Richard Seymour – Arguably the best defensive lineman in all of football, Seymour showed just how valuable he is to the Patriots defense when he was injured. Seymour missed four games in the middle of the year because of a knee injury and the Patriots struggled badly on the field without him. After their home loss to the Colts – the final game Seymour missed – the Patriots ranked 27th in the league defending the run. In their final eight games with Seymour in the lineup, the Patriots improved their rush defense, finishing eighth in the NFL at season's end. Seymour is so dominant that opposing offenses have to gameplan just to stop him and that makes the players around the Pro Bowler even better. Vince Wilfork struggled when Seymour was out but played at an All-Pro level once he returned. Seymour registered 69 tackles and four sacks in 12 games this year but his importance to the team can't solely be measured in numbers. Seymour is to the Patriots defense what Tom Brady is to the offense. He's not only the Patriots best defensive player, he's their leader and everything they do revolves around him. The veteran is still looking for a long-term contract extension and he recently said he was "optimistic" something would get done. Seymour is one of those players who can't be replaced so it's hard to imagine him going anywhere. At some point, expect the two sides to come together on a contract extension that will keep the dominant defensive lineman in New England for many more years.
Ty Warren – If you are talking about the most underrated player on the Patriots team, Warren certainly has to be in the discussion. Warren doesn't get a lot of accolades but that's probably because he doesn't make a lot of huge plays – he's just steady from the first snap of the season to the last. Warren finished third on the team this season with a career-high 77 tackles. He only had 1.5 sacks but rushing the quarterback isn't really his strength. In his three seasons with the Patriots he only has six total sacks, so that isn't really a good barometer of his play. That's probably why Warren doesn't get the credit he deserves. People like to judge players on things they see on the field and a lot of the things Warren does for the Patriots are hard to notice unless someone is watching him exclusively on every play. Warren is a classic 2-gap defensive end who is stout against the run and doesn't lose contain on his side very often but he's never going to be a double-digit sack monster. Warren may not be spectacular but his steady play is a big reason why the Patriots have one of the best front sevens in the league.
Jarvis Green – The Patriots usually open the game in the 3-4 so Green isn't a starter but he's as close to a starter as a player can get. Green plays defensive end on passing downs and when the team switches to the 4-3, so he sees a lot of action on gameday. New England gave Green a big contract and while he certainly is a decent player, his production hasn't mirrored his contract. Green had 2.5 sacks this season and has 11 total sacks in his four years with the team. While it's true the Patriots get most of their sacks from their linebackers, Green is considered a better pass rusher than Warren but the numbers didn't show that this season. Still, Green is a solid defensive end that the team has a lot of confidence in should Warren or Seymour go down. He's strong against the run, finishing the year with 53 total tackles. Green is never going to be a superstar but he's a solid, steady player the Patriots know they can rely on.
Marquise Hill – Hill has been one of the most disappointing draft picks of the Bill Belichick/Scott Pioli era. A second round selection in 2004, Hill has done next to nothing in his two years with the Patriots. He was considered raw coming into the league but Hill hasn't shown the progression the team was hoping to see from him. In only eight games this season, he registered nine tackles and was inactive more than he was on the field. That's not a good sign for Hill. He really needs to step up his game in training camp this year if he expects to be on the roster in 2006. If the Patriots sign a veteran defensive end in free agency or select a young end in the draft, Hill's chances of being in New England next season will become even more remote.
Outlook for 2006: With Seymour, Warren and Green, the Patriots have a strong threesome at defensive end but don't be surprised if they add some depth to this position in the offseason because there isn't much after those three. Hill has been a major disappointment so far and the team used undrafted free agent Mike Wright as an end at times this year but he's not a viable option there for the long haul. The Patriots could bring in a veteran for some depth or select a defensive end at some point in the draft but either way there is a good chance there will be one or two new faces at this position next season. The real decision here regards Hill. The team may be willing to give him one more season to prove himself but it's hard to imagine Belichick will keep a player he rarely feels deserves to be active on gameday. What the team does in the offseason at defensive end will be a good sign of Hill's future with the team. While their top three ends are good – with Seymour being dominant – some depth is definitely needed at this position for the future.
Patriots sign former Cowboys receiverThe New England Patriots signed free agent wide receiver Zuriel Smith today. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Smith has been allocated to the NFL Europe League for its 2006 season.
Smith, 26, was originally drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL Draft. The 5'11, 175-pound wide receiver has played in nine career NFL games - all as a rookie with the Cowboys in 2003.
Smith was released by the Cowboys in the final preseason roster cutdown on Sept. 5, 2004. He was re-signed by Dallas on Jan. 13, 2005 and waived on Aug. 17, 2005. Smith was claimed off waivers by the New York Giants on Aug. 18, 2005 and released by New York on Aug. 30, 2005.
Tom Brady and Frank Lickliter finished 1-over par in the opening round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. However, the big news of the day came at the 14th green when a fan yelled out "Brady, Al Davis wants you." Brady then turned around and replied, "I'll never play for the Raiders." Needless to say, It's been a tough week for Al Davis and the Raiders, who have been turned down by almost every head coaching candidate on the planet.