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Patriots Drafting a New Window of Opportunity

Editor's Note: Hey Pulpit, I would like to officially introduce Mike Dussault, who is joining the Pats Pulpit team as a contributing writer.  Mike runs the blog Pats Propaganda, and has a lot of insight to offer on the Patriots, in addition to being a homer all the way.  Without further ado, here's Mike with his first article:

As we close in on another season there's a new set of talking points that all the national sports news outlets are hitting on when it comes to the Patriots. The biggest question they like to ask is whether or not the Patriots "window of opportunity" is closing.

In true national media fashion this is just a lazy way to talk about the Pats. Remember just a couple short years ago when the talking points were all about our old and slow defense? For those who have been paying attention you know that the "window of opportunity" phenomenon is exactly what Bill Belichick is trying to avoid. Players have "windows of opportunities", but teams can be consistently competitive if they draft well and don't try to ride players out past their prime.

We all knew that Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel and the rest of the Super Bowl winning Pats defenders weren't going to play forever. It was inevitable that the defense at the end of Tom Brady's career was going to look much different than it did at the start.

Clearly Bill Belichick was aware of this and knew he wanted to coach the Patriots longer than the core members of his defense would be able to play for him. How did he prepare to build his 2.0 defense?

By stockpiling draft picks. Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Richard Seymour, Ty Law and Willie McGinest were just a few Patriots draft picks that formed the core of the dynasty defenses. Now, when you look at the past few seasons of Patriots draftees you start to see the base for a new core to emerge. 

Jerod Mayo, Gary Guyton, Brandon Spikes, Tyrone McKenzie, Tully Banta Cain and Jermaine Cunningham are the linebackers of the future. Brandon Meriweather, Darius Butler, Patrick Chung, and Devin McCourty will be the defensive back core and Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Ron Brace, and Myron Pryor are all former draft picks locked up long term on the defensive line.

As you can see much of the re-build is in place with high round draft picks at every level of the defense. Will all these players turn into all stars? No. But based on potential this should be the start of another very good defense that was hand picked by Belichick. And let's not forget the Patriots have two picks in both the first and second rounds of the 2011 draft.

Sprinkle in some free agents like Rob Ninkovich, Leigh Bodden, and Damione Lewis and you have the potential of finding the next Mike Vrabel, Ted Washington or Rodney Harrison. But the long term foundation of the team has already been drafted, and has already begun gaining valuable experience.

Let's remember players like Bruschi, McGinest and Harrison were not the leaders they became on day one of their pro careers. That leadership and clutch play was built from the fires of disappointment early on. So we can look back on the 2009 Patriots and games like the embarrassing playoff loss to the Ravens, blowout loss to the Saints or the blown lead against the Colts as valuable learning experiences for many of these young players.

And let's just not forget that this is still a team that won the AFC East in 2009, and the defense is guaranteed to be better in 2010. Not too shabby for year one of Belichick's 2.0 defense.

The only "window of opportunity" that closed in 2009 was the one for Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, and Richard Seymour to go to a fifth Super Bowl with the Patriots. New England remains a well coached and uber-prepared team, with an elite quarterback and a talented, albeit largely unproven defense.

The dynasty is indeed over. But that doesn't mean we can't start another one this season.