Re: What is with this roster?
posted at 9/2/2013 8:44 AM EDT
I think the top of the roster looks good. The question mark is whether all the young guys behind them are any good. Let's look by unit.
DL--a starting unit of Wilfork, Kelly, Jones, and Nink is improved from last year, since Kelly is much better than Love. What's odd here is that the back-ups are all question marks. At tackle, we have rookie free agent Vellano and AJ Francis (who they picked up yesterday after he didn't make Miami's roster). At DE, we have Bequette (who hasn't looked great) and Buchanan, another rookie. The depth is very questionable. But is BB running a four man line this year regularly? This roster (along with past actions like cutting Deaderick and Love without replacing them) makes me wonder if BB has something else in mind for the line.
LBs--I think this group looks good and deep. Mayo, Hightower, and Spikes were strong in run defense last year and mediocre in pass coverage. The nice thing about this group is the depth players all seem stronger in coverage--and there are a lot of them: Collins, Fletcher, Beauharnais, and White. With seven LBs on the squad, you have to wonder whether BB is going to be putting 4 of them on the field regularly, maybe making up for the thinner D line.
DBs--the presumed starters (Talib, Dennard, McCourty, Gregory, and--as nickel--Arrington) were a reasonable group last year. There's no improvement in a starting group that could have been improved with a better starting safety, but people I think forget that this group (because of injuries and the late acquisition of Talib) wasn't on the field much last year, but when it was, it was pretty effective. I would have liked some improvement here, but this group is far better than what we had at the beginning of last season. Depth is the big question. At corner, the only other guy is rookie Logan Ryan and that seems like too little, though Ryan was showing some skills late in preseason, I thought. At safety, we've got three: Harmon, Wilson, Ebener. As with Ryan, a lot depends on how far along Harmon comes. If he and Ryan both advance quickly, this might be a nice group. If not, the depth is a concern.
OL--I think this is at least as good as last year's, and has maybe better depth. Is it improved? Probably not by acquisition but maybe through additional experience and health. Even if not improved, it's okay as is.
TEs--this group is suddenly thin and less potent seeming. But I think there's a change underway and we're going to see more single TE formations. If Gronk gets hurt, there's a big loss of quality, but with Gronk at least one TE is good. Sudfeld does look like he brings something to the receiving game and Hoomanawanui is a decent (and fairly versatile) blocker who can catch. I though with Sudfeld, they would have also kept Fells and won't be surprised to see someone like Fells back.
RBs--deeper than last year, I think. I'm not too worried about the loss of Woodhead--hoping that Vereen gives us much more at that same position. Like the addition of a FB, too. There's more versatility here than in the past.
WR--very young, but let's face it, we had a very thin group last year (Welker, Lloyd, and Branch, basically). This one is more diverse and has way more potential. Question is whether anyone but Amendola will truly deliver once the real games start. If just one of the receivers is at least as productive as Lloyd, the receivers are going to be at least as good as last year's group, I think, because Amendola looks like he can replace much of what Welker did and Branch last year was not much of a contributor.
Specialists--really no concern here, though wondering about kick returns now that Washington is gone. Still, we were so bad on kicks last year that there's no way to go but up.
Overall, the team seems marginally improved among starters, with a lot of potential upside, though also a lot of risk if the young players don't pan out. I think people are reacting to the lack of clear improvement in certain positions (like safety) and the thinness and inexperience of the depth. That's the concern, of course. But looking at if from the other side, if guys like Harmon and Ryan and Collins and the young receivers work out, this team will be much improved. I know, it's still a pretty big if . . . but it's too early to get down on this team.
Look as well for lots of new schemes this year. I think BB has some new stuff up on his sleeve both in the D (where the change in balance away from DT and even DE to LB suggests something) and on offense (where the move away from TEs and toward RBs and WRs also suggests something).