After stepping away from that horrid end to a disappointing season, I have these assorted thoughts to add to the discussion. 1. I know its crazy to complain about an offense that was one of the top units in the league, but the following few items bugged the crap out of me all season. a. I don't think we utilized our TEs well. Watson might not be an elite receiving TE, but he isn't chopped liver either. He has the speed to threaten the seams, yet we rarely used him in that capacity. Its also no surprise that when we did, it was quite successful. b. I also felt that we didn't use our RBs and TEs enough in delay and dump off patterns and overall, it didn't seem like we spread the ball around enough. And what ever happen to the slant pass. The Pats almost NEVER use it. c. I know this will come as a surprise to some fans, but the Pats had the 12th best running attack in the league, DESPITE having a dominant passing attack. I'd like the Pats to commit to the run more and use more traditional running formations....and then pass from them. It seemed to me that WHENEVER time we lined up with a FB, we ran the ball. To put this into some perspective, there were TWENTY teams in the NFL who ran the ball WORSE than the Pats. This is surprising since EVERYONE knows that the Pats running attack SUCKED d. Finally IMHO there didn't seem to be any "pattern" to our offense. We didn't run the ball to set up the pass, or pass the ball to set up the run. Down an distance rarely seemed to matter. On 3ed and long we'd still throw the same passes that we would if it had been 3rd and 4. It was more we ran running and passing plays in no particular order, for no particular reason. The play calling seemed, to me at least, to be pretty random. 2. I think we need to stop complaining about our defense for a number of reasons. It seems to me that the NFL has almost legislated dominant defenses out of the league. If you combine the rules interpretations/changes, with the complex offenses, and the size and speed of today's WRs, it is almost impossible to stop any team that has a good QB. Just look at the superbowl. The only time the defense forced a punt, it was more a case of the OFFENSE stopping itself with drops, penalties, etc, than the defense creating chaos. And although it sometimes didn't seem like it, IMHO we have the makings of a good solid D here in NE. Its not like this was a defense that was ranked in the 20's (like the 2001 and 2003 superbowl winners) This was the ELEVENTH ranked D in the league, FIFTH in scoring D; yet we b!tch and moan about the D as if we were bottom feeders. To me this is a young defense that is deep in the secondary (a must in today's league) and is going to get better with time, and a few additions. HOWEVER, as fans we are going to have to get used to the "new reality" of the NFL in this decade. That is that, baring some rules changes, DEFENSES are at a major disadvantage right now. They are NEVER going to to CONSISTENTLY stop even a decent NFL offense. Sorry but it isn't going to happen. IMHO, what defenses have to do is to recognize this fact and change with the times. I think the key to defense in today's NFL is not how many yds you give up, but in how many Turn overs you can force or big plays you can make. The Saints DC is getting a lot of kudos now, but I didn't notice Peyton having any trouble moving the ball down the field. In fact they ONLY time the Colts were stopped in that game was because of the pick, dropped balls and a bad play call (3rd and short before the half) And to prove my point the ONLY time the Saints were stopped after the first drive was because of dropped balls or penalties. In this league a good offense will ALWAYS move the ball against a good defense. Just look what the Colts did the to the best D in the league in the 2nd half of the AFCCG So if that's the case, then we need our defense to improve in ONE critical area. Turnovers. So I'm looking for our defense to play tighter all over the field. I WANT them to take more chances. I want them constantly going for the ball...and I will accept the risks that go along with that kind of play.....BECAUSE, we have one of those offenses that can't be stopped either.....and TOs are what turn those game around. Off season suggestions: a. Forget Brady, the most important guy I want wrapped up early this off season is Leigh Boddin. I thought he was one of the best CBs in the league, and he's the key (IMHO) to the Pats secondary for the forseeable fuure. With Boddin on board to anchor the secondary, Merriweather, McGowen, Chung, Sanders, Butler, Willhite, Wheatly. are all young athletic and fast guys who are only going to get better with time. (and I'm willing to bet that one of those first 4 picks is going to be a DB come April) The key with the secondary is numbers. The more guys in the secondary you have to play multple positions, the more flexible and deceiving your defense can be. This doesn't mean you need to have all pros back there, but you need quality athletes who know your system and can play the game. The ability to disguise your D will lead to more TOs than a " shut down" CB b. The next guy you need to sign is Wilfolk. Once that's done, with Prior, Wright, Warren , Burgess, and Green, we will then be solid on the DL...even if Brace fails to develop, which I doubt will happen c. With the necessity to sign Wilfolk and Boddin, I don't see Julius Peppers as a Patriot. First, I can't justify paying ANY non-QB that kind of money. Even if the guy plays well, its STILL not a value signing, because of who you CAN'T keep. And secondly, Peppers has a lot of questions IMHO...too many to take that kind of salary structure risk d. AThomas - I don't want to see him playing for the Jets next season. I think he has some legit grievances. He's been moved around a lot. He HASN'T be allowed to go after the passer much. He's been criticized for essentially being a good soldier (up until this year) I'd keep him for this upcoming year...and I'd set him loose more often. (I'd also like him to lose 15 lbs) I love our OL, now and for the near future. I think that an OL that is made up of Light, Mankins, Volmer, Kaczar, Koppen, Connolly, LeVoir; is deep and talented. I think its time to part ways with the oft injured Steve Neal...unless he wants to come back on the (relative)cheap and finish his career as a Patriot. I think his shoulder is too much of a liability to risk market money on him. I know there will be a lot of calls for Volmer to take over the LT duties for Light. Here's a thought, if that came to pass, I'd love to see Light slide down to the OG spot. I recall reading several reports when he was drafted, which projected him to be a decent NFL LT, but thought he'd be an all pro as G. Well Light has turned out to be MORE than a decent NFL LT, but maybe its time to move him to his "natural" position. More likely we will see Light stay at LT while Volmer starts on the right side. Not because Kaczar wasn't adequate, but because Volmer could be just THAT good. e. I want to see us keep ALL our RBs...including Moroney....ESPECIALLY Moroney. I thought he ran very well this season, DESPITE the random nature of his opportunities. All RBs have periods where they fumble, and by and large, in the great scheme of things, Moroney DOESN'T fumble that often. I like having Taylor and Morris on the team, but BOTH those guys are well past their primes. Also I can see Moroney in the future morphing into the Kevin Faulk role, because Kevin doesn't have much tire on the tread either. Regardless, getting younger at RB is a must, and to that end I can't see BOTH Taylor and Morris on the team next year f. The draft: If anyone is hoping that we will miraculously find our pass rush cure in the draft is dreaming. BELIEVE me, but there are 31 OTHER teams in the league whose #1 goal in this draft is to find a legitimate pass rushing threat. IF we DO find this diamond in this draft it will be more because of luck than skill. NONE of the obvious choices are going to be around come the 22nd pick g. As for who we draft, I'll just be hoping to find 4 guys in those first 4 picks who can play special teams and be back ups. I'm more looking forward to seeing how Crable, Tate and McKennzie come back from IR. I don't expect, NOR do I want to see Wes Welker before November. f. Like most I'd like to see a legit WR brought into the fold to fill the role Joey Galloway never filled. The Anquan Boldin rumors for one of our 2nds sounds good EXCEPT for the contract he'd want. It would be a perfect fit talentwise. The Cards AREN'T going to get a better offer, but the contract would seem to be a deal breaker.....too bad.