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4 NEW ENGLAND Patriots
Paul Zimmerman
August 28, 2000
A new coach, a new offensive coordinator and a new attitude will not be enough to make up for a lack of firepower
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August 28, 2000

4 New England Patriots

A new coach, a new offensive coordinator and a new attitude will not be enough to make up for a lack of firepower

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PROJECTED LINEUP
WITH 1999 STATISTICS

Coach: Bill Belichick
First season with Patriots (36-44 in NFL)

Offensive Backs

QB

Drew Bledsoe

22*

539 att.

305 comp.

56.6%

3,985 yds.

19 TDs

21 int.

75.6 rtg.

RB

Raymont Harris?#

155*

79 att.

228 yds.

2.9 avg.

10 rec.

68 yds.

6.8 avg.

1 TD

RB

J.R. Redmond (R)#

1*42

224 att.

1,085 yds.

4.8 avg.

12 rec.

97 yds.

8.1 avg.

13 TDs

FB

Tony Carter

325*

6 att.

26 yds.

4.3 avg.

20 rec.

108 yds.

5.4 avg.

0 TDs

Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen

WR

Terry Glenn

55*

69 rec.

1,147 yds.

4 TDs

WR

Troy Brown

145*

36 rec.

471 yds.

1 TDs

WR

Chris Calloway#

214*

22 rec.

314 yds.

1 TD

TE

Eric Bjomson#

251*

10 rec.

131 yds.

0 TDs

K

Adam Vinatieri

211*

29/30 XPs

26/33 FGs

107 pts.

PR

Troy Brown

145*

38 ret.

10.7 avg.

0 TDs

KR

Kevin Faulk

200*

39 ret.

24.2 avg.

0 TDs

LT

Bruce Armstrong

6'4"

295 lbs.

16 games

16 starts

LG

Derrick Fletcher

6'6"

348 lbs.

0 games

0 starts

C

Damien Woody

6'3"

315 lbs.

16 games

16 starts

RG

Max Lane

6'6"

320 lbs.

16 games

6 starts

RT

Greg Robinson-Randall#

6'5"

339 lbs.

11 games

11 starts

Defense

LE

Bobby Hamilton#

7 tackles

0 sacks

DT

Brandon Mitchell

48 tackles

3 sacks

NT

Chad Eaton

54 tackles

3 sacks

RE

Willie McGinest

74 tackles

9 sacks

LB

Chris Slade

94 tackles

4� sacks

LB

Ted Johnson

38 tackles

2 sacks

LB

Tedy Bruschi

106 tackles

2 sacks

CB

Ty Law

57 tackles

2 int.

SS

Lawyer Milloy

120 tackles

4 int.

FS

Tebucky Jones

17 tackles

0 int.

CB

Antonio Langham#

29 tackles

0 int.

P

Lee Johnson

90 punts

41.5 avg.

#New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 139)
? 1998 statistics

Drew Bledsoe is 28, entering his eighth NFL season, right about when a pro quarterback's career should be taking off. He looks weary. He's about to play for his third head coach, his fourth offensive coordinator. He's tired of answering questions that begin, "What happened...?"

"You try to shake off the past and move ahead," Bledsoe says. The past, in his case, means the second half of the 1999 season. The Patriots were sitting at 6-2 after eight games. Without much of a rushing game to lean on, they ranked second in the NFL in passing yards, and Bledsoe was atop the AFC quarterback rating charts with a gaudy 97.9. Then the whole thing fell apart.

The Pats went 2-6 the rest of the way. They slumped to 10th in passing yards, and only two teams ( Philadelphia and Tampa Bay) were less productive in the last eight games. Bledsoe's rating dropped 22.3 points, his interceptions rose from four to 17, and each week he got hammered. He ended the season as the NFL's second-most-sacked quarterback, one behind Cleveland's Tim Couch.

There was plenty of blame to spread around. Bledsoe was accused of holding the ball too long, then of trying to jam it into coverage. Terry Glenn, the Pats' leading wideout, blames the system. "Teams caught on to what we were doing," Glenn says. "Our offense was based on timing, and in the second part of the season, cornerbacks were sitting on my routes, actually telling me what I was going to run: 'Now it's a comeback,' 'Now it's a skinny post,' like that.

"We changed alignments, started putting me in the backfield or motioning me a little more, but it was basically the same core offense once the ball was snapped."

"We were so set in our philosophy," Bledsoe says, "that teams had a pretty good idea what we were going to do. The zone blitz hurt us. They'd blitz, then sit in front of our hot routes, so you'd just hang in there and take the sack."

Offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese caught a lot of heat, naturally, but in St. Louis, Zampese's disciple Mike Martz was using the same system to win the Rams a Super Bowl trophy—with different players, of course.

There's the problem. New England's offensive line was mediocre. Worst of all, Bledsoe's security blanket for years, tight end Ben Coates, went belly-up in his eighth NFL season. His speed was gone. His route-running was ragged. He couldn't shake the coverage. "I'd. see two or three games where he wouldn't have a catch," Bledsoe says. "I'd think, My god, I've got to get him the ball. Then I'd try to jam it in there, and the pass would be intercepted."

Well, there's a new coach in town, Bill Belichick, and a new offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis, who has worked with Belichick on three staffs (Giants, Patriots, Jets). "Charlie's idea is to present as many different formations and personnel groupings and still do the things we do best," Bledsoe says.

But it still comes down to personnel, and the Patriots have the shorts in that department. Shawn Jefferson, the closest thing to a possession receiver Bledsoe had last year, is gone. The offensive line will still struggle unless some rookie sleepers come through. Top draft pick Adrian Klemm, a tackle, suffered a torn knee ligament in camp. The running game doesn't scare anybody.

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