August 22, 2003
Patriots Tackle Big Problem In Big Way
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
The pride of Amherst, Massachusetts, William H. Cosby, Ed. D., tells a great tale of a Ted Washington in his old neighborhood.
Dr. Cosby, who now and then finds time to be a groundbreaking comedian, tells a great tale he calls "Buck-Buck". It's a game indigenous to inner city Philadelphia where gangs of five or more boys dog pile upon one another, and the dog pile which can support the most guys before collapsing wins.
Cosby's side always won. Why? Because of one man who became a cartoon icon of the 1970s.
Ah, yes. The Cosby Kids. Mushmouth. Bucky. Dumb Donald. Little Russell. And Old Weird Harold.
Down in Foxborough, Bill Belichick placed a call to Chicago. Come on out, Fat Ted! They built a ramp from Chicago to Foxborough so he could build up speed because he could hardly run fast. By the time he reached Norfolk County, he was running about 538 miles an hour. Lawyer Milloy and Rodney Harrison, the incumbent baddest buck-buck breakers on the Patriots, saw Fat Ted coming, screamed in horror and took off running for Walpole.
The Patriots succeeded in getting younger and faster in the offseason. Two days ago, the Patriots got bigger and stronger. And when we say big and strong, we mean something like a guy who can fill in for a steamroller if one cannot be had to pave a neighborhood road.
First of all, when we say "Fat Ted", it is merely an allusion to Albert The Great. Calling Washington "fat" is more insulting than flattering. We'll call him "Big Ted" from now on.
And, like the game buck-buck, Patriot Nation is hoping Washington can make a big splash on his opponents this year. Washington fills the one remaining void in the Patriot defense (unless nobody can play centerfield in the secondary), and gives the base 3-4 defense a massive presence in obvious run situations.
Washington comes with some caveats, despite all the euphoria over landing this distinguished veteran. He is 35, and missed all but two games last year with the Bears due to a foot injury. Old, possibly damaged goods, and he's needed to do the work of someone about six years younger. These issues cannot be ignored, though most everyone loyal to the Patriots would love to.
If you ask Washington, he'll tell you that everything is fine. He held a press conference shortly after his acquisition, and other than trying his best to convey to you how inconvenienced he was in being traded at this time, he did his level best to show you that he is indeed good to go.
Washington bluntly answered health questions by saying that he is "one hundred percent" and that he will play in Friday's preseason game at Philadelphia. He went on to say that he has vast experience in the 3-4 set (which everyone around here should know from his days in Buffalo), and that all he needs is to dig into the playbook so that he can "go over the plays and get the little kinks out and line back up in the two-gap position."
If Washington has anything left from his best days as a Bill, this is a terrific acquisition for the Patriots, costing them only a 2004 fourth-round draft pick. Washington has the size of a Gilbert Brown or a William Perry. But his age will probably limit Washington to only certain situations, mostly rushing plays. In other words, he will not be an every-down lineman. Will that be enough to make the right impact on the Patriot defense?
This is pretty much predicated upon Belichick and Romeo Crennel guessing right on rushing downs. What the Patriots will ask Washington to do, which Washington needs no primping on, is to tie up blockers at the line of scrimmage. This will enable Ted Johnson, Roman Phifer and Tedy Bruschi to make more tackles. It also might help Richard Seymour and Bobby Hamilton, or whoever plays at the end position, shed blockers better on their way to the opposing quarterback.
Another side benefit of Washington working out at the nose tackle position will be the development of top draft pick Ty Warren. Washington, who will likely be a "mentor" to young linemen like Warren, Jarvis Green, Ethan Kelley, Dan Klecko and possibly even Seymour, might expedite the progress of Warren to the point where he can excel at the end position, which is his natural position versus the nose. If Warren isn't needed to spend a great deal of time during the 2003 season trying to learn a new position, his development at end could be crucial to this season, as well as the next several seasons.
At six-foot-six and 375 pounds, Washington won't have too much trouble getting the attention of the aforementioned young and aspiring down linemen.
The biggest question marks surrounding Washington, if he is to be believed on the health issue, will be how well he plays at age 35. Phifer and Anthony Pleasant are that same age. How much gas does Washington have left in the tank?
Size ought not to be a huge factor, pardon the pun. NFL Films has a great feature on notoriously fat players, with former Ram Bill Bain as their poster boy. Being big and fat more often than not means nothing at all, as guys of that ilk who make it to the NFL often times are stronger than all get out and can make those huge frames move like Gale Sayers and hit like Ronnie Lott.
You might see him tomorrow night, if the Patriots have a uniform big enough to fit him. He is a veteran and knows the 3-4 like the back of his head. He'll have done his job if the Eagles cannot get a sustained ground game going and if a linebacker leads the team in tackles. As for Donovan McNabb, talk to Washington's old Bear Bud Rosevelt Colvin or Mike Vrabel. Outside containment will be an issue, albeit on a vanilla basis as, once again, the Patriots will see this team again in about a month.
How fitting. Cosby played buck-buck in Philadelphia. The Patriots will be in Ben Franklin town tomorrow night at brand new Lincoln Financial Field. Don't look for brotherly love, not that Boston area teams find any in this city anyway.
And if the Eagles support the first fifty buck-bucks, watch out for number fifty-one. He's big. Real big. And, everyone hopes, a perfect fit for the Patriots.
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