The State Of The Patriots

Discussion in ' - Patriots Fan Forum' started by Brady#12, May 20, 2006.

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  1. Brady#12

    Brady#12 On the Game Day Roster

    The State Of The Patriots

    A year removed from their unprecedented run of three championships in four years, the New England Patriots are looking to rebound from a 2005 season that saw them overcome myriad injuries to make the playoffs at 10-6 only to be undermined by their own uncharacteristically sloppy play and even sloppier officiating in a loss to the Denver Broncos. The team is poised to maintain their hold on the AFC East title, despite a newly emerging challenger in the revitalized Miami Dolphins.
    Here are the positional breakdowns for the 2006 edition of the New England Patriots.

    The Knowns:
    Tom Brady, depending on what punchbowl you're drinking from, is either the best or second-best quarterback in the NFL. Nothing can be said about him that hasn't already been said many times. The guy comes up in the clutch better than any quarterback since Joe Montana, shows remarkable resiliency - both mental and physical, and seems to improve with every passing year. 2005, despite not culminating in a championship, was a season of great individual accomplishment for Brady, who led the league in passing yards, posted the second-best passer rating of his career [92.3] and had to carry the team on his shoulders as injuries on both sides of the ball mounted. He started every game despite taking as many shots as any quarterback in the league, behind an offensive line that featured two rookies protecting his blind side.
    For 2006, there's nothing to suggest that Brady is about to slow down, with a new set of weapons around him, and one of the league's youngest and deepest protection units in front of him. The return of left tackle Matt Light should mean that Brady spends a lot less time on the ground this season, much to the relief of fans everywhere.

    The Unknowns:
    Doug Flutie, the team's only veteran backup quarterback announced his retirement from pro football last year, after more than two decades, leaving a major void behind Brady. Matt Cassel, a 7th round pick out of USC last season showed promise as a backup last season, but he is still a long way away from being a reliable option because of his lack of experience. This teem absolutely needs a veteran backup, or it will be in very dire straits if Brady should go down for any length of time. Former Dolphin/Jet Jay Fiedler seems to be on the team's radar, but overall the options are limited. The only other high-profile veteran on the market is Kerry Collins, and most people would agree that he would be a very poor fit in New England.

    Overall position grade: A-

    Running Backs
    The Knowns:
    Corey Dillon, who was not at 100% for much of 2005, will be healthy again to start 2006, and will provide a steady power running game for this team, as well as veteran leadership. Of course, with Dillon turning 32 in late October, the team wisely decided to look to the future in the draft, taking Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney with their first round pick. Maroney is known as an explosive, instinctive runner who can make people miss in the open field, and uses his blocks extremely well. If he can bring the full extent of his abilities to the NFL, he will be a star in this league. Kevin Faulk and Patrick Pass are both good 3rd down options, though neither figures to contribute much as a runner this season. The buzz is that either Faulk or Pass will be cut in training camp to make roster space for Maroney.

    The Unknowns:
    Just how much does a healthy Corey Dillon have left in the tank at age 32? He seemed a step slow at the beginning of last season, before the injuries hit, but some of that may have been the result of new personnel along the offensive line. But if Dillon can't be expected to provide more than the 3.5 yards per carry that he posted last season, how ready is Maroney to carry the load? Running backs are more likely than any other offensive players to contribute significantly as rookies, but every year there seem to be exceptions to the rule. If Maroney proves to be one of those exceptions, the Patriots will not have much more luck running the ball than they did in 2005, which will again put all the pressure on Brady.

    Overall position grade: B

    Wide Receivers
    The Knowns:
    Deion Branch will likely land a lucrative contract extension before the 2006 season is out. He is one of the new breed of elusive 'water bug' receivers that lit up the league last season. Branch is coming off a 2005 season in which he came within 2 yards of his first thousand-yard performance, and once again proved to be a force in the playoffs. He, along with the ageless, selfless and limitless Troy Brown provide veteran leadership to what is not an especially proven wide receiver unit. The team will be relying a great deal on its talented tight ends and Tom Brady's savvy to take pressure off this unit.

