The consensus throughout the pre-draft process leading up to the 2011 NFL draft was that the New England Patriots would target one of the many talented five-technique defensive ends in the first round.
They didn't add any big names through the draft, but they added three-time Pro Bowler Marcus Stroud to their front.
I had an opportunity to interview Stroud on Tuesday, May 10. He is promoting his automotive business, Decibels Auto Creations, which specializes in customizing automobiles with speakers, security, interior accessorizing and more.
It's not as if Stroud is looking for a career outside of football, though. "It was something I've been doing [for a couple of years], not something I'm focusing on because of the lockout. I'm still focusing on football, to be perfectly honest, just trying to get ready for the season so I can try to be successful."
Stroud played well in Buffalo's 3-4 defense, with three sacks and 49 tackles. In terms of transitioning from a 3-4 to a 4-3, he likes his chances to continue to contribute in New England's two-gap defense.
"I think the responsibilities change a little bit as far as [the Patriots] have a two-gap and you have to hold up a little bit more. But basically, besides that, it's just a position change. I don't really think it's that much of a difference. In the 4-3 it's more about attacking and getting upfield, and in the two-gap in a 3-4 you kind of have to lead a little more."
His transition to New England should be made even easier by the Patriots use of the sub package. The Patriots used a four-man front 57 percent of the time in 2010, indicating that Stroud could be very useful in those situations.
In terms of learning the system, Stroud indicates there is a slight advantage to having played against the Patriots for the past three years with the Buffalo Bills.
"I'm familiar with [their system] especially being in the same division with them for the past three years...Once all this lockout stuff is over with, I'll jump in here first thing and learn this defense. I'm quite confident I can do that."
For a system many call one of the more complex in football, though, the transition shouldn't be too hard for Stroud.
"[A]s a defensive linemen, there's only so much we can do, so you know, at the end of the day it doesn't really matter what scheme you're in. You've got to know what you're doing and be in the right place, but the most important part is you've got to be able to carry out whatever you're asked to do."
With the aforementioned mix of sub package and base defense, chances are good that Stroud will find a role in the Patriots defense. Defensive line coach Pepper Johnson figures to play a big role in helping him carve out a niche in the defense.
"I'm excited especially to work with Pepper Johnson and to get some of his knowledge. He's a guy who was a great player in this league, and is making a name for himself as a great coach. I will especially love to be able to pick his brain and to find out some techniques from him."
Who else is Stroud excited to play with?
"They have good players on their defense. You've got Meriweather, Mayo and Spikes, Wilfork, other guys of that sort, so you know, I'm especially looking forward to being a part of that."
He won't be looking for any shortcuts, though. Even playing next to Wilfork, Stroud acknowledges he must bring his A-game.
"It's definitely going to be a huge help, if they open up some plays for me where the other guys have to focus on and be preoccupied by Vince. But at the end of the day, like I always say, it doesn't matter who you have beside you, you've got to go out there and perform and do your job."
Do your job. Wow, no wonder Belichick signed this guy. In that regard, Stroud is excited to work with Belichick as well.
"He has a system that's proven. Once you run into something like that, that's something I'd love to be a part of. I feel like I can go in there and do my job and do what I need to do to help this team."