By: Derek Havens/Follow Derek On Twitter
July 29, 2010

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For the New England Patriots, last season was a splash of cold water to the team as well as for the fans as they were sent back to reality.

For the first time in recent memory sports broadcasters and spectators alike were questioning the teams leadership, locker room chemistry and perhaps the biggest surprise of all, head coach Bill Belichick. Whether or not Belichick had lost his control over the team was a sacrilegious thought for Patriot nation during the past decade, especially considering the last time it happened, they finished the season holding the Lombardi Trophy.

However with the infusion of young talent over the past two drafts, which includes 24 total draft selections, the roster has undergone unbelievable turnover. This could be one of the many reasons Belichick has recently decided to take down "glory days" photos from the team facilities in order for the team to create a new identity. Or perhaps the return of wide receiver David Patten, who in his prime was a solid contributor and was brought back to camp for a mentors role.

The team had many woes during the season last year, which unfortunately out shined the great moments and was capped by a first round exit to the Baltimore Ravens. One year removed from knee surgery Tom Brady statistically had a good season, however, anyone who has watched the Patriots over his career knew that he was not the same guy and did not show up for critical late game moments. The red zone for the offense was certainly frustrating for the team to execute in, as well as for the fans to watch. The offense was thought of as predictable, with a sub par committee running game coupled with the lack of receiving weapons, which left Bill O'Brian as well as Tom Brady short handed.

However one of the biggest flaws of the team was the lack of pressure that the defense could generate during a game. With opposing offenses operating under little duress, the New England secondary was left out to dry. Not to mention the very erratic and inconsistent play from the safety position didn't exactly do the defense any favors.

Alas, There are many reasons to be looking up Patriots nation. Tom Brady and Bill O'Brian have some new toys for the upcoming season. Veteran receiver Torry Holt should be a great acquisition and his football IQ should help the developments of all the young receivers. Draft picks Taylor Price, and hopefully more than a game's worth from Brandon Tate should help out the receiver depth for the team. Rob Gronkowski has a ceiling as high as any rookie out of the draft this last year if his back is not an issue. His 6'6 265 pound frame is a QB's dream and with his excellent hands as well as blocking, he could really be special.

Another rookie TE / H -- Back Aaron Hernandez also is a player for the offense that could be fun to watch. His speed and versatility is one aspect I expect to be highlighted in the first game, and I think both the new tight ends could help solve the red zone woes. With this new young talent on offense we will see how the team can evolve on this side of the ball.


Rookie linebacker Brandon Spikes will be battling for a spot next to Jerod Mayo as training camp begins. (PHOTO: Icon/SMI)
Defensively, two new veterans Gerard Warren and Damione Lewis should add depth to a veteran line who struggled last year to replace Richard Seymour. Outside linebacker will be under a huge spotlight as Jermaine Cunningham, Tully Banta -- Cain, Derrick Burgess, Rob Ninkovich, and Pierre Woods look to contribute. The middle linebacker position could be special. With budding young star Jerod Mayo, who is looking for his first Pro Bowl season, Gary Guyton, who filled in admirably and has 16 games of experience under his belt, Tyrone Mckenzie is looking to make an impact after an unfortunate knee injury last year, and Brandon Spikes, who could be a thumper and potentially gives them a solid combo with Mayo in the middle if he has the speed to play in the NFL. These four will make for some of the best position battles in camp this year and should hold a lot of promise for fans.

For the secondary; Leigh Bodden, Darius Butler, and Devin McCourty are the team's cornerbacks, which could be a great trio down the road. At the safeties there's Brandon Meriweather, who had a probowl year, Patrick Chung, who in his second year could be the starter at free safety, there's James Sanders as the constant professional, and Brandon McGowan, who is a solid contributor will also make for the one of the teams most heated position battles.

Overall camp will be an exciting and promising time for the team and fans alike. With the rookies and veterans hitting the field running today, football season is finally just around the corner.

Derek Havens is a blogger for patsfans.com and is currently attending the University of Arizona majoring in journalism. Born and raised in Marblehead, Massachusetts he has been a New England patriots fan all his life. If you want to talk sports or have a story idea you can leave a comment or follow him on twitter @derekhavens


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