Patriots

Great Patriots Debates: Which superstar cameo — Dillon, Moss or Revis — was best?

Great Patriots Debates: Which superstar cameo — Dillon, Moss or Revis — was best?

It's happened time and again. The Patriots identify a player who has established himself as one of the game's best elsewhere, a player who has become available for one reason or another — often it's a combination of the player no longer being in his prime and his relationship with his employer having eroded — and they mobilize.

It happened last year with Josh Gordon. Two years ago it was James Harrison who showed up in Foxboro after a beef with the Steelers. In 2016, the Patriots landed Martellus Bennett in a low-cost trade with the Bears. 

You don't have to be Bill Belichick to discern the value in these moves. The price tags are relatively cheap, and the dividends can be huge if the players re-discover what made them great once they join a new program, under a coach looking to accentuate their skills, with a quarterback who will squeeze what he can out of what's around him.

These players haven't necessarily been acquired with the long-term in mind. But just because their Patriots tenures were short doesn't mean they weren't hugely impactful. Some that have re-written record books. Some that have resulted in the franchise adding to its stack of Lombardis.

In today's Great Patriots Debate, we'll focus in on the most impactful superstar cameos in Patriots history: Between Corey Dillon, Randy Moss and Darrelle Revis, which acquisition should be considered the best of the best?

COREY DILLON

Dillon was a punishing runner who made an immediate impact in his first year with Cincinnati, breaking Jim Brown's single-game rushing record for a rookie (246 yards on 39 carries, four touchdowns), and totaling 1,129 yards in the 1997 season. He set the single-game rushing record (278 yards) in 2000, surpassing Walter Payton's mark. He made three consecutive Pro Bowls from 1999-2001.

In 2003, Dillon was banged up. He started in 11 games after having started all but two regular-season games in the previous five years, and he finished with just 541 yards. (Dillon was declared inactive for one game following a traffic accident.) He wasn't shy about sharing his feelings on his usage, and he openly lobbied for a trade after the season.

Dillon landed in New England in the spring of 2004 for the cost of a second-round pick — the steepest price of any of the three players featured here — and quickly turned around what was the NFL's No. 27 rushing attack in its Super Bowl-winning season the year prior. He ran for a career-high 1,635 yards (on a whopping 4.7 yards per carry), averaging over 100 yards per game, scored 12 times and made his fourth Pro Bowl. That postseason, en route to the team's third title in four years, he ran 65 times for 292 yards in three games, including a 144-yard performance against the Colts in the Divisional Round. 

The following two years saw Dillon deal with injuries as he ran for just over 1,500 yards combined in 2005 and 2006. As he saw his role diminished, he wasn't thrilled. (Check out Tom E. Curran's write-up on Dillon in his Top 50 Patriots of the Belichick Era series for an amusing anecdote involving Heath Evans.) But his one year of dynamite production keeps him in the conversation as one of the best trade acquisitions Belichick ever made.

RANDY MOSS

As bright as Dillon's skills burned in 2004, Moss' return to form — ignited by his pairing with a Hall-of-Fame level passer — was even more dramatic. 

In 2007, the Patriots were coming off a season when they fell one game short of a Super Bowl appearance due in part to their lackluster receiving corps. They overhauled the entire room, adding Wes Welker and Donté Stallworth as well as going after Moss. Having established himself as one of the greatest talents to ever step on a field as a member of the Vikings earlier in his career, Moss hit a low with the Raiders, finishing 2006 with 42 catches, 553 yards and three scores. 

Going into his 30-year-old season, he was available. The Patriots offered up a fourth-rounder, and the deal was done.

Moss responded with one of the best seasons a wideout has ever had: 98 catches for 1,493 yards and a single-season record 23 touchdowns. He almost single-handedly turned around the commonly-held perception on Brady. The quarterback was now more "game-changer" than "game-manager" as he finished that season with a record 50 touchdown passes. 

Though Moss didn't win a ring with the Patriots, he was one of the drivers of their perfect regular season and he caught the go-ahead touchdown with less than three minutes remaining in Super Bowl XLII. He maintained an upper-tier level of play the following season with Matt Cassel behind center, grabbing 69 passes for 1,008 yards and 11 scores for a team that narrowly missed the postseason. 

In 2009, Moss continued to rack up numbers — he had 83 catches for 1,264 yards and 13 touchdowns in Brady's return from injury — but he didn't love the contract he'd signed the year prior, and in 2010 he complained openly about not being appreciated. He was traded mid-season to the Vikings.

