By TomE. Curran
FOXBORO - Standing pat. The Patriots turned their noses up to the front-seven group that Bill Belichick said was a landmark collection of players. More impactful guys at the top of the draft than any April he can remember. This - along with offensive line -was the most glaring need for the 2011 New England Patriots entering this draft. They allowed 47.1 percent conversions on third down last year. They mustered 36 sacks - 5.5 of those from Mike Wright, a player who led the team in that stat despite missing a huge chunk of the season. And while Belichick downgrades the importance of sacks, saying that pressure is the tell-all, the pressure was lacking in 2010. Witness the playoff loss to the Jets, where Mark Sanchez had time to scan the secondary and text message teenagers before whipping critical completions unmolested.
Yet the only potential pass-rusher they took was Markell Carter, a defensive end from Scottie Pippen's alma mater Central Arkansas, as the 194th overall pick in the sixth round. Despite that, Belichick indicated Friday night he feels OK about not grabbing a pressure-generator. "We have some young players on our roster and I think that those players in all the various positions, not just at that specifically but I think younger players will still continue to develop," Belichick said. "But there are good players up there on the board and we got the ones that we felt were best for us. There are other players that are good players, too, that went to the other teams. Thats the way it always is."Here's the thing I'll happily acknowledge. I don't know what the limitations of Cam Jordan would have been or how long the Patriots would have expected to wait for a return on taking the Cal DEOLB. Or Cameron Heyward, Adrian Clayborn, Jabaal Sheard, Allen Bailey, Da'Quan Bowers and right on down the line. But Tully Banta-Cain, Jermaine Cunningham, Gerard Warren, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, Eric Moore, Myron Pryor, Mike Wright and Marcus Stroud are a collection of castoffs, has-been and lowly-regarded players the Patriots have been counting on. Bless 'em, they have gotten the job done adequately on some Sundays. Many Sundays in the instance of Banta-Cain and Wright.But I'm at wits end to explain why, if Bill Belichick still genuflects at the mention of Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks, he cannot bring himself to spend a pick on a guy who can generate pressure. Specifically. I'll never buy a ticket on the "Belichick is arrogant and thinks he's smarter than everybody else" train. It's not true. But I cannot explain with great logic why a team hurting for players capable of chasing down quarterbacks ignored that need when the guy in charge said there were a ton of those players available. Tom E. Curran can be reached at email@example.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran