On Pro Football
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.
Pats fans, that's not a good thing. It's spectacular.
Hightower played inside on first-and-second down, then moved to the defensive end in nickel and dime packages.
That tells me Nick Saban wanted the kid on the football field. And I'm sure that was expressed to his best-est buddy Bill.
Jones complements the move to a four-man front perfectly. He's light, and despite the fact that he says he patterns his game after Julius Peppers, I think he's more Dwight Freeney, another Syracuse star.
Plunk Vince Wilfork and free agent Jonathan Fanene at the inside tackles, mix and match your personnel at the edge to the situation.
On tap today
New England traded up for a pair of potential impact defenders while protecting today's second-round picks - Nos. 48 and 62.
It was a point Belichick stressed after last night's whirlwind first round. Clearly, the coach and personnel guru Nick Caserio have earmarked a handful of players for potential selection tonight.
If strategy holds, there's an offensive lineman left out there that veteran assistant Dante Scarnecchia desires.
Figure that for one of the picks. You'd have to also figure New England for one more defender, hopefully not another undersized, undertalented corner in the Terrence Wheatley, Darius Butler mold.
Pats KO AFC East
The Pats should breathe a sigh of relief that the competition struggled last night.
Miami stepped up first and completed the head-scratcher the Dolphins had threatened with the draft of project QB Ryan Tannehill out of Texas A&M. I just don't see Belichick suffering through cold sweats late at night because of that one. Is Tannehill any better than Matt Moore? Nope.
Buffalo was next, and the Bills continued a defensive re-tooling with cornerback from South Carolina Stephen Gilmore. He's a nice little player and will probably start. But Buffalo has so many holes, and Gilmore is only one man.
Finally, the Jets nabbed defensive lineman Quinton Coples out of North Carolina. He'll play in the Shaun Ellis mode, but why do I smell a Vernon Gholston-like bust once again out of Mike Tannenbaum's club? I don't know. But remember where you heard it.
Folks, New England vs. the AFC East on this night? You're talking a first-round knockout.
TV: ESPN/NFL Network
Tonight: Rounds 2-3, 7 p.m.
Tomorrow: Rounds 4-7, noon