Patriots' 5 Most Under and Overrated Offseason Additions
Not all offseason acquisitions for the New England Patriots are created equal. For every Rodney Harrison, Rosevelt Colvin and Randy Moss that whets your appetite, there are cautionary tales like Adalius Thomas, Joey Galloway and Adrian Wilson.
Some players are able to come in and excel in New England, while others find themselves stuck in the training room, floundering in the playbook or outclassed on the field.
Here are five acquisitions—three underrated and two overrated—whose production in 2014 won't match the hype.
Underrated: James Anderson (LB)
Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner are going to be a big help to the pass defense, but little-heralded James Anderson will be key as well. It only takes one guy to get open to ruin a play for the defense.
Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher—no longer with the New England Patriots—are not going to be replaced by Anderson. He isn't a run-stopper. You don't want him in the game on 3rd-and-1. However, he'll find a role.
Oliver Thomas from NEPatriotsDraft.com details just what Anderson can and cannot do:
Anderson’s backpedal has kept with inside receivers. And his discipline, as well as his penchant for jumping routes, has contested them.
Now there are times where blocks will overpower him, where tight ends will outreach him, where running backs will undercut him, and where receivers will outrun him. Yet for Anderson, it’s about more than doing what his size and athleticism allow him to do.
It’s about doing what other linebackers do not.
Expect to see Anderson and the similarly swift Jamie Collins on the field in passing situations. Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower will see some time as well—their ability to rush and combat the run are important as well—but Anderson and Collins will be able to shut down the interior while the defensive backfield does its job.
Overrated: Will Smith (DE)
Ideally, the New England Patriots are looking for another Colvin. Despite suffering a traumatic hip injury, Colvin was able to bounce back and notch 20.5 sacks over the next three years.
While Will Smith is coming off a traumatic injury—he tore his ACL in August of 2013—his comeback might not be as successful. Colvin was 27 when he came back, while Smith will turn 33 this offseason.
Prior to the 2013 season lost to injury, Smith had averaged six sacks over the prior three seasons. That pales in comparison to the 13 sacks he racked up in 2009.
If Smith comes in and is able to amass five or six sacks in 2014, that should be viewed as a success. If fans are expecting a double-digit sack total like Andre Carter gave them in 2011, however, they need to recheck their expectations.
Underrated: Pat Chung (SS)
Lost in the hoopla surrounding the signing of Revis and Browner is the underrated signing of former second-round draft pick of the New England Patriots Pat Chung.
With Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon currently entrenched as the starting deep safeties, Chung doesn't need to reprise the coverage role that didn't work out his first time around in New England. Instead, he can focus on where he excelled.
Outside of one failed fake punt, Chung was a star on special teams coverage units. Returners always kept one eye peeled looking for No. 25, lest they be flattened without warning.
Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner have filled that special teams role admirably, but Chung's extensive knowledge of the defensive system and better defensive resume give him more upside. Expect him to beat one of those two third-year players in training camp.
Overrated: Daxton Swanson (CB)
Whether it is former New England Patriots receiver Bam Childress or tight end Zach Sudfeld, sometimes fans and media give too much credence to offseason workouts and practices. Daxton Swanson is getting the treatment this year. Doug Kyed from NESN.com has led the charge on Swanson:
Swanson has made big plays during all three OTAs open to the media this spring. He had a few pass breakups in Week 1, an interception in Week 2 and another pass breakup in Week 3. The Patriots will need a fifth cornerback while Brandon Browner serves a four-game suspension to start the season, and Swanson is in the running for that role.
Swanson’s rookie season didn’t go as planned after he suffered an injury during training camp with the Colts, then spent the 2013 season on the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad. He’s getting a second chance with the Patriots, and he’s not letting it go to waste.
All Swanson can do is play well, and it seems like that is what he has done. Fans, however, shouldn't expect to see him much come the regular season.
Even without Browner for the first four weeks, Swanson will have Revis, Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan, Kyle Arrington and Jemea Thomas to contend with. If he doesn't make the final cut, however, look for Swanson to get wooed by many a team for their practice squad.
Underrated: Brandon LaFell (WR)
With second-year star in waiting Aaron Dobson likely joining established veterans Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman as Tom Brady's main receiving threats in 2014, the signing of former Carolina Panthers receiver Brandon LaFell wasn't met with much fanfare.
However, the three aforementioned receivers all have struggled with injuries through their careers, as well as backups Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins. LaFell has shown some durability, however, playing in 60 of 64 career games.
If any of the first-teamers should falter—health or otherwise—LaFell's versatility will allow him to contribute. With his 6'2" size and solid agility, he can play the "X", "Z" and slot receiver positions.
Even if New England's receivers all stay healthy, LaFell possibly could see some time as a "Move" tight end if Dustin Keller or Jermichael Finley don't materialize.
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