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Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Questions to ask with coaching staff

By Mike Reiss

Some dominoes have already fallen when it comes to the Patriots' 2011 coaching staff, with defensive backs coach Corwin Brown not returning and strength coach Mike Woicik scheduled to travel to Dallas today and likely to land on the Cowboys staff.

From this view, here are a few questions when it comes to the composition of the '11 staff:

1. Young assistants ready to move up? Coaching assistants Brian Ferentz, Patrick Graham and Brian Flores all took on significant responsibility in different areas. Ferentz, for example, was essentially the tight ends coach without the title. All are in line to move up the ranks, opening spots at the entry level for new coaches to be groomed.

2. Will coordinators be named? Belichick took the unconventional step of going coordinator-less in 2010, which generated a media buzz about him doing too much but ended up being more of a non-story. One line of thinking is that Belichick went that route because it was a message to his coaching staff about what was important -- working together and not focusing on job titles. Quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien led the offense, while Belichick was more involved with the defense. If Belichick feels the message got across, do the titles return in 2011?

3. Hire from outside the organization? Belichick has proven to be selective when bringing in coaches from outside the organization, but he has made at least one hire in each of the last three seasons -- Dom Capers (2008), Chad O'Shea (2009) and Corwin Brown (2010). As for who might be the choice this year, here is one thought based solely on speculation: Bryan Cox. The former Patriots linebacker is a firecracker, and most recently was with the Cleveland Browns as defensive line coach.

4. Promotion for Harold Nash as strength coach? With all signs pointing to Woicik's departure, the Patriots wouldn't have to look far for a successor. Harold Nash, who has served as assistant strength coach since 2005, is a strong in-house candidate to take over. Such a move would ease the transition for players, while also requiring another move to bring in an assistant strength coach.

5. Who's working with safeties? Safeties have had three different coaches in three years. Perhaps this is an area where Belichick himself spends more time in 2011, re-distributing his workload to spend more time with top draft choices Brandon Meriweather (2007) and Patrick Chung (2009).