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Around the AFC East: New England Patriots

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It's Friday, so it's time for the latest installment of "Around the AFC East."

We'll kick things off with MaPatsFan of Pats Pulpit:

Matty I: One of the more intriguing draft picks in April's draft was the Patriots selection of Matt Slater in round five.  The Patriots even moved up in the draft to get him.  He's a guy who can play receiver or defensive back and is a stud special teams player - at least he was in college.  Where does he fit in in 2008 and do you think he has a future in New England?

MaPatsFan: Slater is, in my mind, the ideal Patriot.  Belichick seeks out multi-position players and grooms them given the time.  These players may not be A+ in any position, but they can contribute in a number of ways.  That being said, you are correct in your statement about his special teams play.  He averaged 29 yards on 34 kickoff returns...you read that right, averaged.  Aside from having good hands as a returner, he's also a dependable tackler - something every good special teams player needs.  I see him contributing in this area, more so than others, for his first year.

The unknown is what his other contributions will be.  ID'd as a WR, he's been spending time during mini-camps at safety.  Safety, you say?  He's 6-0, 198 lbs and has WR hands; why not put him at safety?  He's got the size to dish out some hits and the hands to pull down an interception or 2 plus disrupt receivers.  He may come in to relieve the starters, but I don't see him playing a significant role as a WR with Moss, Welker, Jackson and Gaffney on board nor as Safety with Harrison, Meriweather and Tank Williams in the mix.  Slater is an investment in youth; if he can cut it, I see him being a real threat in his second or third year.

My Take: Matt Slater does seem like an very explosive kick returner - at least based on what I've seen in limited highlights and read from various sources.  I'm kind of curious to see what position he plays other than acting as a return specialist.  Can he play safety?  I don't know.  But as much as I hate him, Bill Belichick knows what he's doing.  If he thinks Slater can develop into a legitimate safety, then I won't argue.  In my opinion, Slater is one of the few reasons to keep an eye on New England's training camp.

Don't forget to head over to Pats Pulpit to see my response to his question.

Be back with part 2 in a bit...