10 things you need to know about the New England Patriots in 2009:
1. Instead of peaking from the jump-off, Brady will peak late season and into the playoffs.
At the halfway point of the 2007 season Brady had thrown for 30 touchdowns, a 75.3% completion rate, an average of 303 ypg and a QB rating of 131.8. The second half slumped comparatively, although it was of a very high caliber when stacked against the rest of the league’s QBs. Brady will receive very little work during the preseason and instead will focus on ramping up during the year. Although this will cause some bumps in the road, the end game of peaking at the correct time will be well worth it.
2. Kevin Faulk has kicked the bucket.
Last year, I viewed a preseason practice at Gillette and thought Kevin Faulk looked slow. Turns out he proved me wrong and then some, by catching the most passes and having the third most carries of his career. This year the wear and tear adds up to tear him down. Do you realize that in his career Kevin Faulk has a comparable amount of "touches" to Brian Westbrook of the Eagles? Westbrook has had 3 less seasons but a quick look at 2008 for Westbrook shows all of his stats in decline: yards per carry and yards per reception jump off the page for their declines. 2008 was the year Westbrook broke the 1500 touch mark – what about Faulk? He should hit that mark about week 6. Hopefully between Faulk and Fred Taylor – the 3rd down back role will be adequately filled.
3. Kevin O’Connell is really f*cking good, but let’s hope we don’t have to find out.
I read somewhere recently where an analyst likened the Patriots at the QB position to the Denver Broncos at Running Back. I am not ready to go that far (Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis, Olandis Gary, et al), but I will say last year the GENIUS did not bring a ‘proven’ back-up in when Cassel looked like absolute crap during the preseason. Though the Patriots have sniffed around some veteran QBs – I do not expect them to sign anyone that sticks. Now god forbid if we have a Bernie Pollard redux, I think, even though it is early in his career, O’Connell is ready. A cannon arm, great wheels and learning leadership from Brady is a nice package. Don’t be worried if the unthinkable happens again – they’ll be more than competitive just like in 2008.
4. Rookie Rich Ohrnberger starts at right guard, Stephen Neal gets cut
One of the rooks is going to see significant PT, and the guess here is the Penn State product wins the battle. Neal is in the final year of his contract, is turning 33 in October and would save over 2 mil on the books. This is a crapshoot with the bevy of beauties the Pat’s have along the o-line – but something will move and I am not sure Kaczur (as many are predicting) is the guy.
You can’t teach speed. These two guys have it in spades. Both love to hit, they love to knock helmets off. What’s the best substitute for not having Ed Reed on the Patriot’s roster? How about having two Ed Reeds? That is what Chung and Meriweather will be considered in less than three seasons. Chung starts almost immediately and becomes a fan favorite. Chung is a psycho, watch for his pushups on the sidelines while waiting for the offense to do their job. Sometimes you just know about a rookie player, you read things in training camp about the hits he is making or how he is working with the starters from day one or how he impressed the veterans with his work ethic and maturity. Chung is that guy. Do you remember how the Pats had to give up a first rounder to get the GENIUS? At the time I thought Kraft made a colossal mistake. Someday we will all look back at an aged Mike Vrabel and a system quarterback like Matt Cassel for an unproven commodity like Patrick Chung and smile.
- Charlie Weis is fired by Notre Dame before Halloween and ends up an Offensive Consultant with the Patriots for the stretch run.
Just like you can’t teach speed, you also can’t teach humility. Or if you can, Charlie missed that class at ND. Facing Michigan, USC and BC in the first 6 games spells doom for Charlie. But the endless search for the spotlight brings him back to New England to concoct plays for his "Tommy," Moss, Welker and Galloway. Offensive explosion to follow!
7. No Junior, no Vrabel, no Rosie, NO PROBLEM…we hope.
Paris Lenon, Vince Redd, Gary Guyton and Shawn Crable. You probably have never ever heard of these guys. By the end of 2009 – two of these guys will be starting for the Patriots at Linebacker and right now I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. On paper, it sounds bad, but only time will tell.
8. Darius Butler will be a returner extraordinaire.
Butler is the rookie CB from UConn that is quite gifted athletically. Actually, that is being polite. He is a FREAK OF NATURE. About 5 foot 10 and 190 lbs. His ability to quickly change directions and jump through the gym put him near the top of the 2009 draft class at cornerback. He played both ways at UConn as a senior and the sky is the limit for him. I am guessing he will get zero work on offense and small looks on D. Thus special teams, primarily the return game, are where he will shine. I believe the ability to focus all his gifts on one part of the game will allow him to excel on both kicks and punts.
9. An improved secondary will allow the pass rush to reemerge; specifically Adalius Thomas will be a beast.
I think Thomas will get Vrabel’s 2007 role of being able to rush at will when up big in games. The combination of Shawn Springs, Leigh Bodden, Jonathan Wilhite, Terrence Wheatley, Darius Butler, Patrick Chung and Brandon Meriweather will make Seymour, Warren and Thomas all much better pass rushers. Expect the defense to be markedly improved when compared to 2008 or even to 2007 for that matter.
10. Moss, Welker slow down, tight ends speed up.
The stats for the two Patriot stalwarts will be down from 07 and 08. Brady will make a concerted effort to spread the ball around as much as possible. Watson, and newbies Alex Smith and Chris Baker will see a fair share of catches. Defenses will still have to cover up Moss over the top and Welker underneath. With Galloway stretching defenses deep on the opposite side, hooks and curls will be wide open underneath. Brady will eat that up all day. The Pats keep 4 tight ends and use them all to catch the ball. This will be a strength for the Patriots, basically living off of the 2007 reputation of Brady to Moss. And at a NFL single season record of 23 TD connections, justifiably so.
53 days until Gostkowski’s first meaningful kick. Enjoy the preseason!