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Around the AFC East: New England Patriots

It's Friday, which again means it's time to go "Around the AFC East" to discuss topics involving our hated division rivals. First up is tommasse from Pats Pulpit:

Phinsider: With the current hold-out risk of Asante Samuel and with Rodney Harrison and Eugene Wilson both coming off of injury-plagued seasons, are you worried at all about this team's secondary? What kind of depth do the Pats have and are there any "sleepers" that outsiders should keep an eye on?

Pats Pulpit: If Samuel sits out, yes, I'm worried. Even if he's on the field for Week 1, I'm still a little concerned. The secondary hasn't been the most stellar unit on the team the last couple years.

Harrison has suffered a couple very nasty injuries. Nasty as they've been, that tough SOB keeps coming back. That's the good news. The bad news is we're all waiting for that next cheap block at the knees -- and not just on Harrison.

The Patriots secondary has been decimated by injuries for what seems like ages. I'm glad the Jets finally signed Hank Poteat, because I don't think I could stand another headline (there must have been a dozen of them) saying the Patriots signed him -- again. The good news again is that Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli and crew have always been able to find a band-aid somewhere, if not to stop the bleeding, at least to stem it.

At this moment, New England has on their roster 16 defensive backs, the largest unit contingent on the team. Most teams, especially the good teams, and most especially the good defensive teams, have about 10. (In the AFC East, Dolphins and Bills have 10, Jets have 11.) That tells me that you and I aren't the only ones who spotted this weakness.

Obviously, that 17 will get whittled down on the 53-man roster, and I don't think there will be many surprises: Ellis Hobbs, Chad Scott, Eugene Wilson, Brandon Meriweather, Rodney Harrison and James Sanders are definite. (That's six.) Obviously, add Samuel if he stays. That still leaves Randall Gay to compete with Antwain Spann, Ray Mickens and Willie Andrews if he doesn't, and you also have Tory James and Rashad Baker as legit contenders with a few others kept on the practice squad or with cell phone numbers handy, just in case. Not exactly the greatest situation, but, as everyone likes quote Belichick, "It is what it is."

If you want a sleeper, I'll give you Troy Brown, who still isn't officially signed and who is going to have a tough time finding a home purely as a receiver. Belichick-Pioli love dual-role players, and Brown would still be a good backup at both receiver and d-back.

My take: I have to agree with basically everything tommasse said. New England's secondary is a little worrisome, but Belichick and the gang usually do find consistent guys to help fill in. And honestly, with the front 7 that the Pats have, I don't think the weakness that is the secondary will be exploited as much as it should be. As Dolphin fans, we've seen this first-hand last year. The individual players that make up the secondary in Miami aren't great, but with a front 7 that is constantly getting pressure on the QB, it's good enough to hold up with only a few major glitches (the Heath Miller TD in week one comes to mind immediately).

Be sure to head on over to Pats Pulpit to see my response to tommasse's question.

Be back later with the next segment of "Around the AFC East."