DARRELLE REVIS

This was a true cameo. One season. Wham. Bam. Super Bowl. Thank you, man. 

The Patriots had just lost No. 1 corner Aqib Talib to the Broncos in free agency when Tampa Bay released Revis prior to the 2014 season. The Bucs, who'd just hired former Patriot executive Jason Licht to be their general manager, tried to trade Revis and his $16 million salary but couldn't. Their loss was New England's gain.

Revis agreed to a one-year, $12 million deal with the Patriots, which included a placeholder $20 million option for a second year that helped the Patriots spread Revis' cap hit. It didn't take long before the cover man going into his 29-year-old season showed he still deserved to be in the conversation as the game's top corner.

The Patriots (who also added press corner Brandon Browner that offseason) were allowed to play a more physical, man-heavy style of defense thanks to Revis' addition. He helped lock up players like Greg Jennings, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Reggie Wayne, Golden Tate and Keenan Allen in the regular season. In Super Bowl XLIX, he held Doug Baldwin to one catch — a three-yard touchdown aided by a referee's pick. The following offseason, Revis hit free agency again and signed a monster deal to return to the Jets. 

His time in New England lasted only a year, but it was a Super Bowl-winning year, and he was Belichick's best defensive player. When we're talking superstar Patriots cameos, there's an argument to be made that he's the best there's ever been.

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Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: Dissecting the offense with the addition of Antonio Brown

Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: Dissecting the offense with the addition of Antonio Brown

1:36 - Tom Curran starts off by asking a simple question: 'What keeps Antonio Brown on this team?' As of now, it's the fact that he's valuable enough on the gridiron, but when will that not be enough?

7:09 - Matt Cassel joins Tom to talk about a variety of topics: Antonio Brown's explosiveness making the Patriots offense look like that of the 2007 team; (14:38) How the offense attacks man vs. zone coverage; (21:41) How to approach Greg Williams' defense next week against the Jets; (27:25) and a pair of Hall of Fame debates.

32:26 - Tom catches up with Kyle Van Noy after his season debut in Miami, talking about the linebacker's newborn son, the dominance of the Patriots defense and how Josh Gordon is getting more comfortable in New England.

LISTEN HERE AND SUBSCRIBE:

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Ex-NFL MVP praises Patriots defense as one ‘built’ to slow down Chiefs

Ex-NFL MVP praises Patriots defense as one ‘built’ to slow down Chiefs

The New England Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs twice last season, including an AFC Championship Game victory on the road, because their offense was able to rise to a higher level when needed.

If the Patriots continue their success over the Chiefs this season, the defense likely will be the reason. New England’s defense has enjoyed a near-perfect start through the first two weeks of the 2019 campaign. It’s allowed only three points over two weeks and has held opponents to a lackluster 5-for-27 mark on third downs. The Patriots also have five interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 43-0 win over the Miami Dolphins.

Former NFL MVP and current CBS Sports analyst Boomer Esiason is impressed with what he’s seen from the Patriots defense so far, and he views the unit as one of the few able to combat the Chiefs’ high-scoring offense.

“One thing I will say in watching what they were doing (Sunday) and how they have played the first two games, one thing that is obvious to me and obvious to the guys at CBS is that they are built defensively to try to stop Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs,” Esiason said during his Monday morning appearance on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show”

“They have athletes in the secondary. They’re terrific, they’re smart, they pass guys off, they communicate, all the stuff that is going to be required to beat Patrick Mahomes and his Kansas City band of merry men because those guys are flying up and down the field. I think the Patriots are probably one of the few teams that have the secondary that might be able to slow them down somewhat.”

The Patriots’ wins over the Chiefs last season included a 43-40 scoreline at home and a 37-31 triumph in overtime of the aforementioned AFC title game. New England’s defense held Chiefs quarterback and 2018 league MVP Patrick Mahomes in check for spurts during those games, but overall, he had his way with one of the league’s top secondaries.

The defending Super Bowl champs made a few notable additions to the defense in the offseason, including trading for pass rusher Michael Bennett, drafting Chase Winovich and bringing back linebacker Jamie Collins. 

Slowing down the Chiefs is going to be one of the toughest tasks the Patriots face all season. KC has scored 68 points through two games and Mahomes already leads (or has a share of the lead) in passing yards and passing touchdowns.

We’ll learn a lot about both teams, especially the Patriots defense, when they square off in Week 14 at Gillette Stadium.

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