. Patriots Preview –
I posted this as part of my idle thoughts on KFFL. Many there thought I was too optimistic, however I caution, I am only concidering the team as it compares to itself, not any other team. Overall I think we are an improved team. Younger, faster, more athletic. The losses of Givens, Willie, and Adam, hurt, but gains in other areas more than offset the loss of 3 players. (Hell the last few seasons it has seemed as if we were losing 3 key players on a regular basis. ;) At any rate some one requested I post this here, and if I'm asked nicely, I usually do what I'm asked :D
QB- IMPROVED – First we know that Brady will find one thing he wants to do better this year and improve on it, he’s that kind of competitor. Having a deeper, healthier, and more talented RB core will be another positive for him. Having a deeper, more experienced OL will also help. Finally I think that the Pats will pick up a better experienced vet than Doug Flutie (ie Jay Fiedler), and Matt Castle should be significantly improved as well.
OL – IMPROVED - We are adding our 2 best OLmen to an OL that was good enough for Brady to throw for 4000+ yds and the Pats to get to what amounts to the quarter finals of the NFL playoffs (and its not unrealistic to say the Pats offense outplayed the Bronco’s offense on their home field. It could be said that we were actually only 3 plays plays from winning that game (the Pass interference, the Brady pick & runback, Brown’s fumble). The point here is that even after losing our 2 best OLmen, the OL didn't suck.
Between having Koppen & Light back, the additional experience Mankins and Kezar picked up, and the additions added to Dante U.,will make this the most talented, deepest, OL in Patriots history. And as we all know, when the front line is in good shape, the skill positions on both sides tend to be more successful
TE- SLIGHTLY IMPROVED – Watson has a full year under his belt. Graham won’t be needed as much to babysit an inexperienced OL, and we replaced Fauria with what most scouts felt was the 3rd best TE in the draft. This is one of the real strengths of the team.
WR – SLIGHTLY WEAKER – The loss of Givens, is a fact. To a lesser degree, the losses of Davis and Dwight, affect the experience factor of our WRs. However, while he’s unproven, Chad Jackson is bigger, faster, and more talented than Givens, and should he apply himself as much as David did, will BECOME an improvement.
Also don’t forget that we essentially lost Troy Brown to the defense for a greater part of the season. Hopefully (my lips to God’s ear) he will be able to concentrate solely at WR this season, and be that much more effective. Dwight will be missed more as PR than WR, and Davis was a more disciplined version of Bethel Johnson. Branch, Brown, Jackson, & Caldwell give us as solid a group of WRs as anyone. Unfortunately we’ve been used to seeing 6 sort of equal guys vying for spots, so having just 4 (for now) makes it seem worse than it is. Believe me while there are a few teams that can claim better names, there are more that would be thrilled to have the talent we will throw out there this season, especially with the offensive system we have…and some guy named Brady.
DL – SLIGHTLY IMPROVED – Starting with Seymour, Warren, Willfolk, & Green, the Pats are one of the top DL’s in the league. I truly believe either Hill or Sullivan (if not both) will blossom as the season goes along, improving the depth. They will coach up the rookie or FA to give us the depth and flexibility we have become accustomed to.
LB – SLIGHTLY IMPROVED – I know some might think that losing Willie makes LB a liability, but I think differently. Let us not forget that Willie will be 35 this season. An age, that if it didn’t see him lose a step or two, surely would have limited his participation. Secondly, I expect to see a great improvement from Monte Beisel. We will have a full season from Tedy Buschi, and continued improvement from Rosy Colvin back into the impact player we saw when he first came to the Pats.
I am also going to take the liberty of inferring that because we haven’t seen the Pats go after any of the noted FA LB’s, BB is currently happy with the progress of guys like TBC and Clarridge, etc. to be able to help with depth issues at LB. (However if we pick up someone like Donnie Edwards before camp, I reserve the right to change my mind on this point. )
DB – IMPROVED – During the playoffs, our secondary was excellent. Even in the loss to Denver, the secondary did a great job vs BOTH the running and passing games. This season Hobbs will be improved as he enters his second season, we have several young safeties & CBs coming back from the IR, and Rodney should be full strength by the playoffs. And this doesn’t factor in the possibility of having Ty Law return. What turned out to be a fairly solid defensive backfield by the end of the year, should be one of the most improved areas of the team.
SPECIAL TEAMS – IMPROVED – The Pats should be much better at KO and Punt coverage. They have brought in several proven coverage guys, like TJones, to vastly improve an area of weakness last season. On the other hand, the Pats lost the best PR we’ve had since Troy Brown circa 2001. It remains to be seen who and how good his replacement is. KO returns should only get better, they can’t get much worse.
Finally how well will we replace Adam? Personally I think we will do fairly well. I am willing to bet, whoever wins the job, will kick within 5% of the success rate of Adam circa 2005. Again, Adam was an 80% kicker, which is fairly ordinary by today’s standards. What Adam is best known for is his CLUTCH kicks. But the fact is Adam’s last big clutch kick was in the 2003 super bowl (BTW, after he gagged on 2 earlier ones).
This isn’t to disparage all Adam accomplished, I wish he were back, but the reality is who ever kicks for us will likely be around an 80% kicker. Like Adam the new guy will likely miss 2 of 10 kicks. The risk is in WHICH 2 kicks will he miss. History tells us that Adam rarely missed the “big one”. (though Pete Carroll might have different thoughts. ) Only time will tell about the new kicker, though I doubt kicking FGs will be the major reason we lose a game.
