|Monday, August 27
Revamped Patriots better recognize
By Glen Farley
Pro Football Weekly
Eighteen veteran free agents, one more than the previous high of 17 Plan B free agents signed in 1990, were added. Another 10 players were selected in April's NFL draft. Six rookie and first-year free agents were brought to training camp.
Never mind remembering the plays and schemes being installed in this, the second year of the Bill Belichick era.
The real test for the 2001 Patriots may be remembering the names and faces of their teammates.
"When you are not successful, when you have a 5-11 season, then it is obvious that things have to change," quarterback Drew Bledsoe said, "because the status quo is obviously not going to get it done."
Not on this roster.
But whether or not the Mike Comptons, the Larry Izzos and the David Pattens this team signed during the offseason are enough to turn the Patriots' recent evolution into a revolution remains to be seen.
"The guys we signed seem to bring not only some talent, but some attitude, some leadership qualities to the team," Bledsoe said. "Those things are good. Now we have to take those, and it's got to translate into wins on the field."
Running backs: The Patriots have tried, and failed, to find a workhorse
running back since they let Curtis Martin slip away to the Jets in 1998.
Robert Edwards, who appeared to be the answer before he blew out his knee
playing beach football early in '99, mounted a miraculous comeback just to
get into camp but was cut last week. The real competition consists of former
Bill Antowain Smith, third-year man Kevin Faulk and second-year pro J.R.
Redmond, all of whom have been disappointments to one extent or another to
this point in their careers. Former 49er-Brown Marc Edwards, brought in to
fill the fullback role previously held by Tony Carter, appears to be an upgrade.
Receivers: With Glenn, the wayward wide receiver, suspended, first by the
league (four games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy) and then
by the team (placed on the reserve/left squad list, he's gone for the
season), the Patriots will take the receivers-by-committee approach. No one
is about to pretend that the likes of Troy Brown, Bert Emanuel, Charles
Johnson, Patten and Torrance Small possess the raw talent of the enigmatic
Glenn, but the Patriots are hoping to replace quality with quantity. Tight
end isn't all that different. With the second coming of Ben Coates nowhere
in sight, the team will hope the likes of the surprising Jermaine Wiggins,
the disappointing Rod Rutledge and Johnny McWilliams -- yes, another
free-agent pickup during the offseason -- can fill the void.
Offensive linemen: After yielding 48 sacks and leading an alleged ground
attack that ranked a woeful 26th in the league last year, a year after
making Adrian Klemm and Greg Robinson-Randall second- and fourth-round
picks, respectively, the Patriots went out and added free agents Compton and
Joe Panos and drafted Matt Light and Kenyatta Jones. Nice plan. Too bad
Panos retired at the outset of training camp, and Compton and Light went
down with nagging, but not season-ending, injuries soon after that. At one
point early in camp, none of the five projected starters was on the practice
field. Now in his third year in the league, Damien Woody has clearly
established himself as the man in the middle, and a healthy Compton should
provide a welcome changing of the guard. Beyond that, we offer these
unsolicited words of advice: "Look out, Drew!"
Linebackers: The Patriots opened training camp hoping both Ted Johnson and
Andy Katzenmoyer would remain healthy. Now the best they can do is to settle
for one out of two. Injuries have handicapped Johnson the past two years,
even after undergoing offseason surgery, and Katzenmoyer is out for the
season because he needs a second operation to repair a ruptured disc and
nerve damage in his neck. That is why the team put the 911 out to yet
another pair of Belichick disciples in Bryan Cox and Roman Phifer during
camp. Ted Bruschi gives you everything he's got. Chris Slade's play had
waned to the point where he was no longer capable of doing that and was
replaced by former Steeler Mike Vrabel.
Defensive backs: In cornerback Ty Law and SS Lawyer Milloy, the Patriots have some
Law and order in their secondary. Beyond that ... The old man, Otis Smith,
is competing with ex-Dolphin Terrance Shaw on the corner opposite Law and
will continue to try to get by with his guile and savvy, while Tebucky
Jones, a disappointment as a first-round pick in 1998, will likely start at
free safety by default, if nothing else. Terrell Buckley, whose play tends
to be trick or treat, was added just prior to the start of training camp.
Material from Pro Football Weekly.