As training camp nears, here are some ideas what to expect from the Patriots: 1.) OL: The OL has gotten a lot of attantion this summer due to the ugly hold-out of Logan Mankins. I don't believe he'll resign with the Pats...and will eventually be traded. That being the case, I expect that the Pats OL going into the season will be: Light (LT), Kaczur (LG), Koppen (C), Neal (RG), Vollmer (RT). Keep an eye on rookies Thomas Welch and Ted Larsen, who will eventually be contributors. Here are some comments on the OL from Jeff Howe (PatsPulpit): "Vollmer, who was wildly impressive as a rookie, projects to be the Patriots' best offensive lineman in 2010, and that would, in theory, make him the best fit as the team's left tackle. However, Belichick seems to loathe the idea of putting Light on the right side, citing Light's failure over there earlier in his career. Since Light is better on left than either Kaczur or LeVoir are on the right, Light will anchor Tom Brady 's blind side and Vollmer will likely hold down the right. Another intriguing combination would put Vollmer at left tackle, Connolly at left guard and Kaczur at right tackle. But again, that keeps Light on the bench, and that doesn’t really appease Belichick. At the very least, the Patriots are extremely versatile, with Vollmer, Connolly and Kaczur being able to fill multiple positions. New England would still be strong in the trenches if it lost a key member of its line because there are so many suitable combinations. Heading into the season, look for Light, Kaczur, Koppen, Neal and Vollmer to start from left to right, as that is Belichick's most ideal combination on the offensive line. 2.) Secondary: The starting CBs should be Leigh Bodden and Darius Butler. Devin McCourty will likely see action as the nickel CB. While Jonathan Wilhite will contribute in a back-up role, it will be sink or swim time for the disappointing Terrence Wheatley...who must stay healthy, for a change. At safety, the Pats appear to be good to go, with Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, and Brandon McGowan. It remains to be seen whether Patrick Chung can be anything more than a reliable special teams player. On paper, this group appears solid. But, the Pats' dismal pass-rush is going to put a strain on this unit. How McCourty progresses will be key. Remember, the Pats passed on college pass-rushing terror Jerry Hughes, now an Indianapolis Colt, to snare McCourty. Here's a good article on the Pats' CBs: http://espn.go.com/blog/afceast/post/_/id/14824/big-question-patriots-cornerbacks
3.) DL: The starters appear to be Vince Wilfolk (NT), flanked by DEs Ty Warren and Gerard Warren. Mike Wright appears to be the top reserve, with Damione Lewis, Myron Pryor, Brandon Deaderick, Ron Brace, and Darryl Richard battling it out for spots. Brace must prove to be more than the rumbling, stumbling tub or lard, that he appeared to be last season. It remains to be seen whether this group can bounce back from that embarrassing, emasculating effort against the Ravens in the playoffs. Here's how Mike Reiss views the DL: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4679935/nfl-context-pats-defensive-line
; 4.) TEs and WRs: Though there's a lot of excitement over the new trio of TEs, Alge Crumpler, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez, don't lose sight of the fact that Crumpler is on the down-side of his career, and Gronk and Hernandez are rookies. Too many fans are expecting these guys to be world-beaters. Here's how Mike Reiss sees the Pats' TEs: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4679837/nfl-context-patriots-tight-ends
. As for the WRs, much depends on whether Wes Welker can recover, and return at 100%. The Pats' would be making a serious mistake if they rushed him back. I expect a big year out of Randy Moss...as it is a "contract year" for him. Unlike Joey Galloway, veteran Torrey Holt should contribute. Sam Aiken will likely remain as a reserve WR, and special teams ace. The guys to watch are Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman, and rookie Taylor Price. If two of these guys can contribute, this has the makings of a special group. Here is Reiss' take: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4679805/nfl-context-patriots-receivers
5.) LBs: Lots of training camp battles here. I anticipate that Jerrod Mayo and rookie Brandon Spikes will start, with Tyrone McKenzie as the top back-up. On the outside, TBC and Derrick Burgess will "start". I put the word start in parentheses, because rookie Jermaine Cunningham will see lots of time. Look for Gary Guyton to be switched to OLB to take greater advantage of his speed and quickness. If the Pats get anything out of Shawn Crable, Thomas Williams, and/or Pierre Woods, other than special teams play, this group could show marked improvement. Here's a good article on the expected training camp battles: http://www.bostonherald.com/blogs/sports/rap_sheet/index.php/2010/06/26/patriots-coach-bill-belichick-anticipates-training-camp-full-of-interesting-position-battles/
; 6.) RBs: Many of you have justifiably voiced concern over this group. Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, and Fred Taylor are 33 years of age or older, and the underachieving Laurence Maroney developed a severe case of fumble-itis last season. Unless Maroney has an unexpected break-out year, this will be the final year for this group...which will go the way of the 2009 TEs, following the 2011 draft. I expect the Patriots to draft at least two RBs next season...and to be on the look-out for adding to this group this season, via trade. Depending upon how Maroney performs, I wouldn't rule out a trade for Rams RB Steven Jackson, provided that the cost is no more than a second round pick. Here's how Mike Reiss rates the RBs: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4679789/nfl-context-patriots-running-backs
Posted by TexasPat3
Thanks for the well thought out summary of the state of the pats. Its too bad that they have a monkey wrench in their versatility with Light only being useful at LT. I'm not real happy at the thought of our second best tackle having Brady's back for the whole season.
It also points out the Mankins issue to me. I think they're making a huge mistake in letting their bext Olineman walk. It'll take 3 years minimum to draft and coach up a guy who
be the equal of what they have now at LG. Just doesn't make sense over a relatively paltry amount of money.
Just keeping my fingers crossed with LBs and Dlineman. I think we have the Dline to bring us deep into the playoffs but some of our new/IRed LBs are really going to have to come on strong in order for us to be contenders again. Without that and given our weak running game, we're lucky to end above .500.