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April 27, 2012

Pats trade up for two defensive intimidators

FOXBORO - The Vegas gambler stepped up.

Old Boston Billy rolled the dice.

Clearly, he's watched enough of the Giants in February to know that it's time to shred "bend but don't break" and start attacking.

Twice last night, Bill Belichick advanced in the first round to select front seven defenders. First, it was No. 27 and a third-rounder for Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones at No. 21. Then the Patriots took the 31st pick and a fourth-rounder for Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower.

Again, as Brandon Spikes might Tweet: #PoWoWoW!

This isn't an infusion of defense for the Patriots, it's a transfusion, exactly what this football team needed.

In Jones, they get that versatile edge guy, the hybrid athlete this defense hasn't seen since Rosevelt Colvin's hip socket was decimated on the turf in Philly.

Is the 260-pounder the next McGinest, Vrabel or Seymour? Right now, I couldn't say, but the numbers say he has a shot to be one of them.

"He played defensive end," said Belichick, refusing the hint at where Jones' future lies.

The arrival of Hightower makes it a potential All-SEC trio at linebacker — with Tennessee's Jerod Mayo and Florida's Brandon Spikes.

Could the Pats roll out a traditional 4-3 with Spikes in the middle, flanked by Mayo and Hightower?

You have to love the potential.

Simply put — and I know they've come within a drive of it twice — no defense with Jerod Mayo playing middle linebacker will ever win a title.

Belichick loves Mayo as a person and player. He rewarded the one-time Pro Bowler with a 5-year, $48.5 million contract extension over the winter. But the reality is that Mayo is an outside linebacker.

Sure, he looks like Patrick Willis in uniform, when standing next to Rob Ninkovich and Garry Guyton. But next to a couple of nasties like Spikes and Hightower? He's pushed to the edge.

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