    The Unknowns:
    Chad Jackson was the #1 or #2 ranked receiver on virtually every draft board, and was considered a steal by most in the 2nd round. He does appear to be the most complete receiver in the 2006 draft class, and has impressed the Patriots coaching staff with his polish. The question is, just how much can he contribute as a rookie? History shows that most receivers take at least a year to become major players in their offenses. The Patriots are banking on Jackson being an exception to the rule. If this does not prove to be the case, the team is left without a true #2 receiver behind Branch. Reche Caldwell still carries the potential he brought with him to San Diego, but conventional wisdom indicates that at this stage in his career, the potential will never become fully realized. Troy Brown has always been a reliable target, but he will be 35 by the start of the season and hasn't played a full 16 games since 2001. Brandon 'Bam' Childress is a dark horse with a lot of the same attributes as Brown, but there's no guarantee that he'll even make the roster. 2003 second round pick Bethel Johnson has a lot of skill as a returner and has arguably the best straight-line speed in the league, but as a receiver, he's been a flop - showing little route running ability and poor hands.

    Overall position grade: C

    Tight Ends
    The Knowns:
    This is by far the deepest corps in the league at the position. Not one, but two former first-rounders sharing the starting role [the team loves to run multiple tight end packages] in Ben Watson and Daniel Graham. Each brings a different skill set tot he table, with Watson being the physical freak, capable of stretching the field and outrunning most defensive backs, and Graham the more 'classic' tight end who is a powerful in-line blocker and short-range target.
    New to the team are Dave Thomas, a [surprising] third round selection out of Texas who was rated by many scouts as having the best hands of all tight ends in the 2006 draft class, and Garrett Mills, a [even more surprising] fourth round pick from Tulsa, who set a number of team and conference receiving records for a tight end in college, but projects as a fullback/H-back at the pro level. With such a diverse and talented group of tight ends, the Patriots look to run a number of power sets, and other packages to take advantage of mismatches in both the secondary and linebacking corps of opponents and provide Brady with no less than 4 big, reliable targets to offset the lack of strength at wide receiver.

    The Unknowns:
    Ben Watson emerged last season as one of Brady's favorite targets, and showed the ability to flummox defenses with his freakish athleticism/size combination. He did, however, also get alligator-armed at times, dropping some relatively easy throws. If this continues, it may well stunt his development into the intimidating player the team is counting on him becoming.
    Graham will be using this season to showcase his talents for other teams, as he is a free agent after 2006 and is not expected to re-sign. Can he take advantage of the opportunity, or will he be discouraged by the fact that the team that drafted him will probably be moving on without him?

    Overall position grade: A+
  2. Brady#12

    Brady#12 On the Game Day Roster

    Heres the second bit I couldn't fit it all in.

    state of the Patriots part 2

    The Knowns:
    This unit consists of three proven veterans, and about half a dozen young guys vying for that fourth starting job. Tedy Bruschi will be 33 this season, but still seems to have quite a bit left in the tank. He’s the quarterback of this defense, and the team was quite different without him in the middle of that unit early last season. Mike Vrabel proved more valuable than ever last season, playing both inside and outside, and doing a great job in both spots. Rosevelt Colvin has taken two years to fully recover from a devastating hip injury in 2003, but he has once again stepped up as one of the league’s premiere rush linebackers.
    The team has maximized its options with regard to the final starting slot, with no fewer than six players, all 27 or younger, vying to take the spot vacated by Willie McGinest. 4th year veteran Tully Banta-Cain seems to have the inside track for this job, having logged an increasing amount of time with the first-team defense for the last two seasons and showing some playmaking ability. Monty Beisel was brought in last season as insurance for Tedy Bruschi, but seemed to be a forgotten man upon Bruschi’s return, and appeared to be a poor fit for the system when he was on the field. A year later, Beisel has added 10 pounds of bulk and has had ample chances to study and digest the scheme, giving himself a better shot at a starting job. Other candidates include Ryan Claridge, a 5th round pick in 2005 who redshirted with an injury as a rookie, Jeremy Mincey, this year’s 6th round selection out of Florida, and undrafted free agents Freddie Roach and Pierre Woods. The team fully believes that one of these youngsters will step up and earn this job.

    The Unknowns:
    While each of the younger guys on the team has potential, none will be able to fully replace what Willie McGinest brought to the defense. Rush linebacker is a position of huge importance in the 3-4 defense, and not having a premiere player at that position hurts quite a bit. The linebacking corps is protected by the best 3-4 defensive line in the league, but it needs to make plays for this defense to succeed, and right now there is a pretty large hole in this unit.

