Now Weis has the added benefit of the 29year-old Dillon, an elusive back who can run with power and toughness. Dillon, who in seven seasons as a Bengal piled up 8,061 yards on the ground, gives the Patriots a dimension they've lacked since Curtis Martin departed before the 1998 season. It's almost an embarrassment of riches. Granted you don't often see offensive-minded coaches who have made their reputation with the pass switching gears and going heavy with the ground game, but Joe Gibbs did it and so did Norv Turner.
So the defending champs, on the verge of a dynasty, have gotten younger and more talented. Are they still hungry? Belichick will get his answer soon enough.
-- Paul Zimmerman
> He made news in June when he left his Super Bowl ring in a bathroom at a Providence mall. (A Good Samaritan returned it.) Now TULLY BANTA-CAIN, a 2003 seventh-round pick, can make a name for himself as a combination linebacker--defensive end. "He's got the talent," says coach Bill Belichick. "It's just a matter of learning the system."
ENEMY LINES An opposing scout's view
Corey Dillon has been a whiner and complainer his whole career. Now he's a model citizen. But his contract includes some yardage incentives, and what if he feels like they're not giving him the ball enough?... The Patriots have been a perfect salary-cap team, without the real superstars who eat up your cap, and that includes Tom Brady. But what if his girlfriend starts asking him, "How come Jake Delhomme makes more money than you do?" Maybe I'm looking for trouble, but sometimes you see these nagging things on teams that have had a lot of success.... Their backup quarterback situation was unsettled, but signing Jim Miller was smart. They start two street free agents on the offensive line, Tom Ashworth and Russ Hochstein, and you have to ask yourself, Are they really good enough, or was the game they played in the Super Bowl done with mirrors?... Their linebacker group might be the oldest in the NFL, but they really play well together. Roman Phifer is 36, Willie McGinest is 32. They've been great role players, but what if they lose their edge sometime during the season?
Their linebacker group might be the oldest in the NFL, but they really play well together.