PHOTO: Philadelphia Eagles
quarterback Donovan McNabb, in background New England Patriots ends Richard Seymour
(93) and Jarvis Green (97) (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)
Pats Go Deep...On
By Chris Timoney, Patriots Insider
Long before Tedy Bruschis
medical scare in February, way before Brady & Belichick hoisted Lombardi Trophy
number three above their heads in Jacksonville and most definitely before the
2004 campaign even started, the Patriots knew that theyd have to inject
youthful depth into one of the most talented defenses in the league. Depth helps,
but aided by youth, depth can be even more of a potently productive possession.
always pressure to repeat as champions, and in the New England Patriots case,
there's an additional layer of pressure to keep a football dynasty on track. In
these days of free agency, that's tough to do, yet Pioli and Belichick have found
a way. Can they do it again is a question that won't be answered for another 6
months, yet some intriguing pieces have been added while others were kept from
the waiver wire; pieces that will surely fly low under the radar of most headlines;
pieces that defensive coordinator Eric Mangini will have an interesting time assembling
once camp opens in July.
Here's a look at some of these players that the
Patriots hope can sneak up on some unassuming NFL offenses:
re-signing of Don Davis keeps a player on the roster who's versatile, knows the
system, and is a seasoned veteran- a very seasoned veteran. Davis, who proved
serviceable as a rotation linebacker and a fill-in defensive back, enters his
tenth NFL season and his second with the Patriots.
A signing that warrants
more focus among the linebacker core is that of Monty Beisel. Beisel spent the
first four years of his career with the team that drafted him out of Kansas State,
the Kansas City Chiefs. A converted defensive end, Beisel is capable of playing
at all three linebacker positions which he showed while in KC. Beisel worked out
of the right linebacker position behind Shawn Barber two years ago and last season
saw more work on the left side of the defense behind Scott Fujita.
"spare time" the Chief's had him working out of the middle linebacker
spot in nickel packages. Beisel's ability and experience at all three linebacker
positions will prove key this season as long time vets such as Ted Johnson, Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel, Larry Izzo and the aforementioned Davis are all well into
their careers with a lot of tread on their tires. Not only does Beisel's experience
as a defensive end aide in the pass rush from the outside, but Beisel used to
play running back in high school and still possesses tailback like speed which
will come in handy when defending the run.
Beisel has great sideline-to-sideline
quickness which he also displays on specials teams. In short, Monty should be
kept very busy in this defensive unit. And should this years secondary incur the
same problems as last year, Beisel could be last season's Don Davis and find himself
covering wideouts in the secondary.
Aside from nose tackle Keith Traylor,
the guys up front are relatively young, led by All-Pro Richard Seymour. Jarvis
Green is only in his fourth NFL season and Ty Warren is just a pup heading into
his third season. Don't forget that last year's second round draft pick Marquise Hill is also very young, and has yet to see any playing time. With Hill's height
at 6'6", it would be a shame if he was unable to crack the rotation at defensive
end. He certainly could bat down a few passes while giving Seymour a breather.
other guys up front who could aide in allowing the starters to catch some rest,
keeping them fresh for the post-season, are a pair of players that have been in
Foxboro all along. Twenty-five year olds Rodney Bailey and Ethan Kelly were with
the team all last season and are ready to contribute to what hopes to be another
Super Bowl run in 2005.
The 6'3" 300 pound Bailey was signed by New
England last March as a restricted free agent after spending his first three seasons
playing for the Steelers. Pittsburgh drafted Bailey in the sixth round of the
2001 draft out of Ohio State and the former Buckeye proved serviceable in a reserve
role. In 48 games for the Steelers, Bailey notched one start and often made the
most out his opportunities. He participated in all 48 games for coach Bill Cowher.
In one game against Cincinnati in 2002, Bailey registered a career high 2.5 sacks
joining many other NFL defenders in the club of "those who have sacked Tim Couch."
The advantage Bailey has is that hes got a few years
experience playing in the 3-4 defense and has shown the ability to get into the
pocket and cause some havoc. Bailey spent the 2004 season with the Patriots on
the IR as he recovered from surgery in August to repair a torn achilles tendon
suffered early in camp. Rodney is expected to make a full recovery and be ready
for camp in July.
Defensive tackle Ethan Kelly was re-signed by the Patriots
back in March and is another young guy anxious to contribute on the defensive
line. Kelly, originally drafted by New England in the seventh round of the 2003
draft (4 picks after Tully Banta-Cain), spent most of last season on the inactive
list after spending his rookie season with the practice squad. Kelly was activated
in 2004 and played sparingly in the regular season finale versus the 49'ers and
recorded his first NFL tackle.
Kelly, 6'1" 300lbs, started his college
career at Baylor on the left side of the offensive line working out of both the
guard and tackle position. Before Baylors 2001 season, Kelly was moved to
the defensive side of the ball where his career as a nose tackle began. After
a season of getting used to the position, Kelly shined during his senior campaign.
He lead Baylor in tackles, and was a constant nuisance in the backfields of opposing
Due to the fact that hes not the normal 330 plus NFL nose
tackle, Kelly is able to use his quickness off the snap, and at Baylor showed
an array of moves to work of solo blockers. His experience on the offensive line
gives him a slight mental advantage, as he has a working idea of what the opposing
lineman may or will be doing in a certain situation.
Ethan was originally
a defensive tackle in high school back in Sugar Land, Texas so hes back
in his original position. The major obstacle that he must overcome is lack of
playing time, getting in game situation reps. The move to the offensive line at
Baylor accompanied with limited playing time in the NFL has stunted his development
as a true NFL caliber nose tackle.
With all that transpired last season
on defense for New England, the organization realizes that at any given time,
a bench player may be called upon to play. They must be comforted knowing that
theyve got fresh, young players ready to do what coach Belichick demands
of his reserves...to step up and be productive when called upon.
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