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Old 06-06-2008, 09:55 AM    (permalink
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Default New England Season Preview (Feedback wanted)

New England Patriots

Offense:
We know the Patriots dynasty started the moment Tom Brady stepped on the field. We also know that Brady has become, arguably, the best QB in all of football with receivers such as Troy Brown, Deion Branch, David Givens, and Reche Caldwell. So when the Patriots locked up Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth, and Randy Moss for the 2007 season, everybody knew Brady's numbers would skyrocket. And he delivered the best season in NFL history, tossing 50 TDs and 4,806 yards, while throwing just eight interceptions. Moss returned to the dominating form he showed in his early days with Minnesota, getting just shy of 1,500 yards and 23 TDs. He did disappear when the Patriots needed him the most, however, as he had just seven catches and 94 yards in three playoff games. Wes Welker also had a career year in 2007 and has become the best slot receiver in the league, period. He'll step up with Stallworth now gone to Cleveland. Third receiver Jabar Gaffney knows the offense and can produce quality numbers. Third-year receiver Chad Jackson will be given every opportunity to prove he's the playmaker this club drafted him to be. He showed flashes of brilliance in his first mini-camp, but has not been able to stay healthy enough to prove his worth on the field. Tight End Benjamin Watson provides another weapon on offense but has yet to stay healthy for a full sixteen games. He is coming off ankle surgery which will keep him out of mini-camps, so the team got Marcus Pollard as insurance.

New England's offensive line is a key part to keeping Brady on his feet and keeping the offense going. Allowing the rush to get to Brady causes bad things to happen as evidenced by the Super Bowl loss to the Giants. The unit comes back intact for another season as Brady's security. Matt Light and Nick Kaczur will return as the tackles. Kaczur got into off-the-field problems recently and has not been able to stay healthy for a full season. His backup, Ryan O'Callaghan, had high expectations but has failed to deliver. If the offensive line has a weak link, it is on the right side, where Stephen Neal will probably start at guard. Neal had numerous injuries in 2007 and is average at best. Backup Ross Hochstein is useful as he can play any three inside positions, and should likely take over if Neal is hurt again. Left guard Logan Mankins has become a Pro Bowler in his own right and maybe the best guard in the AFC. Dan Koppen comes back to center where he earned a reserve Pro Bowl spot in 2007. He is proving to be one of the brightest centers in the game today and is excellent at reading defenses.

Injuries took over the Patriots running game throughout the 2007 season. Maroney was limited almost all season long, but looked strong heading into the final three games of the regular season. In NE's final six games, Maroney had 504 yards in the four games against teams not named the Giants. Sammy Morris proved to be a good back in relief of Maroney, gaining over 100 yards against Cleveland and Cincinnati, before suffering a freak injury that ended his season prematurely. Kevin Faulk returns and will probably take over third-down duties. All in all, if the Patriots running game returns healthy, expect offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to try to balance the offensive attack by running the ball more.

Defense:
The defensive line is one of the best in all of football. Vince Wilfork fit the bill as a top run-stuffer for the Pats in 2007. Defensive end Ty Warren also is praised for stopping the run, although he still gets to the quarterback from time to time. On the other side, Richard Seymour is coming off a down year, but will return to full health for 2008. Ends Jarvis Green and Mike Wright as well as tackle LeKevin Smith all provide depth to a strong unit.

The back seven of the defense became the team's number one priority in the offseason. It was no secret that the Patriots' linebacking corps was getting old, so they brought in new talent to infuse the squad with youth. Mike Vrabel (32), Junior Seau (39), Tedy Bruschi (34), and Adalius Thomas (30) provide great production as starters. However, it will be defensive coordinator Dean Pees' job to rotate in draft pick Shawn Crable on the outside and rookies Jerod Mayo and Bo Ruud on the inside. The team also picked up Victor Hobson from the Jets. He can play inside and has a chance to start from day one if Seau retires.

The secondary seemed to implode after losing top corner Asante Samuel and nickel back Randall ***. Ellis Hobbs, a player that opposing quarterbacks usually picked on, will have the chance to start as the team's number one corner, although he's only had one interception in three seasons. The team went out and signed Fernando Bryant, who did well with the Lions last season and will probably start alongside Hobbs. Lewis Sanders and Jason Webster are veterans who add depth. As if that wasn't enough, the team also drafted speedy corner Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite. Wheatley may become the nickel back to replace ***. Strong safety Rodney Harrison returns, although he is declining at age 36 and has battled injuries for the past three seasons. The team signed Tank Williams to spell him at times. James Sanders posted a career year in 2007 and will more than likely continue to start at free safety. However, second-year player Brandon Meriweather will still be in the mix. Perhaps the key pickup to the secondary is new DB coach, Dom Capers.

