Pats seem to have a nice future
All things considered, despite the fact that there are still some areas of weakness and players that will need to be developed before we can safely feel like they filled existing areas of weakness, it's hard not to feel like the team is in a really good position for the next five or six years. In retrospect, all the hand-wringing about free agency notwithstanding, it seems pretty clear that Belichick has put the team in position to stay atop the AFC East at least, and more likely continue to contend for a bye in the playoffs.
The bright side of the McCourty pick is straightforward: we should have a top-five secondary for a long time to come. If Butler, Chung, and McCourty play even to 3/4 of expectations, we'll be in posession of a huge luxury in a pass-oriented league. Obviously Belichick saw the writing on the wall over the last few years: under the Polian rules, teams that pass the ball win championships. The gradual building of a young, top-flight secondary by the Patriots' FO has been nothing less than masterful. This is the way successful teams build their defensive units: cheaply, through the draft. We all remember how frustrating it's been seeing Manning, Rivers, and Brees burn through the likes of O'Neal, Wilhite, and Starks (shudder), and the development of a deep secondary that will have at least three top-flight young talents at CB and a pro bowl caliber safety reflects on Belichick's long-term thinking. There was a plan here, and it's coming to fruition. Kudos to the Patriots FO for putting together this unit that will likely have the chance to play together consistently for at least the next four or five years.
Our front seven is the unit that most of us came into this draft thinking was very suspect, and there are probably still going to be some issues this year. Cunningham and Spikes certainly might step right in and be instant contributors, but it's more likely that we'll see what they can do in year 2, although Spikes should have the chance to come in and play right away. I don't think it's impossible that he'll be a day one starter on first and second downs. The linebacking unit got young and talented yesterday. It feels like a huge wave of fresh air, and again, we're looking at a number of years where they'll be cheap and locked into contracts.
On the D Line, we have a glaring hole at RE, but it's hard not to feel like locking Wilfork down was the best possible Patriots free agency move that could have been made. I'll take Wilfork and a Cunningham conversion project over Julius Peppers and Ron Brace any day of the week. We have a happy, committed veteran leader at the heart of our defense, and with what will probably be a pick in the range of 10-20 next year (Raiders), we can draft the DE of the future. Who knows how different things might have been with Sey last year, but we all knew he would have been gone this year anyway.
Offensively, we added two tight ends that have incredibly high ceilings. Either one of these two players could wind up a pro bowler (and one probably will). That safety that teams like to roll over the top to cover Moss? Say hello to Aaron Hernandez running a 20 yard go route. One of these kids is going to be our Dallas Clark.
So, we're thin at WR and RB, but not overwhelmingly so. Maroney isn't an all-star, but he's serviceable, and the addition of Gronk and Crumpler is likely to help the run game. Vollmer showed flashes of being a fantastic run blocker last year, line Crumpler up next to him and it looks like the running game could get a big boost next year. As for WR, that's the big question mark going into next season. We have holes in our WR corps, and Torry Holt probably isn't the answer. If the young talent we have (and it is marginal talent, fourth rounders and below), doesn't break out, we'll be weak there. On the whole, though, you have to like Tom's ability to work with what he has. I think that a Moss/Holt/Edelman group is certainly better than Caldwell/Gaffney, even with a declining Moss. Of all the places to be weak, this is probably the best one.
The key here is that we have four picks in the first two rounds next year....again. That will translate into another year of infusion of a lot of young talent (with what I'm sure will be some trading down to keep the train moving). The schedule next year is brutal, but it appears that the Patriots are in fantastic shape in the coming years. The combination of massaging the Draft and putting together a young defense full of studs...it's pretty clear that there hasn't been much of a drop since Pioli left. Whether all the pieces fit together or not, we'll have to see, but you can't say that Belichick hasn't done a remarkable job of putting those pieces on the board and maximizing the Patriots' ability to compete even while losing talent.
That first round playoff loss might have hurt, but enjoy these years people, they're glory days. The fact is that a 10-6 team that won the AFC East just clearly improved, a LOT, and will have 2 picks in each of the first 2 rounds next year to continue that process. You look at most teams that win multiple championships five years out from their last one, and they're almost always in free-fall. We have a team that's on the opposite end of the arc, getting better every year. I think it's possible that next year could be rough, the schedule is brutal and it'll take a while for this crop of outstanding young players to figure out the system, but in the long term, how can you feel anything other than good about the Pats? If Brady plays for six or seven more years, at the very least he's going to have a very talented team around him, and what more could you ask for? We're a very spoiled fanbase. Enjoy it.
Re: Pats seem to have a nice future
great write up
offensively its all on obrien IMO
will we have welker? no but we have the pieces to make up a different but still very effective offense.
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