I get asked this question a lot during blogging exchanges: if you were to pick one player on our team to wear a Patriots jersey, who would it be? Ugghh. Invariably, I usually miss totally on this question. If I pick my favorite player, I then get hammered because it isn't usually based on a need; it's simply because I like the guy. Conversely, if I pick based on need, I may miss an obvious talent.
If I were to pick based on need, it would be Dwight Freeney. Now, I know the thought of Dwight Freeney in a Patriots uniform will make many of you hurl, but just hear me out for a second. The Patriots have been struggling mightily with pass rushing duties. OLB Adalius Thomas is decent enough at sealing the edges, but he hasn't been the rusher we thought he'd become. In the off-season, you may have noticed a much rumored play for DE Julius Peppers that never came true, or a very aggressive play for Jason Taylor (who, IMO, made the right move by going back to Miami). We ultimately brought back ex Patriot Tully Banta-Caine and traded some picks for Oakland's Derrick Burgess. Both these rushers, like Thomas, are serviceable, but not game changers. Dwight Freeney is one of those rushers that can cause serious problems for an offense. He would be my vote, IF I was choosing based on need. I am not.
Dallas Clark is the man because I'm choosing solely based on who I like.
This is not a fickle opinion based on Clark's impressive 2009 numbers. I've always like him. I even said so in an interview with KingRichard during the offseason:
Can I have two, pretty please? ;-) Given the Patriots' need for a strong, young ILB, I'd have to choose Gary Brackett. Granted, he's an MLB in a Tampa-2 style D, but I don't think it'd be that much of a stretch to move to ILB in a 3-4. Besides, pairing him with Jerod Mayo would be a lesson in silliness.My number two would be Anthony Gonzalez. He's young and already tremendously talented. Putting Moss, Welker, and Gonzalez on the field at the same time would scare defenses crapless.Ok, three: Dallas Clark. I love the guy, when he's not playing against us, that is. Of late, NE has rarely utilized their TE's for reception duties, opting for blocking type ends. Clark would change all that. There's nothing I like more than a big tight end steam rolling a little defensive back.
Well, I put him at three but have since altered my opinion. As far as the Pats' ILB situation, it's very much improved since the off season; ILB Jerod Mayo was knocked out 7 plays into the MNF season opener against Buffalo and backup ILB Gary Guyton had to step in. He did an excellent job and is now a mainstay in 4-3 rotations with Mayo and stands next to Jerod in our 3-4 packages.
Anthony Gonzalez I still like, but I believe Dallas Clark would be the weapon I would choose right now. The Patriots' Benjamin Watson is very dangerous, but he's more of a secret weapon than one of Tom Brady's mainstays. Like Brady and Wes Welker, I believe Clark is a frequent look for Peyton Manning, especially when Manning is in trouble and needs to checkdown.
You guys know Clark better, but I think it's too simplistic to label him a TE exclusively. Sure, at 6-3 252 lbs he has the body type of an end, but his speed and elusiveness (clearly demonstrated by his YAC), puts him in more of a hybrid TE/WR category. Don't get me wrong - I love Benjamin Watson and how well he's doing this year, but Clark would eliminate that incessant "who's your third receiver" question. With Clark in a Pats uniform, it wouldn't matter.
Wes Welker, Randy Moss, and Dallas Clark. Wow...