Leave it to Patriots Coach Bill Belichick to come up with another way of getting the most out of his players. During training camp, he has used wide receiver Troy Brown in some nickel packages and continues to experiment with defensive lineman Dan Klecko at fullback. Not that Belichick is trying to bring back the two-way player permanently, but it is a method -- albeit unconventional -- to convey to his charges the need for resourcefulness. He and Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli have demonstrated as much in their free agent moves, which have been the model of consistency in the salary cap era.
"Versatility and durability are two of the most important things in the National Football League. I don't think they can be overstated," Belichick said. "That being said, I'm not saying that everybody who has a job out there is the best at it, at that particular thing, and I tell the players that all the time. You know, if you can only be good at one thing, you'd better be really, really, really good at it, and it better make a difference in the game, or we can't afford it. If you can do a lot of things pretty well, in the end you've probably created more value for the team than you have if you can just do one thing."
Under Belichick, the Patriots have won two Super Bowls with players willing to cede personal stardom for the greater good. They just may be the best example in professional sports of how many complementary parts can yield a winning team. Now enters running back Corey Dillon, who had his share of feuding with coaches and teammates when he was with the Bengals last season. His most public rants included demanding a trade from Cincinnati and saying on a network sports talk show that right tackle Willie Anderson was a bum.
Since coming to the Patriots for a second-round pick, Dillon has been a model citizen. No fussing, no outbursts and no ultimatums for guaranteed carries. Teammates say that's what coming to a winning organization can do to a player with a me-first reputation.
New England also upgraded via the draft, adding defensive tackle Vince Wilfork from the University of Miami and tight end Ben Watson from Georgia, and it's clear Belichick wants to get those players started early on his program of selflessness.
"Whatever the team calls for me to do, I will do," Wilfork said. "If they want me to penetrate, I will penetrate. If they want me to sit back and hold up my line so my linebackers can roam, I will do that. It's not about what I want to do. It is all about the team. It is not about me. It is about the team and how I am going to contribute toward the team. That is what I am looking forward to."
Best Hands: Stanley Morgan somehow found a way to stand out during the Patriots' dark years (see Ron Erhardt), compiling 1,029 yards on 44 catches for 2-14 team in 1981.
Worst Hands: Hart Lee Dykes was the team's first-round pick (16th overall) in 1989. By 1991, he was out of football.
Grading This Year's WRs: Troy Brown continues to be one of the most overlooked receivers in the league.
WRs Grade: B plus