EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 11, 2013

Could it be like '04 again?

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Position: Left End

2004 incumbent: Ty Warren

2013 candidates: Brandon Deaderick, Marcus Forston

Comment: Like Warren, both Deaderick and Forston are long two-gap type tackles, playing run-first and less exceptional in the pass rush. You’re looking for steady and dependable types. Here are two.

Position: Nose Tackle

2004 incumbent: Vince Wilfork

2013 candidates: Vince Wilfork/Kyle Love

Comment: Wilfork remains a force on the nose, the benchmark by which all other nose men are measured.

Position: Right End

2004 incumbent: Richard Seymour

2013 candidates: Tommie Kelly, Armond Armstead

Comment: Kelly is the short term, with Armstead, the youngster out of USC and the CFL, hopefully one of the better offseason pickups of the season.

Position: Outside Linebacker

2004 incumbent: Mike Vrabel

2013 candidates: Jamie Collins

Comment: The rookie is about an inch and 10 pounds smaller than Vrabel was. He’s a tad more versatile, which is key playing over the tight end. He can play in space and cover for sure. Can he be as stout at the edge and rush the passer like Vrabel did. The Pats spent second-round pick on the premise that he can.

Position: Inside Linebacker

2004 incumbent: Ted Johnson/Roman Phifer

2013 candidates: Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower

Comment: Johnson played to the strong side, took on all blockers and stuffed the run. Sounds like Spikes. Phifer rushed the passer, covered in zone and played passing downs. Sounds like Hightower.

Position: Inside Linebacker

2004 incumbent: Tedy Bruschi

2013 candidates: Jerod Mayo

Comment: Do not be surprised if some heat is put on Mayo here. He’s not exactly the playmaker Bruschi was. And remember, Belichick had Harry Carson, an all-time great, in this spot with the Giants in their heyday.

Position: Outside Linebacker

2004 incumbent: Willie McGinest

2013 candidates: Chandler Jones

Comment: The physical similarities aside, the Pats are counting on Jones to be the next McGinest. He was a game-changer, an edge assassin who could play all three downs as well. The Pats swung for the fences with Jones. They need to connect here, or this whole plan goes kaput.

Position: Left Cornerback

2004 incumbent: Ty Law

2013 candidates: Alfonso Dennard

Comment: Do you think Bill Belichick would put up with all the off-field stuff, the court case and the bad press if this kid didn’t have something? It’s an important slot, but maybe, finally, Dennard is the answer.

Position: Right Cornerback

2004 incumbent: Asante Samuel

2013 candidates: Aqib Talib, Logan Ryan

Comment: The club hopes Ryan is a long-term answer at the shutdown spot. Talib can be the short-term guy, but he’s aging and spends regular season stints off the field all too often.

Position: Strong Safety

2004 incumbent: Rodney Harrison

2013 candidates: Adrian Wilson, Tavon Wilson, Duron Harmon

Comment: This secondary hasn’t had a physical playmaker since Harrison left. Pat Chung tried, but he was too small and too brittle. If Adrian Wilson has anything left in the tank, he could fill the void. The other two are the longest of long shots.

Position: Free Safety

2004 incumbent: Eugene Wilson

2013 candidates Devin McCourty, Steve Gregory

Comment: This guy’s sole job in the Belichick 3-4 is to be the last line of defense and let nobody behind them. It’s a job McCourty understands and performs adequately.