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Patriots 60-second rant: Haynesworth just one of personnel problems

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Posted Nov. 08, 2011 @ 9:54 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

The Patriots admitted on Tuesday they had made a mistake — they cut DT Albert Haynesworth. Bill Belichick couldn't get the Pro Bowl version of Haynesworth to resurrect his career in New England.

If Haynesworth had been able to make an impact, it would have certainly benefited the Patriots. Losing him, though, at this point is not a huge loss. But Tuesday's transaction was just one example of a season that may be looked back upon as a year of personnel mistakes by Belichick and the Patriots.

The immediate name that comes to mind is WR Chad Ochocinco. Despite a season-high five targets in Sunday's loss to the Giants, Ochocinco had zero catches. He hasn't been the type of distraction he was in Cincinnati (see: loudmouth), but he has been a different kind. Tom Brady, Belichick and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien have to repeatedly answer the question, "Why hasn't Ochocinco gotten involved?"

The difference between Haynesworth and Ochocinco is work ethic. Clearly, by cutting him, the Patriots believed that they had gotten what they could out of Haynesworth. Ochocinco, however, is known as a hard worker. A concern that was small early on continues to grow, as it has been nine weeks and Ochocinco still can't make his mark on offense or get his timing down with Brady.

As much as Patriots fans may be done with him, New England isn't likely to cut Ochocinco, as long as he is improving. The question is, though: How long can you give him before realizing it just won't work out? If Taylor Price could get healthy and on the field, that would possibly make Ochocinco expendable. But, for now, there isn't enough depth behind Wes Welker and Deion Branch.

Luckily for the Patriots — and this is why they get so much credit — they didn't give up much for the two high-profile free agents. Haynesworth and Ochocinco are the players who will be discussed when analyzing the personnel moves by Belichick, as he swung and missed on Haynesworth, with a similar result likely for Ochocinco. Yet, it's the secondary that deserves the most scrutiny.

CB Kyle Arrington, who some believe is a good No. 4 corner, is back to starting on the outside opposite Devin McCourty. With Ras-I Dowling on injured reserve, the Patriots can't find a reliable nickel, rotating unproven Antwaun Molden and Phillip Adams. At safety, they got rid of Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders but haven't found replacements. Josh Barrett hasn't stayed healthy, Sergio Brown has had his share of mistakes and James Ihedigbo is a special-teamer, not a consistent starting free safety.

Meriweather, Sanders, Leigh Bodden and Darius Butler — four former starting defensive backs whom Belichick released this season.

Belichick's "genius" label is getting scrutinized this week mainly because of Haynesworth and Ochocinco, but the inability to find the right players to fit his secondary cannot be ignored. The talent may not be much worse than it was last year, but the team was able to mask it en route to a 14-2 record.

Tom Brady took the attention away from the lack of personnel on defense and the underachieving play of Haynesworth and Ochocinco at the start of the season. Lately, not so much.

Last season, Belichick received the PFW/Professional Football Writers of America Coach of the Year award, and deservedly so. He will need to put together another masterpiece, especially with the defense, down the stretch to get the Patriots back to another division title, let alone the Super Bowl.

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