    Overall position grade: B-

    Defensive Backs
    The Knowns:
    A lot, and I mean a LOT of players who were hurt last season are returning in 2006. Chief among them is Rodney Harrison, whose absence severely impaired the defense’s effectiveness for much of 2006. Harrison is coming back from three torn knee ligaments, so he will be a step slower, but speed was never his game, anyway. There is ample depth at safety in case Harrison is not immediately ready to come back. Artrell Hawkins was the most effective stopgap at strong safety last season, filling in admirably during the playoffs. Hawkins is a converted cornerback, so he does not hit the way Harrison does, but he is better in coverage, and also a very smart player. Others like Tebucky Jones and James Sanders know the system and will log snaps in nickel and dime packages.
    At the corners, the team has both youth and experience. Asante Samuel [25] and Ellis Hobbs [23] are the expected starters. The former made great strides at the tail end of 2005 after struggling in man coverage through most of the season; the latter was one of the top performers of an amazing rookie CB class, recording 3 interceptions and 9 passes defended in just 10 starts. Also present are Randall Gay, who was a starter on the 2004 Super Bowl championship team, and veteran insurance in the form of Chad Scott [returning after an injury prematurely ended his 2005 season] and Eric Warfield [acquired as a free agent from the Chiefs]. The team is also in the running for marquee free agent Ty Law, who of course built a Hall Of Fame résumé for himself in 10 seasons with the Patriots before signing with the Jets for a year. If he signs with the team, the secondary will be that much more formidable.
    Eugene Wilson, the one constant last season returns at free safety. He should benefit immensely from Rodney Harrison’s renewed presence, as his play tailed off significantly from his the pro bowl level it was at in 2004 after Harrison’s injury.

    The Unknowns:
    The team better hope that these young guys [Samuel and Hobbs in particular] can build on their strong performances late last season if they can’t sign Law, because neither Chad Scott nor Eric Warfield is much of a cover corner.
    The team has ample insurance if Rodney Harrison isn’t available at the start of the season, but it needs Harrison’s presence to perform at its peak.

    Overall position grade: B+

    Special Teams
    The Knowns:
    Josh Miller should’ve been a pro bowler last season. He consistently put the Patriots in great field position with his punts, being among the league leaders in net average, and landing 22 punts inside the opponents’ 20, with only 4 touchbacks. The coverage unit remains strong, with Larry Izzo leading the way. Matt Chatham is gone, but the team brought in Mel Mitchell from the Saints, as well as others to compete for the spot Chatham vacated.
    Bethel Johnson will need to work extra hard to secure a roster spot, as Ellis Hobbs came on strong as a kick returner last season, his costly fumble against Denver in the playoffs notwithstanding.

    The Unknowns:
    Of course, the elephant in the room is the placekicker position. The team clearly liked Memphis’ Stephen Gostkowski enough to use a fourth round draft pick on him, but he’s got some big different-colored shoes to fill, stepping in for Adam Vinatieri, the best clutch kicker [arguably the best overall kicker] in NFL history. Of course, as with any team, the Patriots hope that their offense and defense minimize the importance of the kicking game, but it’s impossible to tell right now whether the rookie Gostkowski or the veteran Martin Gramatica will be able to adequately step in at the position.
    The role of punt returner is also up in the air. Tim Dwight, who was very effective in this role last season is gone. Troy Brown, Deion Branch, Kevin Faulk, Patrick Pass, Bethel Johnson and Ellis Hobbs have all returned punts for this team in the past. Bam Childress, Willie Andrews and others will also compete for the job, but there’s no telling right now who will win it or how effective he’ll be.

    Overall position grade: C-
  3. rhubma

    rhubma On the Roster

    Terrific post & read!

    Only changes I would make are:

    1) to include former LSU linebacker Eric Alexander into the list of LBs possibly being ready to move up to the active rotation.

    2) to be slightly more optimistic on the WRs - my feeling is that Caldwell and Johnson will fill the void until Jackson is ready.
  4. Poll

    Poll Practice Squad Player

    You mentioned the DL but did not cover them.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 30, 2005
  5. JoeSixPat

    JoeSixPat Pro Bowl Player

    Not bad for a guy who lives in London... thank goodness for Satellite TV, no?
  6. Brady#12

    Brady#12 On the Game Day Roster

    You got that right Joe, If it wasn't for sattelite TV a would be a very differnt fan!
  7. JoeSixPat

    JoeSixPat Pro Bowl Player

    Well obviously you get pretty good reception because that's a very well done overview.

    One question - with the WR corps getting a "C" even with the landing of 1st round WR talent early in round 2, what grade would you give had we waited til the 3rd or 4th round to grab a less heralded WR?

