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The Spectre Haunting The Pats

Eric ScheinerContributor IMay 6, 2009

MIAMI - NOVEMBER 23:  Linebacker Tedy Bruschi #54 of the New England Patriots looks up to the scoreboard while taking on the Miami Dolphins at Dolphin Stadium on November 23, 2008 in Miami, Florida. The Patriots defeated the Dolphins 48-28.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Looking over your shoulder?

   That's age creeping up on the Patriots linebacker corps. The dark injury-prone spectre is even scarier than Sen. Arlen Specter was two seasons ago when attempting to crack down on The Patriots and the NFL following the spygate saga.

   The Patriots knew it's linebackers were aging and made a great move last year with the selection of Jarod Mayo. With Mike Vrabel in KC and with Tedy Bruschi and Adalius Thomas working hard into their 30's, many figured Bill Belichick would make an early draft pick to beef up what appears to be one of his favorite positions. The choice was Tyrone McKenzie from the University of Florida in the third round (97th overall). A choice that's already out of the running for the upcoming season.

   McKenzie is out following a ACL tear in his right knee. Also now out is the Patriots relief for an aging linebacking core. Many were surprised the Pats didn't make more linebacker picks in the draft and it's a decision that may come back to haunt them.

   Returning starters for the inside linebacker position are Jerod Mayo and Tedy Bruschi. Gary Guyton plays backup to Bruschi and that about covers the depth of the position. Rookie free agent Antonio Appleby is listed on the roster and veterans Vinny Ciurciu and Eric Alexander could be used, but mainly they have been viewed as special teams players.

   Moving Adalius Thomas inside, instead of utilizing him as an outside pass rusher is possible, but one has to question if that would be the best use of such a valued player. 

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   So, what will the Patriots do? Belichick loves versatility and perhaps that was part of the decision to bring Ciurciu and Alexander into the fold. If that's the move that's made it will be interesting to see how they fill the role. But failure to have more focus on the linebacker issue during the draft may come back to be the spectre that haunts them through out the season. Much like Arlen Specter haunted them all the way to the Super Bowl two seasons ago.     

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