Fanene's versatility important to Pats

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Fanene's versatility important to Pats

It was the second day of NFL free agency when Jonathan Fanene got the call.

Bill Belichick was on the other line. Exactly what was said, we dont know but it was all Fanene needed to hear to make New England his new home.

I had a chance to go and do some visits, but I didnt want to go, Fanene said. When I first got the call from Bill I was so excited I wanted to make a move and come out here.

The 6-foot-4, 292-pound 30-year old defensive end has played the last seven seasons in Cincinnati, after they drafted him in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He saw increased playing time from 2005-2009, peaking at 16 games, 10 starts, 36 combined tackles, six sacks, and a 45-yard pick-six.

2010 a contract year looked to be the season hed make the jump, but an early-season hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve. That led to a one-year deal back with the Bengals on short money for the 2011 season.

Fanene made 24 tackles including 6.5 sacks in 16 games just two starts for Cincinnati in 2011, but that was enough to catch the eye of the Patriots.

I guess they watched film on me and I guess what they need to build up the pressure or pass rush up here, Fanene said. So I guess whatever they see in me they brought me up here to help the team.

As it stands, the Patriots are out 20 sacks between Mark Anderson, who signed with the Bills, and Andre Carter, still a free agent. Its clear the Patriots zoned in on making up for some of that with recent additions of Fanene, who is a balanced run and pass defender, and rookies Chandler Jones and Donta Hightower.

The rookies will get their wake-up call in no time, but for Fanene, its already happened. He noted that there were a lot of differences between Cincinnati and New England, but elected to pick out just one.

I see guys focused more. And not just a workout, but everything that we do out here is more like a team effort. And guys really welcome me inside the locker room. Its not about all the talking and all the media and TV stuff, but its more like hard working and just do your job.

Who better than Chad Ochocinco former teammate (and, shall we say, media showboat) of Fanenes in Cincinnati to express that message?

Yeah, I talked to him a little bit last week and he just tried to put me on the game, and let me know whats going on out here, Fanene said of Ochocinco. This is not Cincinnati, this is not a regular team this is like real business now. So Im trying to get on my two feet and work.

Belichick has always valued players who can do multiple things, and Fanene fits that mold. His versatility will be big for the Patriots next season, and hes got the right attitude about that gift.

If they tell me to play nose, Ill play nose. 3-technique, 6-technique, 7-technique, outside end, special teams, Im doing it, he said.

Theres a lot of good things out here. Theres a winning franchise first of all. Its a blessing to be here and be part of the Patriots. I told myself I just want to do the best I can do out here so we can win.

NFL's Top 10 list revealed Monday night: Where does Tom Brady wind up?

NFL's Top 10 list revealed Monday night: Where does Tom Brady wind up?

NFL players vote every year on which players should make up the list of the best their game has to offer, but it's an imperfect system. And that's probably putting it lightly. 

The NFL Network will reveal the final 10 players on its annual Top 100 list Monday night at 8 p.m. It will be an order that has been chosen by some players, not all. Of those who took part, some hastily made their way through a handful of names at the end of last season handing over their choices. 

Yet it's the list the league ends up with, for better or for worse, prompting responses like JJ Watt's when he found out he was No. 35 this year after playing in three games last season. 

On NFL.com, the Top 100 list is described as the answer to the question, "Who are the top 100 players in the NFL today?" If that's the criteria -- and not simply performance in 2016 -- then Watt's complaint actually doesn't hold much water. If he's healthy, no one would argue that he's one of the best 35 players "in the NFL today."

This year, several Patriots players from 2016 made the cut: Rob Gronkowski (No. 23), LeGarrette Blount (No. 80), Julian Edelman (No. 71), Dont'a Hightower (No. 94) and Malcolm Butler (No. 99). 

Tom Brady will be the last of Bill Belichick's players to be named. He's lumped into a Top 10 that will include Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Julio Jones, Von Miller and Khalil Mack.

Here's what we think the list should look like when the curtain falls on the finale of this flawed endeavor:

10. Elliott
9. Beckham
8. Bell
7. Brown
6. Ryan
5. Jones
4. Miller
3. Mack
2. Rodgers
1. Brady

David Harris gets Jerod Mayo's old No. 51 with Patriots

David Harris gets Jerod Mayo's old No. 51 with Patriots

If you're hoping to help lead the Patriots defense from the middle of the field, No. 51 wouldn't be a bad jersey to wear in that pursuit.

Those are the digits that were worn by longtime Patriots captain (and Quick Slants co-host) Jerod Mayo during his run with the team from 2008-15. Taking the torch from linebackers like Tedy Bruschi, Junior Seau and Mike Vrabel, Mayo was the defensive signal-caller and quarterback of the Patriots defense for the better part of a decade, eventually handing the reins to his understudy Dont'a Hightower. 

With Harris now in the mix, the defense will still be led by Hightower, who was a captain for the first time in 2016. But Harris figures to serve as a leader in his own right for the Patriots. The 33-year-old 'backer has been one of the game's most durable players at his position while with the Jets, and over time he established himself as a savvy communicator at the second level. 

Comparing Harris to Mayo comes easily because of their reputations as coach-on-the-field types. Back in 2014 when Darrelle Revis called New England home, he explained that what Mayo did for the Patriots defense reminded him of what Harris did in New York.

Now Harris has Mayo's old number, and in training camp he'll make a play for some of the duties Mayo held later in his career. How Harris will handle his new role, and how he may help his teammates take their games to new heights, is something we touched upon in this space earlier today

Harris wore No. 52 during his 10 years with the Jets. That number has belonged to Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts since he came into the league last season as a rookie, and it looks like Roberts will hold onto it for the foreseeable future.

No. 51 has bounced around to a couple of different Patriots since Mayo's retirement. Last year it was claimed by Barkevious Mingo, who has since moved on to Indianapolis as a free agent. Through this year's spring workouts No. 51 was worn by undrafted rookie linebacker Brooks Ellis, who now shares No. 47 with fullback Glenn Gronkowski.