FOXBORO, Mass. — Wasn't Corey Dillon supposed to be a dangerous hire for New England?
To borrow a phrase from Caddyshack's Judge Smails, "Well? We're waiiittinnnggg!"
All the Patriots have gotten so far from the alleged malcontent is production, consistency and a sense that Dillon, a former Dixie College star, makes things better. No fits, no fights, no AWOL days, not a single blasphemy. He's everything they hoped for, reliable as can be.
"You know what you're going to get," Bill Belichick said of Dillon. "He's dependable. We'll go out there today and I know what I'm gonna get. And I get it. And we're going to go out there tomorrow and I'm going to get it again. He's not a roller-coaster performer in practice or in games. He's consistent, he's tough, he's dependable, he's got good skills and he's a load."
Through three games this season, Dillon has carried 66 times for 323 yards and is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. At his current pace — carrying 22 times a game and averaging 4.9 yards — he'd wind up with 352 carries for 1,724 yards.
Whether he maintains those levels over the course of 16 games is debatable, but since training camp opened (July 29) through the first week of October, Dillon has been exactly what the Patriots wanted. And exactly what they expected.
"I talked to a lot of people," Belichick said. "Every single player I talked to, every single coach, nobody had a bad word to say about him. Not one."
The frustrations of playing in Cincinnati, where Dillon toiled for seven individually successful but organizationally disastrous seasons, are far away now. He has gone from a team that has been annually one of the worst in football for more than a decade to perhaps one of the greatest teams in league history. Certainly one of the best of the last two decades.
And in making the move, Dillon is now in a position to be appreciated for his skills, with no qualifiers about his moodiness (which really hasn't been on display at all).
"It's about what we expected," said Belichick. "He's a strong runner. He's good in blitz pickup, has good hands, catches the ball, that's not a problem. He's not Kevin Faulk, but the catch he made on the sidelines (Sunday) he only got 4 or 5 yards, but it's a good catch. He's tough. He can go all day. He doesn't get tired.
"He's been a good, solid all-around football player," Belichick added. "He can run inside. He's got enough speed to take a short run and make it into a longer run. He doesn't make many errors. He's not a guy who goes the wrong way. There's hardly any of it."
The best word to describe the Patriots' offense since 2001 would probably be "efficient." Now, though, it seems a little more explosive. Through three games, the team has 15 pass plays of more than 20 yards, nine longer than 25. The Pats had six pass plays of more than 20 yards in their first three games last year. It took five games for the Patriots to exceed as a team Dillon's 353 individual rushing yards amassed in the first three games.
Faulk, the Pats' leading rusher in the first portion of last season, didn't exceed 353 yards until his seventh game.
"We're a better-balanced offense than we've been," Belichick added. "Our running game is more balanced compared to our passing game, and I think it's more respected by our opponents — they'd have to tell you that, not me — but based on the way they're playing us, in a way he's helped our passing game and he's helped our running game."
Dillon, not surprisingly, sounds like a player who's been born again.
"Every week, it's a chess game," he said when asked about the game-planning and play-calling of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. "(It's like), 'How are we going to go in there this week? 'What's our strategy going to be to beat this team?' I know, be prepared on each play, they may call on you. And the fun and exciting part is the strategy. Every Monday and Tuesday I'm looking forward to coming in and finding out, 'How are we going to beat this defense?'