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Pats get Bucs' Talib to upgrade defense.

Byline: Rich Garven

Bill Belichick was asked yesterday morning how he'd evaluate the play of his secondary through the first half of the season.

That would be the back end of a defense that ranks among the frontrunners for most passing yards allowed in the NFL (281.1 average) and is first in completions surrendered of 20-plus yards (42).

"Defensively that would be a big area for us, to limit the number of big plays," the Patriots' coach-for-life said. "That's a whole team defensive thing. It's not one thing. Anytime they throw the ball deep down the field, that involves pass rush, it involves pass coverage, it involves possibly scheme depending on how you're playing it.

"But, yeah, we can improve in every area. We can improve our third down, red area, our consistency offensively in the run game, our consistency defensively in the passing game, our return game, kicking game. Again, when you have a whole football team, there's something for each guy and each unit to improve on."

While the offense and special teams will have to try to make progress with the players already populating the New England roster, Belichick made a bold move in the afternoon to shore up his stumbling secondary.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced they had received a 2013 fourth-round draft choice from the Patriots in exchange for cornerback Aqib Talib and a '13 seventh-rounder that was originally the property of the Chicago Bears. The Patriots (what else is new) had yet to confirm the deal as of late last night.

The deal, which came in just under the NFL trade deadline, could undoubtedly be traced to Belichick's friendship with Greg Schiano, the Buccaneers' first-year coach. Schiano was previously head coach at Rutgers, where Steve Belichick, son of you-know-who, played for him.

So what do the Patriots get in Talib? For starters, a player who has the talent to jump right into the lineup.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Talib has 53 passes defensed and 18 interceptions in 58 games (45 starts) since the Buccaneers used the 20th overall pick in the 2008 draft on the University of Kansas All-American. He returned three of those picks for touchdowns.

But talent isn't a problem with Talib, temperament is.

The fifth-year pro has a game to serve on a four-game suspension he received from the league for using a performance-enhancing substance. He recently released a statement saying "around the beginning of training camp" he mistakenly took "an Adderall pill without a prescription."

Adderall is an amphetamine used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy.

Talib, 26, was also suspended for two games in 2010 for violating the league's personal-conduct policy after having gotten into a disagreement with a Florida cab driver during training camp the previous year.

The Patriots are on their bye week and don't play again until Nov. 11 when they host the Bills. Talib will miss that game, but will be eligible to return the following week, against the Colts at Gillette Stadium.

Talib is the latest player with a checkered past whom Belichick has taken a chance on. Whether he ends up contributing, like Corey Dillon and Randy Moss, or failing, like Albert Haynesworth, remains to be seen.

It's a short risk financially. The Patriots will pay Talib, who is in the final year of his contract, a reasonable $910,000 or so for the rest of the season. The potential reward is immense because the Patriots presumably strengthened their weakest position on a team that appears poised to make a Super Bowl run.

Talib would appear destined to take the place of Kyle Arrington, who has struggled all season after tying for the league lead with seven interceptions last year. He left Sunday's win over the Rams in London with a head injury.

Talib's presence also allows the Patriots to keep Devin McCourty at safety, a move made two games ago that seems to have improved communication in the secondary. That, in turn, allows rookie Alfonzo Dennard, who is coming on strong, to remain at the other corner position.



CUTLINE: Former Buccaneer Aqib Talib could improve a deficient Patriots secondary.

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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 2, 2012
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