SportsXchange (Fox Sports) AFC East offseason preview.
1. Defensive end/outside linebacker: Whether it's in the four-man fronts that the team ran a bit more often in 2009 or in New England's traditional 3-4 sets, the Patriots must find a legitimate pass rusher. An inability to get to the quarterback, save for Tully Banta-Cain's overachieving and misleading 10 sacks, has been the major flaw in the New England defense for the last two seasons.
2. Wide receiver: Randy Moss isn't getting any younger or more productive. Wes Welker is recovering from reconstructive knee surgery and is likely to open 2010 on the unable-to-perform list. And New England never found a No. 3 option behind those productive vets last fall. The Patriots must find at least two legitimate receiving options to work with Moss and developing youngster Julian Edelman.
3. Inside linebacker: Jerod Mayo battled a knee injury for a somewhat disappointing sophomore season. Former undrafted second-year player Gary Guyton was miscast on the inside in 3-4 fronts. And beyond those two young players, New England has little talent or depth at inside linebacker. That's a problem, even playing behind one of the best nose tackles in the game in Wilfork.
Mark Gaughan (Buffalo News) It's getting tough to find players for 3-4.
The stud nose tackle who dominates the middle of the line — the first prerequisite of the 3-4 — is hard to find. Patriots coach Bill Belichick voiced this concern on a conference call with Buffalo media [back in December].
"Absolutely — I think that's one thing that's really come to note for us," Belichick said. "When I came here in 2000, it was basically us and the Steelers (playing the 3-4). And the competition for players — the nose tackles, the outside linebackers, some of the two-gap defensive linemen — it wasn't very much. Players like Mike Vrabel, who didn't get a chance to play very much in Pittsburgh because of the players that were ahead of him, signed here in a big part because of the opportunity that he had to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense."
- Paul Perillo and Erik Scalavino debate which defensive lineman should the Patriots sign long-term - Wilfork or Peppers.
- John Cockrell declares the sports media should stop declaring stuff.
- Karen Guregian discusses the need for the Patriots to bolster their offensive line because everything hinges on protecting Tom Brady.
- Adam Kilgore notes the spread of the 3-4 defense may give the Patriots added motivation to sign Wilfork long term, franchise tag or not.
- Mike Reiss offers some Quick-hit thoughts from around the NFL and with the Patriots.
- Boston Herald Patriots Notebook: CB Leigh Bodden expressed the desire to return to the Patriots but hasn't had an offer yet; No news yet on Vince Wilfork; Tully Banta-Cain wants to be a Patriot again and only wants to be paid like a starter.
- Tom E. Curran looks at the Patriots defensive backs, who, if they mature, could be one of the strengths of the team.
- Mike Reiss revisits the Richard Seymour situation.
- Mike Reiss reports Punter Chris Hanson doesn't know if he'll be back with the Patriots next season.
- Ian Rapoport notes CFL sack leader Ricky Foley signed with the Seattle Seahawks.
- Nate Dow offers some notable statistical reasons to cement Super Bowl XLIV in history.
- Mike Reiss notes Peter Schrager goes a bit outside the box with the Pats in his second mock draft giving them OT Bruce Campbell (Maryland).
- Mike Reiss offers some 2nd round prospects for the Patriots to consider: CB Kyle Wilson (Boise State), TE Rob Gronkowski (Arizona) and RB Jahvid Best (California).
- Mike Reiss notes that being a Patriot can still revive a career. Leigh Bodden is a case in point.
- Daniel Kobialka says according to mlive.com, Thanksgiving Day game will feature either Patriots or Jets against Lions.
- DJ Bean debates the importance of the annual scouting combine and looks at some of the biggest workout-related head-scratchers in recent memory.
- Jeff Howe lists 14 past and present Patriots fans have loved.
- Ian Rapoport notes Randy Moss' daughter Sydney, a sophomore in high school, is a great basketball player and "an even better all-around athlete." Nice.
- Peter King (SI) MMQB: Welcome to the NFL offseason.
- Mike Wilkening (Pro Football Weekly) Wilfork among UFAs who could be 'franchised'.
- Tim Graham (ESPN) The NFL isn't uncapped yet, so Joey Porter had to be reinstated to the Dolphins roster until March 5th.
- Tim Graham (ESPN) Is the three-point stance dead?
- CBS Sports Mock Draft: Rob Rang picks the Pats to take DT Jared Odrick (Penn State), and Chad Reuter picks the pats to take TE Jermaine Gresham (Oklahoma).
- Don Banks (SI) Revisiting predictions for 2009.