Troy Brown and Julian Edelman: Bill Belichick’s Favorite Type of Player

Though not yet at the level of Troy Brown, Julian Edelman has been undeniably productive as a cornerback this season. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Bill Belichick’s defensive genius, record-breaking offenses and three Super Bowl victories will someday put him in the Hall of Fame. Tom Brady and he have formed the greatest coach-quarterback pair in NFL history.

But beyond all of that, one thing truly sets Belichick above the rest: his creative use of personnel. Belichick has always found a way to get maximum productivity out of players cast aside elsewhere.

Troy Brown: Turning Small Receptions into Big Defenses

Brady might be the best example of a nobody Belichick turned into a superstar, but the full list is much, much longer. A perfect example is Troy Brown: a small-yardage receiver (career average: 11.4 yards per catch) who only once gave the Patriots a 1,000-yards receiving year once, and whose touchdown receptions maxed out at six in 1997. He averaged fewer than four catches per game in the playoffs, only scoring once.

As Belichick’s offense became bigger and bigger, Brown’s usefulness as a wide receiver lessened and lessened. So in typical fashion, Belichick made Brown a cornerback in 2004.

The move paid dividends, with Brown picking off three passes and recovering two fumbles. Injuries wracked the Patriot secondary that year, and Brown’s contributions gave the full-time defenders just enough of a reprieve to keep everything from collapsing.

When Brown retired in 2008, Belichick said it was “an honor and a privilege” to work with Brown. High praise from a man who rarely gives any.

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Patriots Report Card: Week 12

Tom Brady gave a brilliant performance Sunday against the Eagles, completing 70 percent of his passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

It took the New England Patriots a drive to get in rhythm, but once they did, Sunday’s game went according to plan. Tom Brady dissected the Philadelphia Eagles’ secondary, the defense allowed just three points across 50 minutes of football, and the Patriots handed the “dream team” Eagles a 38-20 nightmare of a defeat. The boobirds started singing early at Lincoln Financial Field, and they didn’t quit until the stadium emptied out.

Whose play was masterfully artful, and whose was just b.s.? Here’s your weekly report card.

Quarterbacks: A

Tom Brady turned in a brilliant performance Sunday, completing over 70 percent of his passes for 361 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. With little pressure to worry about, Brady had plenty of time to find the open receiver and throw a perfect strike. Only one pass even had a chance at being intercepted, and it wasn’t. Otherwise, immaculate decision-making from the emotional leader of this team. He even rushed for 28 yards!

Brian Hoyer took over midway through the fourth, successfully handing the ball off on three straight plays when the Patriots just wanted to bleed the clock and punt.

Running Backs: A-

BenJarvus Green-Ellis did most of his damage on the Patriots’ first scoring drive, churning up 28 hard-fought yards on eight carries. He ended the drive with a 4-yard burst into the end zone that cut the Eagles’ lead to 10-7 and chewed up almost seven minutes. Green-Ellis added a second, 1-yard touchdown on the Patriots’ next drive.

The running game’s focus shifted towards clock management as the Patriots’ lead grew and grew, but the threat of the run still helped sell two play-action passes. The first, with Danny Woodhead on the field, left Wes Welker wide open for a 41-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. The second led to a 14-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski early in the fourth. That drive ended with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski.

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