FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Chad Ochocinco thinks he’s in heaven.

He’s really in Foxborough, Mass., but Ochocinco can be excused for his elation after being traded to the New England Patriots from the always-struggling Cincinnati Bengals.

Albert Haynesworth is looking to restore his reputation after two lost years with the Washington Redskins.

All eyes have been on, and will continue to be on, those two preseason acquisitions by the Patriots, both picked up in trades in the first few days of training camp. Ochocinco is considered the down-the-field receiving threat the Patriots lacked last year after Randy Moss first checked out and then was traded. Haynesworth, a mountain of a man, was once considered the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL.

But as the Patriots prepare for their first exhibition Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium (7:30 p.m.), there are other questions surrounding this team.

Such as:


Does Ochocinco still have it? There was a time when you could count on 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns from Ochocinco. But his stats have decreased, especially the last three years. The Patriots are gambling that he still has it. Ochocinco certainly thinks he does, especially in this environment, with Bill Belichick coaching and Tom Brady throwing.

“It’s hard to maintain a high level of productivity when things are always up and down,” he said when asked about his productivity. “The thing about this place (is that) it’s consistent. It’s always been consistent on the offensive side of the ball and defensively, so that allows me to be consistent, also. There is only so much that I can control and the position that I was in, in Cincinnati, I did the best I could to my ability, and I did it in sort of a noisy way and that says a lot for me — to be able to talk it and still walk it.”

Say this about the guy, he’s confident. He also said he’s working harder than he has in years. For instance, after practice late Wednesday, he joined Brady and Wes Welker to run some pass routes.

Do the Patriots’ playbooks contain more than just plays? I only ask this because the quotes coming out of the mouths of running backs seem strangely similar.

Consider these quotes from BenJarvus Green-Ellis, last year’s 1,000-yard back, and Danny Woodhead, the all-purpose scatback, when asked about the running back group.

Green-Ellis: “I think it’s just going to be fun for us to get here and work hard every day. No one can really predict the future. We only can come to practice and put our best foot forward out there at practice and work hard.”


Woodhead: “We’re trying to work together as a unit. We’re all there for each other as a group. We just want to help each other get better, in everything we’re responsible for. It’s all about going to work every day, getting ready for the season.”

How big is Albert Haynesworth, really? That may seem a silly question because the man is listed at 6-foot-6, 335 pounds. But the other night he was standing next to Vince Wilfork, no small man himself (listed at 6-2, 325), and Wilfork looked, well, tiny next to him.

If Haynesworth comes to play, he and Wilfork are going to cause problems for opposing offenses inside.

Don’t peg the Patriots as a 3-4 defensive team anymore — at least not to Belichick.

“I think honestly that’s something that’s a media fabrication,” he said, noting that the Pats won Super Bowls in 2001 and 2004 with 4-3 fronts.

Belichick, of course, is regarded as a masterful defensive coach who specializes in the 3-4. But he contends that even way back, when he was a defensive coordinator with the New York Giants, they were more 4-3 than 3-4.


“Lawrence Taylor did a lot more rushing than he did pass dropping,” said Belichick, of the Hall of Fame outside linebacker. “Now, not every play was a pass, but certainly in passing situations and on a lot of pass plays he was the designated fourth rusher, which really put us in what amounts to a 4-3.”

Well, you can bet the Patriots are going to line up in more 4-3 defensive sets this year with the addition of Haynesworth, who will line up as the left end in the 3-4.

Are three quarterbacks enough? That’s all the Pats have on their roster — Brady, third-year man Brian Hoyer and rookie Ryan Mallett.

While the team seems comfortable with that, Nick Caserio, the director of player personnel, didn’t rule out bringing in someone.

“The three guys that are here, they’re all going to work,” he said. “They’re going to get their reps. I think sometimes you have four quarterbacks and it’s hard to allocate the reps. But we’ll look at bringing anybody onto the team that we feel can help us.”

What rookies will have the biggest impacts?


Hard to say if any will have the impact of, say, cornerback Devin McCourty, who led the team with seven interceptions last year.

The condensed training camp, forced by the lockout, is going to put a strain on every newcomer.

“It’s going to be uphill for those guys for a while,” said veteran left tackle Matt Light.

Certainly first pick Nate Solder, drafted to eventually replace Light at left tackle, will get his chance to shine.

But he just signed last Thursday, so it could still be a while for him.

Running backs Shane Vereen (second round out of California) and Stevan Ridley (third round from Louisiana State) will get plenty of chances in the preseason.


Can this team contend for a championship again?

Well, the parts are there. The Patriots are ahead of many teams in that they return many veteran players, giving them an edge with the shortened training camp. There’s less of a learning curve.

And they made some big moves.

Of course, as Belichick will tell you, there’s a lot of work yet to be done.

But there’s a lot to like about these 2011 Patriots.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

Twitter: MikeLowePPH


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