Patriots camp report: Resurgent Moss, Brady great N.E. omen

by | National Columnist

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As the New England Patriots players stretched before a recent practice Randy Moss stood the entire time. He was talking. And talking. For a good 10 minutes. He was talking smack to anyone within visual range.

The talking continued into practice, particularly after coach Bill Belichick -- as he sometimes does -- had some of his offensive players switch to the defensive side of the ball and his defensive players switch to offense. Belichick started the drill in the red zone on one side of the field and ordered them to have a little fun.

At quarterback was 325-pound nose tackle Vince Wilfork, whose presence immediately raised the cholesterol levels of the entire Patriots offense.

To say Wilfork was spectacular is an understatement. His first pass was an incompletion that should've been caught, but he zipped a touchdown on a pass to Patrick Chung that possessed the accuracy and movement Brady Quinn dreams of. Watching a walking refrigerator throw so efficiently was stunning.

Not since JaMarcus Russell has a quarterback jiggled so much.

"Vince is an athlete," receiver Wes Welker said. "Don't let the size fool you."

It was an outstanding moment of fun for an organization that sometimes forgets how to have it.

This is the image the Patriots want you to see. Low key. Laid back. So far under the radar they're stealth. They want you to look at the big mouth New York Jets and focus on their hard-knocked bluster. They want to be invisible until it's too late for the rest of the AFC to know what hit them.

In many ways, it's working. When is the last piece of real news that's emerged from New England?

The truth is the Patriots could be on the verge of once again dominating on offense, and the reasons are named Tom Brady and Randy Moss.

By all indications, both men are clicking on the field again. And by clicking that means the record-setting form of 2007 when the Patriots pulverized defenses and re-wrote record books. New England won't duplicate that feat -- it's virtually impossible -- but the way these two are practicing and playing, there's a chance the Patriots could come close.

The fact Welker is practicing and healthy again also bodes well for a Brady-Moss explosion.

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QB: Tom Brady (20th Overall)
RB: Laurence Maroney (112th)
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Moss is having his best camp since becoming a Patriot three years ago. In a contract year, Moss has yet to miss a practice and his work ethic again has impressed Patriots players and coaches and quieted doubters (for now) who call Moss a frontrunner (guilty as charged).

Belichick was asked if a reporter's observations were correct in that Moss was having a good camp.

"I would agree with that," he said.

Since Moss avoids the media the way he does defensive backs, getting his perspective is impossible but Patriots players agree Moss looks as good as ever.

"Randy is Randy," Welker said. "He always looks great but he's been fantastic."

Going inside the head of Moss is like traveling into one of those puzzle-like landscapes in the movie Inception. No one ever knows totally what Moss is thinking but he might be simply trying to prove to the Patriots he's worth re-signing and if the Patriots don't, Moss wants the rest of the league to see that he indeed is a hard worker and worthy of trust.

The key for the Patriots when it comes to Moss -- as it has been for every team Moss has played for -- is keeping Moss focused and interested all season long.

For now, that doesn't seem to be a huge issue. Moss is so motivated and practicing so hard this could be the new Moss. I've watched him since he entered the league, witnessing many of his practices. He rarely has worked this hard in camp.

The Patriots, of course have weaknesses. The team's running game remains suspect and the defense, ranked 11th last year, still has holes.

Moss has the singular ability, however, to cover up a team's problems. He has done it in many instances before.

If he can't this time, maybe the Patriots could play Wilfork at receiver.


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