Ninth in a series of positional reviews of the 2009 Patriots season:
Inside linebacker: Jerod Mayo, Gary Guyton, Junior Seau, Eric Alexander, Tyrone McKenzie
Stat check: Mayo led the team with 113 tackles (as credited by the coaching staff), while Guyton was second with 93. Mayo missed three games while Guyton played more snaps (84.5 percent) than every defender but Brandon Meriweather.
First instinct: Mayo, the 2008 Associated Press defensive rookie of the year, didn’t deliver the big plays he hoped for in his second season. After injuring his knee in the season opener, he returned for the team’s fifth game in a reserve role but was never dominating this season.
Storyline not to be overlooked: McKenzie tearing his ACL in rookie minicamp. A third-round draft choice, he would have been third on the depth chart and presumably helped on special teams. The void contributed to the decision to bring Seau back.
Future: Mayo and Guyton are two building blocks who will be under contract for multiple years. Seau is retiring, while Alexander – solely a special teamer at this point – is signed through 2010.
Final thought: If McKenzie can come back, the Patriots have a nice young core to build around.
POSITIONAL QUICK HITS