During Bill Belichick's decade reign as Patriots coach, he has been enamored with versatile football players who can play more than one position. He's built championship teams with this philosophy. He has always stated that when a team has versatile players, a team's roster has added depth.
Troy Brown at cornerback
Prior to the 2004 season, the media chuckled at the site of Pro Bowl receiver Troy Brown practicing with the defensive backs in training camp. The Patriots suffered several injuries in the defensive backfield that season and Brown finished the last nine games of that season, including two playoff games and Super Bowl XXXIX, as a nickel cornerback. He was second on the team with three interceptions on the season with 17 tackles (15 solo) and five passes defended. No one was laughing then.
Mike Vrabel at tight end
Former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel was also the Patriots best scoring threat as a tight end. Vrabel had 10 career receptions in regular season and playoff games during his time with the Patriots, all going for touchdowns. He caught eight passes for 11 yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season and two passes for three yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs, one in Super Bowl XXXVIII and one in Super Bowl XXXIX. He also played fullback during some goal line formations.
Junior Seau at fullback
When Junior Seau came to the Patriots in 2006, he already had a Hall of Fame caliber career as an inside linebacker. But there he was during the 2007 training camp practicing as a lead blocker at fullback. The work paid off as he provided a lead block as a fullback on Heath Evans' 1-yard touchdown run against the Jets at the Meadowlands.
New England Patriots' Mike Vrabel hauls in a 2-yard pass from Tom Brady for a touchdown as Philadelphia Eagles' Quintin Mikell defends in the third quarter of Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 6, 2005. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Dan Klecko in 2003 was a defensive lineman, but was moved to linebacker in the summer of 2004. While playing a lot of special teams, Klecko played in 13 games as a defensive lineman and fullback during his rookie campaign, including a start at nose tackle. He was also a blocking fullback on five of the Patriots' nine running touchdowns in 2003. Klecko snared his first career reception on an 11- yard pass from Tom Brady in the Patriots' 30-20 victory over the Seahawks in 2004.
Former Patriots offensive guard Russ Hochstein also played several positions, including tight end, offensive tackle, center, and fullback. Hochstein showed his versatility in the 2004 playoffs, starting the AFC Championship Game as a third tight end, and then lining up at fullback in Super Bowl XXXIX to pave the way for Corey Dillon's 2-yard touchdown run.
Even Randy Moss played a little defense against Denver last season in the final seconds of the first half when he grabbed his first career interception on a Hail Mary pass intended for Brandon Marshall.
|Troy Brown even took snaps at quarterback for the Patriots. Russ Hochstein is at center.
However, not all this versatility helped the team. There is a tremendous risk for any player playing out of position. Pro Bowl defensive lineman Richard Seymour played fullback on short yardage and goal line situations during the 2005 season, but suffered a knee injury on a one-yard Corey Dillon touchdown run against the Chargers. He was never able to regain his dominant Pro Bowl play on defense since the knee injury and has since been traded by the Patriots.
Belichick has proved to not be deterred with the risk. The rewards are even greater through the years and there's no sign of him changing. "We move guys around at all the positions," he said. "Other than the quarterbacks and the kickers, I don't think there are too many guys that don't play more than one spot or line up in different places. It's kind of a common theme for everybody, especially at this time of year. Now is the time to work on those things in case you need them later on or just to build depth on your team."
With last week's report by Patriots Insider's Kisha Tapangan of Edelman taking part in the drills with the running backs, this upcoming season will be no different from past seasons. The names have changed, but the philosophy is the same. Belichick is looking for versatility and depth on the 2010 roster.
Don't be surprised to see Tom Brady handing the ball off to Edelman in the Patriots offensive backfield this upcoming season. It might be funny to think about in training camp, but it just may help the Patriots actually win a game in 2010.
Kevin Saleeba is a frequent contributor and columnist to Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Share your thoughts on this article, or send your questions to Kevin ( here ).
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