Special teams:
The Patriots stress special teams play which makes this unit one of the best in the NFL. Return coverage is excellent. Meanwhile, kicker Stephen Gostkowski has been able to take Adam Viniateri's place as a solid kicker. The punter position has been a question mark with Chris Hanson, but veteran Scott Player and rookie Mike Dragosavich will compete for the job. Ellis Hobbs and Wes Welker are excellent return men.

Coaching:
Bill Belichick still remains one of the premier coaches in the NFL, despite the 'Spygate' scandal. He is excellent in game-planning and motivation. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was on some teams' hot list of head coaching candidates, but he declined to stay on Belichick's staff. Capers will help Pees be more aggressive with his 3-4 base defense.

Schedule:
The Patriots play only four playoff teams from 2007 (@ San Diego, @Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, @Seattle). They have the easiest schedule in the NFL and probably only face one 'tough' stretch of the season October 12 through November 2 (@ San Diego, Denver, St. Louis, @ Indianapolis). It wouldn't be a stretch to see this team go undefeated yet again, and improve their 19-game regular season winning streak to an outstanding 35 games. They have a chance to put a stamp on their division on November 23, wrapping up a three-game division stretch (Buffalo, New York, @Miami).
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Old 06-08-2008, 06:47 PM    (permalink
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Default undefeated?

any more than 13 wins would be a stretch.

Should win the AFC East again and hopefully a bye. We shall see.
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Old 06-12-2008, 10:15 AM    (permalink
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To have any chance at another undefeated run the Pats will need major contributions by the young players on the roster. Not just the rookies, but guys like Chad Jackson, Maroney, Hobbs, and O'Callaghan.

One point I disagree with you on is that O'Call "had high expectations but has failed to deliver." He didn't see enough playing time to say he "failed to deliver," imo.

Personally I think Jackson is the key to the passing game this season. While Stallworth wasn't a world beater statistically, he was a guy who commanded constant attention b/c of his overall ability (and will do well for Romeo - as long as Anderson proves he's not a one-year wonder.) Gaffney gets nothing but love from me, but he's not a threatening presence as a #2 guy.

One or both of our rookie CBs need to be studs right away. I like Hobbs, but not as a #1 CB, regardless of how big a man-crush Michael Holley has on him.

I don't agree on your Seau/Hobson idea. Hobson will be the starter regardless of Seau. Seau & Brew will be rotated to minimize their reps all season - with Seau being mostly a "situational player" this season (if he plays.)

The Dom Capers addition should be great for this team. The guy has nothing but respect from his history in the league. It will be a nice fit.


I'd say 13 or 14 wins - with losses to Indy & SD, and maybe one other team. Probably a big "let down" type of loss to a division rival.


Nice write up!

hehe - RandallGay keeps getting his last name edited out!
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Old 06-13-2008, 12:34 AM    (permalink
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyingElvis View Post
To have any chance at another undefeated run the Pats will need major contributions by the young players on the roster. Not just the rookies, but guys like Chad Jackson, Maroney, Hobbs, and O'Callaghan.

One point I disagree with you on is that O'Call "had high expectations but has failed to deliver." He didn't see enough playing time to say he "failed to deliver," imo.

Personally I think Jackson is the key to the passing game this season. While Stallworth wasn't a world beater statistically, he was a guy who commanded constant attention b/c of his overall ability (and will do well for Romeo - as long as Anderson proves he's not a one-year wonder.) Gaffney gets nothing but love from me, but he's not a threatening presence as a #2 guy.

One or both of our rookie CBs need to be studs right away. I like Hobbs, but not as a #1 CB, regardless of how big a man-crush Michael Holley has on him.

I don't agree on your Seau/Hobson idea. Hobson will be the starter regardless of Seau. Seau & Brew will be rotated to minimize their reps all season - with Seau being mostly a "situational player" this season (if he plays.)

The Dom Capers addition should be great for this team. The guy has nothing but respect from his history in the league. It will be a nice fit.


I'd say 13 or 14 wins - with losses to Indy & SD, and maybe one other team. Probably a big "let down" type of loss to a division rival.


Nice write up!

hehe - RandallGay keeps getting his last name edited out!
Seriously, I feel the SAME way. But from what I've been reading, this job is still Seau's to lose. But Seau is getting old, and even if he doesn't retire, the team should still be looking to work in the rookies and Hobson. These guys are in effect the future, so they need to get them on the field to see what they can do while they still have more-than-capable veterans backing them up and taking up the slack should they falter.
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Old 06-13-2008, 10:38 AM    (permalink
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I think that's more an issue of appearances. The organization wants Seau there and telling him "hey, come on back and be our #3 or #4 MLB" is not a good way to entice him. Even though he knows his reps will be limited for his own good and the good of the team, there's still ego involved.

