Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2009 NFL PREVIEW- New England Patriots


2008 RECORD: 11-5
(2nd in AFC East)

HEAD COACH: Bill Belichick

Key Additions: RB Fred Taylor (FA/Jaguars) TE Chris Baker (FA/Jets) WR Greg Lewis (trade/Eagles) CB Shawn Springs (FA/Redskins) WR Joey Galloway (FA/Buccaneers) TE Alex Smith (trade/Buccaneers)

Key Losses: QB Matt Cassel (trade/Chiefs) LB Mike Vrabel (trade/Chiefs) RB LaMont Jordan (FA/Broncos) FB Heath Evans (FA/Saints) WR Jabar Gafney (FA/Broncos) LB Larry Izzo (FA/Jets) LB Rosevelt Colvin (FA) S Rodney Harrison (FA) LB Junior Seau (FA) CB Ellis Hobbs (trade/Eagles)

Offense: He's baaaaack!
Quarterback Tom Brady missed (in reality) the entire 2008 season after suffering a severe knee injury in the season opener. Brady has been banged up the last two seasons going back to the post-season of 2007-08 however, never under estimate the heart of a champion.
Brady is the leader of the Patriots and even though Matt Cassel (traded to Kansas City in off-season) did a decent job last year, there is no question the Patriots are a completely different team with Brady taking the snaps.
He will have a bevy of wide receivers to choose from in Randy Moss (69 catches in '08 with 11 touchdowns), Wes Welker (111 catches for a 10.5 average and three touchdowns) and the newly acquired Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis.
Galloway was hurt last year and had just 13 catches and Lewis (with Philadelphia) made 19 catches in limited playing time. Benjamin Watson (Tight End) made 22 grabs and had two TDs as well. Alex Smith and Chris Baker provide depth at this position.
The running game will again feature Laurence Maroney (injured most of last season as well) as the starting halfback. Maroney had only 28 touches last year and managed just 93 yards, but has shown good stuff when healthy. Fred Taylor, a veteran pickup from Jacksonville, may still have something to prove after a stellar performance for the Jaguars.
Taylor gained 556 yards on 143 carries in 2008 and the Patriots probably are hoping that he can resemble his former self (Jags' all-time leading rushing leader) much the same way Corey Dillon did when he was picked up from Cincinnati several years ago. Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk will also provide added depth for New England's running game.
The Offensive Line, and it still is a good one, features center Dan Koppen, guards Logan Mankins and Stephen Neal and tackles Matt Light and Nick Kaczur. They must do a better job protecting Brady than they did pass blocking for Cassel a year ago, when they allowed 48 sacks for the season.

Defense: The Patriots drafted three defensive players with all of their second round picks in the 2009 NFL Draft. That says something because the defense is starting to get old.
New England finished 10th overall on defense while allowing 107 yards rushing per game and 201 yards through the air. In addition, the Patriots intercepted the ball just 14 times and had 31 sacks.
The secondary has undergone major changes in recent seasons after losing Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs, Rodney Harrison, etc. But New England, led by Head Coach Bill Belichick, knows how to make the adjustments and not miss a beat.
Safeties will be James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather and the cornerbacks will be Jonathan Wilhite and Leigh Bodden.
The Defensive Line will see Vince Wilfork at Nose Tackle and the Ends will be Richard Seymour (eight sacks to lead the team in '08) and Ty Warren. Jarvis Green played well last season when give the chance and rookie Ron Brace can fill in at tackle as well.
The linebacking unit will have 14-year veteran Tedy Bruschi and Jerod Mayo at Inside LB and Pierre Woods (weak side) and Adelius Thomas (strong side LB) rounding out the 3-4 defense the team employs.

OUTLOOK: The Patriots are used to winning and they do not take lightly coming in second place in their own division.
Having Brady back is huge, but should he go down again for any extended length of time, the team will be in real trouble because they do not have an experienced quarterback waiting in the wings. Cassel was tagged the franchise player and then shipped to Kansas City along with LB Mike Vrabel.
New England has a penchant for making the moves to change the roster and still keep the winning formula in place. They have again made numerous roster changes, but the mainstays of Brady, Moss, Welker, Maroney, Faulk, Bruschi, the O-Line, and of course Bill Belichick keep the Patriots in the thick of things year after year.
This season should be no exception as the Patriots look to regain the AFC East crown with a 13-3 record and go deep into the playoffs. Another Super Bowl appearance hinges on the health of Brady.

Week 1- vs. Buffalo (Sept. 14)
Week 2-at NY Jets (Sept. 20)
Week 3- vs. Atlanta (Sept. 27)
Week 4- vs. Baltimore (Oct. 4)
Week 5- at Denver (Oct. 11)
Week 6- vs. Tennessee (Oct. 18)
Week 7- at Tampa Bay (Oct. 25)
Week 8- BYE WEEK
Week 9- vs. Miami (Nov. 8)
Week 10- at Indianapolis (Nov. 15)
Week 11- vs. NY Jets (Nov. 22)
Week 12- at New Orleans (Nov. 30)
Week 13- at Miami (Dec. 6)
Week 14- vs. Carolina (Dec. 13)
Week 15- at Buffalo (Dec. 20)
Week 16- vs. Jacksonville (Dec. 27)
Week 17- at Houston (Jan. 3)

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