COACHING – SLIGHTLY IMPROVED – While we lost Mangini, we gained another year of continuity with the rest of the staff, which, after losing both Weiss & Crennell the year before, is why I think the Pats will be in better synch with each other. Plus the fact that we will simply have more talent this year, and having a lot of talent has a funny way of making coaches coach better.
SCHEDULE - MUCH IMPORVED - Though you can never tell how a season will turn out, at least at this point, the Pats have gone from one of the hardest schedules in the league to one of the easiest. IMHO 12-4 should be the base line for this team....barring ANOTHER slew of major injuries.
5. Speaking of FG kicker, the early money will be on the kid. Based on what we’ve heard he has the bigger leg, is a better athlete, and better long term upside. Having Grammatica there all camp will keep the pressure on him, so kicking in games will seem easy in comparison. Every kick in camp is going to be a pressure kick, when you are fighting for a job.
So, while I think the kid will win the job, I offer a word of caution. I doubt he will come out of box and be a superstar. Last season the Jets pick a kicker in the second round who many thought was worth going that high. There is no ceiling on the kid, but LIKE A ROOKIE, he was very uneven in the early going, and finished stronger. I think he he had around a 75%-80% success rate. Right around what Adam had HIS first year.
BTW- Patience will probably be needed at some point this season. But as a rule, if you as a fan ever get pissed somewhere along the line, that they let Adam go, blame the FO, not the kid. He will be fine in the long term.
Nice summary, I think you are right on most issues.
I would say that while this will possibly be as good or better than any of Brady's O-Lines, I don't think it will be the best EVER. That would be a great accomplishment, but I'm not so sure yet!
I also think the TE position will be more than slightly improved, with Watson's improvements, Grambo fighting for his next contract, and Thomas being possibly better than Fauria right out of the box. Mills may also contribute.
I think the coaching will also be more than slightly better. I think that Pees is going to do a better job than Mangini. He has been a head coach, and by all accounts, has been a guy to bring up good points when meeting with other coaches and other players, and is not afraid to point things out to Belichick. In other words, he has something to bring to the table outside of Belichick's system.
With a brutal year like they went thru last year, I think the coaches probably have focused more than ever on some of the Pat's weaknesses, such as offense skill positions.
Nice to have a good thread to talk about. Thanks!
Can't argue with anything here, I think your point on the less intense schedule is going to be very important this year.
The only one I disagree on is that we're improved at LB. Now, I don't think losing a 35 year old McGinest is a disaster by any means. But when I look at the playoffs last year with Tedy and Vrabel inside and McGinest and Colvin outside, I can't say that I think we're improved with Vrabel, Colvin, Bruschi and Beisel. That said, Beisel did play vs. a strong running team in the playoffs, Jacksonville when Tedy missed a game, and we stopped the run fine which gives me hope.
Your statement about which 2 FG are missed sums up the loss of Vinatieri perfectly. Gostkowski's 22/25 last year and no misses over 40 yards shows that he can kick. And his pitching experience should help the pressure kick as he's been in plenty of athletic situations in which he needs to deal with pressure (of course, not Super Bowl pressure).
Regarding the coaching, I'm happy that Felger reported that Belichick was doing more coaching that last year at the minicamp. I feel good about Pees but we still have the best DC of this generation on the staff and I think the second half of last year reminded him that he can still get down and dirty helping to coach the defense a little more. I also think the young DC probably had more trouble gaining players' respect than the young OC as the defense is a lot more veteran than the offense. This won't be a problem for Pees.
I agree with almost all your comments. I disagree with two positions.
We are counting on a rookie, a player who could retire at any time, a renovation project and a practice squad player. Our number #1 is a holdout and is so fragile that perhaps like last year he will not participate in any meaningful way in the preseason. This could all work out. The TE's could pick up the slack, but the loss of Givens, Dwight and Davis project this a more than a minor downgrade.
Pass the koolaid. A minor improvement? The issue is not Willie's age or what he will produce this year. The issue is improving on his 2005 output. I don't think the combination of Beisel, TBC and Claridge figure to replace McGinist.
Nice job. Well thought out. I tend to agree with all of it. The few parts I might not are quibbles, and only a matter of opinion anyway.
Thanks for posting this.
we didnt improve at LB..who is good enough to replace Willie? We had Beisel last year aswell..he didnt cut it. We didnt improve at LB
i agree with 90% of what you posted. most importantly, i agree 100% that the Pats are a better team than last years-right now. youre half right about whats being important is how they compare to last years team-but you missed the other half-how they compare to other top SB contenders. they compare favorably to both imho. while i agree the ol will be the best of the brady era-a bit too soon to call it the best EVER- i watched a pats ol that had 2 dudes named hannah and gray who were pretty good. i gotta echo afew others tho about the lbs-thats one area the Pats are worse. at the end of last season we had bruschi,vrabel inside and willie and colvin outside. i think beisel will improve-but he wont have the impact of willie. one positive note is if beisel can be at least adequate-vrabel will play outside where he belongs. mike became a good olb-but he is a GREAT olb. the wr situation is still a little sticky-not much depth. but overall, i agree with your optimistic outlook. especially with the easy sked. by december, with rodney back to his old self-the Pats will be a major force.
Vrabel is the only LB on the team capable of filling Willie's shoes. Those who want him to stay inside don't get it.
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