    ... plenty of people around here felt that we were already OK at WR with the signing of Caldwell as our #2. I disagreed, pulled for the drafting of Jackson - and even with that I know that Jackson could still take quite a few games to get used to the speed of the NFL.

    I think I'm still open to trading for or signing another veteran WR, and let 'em fight it out in camp.
    Last edited: May 20, 2006
  8. Brady#12

    Brady#12 On the Game Day Roster

    Thanks it took me about two hours ish.

    But I'm glad you guys see the Pats from my point of view:)
  9. Brady-To-Branch

    Brady-To-Branch Third String But Playing on Special Teams

    Hey Brady#12,

    Love your sig line!!!


    • Like Like x 1
    Last edited: May 20, 2006
  10. Brady#12

    Brady#12 On the Game Day Roster

    You are now my new best friend:D

    But Assante isn't a C.Bailey, Ty Law, D.Hall type corner he's not going to get 7+ INTs a season he's not going to be a flashy playmaker.

    He's just a solid corner who goes out onto the field and does his job and keeps his side of the field coverd and lets the Ty Law or now Ellis Hobbs type CB's go and do what they do as there a bit more flashey and talented than he is, but he's got a Super Bowl ring and he started a super bowl as well so he must be doing somthing right:cool:
  11. the taildragger

    the taildragger Third String But Playing on Special Teams

    I actually agree with the C on the WR corp...but when you have TB under center they automatically become a B+/A-...eventually I think Jackson is an A on his own. I love Deion in our system, but he's not a bonafide #1 receiver. I'm not sold on Caldwell just yet.

    I like the idea of a veteran backup, but if it the choice is Fiedler or Collins, I'll take Cassel...I think the window on the veteran backup QB is closing, as they need to pick up the system -- Flutie said he had a lot of trouble with our system, it's not something most veterans can just come in and run with. I don't doubt that they're sniffing out the market, I just don't know if:
    a: we'll find a guy who would want to back up Brady and
    b: we'll find a guy who would do a better job than Cassel.

    For me the whole team: offense, defense, and ST, comes down to the RB position. On paper we look great...if it actually turns out that way we'll be pretty tough to beat.
    Last edited: May 21, 2006
  12. mgteich

    mgteich Veteran Supporter

    I guess Brady has done pretty well with a "C" group of receivers in the past. Of course many call them "A" receivers merely because Tom is throwing them the ball. A "C" grroup of receivers, plus our 4 TE's and running backs is plenty.
    The real question is whether they are even "C" level.
  13. spacecrime

    spacecrime Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal

    Not to worry. Here is my take. Flutie said he would only play for Pats. If not them, hewoud retire. Well, he is now on our shadow roster. Brady goes down and Cassel gets the start in Oct-Nov? Flutie gets the call and gets signed as a FA.

    We effectively have a 54 man roster.

    55 if you count Poteat who will be cut and not picked up.

    56 if you count Pass who will be cut and not picked up.

    57 if you count Mruc

    etc etc
  14. VJCPatriot

    VJCPatriot Pro Bowl Player

    Everybody disses the Pats receivers. But you haven't seen Mr. Chad Jackson step out on the field yet. :D :D

    Plus if we add Patten as an expected June 1st cut this receiving corp starts looking very very solid.

  15. Lloyd_Christmas

    Lloyd_Christmas I can delete my own crap! Supporter

    I don't think a grade of 'c' is fair when evaluating our WRs. We lost Givens and Dwight (and some other scrubs) and added Caldewell and Jackson. Last year I would have Given us an A-, this year they deserve at least a B.

    I also think B is too low for RBs. We still have Faulk and Dillon and added Maroney. Good Lord! What do we have to do to get an A? I also think that Mills will be used more as a FB, so I think we deserve and A. Take Mills out of the equation and I still think it should be an A-.

    Special Teams: Again, too low IMO. Our punter was very good last year. We have made several moves to improve our punt and kickoff teams as well as the coverage teams. If we had only signed Gramatica, I could understand a somewhat low rating, but then going out and drafting the kicker we wanted (combined with the other moves) should get us at least a B-.

    I would reduce the grade for LBs from a B to a C+. We didn't replace McGinest or really even try. I'm sure we will be fine, but on paper, this is the one area that we are worse at than last year.

    Overall, I was impressed with your writeup and enjoyed it very much. Thanks.
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