottom half of the roster and made them seemingly immune to an injury-related slide in the standings.
-- It remains to be seen whether star defensive lineman Richard Seymour will hold out of training camp in an effort to win a new contract from the club. Seymour skipped the team's mandatory June mini-camp, but has refused comment regarding his contract and his status for training camp, which is set to begin for veterans on July 29. A Seymour holdout could provide a distraction unlike any other with which the Patriots have dealt during their successful era of late, especially since Seymour is a team captain and respected leader in the locker room.
-- Safety Rodney Harrison is already spouting the forget-about-last-year mantra that coach Bill Belichick states with regularity, but he recognizes the team is built for success. "I think we have a good foundation," he said. "We have some good players. But we all have to get better. Last year has nothing to do with this year because everyone's still gunning for you, re-tooling and getting better. So we have to get better too."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think we all do. Late-June, mid-July guys start getting that itch. You're excited about the upcoming season. You anxious and you want to get out there." - Linebacker Larry Izzo on looking forward to training camp
OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters - LT Matt Light, LG Logan Mankins, C Dan Koppen, RG Stephen Neal, RT Tom Ashworth. Backups - T Brandon Gorin, T Jeff Roehl, G/C Gene Mruczkowski, T Victor Leyva, G Ryan Krug, G Russ Hochstein, G Billy Yates, T Nick Kaczur, OL Brian Anderson.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters - DE Richard Seymour, NT Vince Wilfork, DE Ty Warren. Backups - DE Rodney Bailey, DE Marquise Hill, DE Jarvis Green, DL DeMarco McNeil, DE Mike Wright, DT Dan Klecko, DE Santonio Thomas, NT Ethan Kelley.
LINEBACKERS: Starters - OLB Willie McGinest, OLB Mike Vrabel, ILB Ted Johnson, ILB Tedy Bruschi. Backups - ILB Chad Brown, ILB Monty Beisel, OLB Rosevelt Colvin, OLB Tully Banta-Cain, ILB Larry Izzo, OLB Matt Chatham, OLB Don Davis, OLB Andre Torrey, OLB Wesly Mallard, OLB Grant Steen, ILB Ryan Claridge, OLB Eric Alexander, ILB Dan Klecko.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - CB Duane Starks, CB Asante Samuel, SS Rodney Harrison, FS Eugene Wilson. Backups - CB Tyrone Poole, CB Randall Gay, CB Ellis Hobbs, CB Chad Scott, CB Hank Poteat, S Guss Scott, S James Sanders, S Antuan Edwards, S Dexter Reid, S Raymond Ventrone.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Starters - PK Adam Vinatieri, P Josh Miller, KOR Bethel Johnson, PR Troy Brown, LS Lonie Paxton. Backups - PK Robbie Gould, P Rhett Kopp, LS Grant Steen, KOR Patrick Pass, KOR/PR Chad Morton, PR Tim Dwight.
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