Toward the end of the '98 season the Patriots began to look like
a fife-and-drum corps. Almost everybody on the roster was
bruised, bandaged or broken. Even though 16 starters, including
quarterback Drew Bledsoe, tight end Ben Coates and linebackers
Ted Johnson and Chris Slade, missed a total of 58 games due to
injury, New England somehow limped into the playoffs. Perhaps
the most damaging--and least surprising--injuries were suffered
by two of the team's biggest impact players, wideout Terry Glenn
and defensive end Willie McGinest. Glenn and McGinest missed 13
games combined in '98 after sitting out 12 in '97. Therefore all
prognostications for the '99 Patriots come equipped with a
disclaimer about the health of Glenn and McGinest, two players
who bring new meaning to the term make-or-break season.
The mercurial Glenn, entering his fourth season, understands
that around New England he has been labeled everything from
fragile to cowardly. After a '97 season in which he missed more
than half of New England's snaps due to nagging ankle and
hamstring injuries, Glenn's '98 season ended abruptly when he
fractured his right ankle in the 14th game. (He had benched
himself for four other games with various hamstring and ankle
ailments.) Still, Glenn's potential can't be ignored. The
Patriots are 23-11 with Glenn in the lineup and 7-7 without him.
The team averages 25.7 points per game when he plays, only 17.5
points when he doesn't. The Pats were 7-1 last season when Glenn
caught at least three passes in a game; they were 2-6 when he
Glenn admits that it seems like forever since his '96 rookie
season, when he caught 90 balls for 1,132 yards and helped New
England reach the Super Bowl. He believes his workload that year
took its toll on a body not yet mature enough to handle the
pounding. He also blames himself for lax conditioning in recent
off-seasons. "Missing as many games as I have the last couple of
years, I consider myself only a part-Patriot," he says. "I want
to change the picture people have been painting of me. I feel
like I've let my teammates down. How many years can you let slip
by when you can't play?"
Glenn claims to have worked out more rigorously this summer, and
he says that this is the first time that he didn't dread going to
training camp. The 5'11", 185-pound receiver's injuries have
clearly been a distraction to his teammates in recent seasons, so
they're hoping he will fulfill his pledge to resume distracting
opponents. "His speed and his explosiveness can change a game by
forcing defenses to roll their coverages in his direction,"
Bledsoe says. "He makes it easier for us to throw the ball or run
August 29, 1999
Similarly, when McGinest is on the field, he helps the defense
by demanding attention as the team's primary outside
pass-rushing threat. He had 11 sacks in '95 and 9 1/2 in '96 but
only 5 1/2 over the last two seasons combined. With McGinest
slowed by a groin injury in '98, the Patriots ranked 23rd in the
NFL in sacks, and, like Glenn, McGinest began to hear whispers
that he's a malingerer. "It has nothing to do with testing my
heart," McGinest says. "I know what I can do when I'm healthy,
and I'm planning on getting back to creating chaos."
McGinest spent much of the off-season with Alex McKechnie, a
physical therapist who specializes in groin and abdominal
injuries. McGinest has vowed to play all 16 games this season,
and he is talking about "a monster year" that would include at
least 15 sacks. The Patriots would settle for 15 healthy games.
"You only have to look at the numbers to see how important it is
to have the guys you count on playing," coach Pete Carroll says.
"When Terry is on the field it affects the defensive
signal-caller, and Willie is a dynamic force on the edge who
changes the offensive mind-set."
Carroll isn't likely to use a female pronoun to describe any of
his hobbled players as previous coach Bill Parcells once did in
referring to Glenn, but some Patriots may think he should.
Despite playoff appearances in his first two seasons in New
England, the easygoing Carroll lacks the respect of some of his
players, many of whom actually long for Parcells's draconian
discipline and have expressed concern over losing the last three
meetings against Parcells and his Jets. Coincidentally, New
England opens against the Jets at the Meadowlands in a game that
could set the tone for what is a crucial season for Carroll.
"I feel like I'm at a crossroads before every season," Carroll
says. "I do mercenary work, fighting wars of paramount
significance, and I always feel the utmost urgency to win. How
can I feel more?"
