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We are moving on to the fourth installment in our 2010 Patriots prediction series by taking a look at players who could be the "Most Improved" for the Patriots in 2010. Unlike other votes (where writers were granted three choices), our staff was allowed to choose just one player for this prediction. Lets see how it unfolded:
Richard Hill: RON BRACE, DEFENSIVE LINE
Brace ended the 2009 season with NO expectations left of him- which is why anything he does next season will count as an improvement. I think that Brace will actually emerge as a solid rotational defensive lineman, whether it be at the end position, or sliding to the interior in a 4-3 defense. He'll show why he was a 2nd round draft pick.
Stephen Verman: DERRICK BURGESS, DE/OLB
I was tempted to select Sebastian Vollmer here, but he played so well last year that it wouldn't be a huge jump if he had a great season. Bill Belichick has a lot of confidence in Burgess' ability, otherwise he wouldn't have given up such high draft picks to acquire him from Oakland. Burgess will most likely feature in sub packages, as he is more of a pure rusher than an outside linebacker. If put in the right position, he can get to the quarterback. I see him playing a lot of defensive end in nickle and dime packages, as well rushing from the "organized chaos" package. I foresee 7 sacks an a forced fumble from the veteran.
Marima: DARIUS BUTLER, CB
It was a toss-up between Butler and Julian Edelman and I think both will take it to the next level this season. I'm not as convinced yet about Patrick Chung and Ron Brace.
Rest of the predictions after the jump!
Comedic.Sans: DARIUS BUTLER, CB
He's got impressive athleticism, and the addition of very capable Devin McCourty
means they can mix-and-match both young CBs to suit the matchups - putting McCourty in for strong edge defending and Butler in to cover the more athletic WRs. Putting him into favourable matchups ought to translate into good production, and he showed enough talent in 2009 to give a little confidence that he's got that ephemeral 'it'.
Mike Dussault: PATRICK CHUNG, SS
Patrick Chung. From spot duty in 2009 to emotional leader of the secondary in 2010. By all accounts Chung has a Rodney Harrison-like disposition and work ethic. From always going all out in warm-up sprints to throwing his body around with reckless abandon, Chung brings something to this defense that it sorely needs. We've already seen him being used all over the field in mini-camps, training camp should be his time to really come to the forefront.
Greg Knopping: BRANDON MERIWEATHER, S
Generally, it's hard to say that a player who had a Pro Bowl season the prior year is a candidate for most improved, but I'm putting my money on Brandon Meriweather
. While I considered Patrick Chung, Jerod Mayo
, Darius Butler
, and Julian Edelman, I think Meriweather has really put a lot of focus into his mental game this offseason. He has put in a lot of film work, is developing into a leader, and I think we're going to see him make "the jump" into not just a good player this season, but a more consistent, and borderline elite player.
On Friday, we will continue our prediction series by looking at surprise camp cuts/survivors. Remember, put your own predictions for the most improve Patriots' player in the comments!
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