Behind Enemy Lines: Patriots I

Jon Scott of on the network took time to answer a 10-pack of questions regarding the Vikings' next opponent – the New England Patriots. In part one, see what Scott thinks of the timeshare at running back, WR Bethel Johnson and the Patriots' style of operation.

Tim Yotter: How has the time-share issue between Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon gone? I know that New England is averaging an impressive 131 yards rushing per game, but how are they determining who is in the game in certain situations?

Jon Scott: The dual running back situation in New England turned out the best way possible from these types of situations. With Dillon still dealing with some lingering injuries, having Maroney around has helped take the burden off the aging wonder.

Splitting time has been more interesting in that Dillon is in the game when grinding out the clock is important. His ability to run north south continues to be a valuable asset for a New England team that is facing some poor field conditions and the rapidly approaching inclement weather. Dillon is typically in the game first, with Maroney coming in to spell him after the first series, or during the series if it's a long set.

Dillon is a much better blocker, and that's one of the reasons he's in there more than the rookie, even when it's time for a breather.

TY: How has Dillon taken to splitting carries, and do you think it will be next year already when they hand the keys over to Maroney as the workhorse back?

Maroney, the rookie and former first-round pick, has said all the right things while learning the system. Having experienced it in college, he adopted a similar attitude when he arrived in New England Dillon, coming off one of the worst rushing seasons in his career, has adopted a positive mentoring role.

Maroney has a long way to go to be the No. 1 back. While he's fast and elusive, he falls down after the first contact more often than not. Unless he makes it to the hole, he's not going to gain yards. Dillon, on the other hand, will hit a wall of defenders and still manage to fall forward for a yard or two, something Maroney needs to work on.

The plan seems to be to get Maroney into the mix as the No. 1 back, and next year is the expected tie frame. But if Dillon continues to run like he is, it's going to be tough to find a reason to stop giving him the ball.

TY: Bethel Johnson is now with the Vikings. Why was he never able to break through as a true offensive threat with New England?

Johnson was in Bill Belichick's doghouse early on, and never seemed to get out of it during his tenure in Foxboro. The issue wasn't Johnson's ability, which was considerable, but his lack of preparation and reportedly his work ethic (studying). Not many questioned his ability, but his head never caught up to his body.

Put him in a go route or a fly pattern and he's your man. Try to get him more involved in the offense and you run the risk of plays not developing as they're intended.

TY: Some people like to think that Brad Childress is instilling that "team-first" concept in Minnesota that Bill Belichick has been publicized for. First, is there ever in-fighting among that team that is kept more local that we just don't hear about nationally?

The grumbling in New England is very quiet. If a guy has a problem, he's instructed to bring it to the powers that be, a.k.a. the front office. What you do see is that the guys who don't say anything in the press, tend to stick around, while those who do pop off, don't last.

The other thing to remember is there are Super Bowl rings in the locker room, and those who don't have them want them. Those who do have them want another one. They know that beating up on each other is not the way to get it. A lot of credit has to go to guys like Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Rodney Harrison for showing guys how to win and how to regroup when things get tough. With that being said, this team has never been really bad during Belichick's tenure, and guys haven't had much of a reason to do any in-fighting.

TY: Second part to the last question: Did the players buy into Belichick's program from the start or were there instances where he had to let players go that didn't fit in line with his philosophy, and then how long did it take to get a buy-in from all the players?

Every team has guys who don't fit the mold, and New England isn't any different. The basic concept is that if you work hard and have talent, then you will earn your spot. Some players who join the team think they're entitled, like they were in college or on another team. Sometimes it's related to pay, other times it's about playing time or recognition. It doesn't take long before guys who don't work hard are no longer around.

The more memorable moments came when Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy left the team. Both faced contract issues, and in an effort to get their way, they followed their agent's advice. The team opted to let them go rather than sacrifice the guidelines they've established for paying guys at certain positions.

Another situation was the Deion Branch situation. Same story: Branch was worth more than what the Patriots offered, and New England said let's compromise. Branch's agent forced the Patriots to see they undervalued their receiver and he ended up in Seattle.

Has the locker room been divided on the issue? Absolutely. Many feel losing Branch was unnecessary. Many in the media agree. But that's the way the NFL is, it only takes a team or two to overvalue your players before contract issues arise. Branch tried to force his way into a pay raise like Richard Seymour did, but he didn't have anywhere near the same leverage.

The Willie McGinest and Adam Vinatieri situation showed how players who learned from the Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy situations realize that they're not going to get paid in New England so they opted out.

As long as the team continues to win, you probably won't hear much about the discontent. If they go off on a losing streak, we might hear a bit more. So as of now, it's team first, work hard, no one is bigger than the team.

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