Friday, July 29, 2011

Those Krafty Patriots are at it Again

It's good to finally be talking about football again. With the lockout over and teams in a mad dash to sign players it's been a wild couple of days. I want to focus on just one team's moves right now before I go off and get married tomorrow though. And that team is the New England Patriots. Yesterday New England not only acquired Albert Haynesworth from the Washington Redskins, but also Chad Ochocinco from the Bengals. So let's talk about this. First, Haynesworth.

Now as a Titans fan I'm more than familiar with what Albert Haynesworth CAN bring to the table. During his tenure in Tennessee from 2002-2008 we saw both the bad (stomping on Andre Gurode's head in a game against the Cowboys) and the great (8.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in 2008 when the Titans went 13-3). His body of work in Tennessee got him a huge payday with the Washington Redskins, but the 6'6" 335 pound defensive tackle has not delivered since arriving in the nation's capital being limited to just 20 games over the past two seasons and registering just 6.5 sacks TOTAL. Still, he's only 30 years old and given the Patriots history with reclamation projects (see Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, etc.) this isn't a bad risk. Especially considering the potential tandem they'll now have in the middle of the defensive line with Haynesworth and the 6'2" 325 pound Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork. So now the Patriots should be extremely difficult to the run the ball against, at least up the middle. I don't know if the plan is to run out of 4-3 and have both of these guys on the line at the same time, or to keep them both fresh by using them as a tag team in a 3-4 scheme, but if Haynesworth can stay healthy and play at a high level (and not cause distractions which the Patriots veteran locker room should be able to handle), this is a great move for New England. And at a low cost too as they got him for like a 5th round draft pick.

And that brings us to Chad Ochocinco. Or Chad Johnson. Or whoever he is nowadays. At 33 years old the wideout isn't quite as explosive as he once was, but he's certainly worth a flyer for the 5th and 6th round picks that they gave up for him. Randy Moss's dismissal (trade, whatever) from the Patriots last year left a void in their wide receiving corps. Sure, they picked up Deion Branch who not only stepped off a plane but out of a time machine when he showed up from Seattle, and they still have slot machines Wes Welker and Julian Edelman to go along with youngster Brandon Tate, but none of those guys really qualify as GAME-BREAKERS yet. I don't know that Ochocinco fits that tag anymore either, but he still reeled in 67 catches for 831 yards and 4 touchdowns for the Bengals last year. And that was without Tom Brady throwing him the football. Adding a player like Ochocinco, who requires attention even though he isn't the weapon he once was, opens things up for other players on the field. And if we've learned anything over the years watching Brady and the Patriots, it's that he doesn't need much of an opening. Maybe the move pays off, maybe it doesn't, but for a couple late round draft picks, I think it's a great gamble.

So New England has made some noise this offseason, and I think in the early going they've done the most to improve their club. Potentially. We'll see how the moves pay off, but if history is any indication of what New England's been able to do with these types of distractions, the AFC could be in trouble.

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