FanPost

On the Cusp

When looking at this Patriots team, the roster make-up, the blend of veterans and young players, the amount of players that have been in the system for over a year and have worked together, what sense do you get for the team?

I like to do this not only for the Patriots, but for other contenders in the AFC as well, this usually gives one an idea of how the season will go, and how the post season may turn out.

You could look at the Steelers for instance, and see they have been in decline since their last SB appearance, age has been catching up to key players, FA has been taking its toll, and there has been changes in the staff that has caused disruption and made the team seem less cohesive.

You could look at the Ravens, and see how for many years they were close, and getting closer all the time, until in 2011 and 2012 they were as well rounded and well coached a team as any in the AFC. That blend of veteran leadership, long term cohesion, and depth was shattered this offseason. The loss of players like Birk, Lewis, Reed, and Boldin shall remain understated until the final results of the season, and then with hindsight, many will espouse how obvious it all should have been, that losing so many talented veterans would impact even the best of teams.

The Texans got an infusion of success the past couple of seasons, in large part to signing Wade Phillips as DC, and also because for years they have been building up a strong core of solid players. Despite how many steps forward they have taken, one critical flaw still remains, they do not have a QB that is capable of rising to the level needed to succeed against the likes of the Patriots, Ravens, or Broncos in a play-elite or go home post season.

The Patriots have been developing for years now, even though they were in the SB in 2011, that team was nowhere near as well developed as the 2013 version seems to be, lets take a look at what I mean:

2011 ......................................................... 2013

TEs - Gronk, Hernandez

TEs - Gronk, Hernandez, Ballard, Hoomanawanui, etc

WRs - Welker, Branch, Edelman, Ocho

WRs- Dobson, Amendola, Boyce, Jones, Hawkins, Jenkins, Moe, etc

RBs - BJGE, Woody, Ridley*, Vereen*

RBs- Ridley, Vereen, Washington, Boldin, Blount

DTs - Wilfork, Love, Deaderick, G. Warren

DTs - Wilfork, Kelly, Charrington, Forston, Grissom, etc

DEs - Carter, Anderson, Ninkovich, Ellis

DEs - Ninkovich, Jones, Vega, Armstead, Francis, etc

S - Chung, Ihedigbo, Brown

S - McCourty, A.Wilson, T.Wilson, Gregory, Harmon

CB - McCourty, Arrington, Moore, Dowling

CB- Talib, Arrington, Dennard, Ryan, Cole, Dowling

In 2011, the team was void of depth before the season even started. Players like Ty Warren and Mike Wright were lost off the D-line, the Secondary was deconstructed when players like Meriweather, Butler and Sanders were cut. And FA pick-ups like Ocho and Haynesworth were stinking up the joint.

* Young players like Ridley and Vereen saw limited playing time, while others like Tate and Lee Smith were cut before the season began.

When considering that Secondary, those WRs, and the lack of any depth at TE, it's amazing looking back on it that they made it to the SB that year. And with Gronk injured, it's even more astounding they were within a catch or two of winning that SB.

The 2013 roster looks packed full of talent in comparison to 2011. They actually have a WR or two on the roster that might be able to fill the void on the outside. They have a Secondary made up of players that might actually intimidate a WR or QB in the NFL. And as of right now, they have solid depth just about everywhere.

Just as importantly, the staff has been together for a while now, this isn't a season where they will be without an OC or DC, or where a newly crowned OC or DC will be going through his adjustments or growing pains... this is now a veteran staff... one that seems to work well. In comparison to say, the Jets or Steelers, who seem to be struggling through changes and dysfunction.

We have no way of knowing how healthy the team will be come the season opener, let alone the playoffs, but the team looks far more solid now, than it did heading into September 2011.

The views expressed in these FanPosts are not necessarily those of the writers or SBNation.

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