Welcome to Musket Fire’s very first New England Patriots roundtable! We will be here weekly answering questions that have anything to do with the Patriots, AFC East, and football in general depending on what’s the hot topic of the week. So let’s start our first roundtable with this question:
1. Now that the New England Patriots season is over, what part of the offseason are you most looking forward to?
Cyrus: I always go back and forth between the draft, and free agency, but this year I am leaning towards free agency. There are a lot of good players out there, and the Pats usually spend well in this area.
Hal: The NFL Draft. No matter what the team, every team leaves the draft thinking that they have improved the team. New England has a number of needs on both sides of the ball and the draft will be vital to upgrading for next year.
J.T.: Absolutely 100% looking forward to the draft. Mostly to see who the Pats and other teams take, but also for fantasy purposes. My dynasty league hopes depend on it.
Matt: The NFL Draft is always among my favorite times of the year, along with the other professional drafts. It’s a loaded class in terms of talent, especially at tight end and even wide receiver as well. The Patriots should be in place to have another fantastic draft, should they keep all of their picks.
2. What is the most glaring need the New England Patriots need to address this offseason, and where should they address it?
Cyrus: Getting healthy is the first priority, but I see the interior of the offensive line as the biggest need. Ryan Wendell is a free agent, so I doubt he will be back, and Dan Connolly simply isn’t what he used to be. New England must find solid replacements for these two, and I think it has to be done with the draft, and with free agency.
Hal: Interior of the offensive line. Dan Connolly is overpaid, Logan Mankins is grossly overpaid, and Ryan Wendell is a free agent. Mankins needs to rework his contract, Connolly should be released (Marcus Cannon should be at right guard), and a center from free agency is a must.
J.T.: I’ve stated before, the most glaring need for the Patriots this offseason is a big, strong, solid tight end. Hernandez is never coming back, and Gronkowski may never be the same (a tough pill to swallow, but certainly plausible), so they’re going to need someone to help draw attention away from the slot and outside guys. I think if the Pats drafted a stud like Eric Ebron (North Carolina), Jace Amaro (Texas Tech), or Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington), you’d see an immediate impact. Brady needs big targets and he needs them now more than ever.
Matt: The offensive line is my biggest worry. The Patriots couldn’t stop a high school team at times from getting pressure, and while it would be great to get a two tight end system going again, or get an interior defensive lineman, the guard and center spots must be addressed.
3. With the likes of Dante Scarnecchia, Pepper Johnson and George Godsey all moving on, how should they be replaced? Outside the organization or promoting from within?
Cyrus: I hate going outside of the team for assistant coaching changes, so I think the Pats should stay within the organization. Bill Belichick knows how to build a solid staff, and you better believe that he has been preparing for these changes.
Hal: Dante was replaced by an outside-the-organization choice, Godsey and Johnson are likely inside-the-organization moves. A shake-up is good sometimes, but Dante will be sorely missed.
J.T.: Look, Scarnecchia has been mulling retirement for some time and Godsey was a Bill O’Brien associate who probably would have left when O’Brien did, had he not been under contract. So those departures were hardly shocking. It was a bit of a surprise to see Pepper Johnson go, but it could be that he simply did not see much opportunity to ascend within the organization with Matt Patricia around. I’m going to just trust in Belichick that he will find a way to sort out the structure as he sees fit.
Matt: I’m sure it would nice to get a guy like Greg Schiano or Jim Schwartz, someone with a lot of experience, but that probably does not need to happen. I trust in the hierarchy that Belichick, and much like on the field, next man up.
4. Who was the New England Patriots MVP, outside of Tom Brady, this past season?
Cyrus: Has to be Julian Edelman. Not only did he stay healthy when everybody else seemed to be dealing with an injury of some sort, but he became an extremely productive slot receiver. Edelman was the only guy Brady could count on all year-long, which has to make him the MVP.
Hal: Left tackle Nate Solder had a great season, as did cornerback Aqib Talib. Safety Devin McCourty had an excellent season as well. However, it had to be wide receiver Julian Edelman. Edelman did it all: over 100 receptions, over 1000 yards, and an all-star season on special teams as punt returner. Either way, he earned a big raise from someone this offseason.
J.T.: The non-Brady MVP this season was undoubtedly Julian Edelman. Edelman logged his first 100-catch/1000-yard season and basically assumed the Welker role that Danny Amendola was supposed to inherit. Remember watching the offense at times this season, when it seemed as if the Pats couldn’t move the ball downfield if they were playing against ghosts? Just imagine how much more painful it would have been to watch without Edelman. There was a reason Brady threw in his direction fifteen to twenty times each game.
Matt: In a year where many players had to step up in a big way, it has to be Julian Edelman. When Brady needed a game extending catch, he went to Edelman. His security blanket? Edelman. It was all about Edelmania this year, and he has earned himself a new contract with the Patriots.
5. What was your favorite memory of the 2013 New England Patriots season?
Cyrus: The win over the Saints sticks out to me, for two reasons. The first, was it summed up the entire 2013 season in one game. The Pats fought through a lot of adversity, showed some heart, never gave up, and came out with an improbable victory. The second reason is simple. It is always great to see Tom Brady engineer last second comebacks, and that drive he put together against New Orleans was one of his greatest.
Hal: An easy one: week six, 8 plays, 70 yards, 1:08 and Brady finding Kenbrell Thompkins, in the corner of the end zone for a huge win over the New Orleans Saints. 30-27 win after the Saints Rob Ryan led defense already celebrated their “victory” on the sideline before Chandler Jones had a huge 3rd down sack to get the ball back for the Patriots offense.
J.T.: I’m gonna go with the blowout win against Pittsburgh. Now THAT was a fun game to watch! No stress, no unhealthy drinking. Just a classic showcasing of how this team, when firing on all cylinders, can still explode for over fifty points and make league statements. And isn’t it always fun to take out the Steelers? Those three hours on that Sunday granted me my greatest pride as a 2013 New England Patriots’ fan. Cheers!
Matt: I’ll make it three out of four, and go with the win over the New Orleans Saints in week six. It was a major comeback, proved to the rest of the NFL that they could hang with the top teams in the league, and showed that Brady still had it in the clutch. Couple that with the fact that it was the same day David Ortiz saved the Red Sox World Series hopes with a grand slam, and October 13th was my favorite sports memory of the year.