Patriots

Patriots

FOXBORO – Over the years, we’ve come to understand that the prototypical Patriot isn’t a one-trick pony. The guy that can play multiple positions, has special teams experience and is adaptable is perfect for them.

On Wednesday, Bill Belichick elaborated on the notion of versatility. He was prodded in that direction by the status of the Patriots offensive line. There, the Patriots have had centers playing guard, guards playing tackle, tackles playing guard, tackles flipping from one side to the other and tight ends as primary blockers. It’s been a full-on mishmash because of all the injuries sustained but – fortunately – the Patriots do fill their roster with players who can move around.

Versatility can be a little overrated, though.

“Somewhere along the line you’re going to need versatility, but everybody doesn’t have to play a lot of positions,” Belichick cautioned. “If they can just play one well, there is a lot to be said for that. But you’ve got to be able to play it pretty well. Steve Neal never played anything but right guard for us. That was it. He played right guard good – it was great. Mike Vrabel played everything from free safety to tight end, so that was good. I don’t think it’s either/or but somewhere along the line somebody is going to have to have some versatility. You just don’t have enough guys to have depth at every position.

“But at the same time you’re going to put some players out there that need to play well, so being able to play six different positions isn’t as important as having one guy who can do one thing well, whatever that is,” Belichick added. “The less you can do probably the better you need to be able to do it. The more you can do maybe you can be not quite as proficient in one area, but your versatility creates some value. No matter how versatile you are, eventually you’re going to have to get in there and do something, whatever that is, and if you can’t do it very well, then really how much value is the versatility?”

Virtually every Patriots lineman has the ability to either play more than one position on the line or be able to play on either side of the line. But each player has a strong suit. By the end of Sunday’s game against the Jets, center Bryan Stork was at left guard in place of Shaq Mason (who usually platoons with the injured Josh Kline). David Andrews was summoned from the bench to play center. The left tackle was Cameron Fleming who came in for the injured L’Adrian Waddle who was in for the injured Sebastian Vollmer.

I asked Belichick how this week would progress in trying to get players prepared for a decent Miami defensive line.

“Anytime there is uncertainty about a player’s availability then that’s something you have to evaluate as you go through the week,” he explained. “If the player is there, what’s his role? If he’s not there, who replaces him or how does that configure? That’s going to be a question if any player is in that category. If a player is out, then OK, who do you replace that player with? That’s fairly clear-cut. It may be taking a player who’s not as good as the player that you lost, but that’s more clear-cut.

“We’re not going to take 10 linemen to the game, so we’re going to have to have somebody play more than one position, whether that’s a starter playing another position or whether that’s a backup playing two positions. You’ve got to handle the numbers of those spots with fewer than 10 players. That’s what it is. If a player is on the fence as to whether we 100-percent can count on his availability then if he can practice we see what he can do and evaluate it. If it’s more of an end-of-the-week decision then we wait until the end of the week and make the decision then. What we can’t control we don’t worry about. The guys that are there do what they can do. Once we have more information then we’ll make a decision based on the information. If we had to play today, it’d be one thing, but we don’t so we’ll postpone that until we get closer. I mean at some point you’ve got to draw the line so once that comes, whether that’s Friday or Saturday or it could be Sunday morning, at some point you’ve got to draw the line.”