With every magazine throwing out their predictions of the upcoming year, I figure now would be the perfect time to contribute what my and your own expectations of what the Patriots might do this year. As it goes every year, every ones opinion is going to be different.
Almost one year ago nobody knew Tom Brady would have went down in the first quarter of the first game—a variable that caused cardiovascular problems in more than just the coaches. And that is not mentioning what felt like half of the defense being on I.R..
Even with all the problems we still managed an 11 win season. So as the new season comes around I want to shed some light on how I grade the team of the decade. I will go by positions on both offense now and defense in a few days.
Tom Brady. Feels good to know that he is back in the line up. Hopefully he feels good about it to. I am not only talking about his knee but also his mentality. Seeing injuries as they regularly go in the NFL, I feel that he will have a few games of rust before getting back to his regular self.
After Peyton's slow start and than him coming back strong last year it makes me feel even more encouraged. I know his issue was not even close to what Brady went through, but it does give you a way to measure out the process.
Behind him you have Kevin O' Connell, Matt Gutierrez, and Brian Hoyer. I believe O' Connell is the sure back up. Between Gutierrez and Hoyer it is open competition.
Last year I believed Gutierrez beat out Cassell but we know how that turned out. Something about Gutierrez was cut, so something about him did not stack up.
All-in-all, if Brady goes down I do not feel confident in what we have behind him.
Unlike a lot of Patriot fans out their this is a group that I can not help but worry about. It seemed at the end of 2007 that defenses found the way to get past the high flying air show that was the Patriots. It was Pressure.
Look at Superbowl 42. Five sacks for 37 yards. Our line showed the same deficiency in 2008. Listen, I know that Cassell held on to the ball for too long and was inexperienced, but 48 sacks? Take the Detroit Lions for instance, 52 sacks. That speaks volumes.
Now getting past that, our run blocking is a bright area. 4.4 yards per carry. Nuff said. We have our starters Light, Kazcur, Mankins, Neal, and Koppen. Although I do feel O' Callaghan made a push that spelled Kazcur last year. We have solid backups and now a couple of draftees that can be groomed.
Tight end should be a focal point this year. Over the years Ben Watson has not been as consistent as many people were led to believe he would become, me included. It seemed like there were sparks but he could not ignite and become a prolific tight end. Besides that, we have not had a great blocking tight end since Daniel Graham.
This offseason a few acquisitions caught my eye. Chris Baker and Alex Smith. Baker being more of a blocker and Smith being someone who could challenge Watson for playing time.
Another TE David Thomas showed promise in his first year. Last year, for the percentage of snaps he was on field, he did not show follow through.
I feel it will be a better year for the tight ends. I believe this is the season to break out for Watson. I think Smith and Baker will be in the mix and I would not be surprised to see Thomas out after we cut back to the 53 man roster.
I may not be followed by a lot of individuals in my beliefs, but I really like the running back by committee approach. It may cut down on individual stats, but on the other hand it benefits the team by changing the pace every offensive play.
As I have written before it is make or break time for Maroney. It is rare to have a back-up and a 3rd down back to be more productive then the starter. Not with the Patriots. Kevin Faulk is remarkable out of the backfield.
Sammy Morris had his days when he shined. Even Law Firm, played and was productive. Now you add Fred Taylor to the mix. Maybe he can be the mentor needed for Maroney.
If not, last year we rushed for about 2300 yards total. Something tells me this year will not be that different.
Last year I believed that the Patriots were one dropped ball away from making the playoffs. The drop that is painful is when Jabar Gaffney let a pass go through his hands on the way to the end-zone against the colts.
This years receiving corps is a little different. We have the ultimate deep threat in Randy Moss, who can spread the field. We have Wes Welker who is the slot machine that can make plays out of nothing. Now we have new addition Joey Galloway who is a speed machine, even at 37.
Then there is Greg Lewis, who has showed the Patriots what he can do before e.g. Super Bowl 39. Opposing this New England receiving group will be a really painful night for that team.
Now as football goes, nothing is for sure. These are my grades that I believe the team is holding before the season is started. I hope you enjoyed what I wrote and the more opinions I can read the more feed back I can give.