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Monday, August 8, 2011
Analysis: Numbers on line open options

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the main things taken away from Bill Belichick's Monday news conference was that with all the numbers currently along the defensive line, the Patriots have flexibility to play different schemes and plan to do so.

When factoring in "edge" players who might be outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense but could be ends in a 4-3, the Patriots currently have 21 linemen on the 90-man roster. That's a lot.

So unlike 2010, when the Patriots were in their base 3-4 alignment about 40 percent of the time and might have been easier to game-plan against, this currently has the makings of a much more "multiple" defense, one that is being set-up to morph into a different look at any time. They have personnel to play 3-4. But they're also set up to go 4-3.

Known for his defensive wizardry over the years, Belichick is clearly experimenting with different things, trying to find the right mix.

"I don't think our defensive philosophy will change, but how we align and how we handle the responsibilities, that could definitely change by game-plan or by what we feel are our strengths and weaknesses and how to best deploy our players," Belichick said Monday. "How strategically we want to move guys around, and put them in certain alignments ... I think there is flexibility there."

The goal now for Belichick is to evaluate which players fit best in different roles, then there could be some tough decisions on the final 53-man roster.

But for now it's a loaded roster, which opens up a number of possibilities.

"I would say that we have an assortment of things to choose from that we've used throughout my time here," Belichick said. "Depending on how our team shapes up, and what our players can do -- some of these players I've never coached before so I'm not sure exactly how they'll fit in or exact roles they'll play in this defense -- we'll just have to wait and see how that turns out. But I think we'll have enough defense to be able to do things to put players in a position where they can be productive."