How The Times Have Changed For the Patriots

Christine Roy
March 31, 2013 at 06:45pm ET

No Brady or Gronk, but plenty of storylines at Patriots OTAs
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski not at the start of the team's OTA's today
NFL notes: Don't be surprised if Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers rise up for Patriots
New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill
Patriots center David Andrews excited with his new Georgia Bulldog teammates

The New England Patriots have been a powerhouse in the NFL for over a decade. Players like Tom Brady, Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison are some of the names forever linked with the franchise. But take a look at the current roster and you'll see, the familiar faces once associated with greatness, are no longer there.

When you compare the Patriots 2001 roster with their 2013 roster, one player remains, Tom Brady. The second longest player on the Patriots is Vince Wilfork, who was drafted back in 2004. For the past few years the Patriots have been trying to create their new crop of greatness that will keep their team atop the league for years to come.

Kevin Faulk and other Patriot greats no longer litter the sidelines, instead a new crop of greatness is being developed. (FILE:USPresswire)

Players like Corey Dillon, Randy Moss and Wes Welker were among the guys who came into the fold after serving time with other teams and made a big impact on the way the Patriots ran their offense. They helped the team transition from the Super Bowl dynasty to a year without Brady, to two more Super Bowl appearances. Without the introduction of proven veterans, the Patriots could have fallen off the map. But they're still elite and their challenge now isn't to bring in more veterans, it's to develop the young guns to bring home another Lombardi Trophy.

Stevan Ridley is working his way to becoming a great player for the Patriots organization. The same can be said for Dont'a Hightower, Chandler Jones, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The past few years, the Patriots have stepped up their draft efforts in order to secure guys who they could develop. Just take for example Nate Solder and the shoes he had to fill. It's not easy protecting Brady's blind side, let alone as a rookie. The Patriots found a player who they believed could do the job and so far, he's proven he's up to the task.

The way the Patriots manage to work their rookies in is through the help of guys who have been there before. The culture they have created weeds out the bad eggs quickly. When a guy isn't fitting the system, as Brandon Lloyd and Chad Ochocinco proved, they're let go. The Patriots do not waste their time working with players that don't fit their mold.

As these young players continue to improve, I think we will start to see a new batch of franchise names develop. The Patriots fill the gaps with veterans but take their time to develop the rookies that maybe not every other team would have given a chance. The way this team sticks by its younger players will only benefit them going forward. It's easy to get frustrated but remember, the dynasty wasn't built in a day. This isn't the team of the early 2000s and they are going to have growing pains. New players will continue to be introduced, the systems will change, but one thing will remain, the winning culture.

It's not about the names on the roster it's about the effort on the field and for the Patriots that's something that will never change.