Defensive Adjustments Not Unique

John Lynch was a key part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Denver Broncos defenses. His no-nonsense, hard-hitting style served him well for 15 seasons. When asked to move to a new position in New England, it was a lot harder than he thought. Now two players are trying to follow in his footsteps at that new position.

Coach Raheem Morris isn't shy about taking credit for the idea to move Jermaine Phillips from safety to weak-side linebacker.

But there are a lot of skeptics, because the transition isn't so seamless.

"I'm interested to see how it goes," said former Bucs safety John Lynch said."I tried to do the same thing in New England and it's more difficult than everyone thinks."

A year ago, Lynch was signed by the Patriots. Despite nine Pro Bowls as a safety with the Bucs and Broncos, the Patriots wanted Lynch to play closer to the line of scrimmage and help support the run defense.

Lynch made his reputation as a head-hunting tackler who would walk down from his safety spot and become the eighth man in the box against the run.

"The natural assumption is, "Well, he's been a box safety all his life and we'll put (him) out there," Lynch said of the Bucs' reasoning with Phillips. "You end up in the same spot, but the difference between doing it (from the safety spot) and lining up like that -- it's a completely different deal.

"It's the hand-to-hand combat and all that. What's helped him is that he had a whole offseason to prepare for it."

Phillips has a history of broken forearms and plans to play with both padded up this season.

Against Tennessee in the first preseason game, Phillips had a largely forgettable performance while playing the first quarter and the first series in the second.

"I didn't really get the physical confrontation that I was looking for like I wanted," he said. "A lot of the plays went away from me."

Morris said he is looking forward to Phillips performing in the preseason.

"This is it. This is what we have been waiting for," Morris said.

It's Williams' Role Now

The Patriots have moved on from the Lynch experiment and are looking for veteran safety Tank Williams to fill the role that Lynch worked at last preseason. Williams has been lining up close to the line, much like last year's training camp before he was injured.

Tank Williams, S/LB

Williams joined the Patriots in 2008 as an unrestricted free agent after spending two seasons with the Vikings. The 6-foot-2, 223-pound safety was immediate moved into sub packages with the Patriots featuring defensive backs playing closer to the line in run support.

After injuring his knee in a preseason game, Williams sat out the season on injured reserve. The Patriots saw enough promise in his development that they invited him back, re-singing him to a one-year deal in March.

"The coaches thought enough of me to bring me back; hopefully I've gotten the injury bug out," Williams told the Providence Journal at spring minicamp.

Williams has resumed the run-support defensive back position he practiced at last seasons' camp. Though injuries cut his time short, Williams showed improvement as camp progressed. He's been impressive in the same role throughout the 2009 camp. Williams has even spent some time lined up at outside linebacker as the Patriots experiment with their new 4-3 look.

Moving around isn't an issue for Williams.

"I've always had that mind-set to do what I can. I feel I can definitely help this team," Williams said. "I guess I have a head start this year as opposed to last year."

Williams may have more competition for a roster spot this year. The Patriots selected safety Patrick Chung (Oregon) in the second round of this year's Draft. The addition would typically spell trouble for players in Williams' spot. Fortunately for the veteran, the rookie is working exclusively in the secondary as a safety while Williams' role as run support linebacker seems safe.

Like Lynch, change isn't easy, even for young players. At 29, William's knows his time is limited. For now, there seems to be enough gas left in the Tank.

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