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April 24, 2009

Pats must swing for the fences

If Pats hit one Day 1 homer, it's a job well done

FOXBORO — Belt one home run tomorrow, Bill.

A 2-for-4 with a couple singles might be nice for some teams in Saturday's opening two rounds of the NFL draft. But this is the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick dynasty era in New England Patriots history.

Singles come easy off the salary-slash scrap heap for this regime.

The Pats need a bomb tomorrow, an absolute impactful game-breaker.

From where will it come?

"When you are picking 23 or picking down in the late teens and 20s, there are so many things that can happen in front of you," said Belichick in his annual smokescreen/pre-draft press conference.

"The best we can do is be prepared. I don't know who is going to be there at 23. I don't know who is going to be there at 34."

A year ago, Belichick startled some in New England when he tabbed linebacker Jerod Mayo, a linebacker out of Tennessee, with the 10th pick overall.

Belichick, to that point, had drafted as many linebackers in the top three rounds with the Pats as he had kickers.

More than a position, he broke the tradition of low-risk choices. It's a tact Belichick saved for veterans — see the Randy Moss deal — not rookies.

Tomorrow, New England craves more of the same.

Whatever the move, up from No. 23 to get Rey Maualuga of USC or his teammate Clay Matthews Jr., Belichick will be gunning for greatness.

Look at the numbers defensively with this crew in 2008: 31 sacks, 14 interceptions and 8 fumbles, one of 13 NFL teams to go without a defensive touchdown.

Compare that to 2007, the 16-0 season, in which the Pats hit the quarterback 84 times for 47 sacks. New England forced 29 turnovers (19 picks, 10 fumbles) and scored six defensive TDs.

How about the Super Bowl years of 2003 and 2004? In '04, 46 sacks, 36 turnovers forced and four scores on defense. And in '03, 41 sacks, 41 turnovers and six more TDs.

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