Greetings Pats Pulpit! Throughout my Internet travels as a Miami Dolphin fan, I spend a fair amount of time perusing SB Nation's selection of other AFC east blogs—Buffalo Rumblings, Gang Green Nation, and, of course, your place here. I may not be as intimately in tune with the Patriots as the fans of this site, but I still have my fair share of opinions and thoughts. So, I thought I might share those ideas with you all and try to provide some insight as to how at least one Dolphin aficionado views your team from a far.
Now, when I say "from a far", I suppose I don't really mean it, as I live in Massachusetts and have since the summer of 1999. I've witnessed the Patriots' rise to prowess from deep inside enemy lines and lived to tell about it. Thus, I believe dating a New England fan, listening to countless hours of WEEI, and watching just about every Patriot game for the past eleven years has provided this Dolphin fan with pretty unique insight. So, without further ado, let me get into the meat of my analysis.
State of the Franchise
Doubtless, the Patriots are the AFC east's elder statesmen. This has been documented numerous times here, and there's really no way around the fact. But I see this as having its merits as well. Your Patriot veterans, while aged, have invaluable experience and are in all likelihood, becoming more and more driven by a heightened sense of urgency. Brady and Moss are entering their age-33 seasons and the offensive line is nearly the oldest in the league. Surely, they understand that the time for this core group of players to make another championship push is now.
I've, however, been very impressed with the Patriots influx of talent in recent seasons, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Players like Mayo, Meriweather, Butler, and now McCourty, Spikes, and Cunningham should provide a young and talented nucleus with which Belichick can build around. Certainly, all players I would gleefully welcome to Miami.
In my opinion, the New England Patriots exemplify the quintessential "reloading" team. Some franchises are forced to tear everything down and clean house in an attempt to win (such as my Dolphins), but with the guiding leadership of Bill Belichick, the Patriots simply seem to replace their worn out pieces without losing a step. As evidenced by Richard Hill's fantastic series on the decade's drafting trends, New England is experiencing a return to form in restocking rookie players. Barring any unforeseen injury to Brady (which you've already managed to successfully endure once) or retirement by the Hooded Genius, I would say there are reasons abound to be hopeful in New England.
A look at 2010 and beyond
As a loyal Dolphin fan I cannot in good conscience predict the Patriots to win the division in 2010. Going into 2007 I had no qualms about doing so because it was pretty obvious that New England was stacked and Miami was awful. But, today it would appear that our two teams are much closer in terms of talent and potential victories, so I can't (and I know this is going to disappoint you all) credit your team with the division title in May. That being said, it's difficult for me to see the Patriots not making the playoffs, or in the very least, not challenging for a berth until the very end. But, the division this year is going to be hotly contested—the Patriots, Dolphins, and Jets all have legitimate shots at the division crown. If you have an NFL crystal ball, please let me know.
Here are a few, more specific views I hold about the Patriots at the moment:
- I think Tom Brady is still at the top of his game. He's on the downhill side of 30, but on any given day he's still a top-three quarterback in the league.
- I have serious concerns about Wes Welker and his return to the team. I am in no way questioning his resolve to rehab, but I think the nature of the injury paired with his style of play on the field could keep him from regaining his All-Pro form (and no, this isn't just a bitter Dolphin fan speaking ill of a lost player).
- On that note, I think this team could suffer from a serious lack of offensive play makers after Moss eventually departs. A successful Welker comeback, the emergence of one of your rookie tight ends, or your multitude of 2011 draft picks could go far in offsetting this, but I think it's a serious need going into the next decade.
- Bill Belichick is a Hall of Fame coach, but if I were a Patriot fan, I would like to see the team hire/name official offensive and defensive coordinators, whether that's from inside or outside the organization.
- The Patriot pass rush does not frighten me in the slightest, and I think it should've been given a higher priority in the draft.
- Logan Mankins is my favorite (is that an appropriate word?) Patriot lineman, and I would want him locked up immediately.
- Accordingly, I thought re-signing Wilfork was must, and I commend you on doing so.
- Who are the leaders on defense? Is Mayo is up to the job?
- I've looked to the Patriot offensive line as a model to emulate for some time now, but I think it needs to get younger, the sooner the better. Your big, German left tackle is a great start.
Well, I could probably write you a ten page essay, but I think I'll cut it off right there. I'm sure I've found some semblance of common ground on some topics while inciting debate on others. I appreciate you taking the time to consider my views, and I hope you'll share your reactions with me!