New England Patriots wide receiver Troy Brown carries the ball against the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC divisional playoff game, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2005, in Foxboro,
Mass.(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
What To Do With Troy
Now that Troy Brown is back in the fold, the Patriots must figure
out what to do with him. The veteran receiver signed a one-year deal on May 23,
returning to the team that originally drafted him in 1993, but it's unclear what
his role will be this year.
Brown will turn 34 in July, and his days as
a top-flight receiver are behind him. Since setting a franchise record with 101
catches in 2001, his offensive production has declined in each of the last three
years as the Patriots have drafted younger, faster players at his position. Injuries
have also taken their toll on his body.
Nonetheless, Brown has found others
ways to chip in. He has been the team's primary punt returner for the past five
years, and he added a new dimension to his game last season by learning how to
play defense and filling in as a nickel back.
The Patriots saved money by
declining his $2.5 million option during the offseason and bringing him back two
months later for $775,000. His return is a warm-hearted story, considering he
turned down a more lucrative offer from the New Orleans Saints at the request
of his six-year-old son, Sir'mon, but he might not get much playing time on either
side of the ball. The Patriots spent the winter building depth with younger, more
reliable players, so Brown will have to earn his spot.
"I'm going to
give it my best shot. Wherever they put me at, that is what I'm going to do,"
Brown said. "That's the way I've always been and that is the way I continue
to be. I just enjoy playing the game. I enjoy winning. That's a big reason I stayed
here. I enjoy winning and I knew that part of my best chance at winning was to
stay here, too."
Cracking the lineup on offense will be tough because
the Patriots will open training camp in July with eight receivers. Among that
group will be Deion Branch, the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX, and David Givens, who
burst onto the scene last year and led the team with 56 catches for 874 yards.
Those two are the cornerstones. The Patriots also signed veterans Tim Dwight and
David Terrell to help absorb the loss of David Patten, and they're counting on
26-year-old Bethel Johnson to finally start producing.
Brown could still
get a few snaps on defense, but the Patriots would rather use more experienced
players. That's why they acquired cornerback Duane Starks from the Cardinals,
signed Chad Scott and drafted rookie Ellis Hobbs III. Assuming Tyrone Poole returns
from the knee injury that kept him out for the second half of last season, the
Patriots will have enough defensive backs to avoid having to use Brown.
that in mind, Brown should still be the man on punt returns. He has the most experience
and he has tremendous instincts. He knows when to catch and run and when to call
for a fair catch -- something that others on the roster haven't been able to do
consistently in his absence. Wherever he plays, he'll be happy because he'll be
doing it in Foxboro, Mass., which has been his home for 13 years.
don't worry about the future," Brown said. "I make the best of each
day that I have. I go out there and I put my best effort out there. If it's enough,
it's enough. If it's not, they'll make their decision and I'll live with it."
-- WR David Terrell, one of the Patriots' most notable offseason
acquisitions, has been working with former Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin
in an effort to build on his successful 2004 season. Under the direction of head
coach Lovie Smith, Terrell caught 42 passes for a career-high 699 yards. When
he arrived in New England, strength and conditioning Mike Woicik coach hooked
him up with Irvin, whom he worked with while in Dallas. Terrell and Irvin share
a lot of similarities, including their occasional brash on-field behavior. "He
had an aggressive style on the field, he was feared by defensive backs,"
Terrell said. "He controlled ballgames and that's what I want to do, be in
position to control ballgames with your quarterback and running back. I feel like
I can be that type of guy."
-- Other than releasing QB Chris Redman,
the Patriots didn't do anything else cap-related before the June 1 cut deadline.
By releasing expensive veterans Ty Law and Roman Phifer, and declining Troy Brown's
option, the Patriots got themselves below the NFL-mandated salary cap long before
the free-agent signing period began in March. The only other move they made this
week was releasing offensive tackle Lance Nimmo, who joined the Patriots in November
and spent one week on the active roster.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "What
does that (one Super Bowl) mean? That doesn't mean anything right now. I need
a couple more. I need two or three like the rest of these guys. If you're wondering
if I'm still hungry, don't even bother. I'm hungry. I'm thirsty." -- Running
back Corey Dillon on his desire to win another Super Bowl in New England.
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