So the schedule is out, the draft has taken place, and the team is quickly taking shape. Instead of looking forward to mini-camps, the early sighting of the rookies, free agent signings, and eventually training camp, we are stuck in this limbo... The DL looks pretty solid, in my opinion. There are many injured players returning such as Warren, Brace, Wright, Pryor, and Deaderick. We have also added a veteran presence in Stroud. It certainly is looking more hopeful than the past couple of years--at least since the departure of Seymour. The LB core is not nearly as bad as many here think. Ninkovich is the kind of player we love to have, and may even continue to improve. Cunningham showed promise in his first year, and will continue to advance with another season. Spikes is certainly hopeful to be a major contributor. Mayo is coming off of an incredibly solid year, and of course was the NFL's leading tackler. We still have depth and a sub-package coverage guy in Guyton. Fletcher even showed us promise. There is a lot of hope with this core, and we haven't even explored the possibility of added a free agent vet. This could be promising indeed. The secondary could be the best since the 2003 days, if not even better. We all know that McCourtey was only the 4th rookie EVER to make the pro bowl, and our major (#1 from last yr) signing in Bodden is returning from injury. There's absolutely zero reason to believe that he won't be up to par, as I remember him saying that he realistically 'could've' played in the SB--had we made it + the overlooking of obvious IR/roster rules. The point is--he claims he's at 100% already, and has been for at least a couple months. We all saw Arrington relish his role, and he is a good team player. He can play in nickle/dimes, and is certainly viable off of the bench if needed. I like the depth. Once again, we've added more youth/depth/speed in a HIGH pick in Dowling. I am looking forward to seeing what this kid has, and by all accounts seems to have the natural talent to be coached up. This is great, and it also pushes back Butler (who seemed to at least play 'better' and could still end up being a factor). Wilhite could at least provide depth, and at least knows the system. As far as the safeties go, it seems as though the early bad news re: Meriweather has subsided, and that nothing will come about it. He can provide another year, will cause some turnovers, and may be quite inspired in his contract year. Chung made nice strides last year, and is just another who continues to learn, succeed, and impress. The 2nd-3rd yr players will step up even more. For depth, Belichick obviously thinks Barrett shows promise, and we still don't know if we'll end up keeping McGowan or not--who has shown that he can indeed, contribute. James Sanders is the veteran leader of sorts, and though he may not be as overall talented, he is still an important piece as he often calls the secondary assignments. He plays 'smart,' no doubt. Even Sergio Brown showed us that he is able to step in and make plays, after all he was only a rookie, and should/could improve even more if he sticks around. Overall the CB/S positions are looking GOOD to me!! As a gelling defense that is young and still learning, we all saw the potential in the 2nd half of the year. It showed us a lot of promise at times, and we should be able to not only fix the 3rd down dilemma, but also put some added pressure that we all need and crave. I truly am not an optimistic person of sorts, but am feeling as though some of these issues will continue to only get better. The all-important special teams unit has only gotten even better IMO. We have very talented (multiple) KR's, PR's, and added more speed and special teams presence through the draft. I am going out on a limb and predicting that the 'ST--ONLY' positions will be at a premium for sure this year. I truly only see one or two, although many will likely disagree. We have gone and made the 53 man even more special teams friendly, there's no doubt. We're getting our pro bowl kicker back (not that the replacement wasn't GREAT minus touchbacks), and the rookie punter Mesko showed us how good he can be (The BAL game took a MAJOR turn of events with that booming punt. I truly believe he won the game for us). I think that special teams could seriously be the best it has been in a while. The offense is already extremely powerful, but once again, the addition of youth/depth/speed will only improve. At QB we added a potential good backup with obvious raw talent in Mallett, at the very least he provides more depth and could light a fire under Hoyer, who himself should only improve with another added yr. Brady is coming off a yr where he was the only unanimous MVP ever.. Again, it's another position that should be the strongest it has been in a while, and it really can't hurt to carry 3 QB's again. The RB core is very strong too, IMO. They don't fumble often, which hopefully will carry over. We already had a 1,000 yd rusher who didn't fumble one time, and we already know what kind of presence Woody brings as a 3rd down back. The additional brusier in Ridley, and HR threat in Vareen will just make this position even deeper and better. This isn't even taking into account the fact that K.Faulk may or may not be done, but BB may end up keeping him for depth and locker room presence (I think it's about 60/40 that he is done, maybe 65/35). Regardless, I hate to even say it--the position really looks stronger and deeper than it has in years. No more relying and 'hoping' on older backs that seem to be past their prime. We are back to a punishing running game that will only help keep TFB upright, and run clock. Their ability to pick up the blitz and block is an even more important factor. We all know about the TE infusion. Another added yr for the 2 rookies?? Sign me up... We haven't even begun to taste the kind of variances that Hernandez will bring us, and Crumpler has shown tremendous locker room leadership, the great ability to block and even occasionally catch a pass or 2. On top of that, we went out and added one of the draft's best blocking TE's in the 5th round. Again, it looks as though we are back to a more physical style of play, even more versatility, and added youth and depth. The O-line is fine, as Mankins will surely not pass up 10 million to play one more year, and as far as we know Belichick could be planning on making him a better long term deal. We have depth here for sure. One more year out of Koppen, another additional improvement year in Vollmer, and even the possibility of Light moving to a guard position--who knows? (not likely IMO). There may even be a guy who steps up with the addition of another year of knowledge, as I am not going to list every player, just like the D-line. There are about 10-12 options, and this post is long enough. We saw good potential in Connelly, good backup spot playing off the bench at times in Wendall and LeVoir, and my gosh---even added a 6'9" beast with the first round pick in Solder!!! If Cannon ends up even being PUP'ed, and plays even HALF a year, this is just another position that may actually even be improved. If he doesn't play, the position still took a turn for the future, and will only be added again next draft at center (likely IMO). We have seen the Dante school of beastly quick turnouts show us time and again what the coaching can do, and it's really just icing on the cake to think that we added even more depth/competition/youth/talent in this aspect too. Once again, another position that should be more physical, and will likely increase the longevity of Brady, and the influx of the running game. So, with the added improvement of another yr for Tate and Edelman, the likelihood of finally getting Price some reps, a fully healthy WELKER, and the chemistry with Branch/Brady, the WR core certainly looks quite good again. Since the RB's and TE's will play an even bigger role again, and we may even ADD a free agent--even this position may actually improve. Especially when you consider that Welker is back to 100% healthy, and Price may come out of nowhere. Tate/Edelman should only improve. It really could end up being better than last yr's WR core. So, with the addition of another all-important yr for the 2nd/3rd yr players, another good draft, the improvement in many areas (for a team that did not have many needs as it is already), Brady coming off another record yr literally, the added physicality of TE's and RB's, the youth infusion, the presence of GREAT locker room leadership with no apparent 'bad apples,' the fact that the defense will once again be led by Belichick, the return of injured players, AND even greater special teams presence...WHERE EXACTLY IS THE WEAKNESS????? Again, I am not 'optimistic' in much of anything. I am a realist in all aspects of my life, but the more I think about all of these factors + the fact that we haven't even addressed free agency yet, I am extremely happy and hopeful for the upcoming year. I truly believe the only thing that could hold us back (besides the unthinkable injury to our QB--where the backup position would still enable us to compete) is this damn labor situation, which I can only hope gets resolved soon. Bring on the 2011 season, for this team is loaded currently, and for the future. The fact that we have 2 firsts and 2 seconds next year too, should be making A LOT of people around here pretty positive!!!