Even last year Thomas never left the field at the MLB spot, and Bruschi & Seau were rotated. It was only when Rosy got hurt that Thomas got moved to OLB and then things got a bit scary w/54 & 55 getting full time starts at the MLB spots. Which, coincidentally, was when the Pats run D looked a whole lot more vulnerable.

The Pat's depth chart lists Brew & Hobson as starters at MLB w/Vrabel & Thomas at OLB. My guess is it all depends on how Hobson looks through camps/preseason. If he picks up the D well enough he will get the majority of reps all season @ MLB, with Bruschi & Seau probably getting the extra rest.

Of course, it's still a safe bet that Tedy & Junior will get the reps in crunch time & on any "big play" downs (ie 3rd downs where a big stop is needed, etc.)

Merriweather will be interesting this year. Will he supplant Sanders at S, or maybe start seeing reps a CB?
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Old 06-13-2008, 11:22 AM    (permalink
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Big issue for the Pats imo, head and shoulders above all others, is pass defense. We'll see how their makeshift secondary fares this season, but I have a feeling it will be their ruin and prevent them from going back to a consecutive Super Bowl. There's a bunch of zone corners, hardly confused with great ones thus far in their career at that, and the best corner on the roster imo in Ellis Hobbs (insert groans from some Pats fans who aren't fond of the guy) might not even be healthy in time for training camp.

Plus I wonder if the Pats have a speedy enough pass rush to accompany the zone corners other than maybe Mike Vrabel having another career year. I wouldn't rule out Adalius Thomas having a big year in that regard though, if he focuses on that position entirely, although I suspect he'll inflate his stats some playing against some shaky OLs like last year (5 of his 6.5 sacks came in 3 games vs. Buffalo/Pittsburgh/NY Jets). Of course having both of them outside leaves only rookie Jerod Mayo and maybe former Jets LB Victor Hobson as the ILBs who have the legs/speed to potentially cover someone, but obviously there are some questions there. I did like the Hobson signing by the Pats.

I'll be surprised if the Pats win less than 14 games - maybe 13 at least - with that schedule. They are the favorites for the #1 seed in the AFC right now with San Diego not far behind, given that both teams have the two easiest schedules in the league. Despite my belief that the second wild card playoff team will be either the Bills or the Jets, the Pats will roll through that regular season schedule, let's be honest. And it will mainly have to come thanks to their offense carrying the team.

Yet playing at home in the postseason, there's probably no tougher an opponent as long as Belichick is the coach. The weather at Foxboro could help mask their secondary deficiencies, which would be big, although I don't think the Pats could pull it off as well this season (with the talent they have now) like they did in '03 and '04. Belichick's own bend-but-not-break defense will need some timely red zone stops like he so very fortunately got last year up until that Manning-to-Burress TD.
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Old 06-14-2008, 06:50 AM    (permalink
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This is as easy as it gets: I expect the Patriots to go 16-0. They should not lose a single game this year. They should go into every game they play as the favorite and should win. Period.

I don't know if they will, and I don't care if they do. In my eyes, the offense is going to be BETTER. They have lost Dante Stallworth, a guy who flat out didn't fit their system, and really didn't do a whole heck of a lot. I'll never forget the games I was at when he was completely open play after play after play and they ignored him (as did the other teams secondary). Jabar Gaffney essentially took over for him mid-season and was better all around. Now they have added a healthy Chad Jackson and a healthy David Thomas to the mix, on top of bringing back a healthy Sammy Morris, who would have made all the difference in the world last year. The oline is back and deeper. I think Brady drops 43 bombs, Welker leads the league again in receptions, Moss catches 18 of those bombs and the Pats compete for their scoring record again, but ultimately fall a little short.

The defense is the easiest to assess. The DLine is one of the top five in the NFL. Richard Seymour has said he feels better then he has in the last two years. The LB's got... YOUNGER! Jarod Mayo will have a shot at DROY and Adalius Thomas will slide back over to his natural position on the outside. I am super excited to see this group play again. Then we get to the secondary. Deep at safety, they are fine and deep. Yeah, it'd be nice if Eugene Wilson was still there, but he was way behind Merriweather on the depth chart at this point anyway. Tank Williams will do just fine in his place. Yeah, losing Asante will hurt, but the Patriots have ALWAYS run a patchwork secondary. They won a Super Bowl with Hank Poteat and Earthwind Moreland for crying out loud. Randall *** is not that big of a loss considering he was never healthy. There are enough veterans to get the job done. Lewis Sanders and Fernando Bryant will be fine, and the two kids Wheatley and Willhite sound exciting with their speed.

I expect this team to win the Super Bowl. That's about all there is to it. They should be hungrier than ever. Whether they actually go 16-0 again remains to be seen. I will say the same thing I said last year: I am sure they will lose at some point, and when it happens we'll say "man they should have won that game" or "how could they lose to _______." I'm not going to sit here and say they are going to go 13-3 and lose the only three tough games they play. That's just a ridiculous notion to have, and ultimately makes the 13-3 look like a joke.

