It has become clear from reading many of the posts on here that there is quite of bit of indecision in the fan base regardining what the Patriots should do with the rest of Free Agency, and the upcoming Draft.
Well, lets take a look back at our Championship years. (2001, 2003, & 2004).
In those seasons we had two things in particular that we have lacked in the years since, and they are most likely the things that costs us our last two shots at the Lombardi Trophy. Those being, a.) A solid Running Game, and B.) A Defense that was solid on all levels, that struck fear into opposing offenses, and did as much on the field as any of our Brady led offenses. With Antwain Smith in our first two SBs, and Corey Dillon in our last. we had a running game that gave us the ability to do things we haven't been able to do consistently since. Maintain possession while running the ball, using up the clock when needed, and giving our WRs rest in early downs and short yardage situations, and keep opposing defenses worries enough about the run, that Brady & Co. were able to work the Play action with success we haven't seen in years.
I believe with Ridley and Verheen we now have the talent at RB that will help open up our offense in ways we couldn't have even with the Speedy "Moss Like" reciever would, at least not on a consistent and unpredictable basis. I believe they are NFL ready, and this year (barring injury) will come out as the premiere one, two punch out of the back field in the AFC. They have speed, strength, vision, toughness, and both block well.
And as for the Defense. Signing Adrian Wilson and Talib are solid pick ups. Arrington gives good depth and showed promise as the 3rd DB in our 4-3/Nickle hybrid sets as well as backing up around the backfield as needed. McCourty only stands to be better after a season of playing SS under his belt which is always good. But was worries me is the fact that Dennar is a wild card this season due to his legal troubles, and Ras-I Dowling hasn't exactly been durable in his seasons with us. Downling has shown he has the talent and smarts to play a starting CB role in this league, but he has to be on the field to do so. Belicheck will no doubt add picks in the draft, and some of those picks will go to insurance in the backfield just in case something happens regarding the two afforementioned players.(Luckily, this draft is packed with exactly the kind of DBs we're looking for). But all in all, I think our Secondary is going to look like a whole new unit this year. A Championship caliber one that we are going to need the best from if we want to contend with the likes of Denver, Baltimore, San Fran, and Seattle.
Our LB Corps, depth and all are solid, but our D line really scares me. The Depth is there, and Jones has the potential to have a big year. But we NEED a NT to play inside with Wilfork. IMO, and the opinions of many others, this is just as important as a DE/OLB type outside pass rusher, if not more so. I would like to see both issues taken care of in the draft if one isn't by the end of FA. There are some large, fast, high motor DTs in this Draft who could come in as day one starters and make an immediate impact on the inside next to Wilfork. This is where I believe our Round 1 pick will go too. Following this, DE & WR are a point of Interest, as well as a couple future DBs. I myself would go with the DE first. Remember, a solid pass rush consistently helps out in coverage, but NEVER vice versa. If we can get another solid choice at DE to come in an make an immediately impact like Jones did last year, that would be HUGE and give us a beast of a front 4, with 3 of the best young LBs in the game behind them,
And last, and least! lol. WRs & DBs. I believe our core backfield is solid. But being able to pick up draft picks and get quality depth who can not just develope, but make plays when their numbers called, is also very important. I personally like Elam, I think he could backup Adrian Wilson and learn a lot from him, and in a couple years be our FS of the future. He isn't the only one, but with our picks few and far between, we would be lucky to have a player of his caliber, and potential, talent, leadership and otherwise. WR can wait. I'd like a proven veteran, but money isn't something we'd be flush with after filling the rest of the holes, including depth. Whether we pick one or two up later in the draft, ot FA, I would like to see the Pats get guys who are dynamic and can contribute in other ways like special teams.
If you guys want to throw some names around as too who would be our best fit regarding the things I talked about, I'd like to hear it. Just be sure to be realistic, Clearly we aren't getting any top 10, or 20 picks for that matter, but with all the depth on the O and D lines, as well as at DB and WR in this draft, I'm sure it won't be hard for you to find us some talent.
Either way, After watching every game for as long as I can remember, being a student of the game, and seeing year in and year out what it takes to win a SB, I truly believe these would best our best shots, now and for the forseeable future to bring the Lombardi back to Foxboro! GO PATS! And Long Live BB & Tommie Boy!