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Around The AFC East: New England Patriots

Time to finish up this week's edition of "Around the AFC East."

And to help us do that is MaPatsFan of Pats Pulpit:

Matty I: The Patriots get a lot of media attention, especially nationally.  But tell us of a player or two who is under the radar but will have a big impact on the Patriots in 2008.

MaPatsFan: Great question!!  It gives me a chance to hand out some props to a few of the lesser known Patriots.  It's so easy to focus on guys like Brady, Moss and Welker because they're in the spotlight constantly, but there's many other dudes leaving their pound of flesh on the field, too.  For example: one of the offensive guys that deserves an unsung hero award every year is WR Jabar Gaffney.  Jabar has never had massive numbers that make him look like a Moss or a Welker; he just didn't get a chance at the rock as often as those guys, but he's a money guy when it counts.  One of his best attributes is a sense of the sideline.  A typical Gaffney catch will have Brady throwing the ball near the sidelines and Jabar scraping his toenails to make the catch and stay in bounds.  With the loss of Donte Stallworth and some uncertainties around Chad Jackson's route running, I think Jabar is going to play a bigger role in 2008.

S Tank Williams is a recent acquisition the Boston media is fawning over.  When the Patriots allowed reporters access to OTAs, they all commented on how good he looked.  Tank was originally drafted by the Titans and saw some time with the Vikings in 2007.  He's got 6 seasons under his belt and is only 27, so it's a perfect fit for the Pats - still young, but plenty of experience.  I see him learning the Patriots system from S Rodney Harrison and also being that goto experienced guy for S Brandon Meriweather, 4 years his junior.

WR Matt Slater is a draft acquisition I'll be keeping my eye on.  He was a star kick returner in college and has been lining up at not only wide receiver, but safety, too!!  Typical of Belichick, he's interested in versatile players and I see this as a great move if it works out.  Why not take a guy with receiver hands and put him at safety?  Can you say, "Ball Hawk"?  I knew you could.  I'm really rooting for this kid to do some good things.

My Take: I agree with him 100% on Gaffney.  He's a very underrated player who is a good fit as the "3rd guy" in this passing attack.  Tank Williams is another guy I've always liked, especially when he was with the Titans.  Nothing flashy, but will get the job done.  Slater, from everything I've read, is an interesting player because of how versatile he is.  I don't know much about him, so I'll be sure to keep a close eye on his progress in camp.

Thanks to MaPatsFan.  And be sure to head over to Pats Pulpit to see my response to his question.