With almost five months to go, I'm losing my mind already. Hoodie and company have been so busy with FA acquisitions that some have proclaimed the franchise ready to field a team. And we haven't even gone through the draft. There are soooo many reasons why I'm incredibly stoked to get this train rollin', but I thought I'd toss out a few and see where it goes from here.
- Tom Brady - Duh! Master of the obvious, I know. I, as well as many fans, are indebted to Matt Cassel for being ready to take the reins and do such a good job in 2008. I was also indebted to him for accepting the franchise tag so readily, signing the tender, and allowing NE to deal him to KC. Without doing so, we would've received NOTHING for Matt and could've been faced with a very large cap space issue, to the tune of $14 million and change (Panthers and Julius Peppers anyone?). But that's old news. As indebted as I am to Matt, I'm doubly excited to see Tom Terrific take the reins back. Some of you may disagree with me (citing Moss is an elite receiver and should be able to battle DBs), but I've always felt Brady had a sixth sense with Moss and knows "where" to put the ball so that only Randy can catch it.
- Offensive Line - Coming off of 2007, the OL was beaten up and, in my opinion, demoralized by the SB loss to the Giants. It showed as we prepared for the 2008 season; many starters had a tough time getting back in the swing of things and missed significant portions of training camp as well as struggled to take their starting positions for the regular season. I am also ready to blame this on a ridiculous run in the last five years. Success has its positives and negatives and one of the negatives is you play a longer season, leaving a shorter break before the start of the next season. The bad part of not making the 2008 playoffs is, well, we didn't make the playoffs. The good part is it allowed the longest rest in years for the 300 pounders. They'll come back strong and ready to protect Brady.
- Running Backs - The addition of Fred Taylor is huge, in my opinion. I believe he still has a lot left in his tank but, more importantly, he'll provide mentorship for Laurence Maroney. Laurence is struggling with the same thing Fred battled with at the beginning of his career - injuries. Labeled "Fragile Freddy", Taylor will be able to offer advice to Maroney and try to keep him mentally "in the game". With three "general service" backs in Maroney, Taylor, and Morris, plus third down specialist Kevin Faulk, we should be in fine shape to mount a fairly significant running attack. Let's not forget surprise rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis if needed.
- Linebackers - Mayo is a beast and is the future of the Patriots linebacker corp. Gary Guyton was a surprise rookie talent and can fill in quite nicely at ILB. OLB is in good shape with most likely starters Thomas and Woods, supported by backups Redd and Crable. I'd like to see us grab an elite pass rusher in the draft, though; we struggled with that during 2008.
- Cornerbacks - The serviceable Hobbs, along with FA vets Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs, supported by second year players Wheatley and Wilhite, have us covered. However, I do see the need for a risk taker, a "ball hawk". The current list of guys are decent in coverage, but we need a guy willing to go after the ball.
- Safety - I'm less concerned about this position than I was a few months ago. Sure, Rodney Harrison may end his career this year and leave a hole at that position, but I believe Meriweather has done a fine job there. With James Sanders signed and hybrid safety/linebacker Tank Williams signed and healthy, I think things are good here. We could decide to go after a safety in the draft, but I think it would be no higher than mid to late second round.
- Defensive Line - Sign Vince!! His contract isn't over until the end of the 2009 season, but we need to start thinking about it now. Wilfork is one of the premiere 3-4 nose tackles in the business and it would be ridiculous to lose him. Hopefully, he's not looking for Haynesworth money, but who knows. Defensive end Warren is signed to 2013, but Seymour is in the last year of his contract. Like Wilfork, SIGN HIM!! Richard is a beast and, with all of the rest we've had, will be an animal in 2009.
- Wide Receivers - Moss and Welker obviously, but those two can't do it alone. When DBs scheme on them, there needs to be other options. With Gaffney gone, we picked up veteran Joey Galloway who could fit nicely in between the underneath and option routes owned by Welker and the sideline routes taken by Moss. I cringed all last season when Moss turned inside before running ten yards; I'm extremely happy Galloway, as well as Greg Lewis, will be around to handle those duties.
Where you at? What's got you excited about this season?