The 2014 NFL regular season kicks off shortly, so I want to give you a quick, all-encompassing preview of this year’s New England Patriots team. Enjoy!
New England didn’t do much to add to its offense this offseason, but rest assured, this unit will be elite in 2014. First of all, they have the best quarterback in the NFL on their side, playing in an offense that he has been in for a good 13 years. As long as Tom Brady is here, this offense will be just fine. But what people don’t realize is how much talent is surrounding Brady this season. Let me run through it really fast: Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, Shane Vereen, Tim Wright, Kenbrell Thompkins, and the one and only Rob Gronkowski.
In my opinion, Brady may have a better set of weapons than Peyton Manning has in Denver. Edelman, Vereen, and Amendola are unstoppable between the numbers, Dobson has shown that he can win outside the numbers, Tim Wright seems to have a very similar skill-set to one Aaron Hernandez, and of course, they have the second best offensive skill player in the league, Rob Gronkowski.
When you throw this group out onto the football field, there is no way any defense has enough resources to stop them. These Patriots will be very, very good.
I wouldn’t necessarily call the interior of the offensive line “bad”, but it certainly has a lot of question marks. As you probably know by now, longtime left guard Logan Mankins has been traded to Tampa Bay, which leaves an already uneven area even weaker. There is really no telling what Bill Belichick will do, but there is a good chance the three interior spots will involve Marcus Cannon, Ryan Wendell, and Dan Connolly. Rookie Bryan Stork has a lot of potential, but I don’t think he is quite ready to handle the starting duties.
After going on and on about how good the Patriots offensive weapons are this year, I need to say that none of it will matter if the offensive line doesn’t hold. The one thing that can derail a Tom Brady-led attack is pressure up the middle, which is something that every single NFL team knows.
Cannon, Wendell, and Connolly must step up and play well this year. There is no getting around it. If they do, this offense may be the best in the league. However if they struggle, we could be in for an inconsistent campaign.
Um, can I say everything?
I don’t think I have ever been this excited for a New England Patriots defense, even more so than the glory years of the early 2000’s. Every level of this unit is stacked, from the defensive line, all the way to their strongest point, the secondary. By adding Darrelle Revis, their defensive backfield instantly went from “okay”, to elite. Revis not only can take away the opposition’s top receiver, but he can essentially eliminate an entire half of the field. This allows the rest of the defense to focus on the other wideouts, play more aggressive, and leave Revis alone with his man.
It will be extremely hard for teams to throw on the Patriots, as the depth behind Revis is just insane. New England has Brandon Browner (once he returns from suspension), Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan, Kyle Arrington, and undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler. When you have Dennard and Ryan as your third and fourth string corners, you know that pass defense will be good. And when you throw Devin McCourty on top of this, it is over. I am predicting a top-five pass defense for New England in 2014.
There is one portion of this defense that is a bit scary, and that is the second safety spot. As I just mentioned, McCourty will be holding down the free safety position, and doing so very well. But it is still a mystery as to who will be starting next to him. Based on what the Patriots did in the preseason, I think they will be running a rotation with Duron Harmon, and Patrick Chung coming in and out next to McCourty.
I have mixed feelings on this, mainly because I have awful memories of Chung in Foxboro. He is horrible in pass coverage, constantly getting beat, taking bad angles, and committing bad penalties. However with that said, Chung has proven to be an excellent physical force in the running game, which could be something the Pats need from the safety position.
But when a team is talented in the back end (like the Patriots are), the smart quarterbacks will focus on the weak link, which in this case is either Patrick Chung, or Duron Harmon. Hopefully these two can play keep their head on a swivel, and hold up their end of the bargain in the secondary.
In a nutshell, this team is going be one of the best in the league this year. They have all of the necessary tools to get back to the Super Bowl, assuming they stay healthy. And that is what I would like to touch on to close this preview out. As I have detailed in this post, the Pats are a very good football team. They have a lot of talent, and they may end up with the best record in football when this season comes to an end. But they must stay relatively healthy.
If the injury bug strikes them like it did last year, they will not be winning any championships. Obviously every team suffers a few key injuries throughout the year, but this team went through absolute hell in this department in 2013. Hopefully they can avoid that this season, and bring home another Lombardi Trophy.
MVP: Tom Brady
Outcome: Super Bowl champion (come on, what did you expect?)