Sept. 12 at N.Y. Jets
26 N.Y. GIANTS
Oct. 3 at Cleveland
10 at Kansas City
31 at Arizona
Nov. 7 Open date
15 N.Y. JETS (Mon.)
21 at Miami
28 at Buffalo
Dec. 5 DALLAS
12 at Indianapolis
19 at Philadelphia
Jan. 2 BALTIMORE
1998 Record 9-7 (4th in AFC East)
NFL rank (rush/pass/total): offense 27/5/11; defense 7/25/20
1999 Schedule strength NFL rank: 6 Opponents' 1998 winning
percentage: .529 Games against playoff teams: 9
In their Super Bowl season of 1985, with Craig James and Tony
Collins as their primary rushers, the Patriots averaged 4.1 yards
per carry. But since then New England has averaged fewer than
four yards per rush in each of 13 consecutive years--a streak of
historic proportions. Since the NFL adopted its modern
statistical rules in 1947 (before that, yards lost on what would
today be recognized as sacks counted as rushing losses), only one
team has had a longer streak.
Team Streak Years Rushing avg. NFL leader
(NFL rank) during that
during streak span (avg.)
Giants 15 seasons 1970-84 3.58 (last) Rams (4.28)
Patriots 13 seasons 1986-98 3.49 (last) Lions (4.44)
Steelers 12 seasons 1950-61 3.43 (last) Rams (4.71)
Packers 11 seasons 1972-82 3.61 (next to last) Dolphins (4.27)
Dolphins 11 seasons 1988-98 3.53 (last) Lions (4.59)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Strong safety Lawyer Milloy is regarded as an enforcer in the
menacing tradition of Ronnie Lott and Steve Atwater. Coach Pete
Carroll was so impressed by Milloy's '98 season--the 6-foot,
208-pounder led the team with 120 tackles, intercepted a
career-high six passes and earned a Pro Bowl invitation--that
two days before training camp Carroll cut seven-year free safety
Willie Clay and anointed Milloy the leader of the team's
defensive backfield. While insisting that he isn't out to hurt
anybody, Milloy acknowledges that he is in the business of
justice. "I'm a hitter," Milloy says, "and if somebody invades
my territory, it's my duty to let him know about it. Nine out of
10 times I'm going to take it to the other guy before he takes
it to me."
PROJECTED LINEUP WITH 1998 STATISTICS
Coach: Pete Carroll
Third season with Patriots (25-23 in NFL)
Offensive Backs PVR*
QB Drew Bledsoe 18
481 att. 263 comp. 54.7% 3,633 yds. 20 TDs 14 int. 80.9 rtg.
RB Kevin Faulk (R)54
229 att. 1,279 yds. 5.6 avg. 22 rec. 287 yds. 13.0 avg. 17 TDs
RB Lamont Warren 271
25 att. 61 yds. 2.4 avg. 11 rec. 44 yds. 4.0 avg. 2 TDs
FB Tony Carter 320
2 att. 3 yds. 1.5 avg. 18 rec. 166 yds. 9.2 avg. 0 TDs
Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen
WR Terry Glenn 59 50 rec. 792 yds. 3 TDs
WR Shawn Jefferson 146 34 rec. 771 yds. 2 TDs
WR Tony Simmons 170 23 rec. 474 yds. 3 TDs
TE Ben Coates 74 67 rec. 668 yds. 6 TDs
K Adam Vinatieri 142 32/32 XPs 31/39 FGs 127 pts.
PR Troy Brown 206 17 ret. 13.2 avg. 0 TDs
KR Derrick Cullors 304 45 ret. 24.1 avg. 0 TDs
LT Bruce Armstrong 6'4" 295 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LG Max Lane 6'6" 305 lbs. 16 games 11 starts
C Damien Woody (R6'3" 310 lbs. 11 games 11 starts
RG Todd Rucci 6'5" 291 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RT Zefross Moss 6'6" 324 lbs. 14 games 14 starts
LE Chris Sullivan 35 tackles 2 sacks
LT Chad Eaton 80 tackles 6 sacks
RT Henry Thomas 64 tackles 6 1/2 sacks
RE Willie McGinest 29 tackles 3 1/2 sacks
OLB Chris Slade 72 tackles 4 sacks
MLB A.Katzenmoyer (R) 74 tackles 4 sacks
OLB Tedy Bruschi 74 tackles 2 sacks
CB Ty Law 70 tackles 9 int.
SS Lawyer Milloy 120 tackles 6 int.
FS Chris Carter 13 tackles 0 int.
CB Steve Israel 40 tackles 3 int.
P Lee Johnson 69 punts 44.7 avg.
New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college
year) *PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 122)