Thought 1: I don't know how to open this post in any way other than presenting the obvious: If the Pats intend to re-sign Talib, they need to do so sooner rather than later. I am not too worried about the hip flexor injury he suffered, i feel he should be back next week. With that said, he is becoming more expensive to re-sign each week he plays. He also is gathering more interest around the league for his upcoming payday. The trio of people that need to be resigned are obviously Talib, McCourty, and Solder, so they need to start planning now how they will tackle the contracts of all three. I feel all three players enjoy playing in New England, but i feel Talib is the most likely to leave. So he is where we need to start. Re-sign the guy who has probably been the highest performing player on the entire team so far this season, and yes-that includes Brady.
Thought 2: While I hope Wilfork comes back from his injury next season, I am not keeping my hopes up. People need to realize the wear and tear Vince has taken since his rookie season in the league. Nose tackle is not a glamorous position, but it sure takes a toll on a players body. At his size and age, and the beating he has taken over the years, he would have to give everything he had left for a shot at getting back to playing at a good level. I think he has given all he has to the team, and i don't know if he has much left. Now, with that in mind, it just so happens that along with Vince Wilfork v2 (Louis Nix) and other capable defensive lineman are littered through the upcoming draft classes. Leading to my next thought.
Thought 3: It's pretty early to look towards the draft, lots of factors will change the course the patriots take: free agency, underclassmen, injuries, mid season trades, etc. But it is probably not that hard to realize that the Pats could do with adding an interior defensive lineman or two. That is not to say that Chris Jones and Joe Vellano can't be part of the Pats future plans when it comes to the interior; they just can't be expected to carry the whole load, especially since they are more capable pass rushers than run defenders. It would be interesting to see if the Pats use the double dip strategy they have used to rebuild position groups across the roster. (Gronk and Hernandez, Ridley and Vereen, Dobson and Boyce, even Jones and Bequette). Like Bill said in one of his post draft press conferences when answering a question about the WR rebuild, the entire Defense has pretty much been turned over completely except for Vince. Which is interesting, because it has become a weakness for this defense. The key to a good secondary is a good defensive line, and while I still have not jumped on the Ninkovich bandwagon, he is good enough to pair with Jones. It is time to really secure the interior, and there a few ways they could do that. If you look at the examples I listed of the Pats double dipping at a position, you would notice that each player brings something different to the position(or complements each other well). For example, Ridley is more of a one cut power back, while Vereen is a shifty player who doubles as a good reciever out of the backfield, also Jones probably could have been described as a finesse move player while Bequette was more of a power move player coming out of their respective schools. So the way the Pats could decide to rebuild the interior of the line is by drafting a big fellah in the middle that will occupy blockers (or be more of a run defender), and then take a smaller guy who acts as a pass rusher. That is not to say both players can't be good at both aspects of the game, it just means one player is could be better at one thing or the other. A recent example of a team rebuilding the interior of their line is the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers (Who run a 4-3)went into last years draft with the best young middle linebacker in the league on their roster, but they needed a major upgrade at defensive tackle. So what did they do? With their first rounder they took Utah DT Star Lotulelei, a well rounder player but more of a run stopper in the middle. With their second rounder they took Purdue DT Kawann Short, a ferocious pass rusher (when he wants to be....effort). With those two picks, they added two players who complement each other's game very well. At this point it is hard to predict who anyone will take in the upcoming draft with any accuracy at all, but there are some names you could start to see associated with the Pats draft as the season continues. Louis Nix is pretty much Vince Wilfork, but his play on the field looks like it will warrant an early first round selection. Some realistic targets include Will Sutton from Arizona State, Daquan Jones from Penn State, Aaron Donald from Pittsburgh, and Ra'Shede Hageman from Minnesota. An example of a pair that would complement each other would be Sutton and Jones; Sutton is a undersized pass rusher, Jones is a huge lineman that can defend the run well. In fact, they can both rush and defend the run, but i digress.