Should be a fun year no matter how you slice it...
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Old 07-27-2008, 12:19 AM    (permalink
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Looks like we signed Lamont Jordan...
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Old 07-27-2008, 05:52 PM    (permalink
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it'll be interesting to see what his potential role on the team will be. he is great out of the backfield, but so is faulk.
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Old 07-27-2008, 06:26 PM    (permalink
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It would be a bit funny if the Patroits signed LaMont Jordan because they are worried Sammy Morris and Laurence Maroney can't stay healthy, considering Jordan hasn't stayed healthy for a number of seasons now.

Although I have always had a like for Jordan, and think he could do well with the Pats in complement with Maroney, I'm not sure what to think of the move exactly - only because that the Pats already have Sammy Morris. Maybe there is some concern about his recovery from last season, behind closed doors, although Morris winning one of the team's offseason awards doesn't paint that picture. Jordan won't ever do that, at least not according to Warren Sapp who referred to Jordan as the worst offseason runningback he ever played with (which perhaps ties into his lack of durability).

So the chances of it being a good move/upgrade are slim I think, I like Jordan but I also like Morris, however neither is it a bad move because it stirs competition and may be an insurance policy for Morris.
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Old 07-28-2008, 03:27 PM    (permalink
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I liked Jordan when he was with the Jets, but he obviously did not perform well in Oakland. If they stay healthy then Maroney, Morris, and Faulk will all get their touches along with Heath Evans and possibly BenJarvus Green-Ellis. I think the Jordan signing has little risk so I'm not complaining about the signing.
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Old 08-07-2008, 12:21 AM    (permalink
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13-3

love your sig jay :-D haha
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Old 08-28-2008, 11:09 AM    (permalink
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So how sure are we now about that 13-3? I've heard talk about the "Vanilla" look on defense that is more about knowing where to be and getting the calls rather than actually working around each particular teams strengths/weaknesses, but I'm not buying it - even if it is Big Bill himself saying it. No decent D should get carved up that easily by Donovan McNabb (sorry D-Mac - I still love you, but your career completion percentage doesn't lie.)

Obviously the offense can't be graded with several starting O-lineman out and that other guy . . . um, what's his name?

But even with the missing O-line I believe it's safe to say Cassel is not good enough to be a reliable # 2 QB. O-line or no O-line, he's missed badly on enough passes that were decent looks that it's clear he can't get the job done.
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Old 08-30-2008, 05:42 PM    (permalink
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Matthew Jones is kind of a big deal around here, people know him.Matthew Jones is kind of a big deal around here, people know him.Matthew Jones is kind of a big deal around here, people know him.Matthew Jones is kind of a big deal around here, people know him.Matthew Jones is kind of a big deal around here, people know him.Matthew Jones is kind of a big deal around here, people know him.Matthew Jones is kind of a big deal around here, people know him.Matthew Jones is kind of a big deal around here, people know him.Matthew Jones is kind of a big deal around here, people know him.Matthew Jones is kind of a big deal around here, people know him.Matthew Jones is kind of a big deal around here, people know him.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geo View Post
...the best corner on the roster imo in Ellis Hobbs (insert groans from some Pats fans who aren't fond of the guy) might not even be healthy in time for training camp.

Plus I wonder if the Pats have a speedy enough pass rush to accompany the zone corners other than maybe Mike Vrabel having another career year. I wouldn't rule out Adalius Thomas having a big year in that regard though, if he focuses on that position entirely, although I suspect he'll inflate his stats some playing against some shaky OLs like last year...
Insightful post on this one. I've gotta say, you're one of my most respected users on here. However, I have problems with the two parts of your post I highlighted. I would say Ellis Hobbs is a pretty good cornerback in the league, with decent speed (under a 4.5, if I remember correctly), and a 45" vertical that helps him play with bigger guys. He's been playing hurt for a while, and I don't know many people who don't like him (although he has an arrogant reputation.) Fernando Bryant isn't my favorite, though.

As far as the pass rush...it's actually the opposite way around. Adalius Thomas is our premier pass rusher, not Mike Vrabel. Thomas didn't capitalize on weak offensive lines much - he capitalized on being switched from a coverage role at inside linebacker to a rush linebacker after Rosevelt Colvin's injury. He racked up sacks at outside linebacker and looked fantastic, although he struggled the first 11 or 12 games at inside linebacker. He was especially good in the Super Bowl.

Mike Vrabel's season last year was a bit overrated. Sure, he got a lot of sacks, but a lot of them were unopposed as he picked up sacks thanks to Belichick's excellent schemes at times. I would say he legitimately earned about six out of his 12.5 sacks, and the other half were in large part due to Belichick's complex blitzing schemes.
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