September 4, 2012

New England Patriots Roster Breakdown

Old School Pat Patriot

Quarterbacks: Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett
Tom Brady is, well, Tom Brady.  Need I say more? Brady has been as good as anyone in the league but entering his 13th year, some have questioned how much he has left. Obviously he has a couple seasons left in him and when he is doubted, he usually shines. No worries for me there.  Mallett had first round talent coming into his draft, but he had some issues which seemingly have gone away as the Patriot Way has come in.  Is he the quarterback of the future? Possibly, but I don't want to find out until about 2015-ish. Keep Brady healthy should be the teams mantra. Also, Brady could be the first to break the 6,000 yard barrier this season.

Running Backs: Steven Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Bolden, Lex Hilliard
I like this running back group more than most people it seems. Ridley looks like a legitimate number one running back from what I have seen and heard.  Vereen could also be that type of back but he has not stayed on the field as much as the Patriots would have hoped.  He does have great talent and that is intriguing. Is there anyone one better on a draw play than Woodhead? He gets behind, sometimes it seems underneath those big lineman and takes off. Solid player. Bolden is a rookie this year and looks as though he could be a special teams guy this year.  Hilliard was just signed today and I don't know if that will signal that one of the others will be cut but it can't be good. The Patriots will not carry five running backs without one being a fullback. Ridley and Vereen are a good one-two punch.

Wide Receivers: Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Julian Edelman, Greg Salas, Matthew Slater
At the start of training camp this group was stacked with Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch, Donte Stallworth playing back up roles.  They are all gone as of right now and this group looks like this might lack depth.  Edelman, Salas and Slater do not excite me but I will be the first to tell you I don't know much about Salas from his time with the Rams.  Welker should be is usual spectacular self if he can keep absorbing those big hits.  Lloyd is interesting because he could be an enormous piece to a great offense but he hasn't been on the field with Brady much this preseason besides the practice field. I'm betting the Pats see Hernandez as a wide receiver more than a tight end. More on that below.

Tight Ends: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells, Visanthe Shiancoe
As I said above, Hernandez could be in this grouping in name only but he does give the Patriots the best group of tight ends in the league.  Gronk is a beast and with any luck his surgically repaired ankle will hold up.  Gronk is by far the best red zone target in football and his 17 TDs last season prove that. Fells and Shiancoe are not stiffs but they are backups for a reason.

Tackles: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon
This is where the Patriots start to worry me.  The offensive line, especially the tackles, is quite young besides Mankins.  Solder and Cannon will improve each week, but Vollmer's back issue has flared up which is troubling.  Can Solder be the stud left tackle that he was drafted to be? Let us hope so.

Guards: Logan Mankins, Donald Thomas
Where the F is Brian Waters? Come on, man. Come back to the team or end the suspense. Mankins is a beast, albeit a recovering beast.  Thomas is a guy which seems to help playing football but how good is he? Is he a liability? The line is usally the engine of a championship team but will this weakness end their season sooner rather than later? A lot of questions need to be answered.

Centers: Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell
Dan Connolly is a solid player that took over for Dan Koppen last season and his played led to Koppen being cut.  Wendell will also rotate in at guard but he is young and has not had much playing time.  Connolly and Brady function well together even if they Koppen and Brady are buds.

Defensive Ends: Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Deaderick, Trevor Scott, Jake Bequette
When is the last time you could get excited for the defensive ends on a Patriots defense? Richard Seymour possibly.  Jones and Cunningham could prove to be great picks. If their play keeps improving then they can be difference makers.  All in all, I don't dislike anyone of these players.

Defensive Tackles: Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Ron Brace, Justin Francis, Marcus Forston
Another possible strength on defense lies with Wilfork, Love, and a much improved Brace.  Francis and Forston are rookies and should see some playing time when they rotate guys.  I love the emeregence of Kyle Love because he is one of those scrappers that works his butt off during games. Wilfork might be my favorite Patriot and is currently the oldest player on defense. He is only 30 which shows that the youth movement is on.

Linebackers: Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont'a Hightower, Tracy White, Mike Rivera
The starters here can't be outmatched by many linebacking trios, but Hightower is a rookie and Spikes always misses time for various reasons.  Mayo should reach that upper echelon of linebackers this year and if Spikes plays a full season the Pats will no longer be a crap defense, that gets walked over. The backups seem to be special teamers and this group seems a little under staffed at the moment.

Corner Backs: Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Sterling Moore, Marquice Cole, Alfonzo Dennard
Here lies the most important position question for the defense.  They all have talent but they need to be ballhawks to pick up the defense from time to time.  Dowling is intriguing because of his size, speed and arm length but remember he always seems to get hurt.  How well they play will greatly determine if this is a championship-caliber team or not.  McCourty needs a bounce back year pretty bad.  He was a great player in year 1 and his regression was last year was alarming. I think he will bounce back healthy.  Arrington led the team with 7 picks last season.

Safetys: Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner
This group seems to have a lot of upside and that is especially surprising based on their age. Young, athletic players are what the Pats need and it seems as they might have begun to complete their search for the safetys.  Chung should pick up his game and Wilson will struggle at times but he and Ebner have been used in linebacker spots.

Specialists: Stephen Gostkowski (K), Zoltan Mesko (P), Danny Aiken (LS)
There isn't much to say besides the obvious which would be these guys always seem to get the job done. That is enough for me.