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Sports

July 22, 2012

Belichick’s offseason lands all A’s

FOXBORO — You can’t win the Super Bowl in the offseason, but you can lose it … For reference, check out the 2006 Patriots.

But looking at the past 168 days since Manningham’s miracle and Welker’s wobble in Indy, you have to give Bill Belichick astounding marks for what he’s accomplished with this New England Patriots football team.

Belichick was handed a semester of gut courses …

He has Tom Brady in his prime.

He had a pair of first-round picks.

And past frugality plus the ever-rising, pretty much inconsequential salary cap have afforded the Pats and Belichick absolute financial freedom to explore every option.

… And he knocked every one out of the park.

Straight A’s on all counts. Nothing lackadaisical here.

Your defending AFC champions open training camp Thursday on campus at Patriots Place and Belichick has reloaded masterfully on the fly, creating competition — quality competition, not desperation as we’ve seen the past 2-3 years in this secondary for the 31st-rated defense in the game.

Honestly, there should be an air of excitement here as camp begins like we haven’t seen here since 2003 or 2004. There isn’t, of course, simply because this franchise and its fans are still a bit shell-shocked.

This defense, until it steps on the field and kicks somebody in the chin, remains timid and untrustworthy. Forget the No. 31 ranking. Just look at the way Joe Flacco, in the AFC title game, and Eli Manning, in Super Bowl XLVI, dictated terms to this group.

Belichick went off the board in April, going for impact on defense like he never has here ­— two first-round picks exhausted on the front seven.

The Patriots did not shoot for a “four-down” contributor when they moved up to 21 to grab Chandler “Manhandler” Jones and slid up to 25 to nab Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower.

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