INDIANAPOLIS -- In examining the Patriots' roster for the "how they were built" feature this on Wednesday, it was noted that the bulk of New England's squad are players who have joined the team in the past two seasons.
In his Wednesday morning news conference, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick went more in-depth on how the 2011 Patriots were shaped, especially when it came to replacing aging players following the team's last Super Bowl run in 2007.
"We certainly knew at the end of the 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 range, right in there, we could certainly see a lot of our key players aging. We knew, sooner than later, we would have to replace some of those players," Belichick said. "We ended up replacing quite a few in the last couple of years, particularly on the defensive side of the ball."
Rarely does Belichick provide such big-picture context to his personnel moves. The "every year is different" mantra typically reigns, and each season and roster decision is treated by Belichick, at least with reporters, as something discrete.
Similarly, Belichick wrapped the turnover at running back last offseason into the context of age. This was clear to any observer of the team, but not an analysis you would expect Belichick to publicly offer.
"We’ve had some turnover on the offensive side of the ball, too, particularly at the running back position in the last year," Belichick said. "Last year, we had guys who were well up into their 30s in that position, and you know that’s tough when you have that kind of age at that position. Some players we’ve drafted and other players we’ve brought in, however they got here, it doesn’t really matter."
While some of Belichick's recent high draft picks have boomed (tight end Rob Gronkowski, linebacker Jerod Mayo), others haven't worked out as well (wide receiver Taylor Price, defensive lineman Ron Brace). But between the 2009, 2010, and 2011 drafts, the Patriots have added 33 players to replace the core that helped bring the team to four Super Bowls last decade.
"Look, this is a young man’s game. The young guys coming up are putting pressure on the veteran players, and I know at some point, they are going to push them out," Belichick said. "You just have to try to remain competitive by bringing in good quality talent, let them compete against each other, and take the best players.
"We had a lot of competition in training camp this year. There were a pretty large number of players who didn’t make our roster who played throughout the league this year, and some of them played at a good level," he continued. "In the end, we kept the ones we felt were best for our football team, and we’ve played with those."