I understand from a bunch of dead guys that things change. There's Heraclitus who brought us such quotes as, "Everything flows, nothing stands still", and "Nothing endures but change" to Isaac Asimov who said, "The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change..."; and Benjamin Disraeli who quipped, "Change is inevitable. Change is constant." Personally, I think a few of them plagiarized each other, but they never had my 5th grade English teacher, so there is that.
The mediots are shouting from the rooftops that the Patriots have changed drastically, and with such drastic change, they can inevitably no longer be competitive. The end has finally come for the Patriots Nation - RIP (Rest In Pieces). Now I know some changes are for the better, some are for the worse, and some changes just are. The question is, how will these changes affect the Patriots?
First of all, nearly all of the changes they tout as the end of the Patriots are on the offensive side of the ball. The basic idea is that defense has been lagging the offense since 2007, and that won't change. They obviously haven't been listening to those dead guys who say nothing stays the same. When you look at the defensive front seven, you see a pretty talented and diverse group. There may be a need for another pass rusher, but overall, the group has improved year by year. With the exception of the singularly talented Vince Wilfork, it is also a fairly young group. Young players tend to improve with experience. They should get better.
The secondary that was lacking talent once Asante Samuel left to chase his money, has been without strong leadership since Rodney Harrison injured his knee and opted to retire. Harrison covered for a less than talented group by moving "his guys" around to cover their deficiencies. Of late, Captain Devin McCourty has tried to fulfill the leadership void and with the move to safety, he is in a better position to help his guys be successful. McCourty has lacked Harrison's experience to date. I think, though, that another hard-hitting strong safety like Adrian Wilson couldn't hurt from a leadership standpoint. He has the experience and it sounds like the young guys are eager to learn from him. He may not be an every down player anymore, but I believe his contributions to that group will be felt beyond his time on the field.
The talent void in the secondary was at least partially filled last year with the acquisition of Aquib Talib. They were simply better with him on the field. Dennard will be back, as will Dowling (if he can stay healthy), and Arrington has looked decent as a slot corner. Along with a handful of young guys, that may just be camp bodies, this is a better secondary than we've had since at least 2007. This defense, simply put, won't be the same. It has changed for the better.
On the offensive side of the ball, we've returned nearly every running back we had except for Danny Woodhead. While it was fun to watch Danny run, it's hard to believe that Shane Vereen and company couldn't make up the carries. If anything, Vereen looked even more dynamic out of the backfield. Just how good was our rushing attack last year? We had the number 1 rushing attack by points (a league best 25 TD's), and 7th best rushing attack by yards (2184), as well as the leagues best 1st down conversion rate (28.9%). With more experience these guys should get better. There's tons of tread on their tires.
The only tight end from last year that won't see time on the field this year is Hernandez. He'll be serving his time elsewhere. Gronk is recovering from surgery, and while he may not start right away, he should be around for the games we need him most. That leaves some openings, but both Fells and Hooman filled in for significant time last year as Gronk and Hernandez were both injured for numerous games anyway. Sudfield has looked good in OTAs and Ballard or Ford may be able to contribute as well. I know people have listed Tebow as a possible tight end, but they also don't realize that most if not all of our offensive tackles have also played the tight end position at some point in their careers. We have other options, and have used them in the past.
The wide receivers are all new with the exception of Edelman and Slater (who is sort of a wide receiver). Of course in 2007, we changed out every nearly every receiver and ended up breaking every offensive record in the books. Change isn't always bad. We don't need a 100+ catch receiver or a 1000+ yard receiver. We need enough different threats that injuries and defensive schemes can't remove all of them. We need guys who can get to every part of the field, and I believe that among the 12 receivers we have signed, we'll find those guys. We have tall guys, short guys, fast guys, quick guys, and athletic guys. Some of those are all wrapped up in the same guy. While Brady hasn't developed a rapport with all of them, I believe he will, simply because he needs to. It's his job.
I honestly don't believe that any rational Defensive Coordinator will say, "You know, let's just stop the run against these Patriots and make Tom Brady beat us with his arm." It didn't work with his targets in 2001, and it won't work in 2013. If the lack of "proven" offensive threats is the biggest reason to doubt the 2013 Patriots, then you have nothing to worry about. Amendola is as "proven" as Welker was when he got here, and every other receiver that Brady has thrown to over the years has done nothing since leaving Foxboro.
I'm waiting in eager anticipation to see how this year develops. Will Hoodie and McD have a MacGyver moment where they take a paper clip, a used post-it note and a wad of duct tape and turn it into the greatest offensive threat the world has ever seen? Will the once porous defense finally set and become a force to be reckoned with? Will some no named bit player step up and become the next fan favorite ala Bruschi, Vrabel, Faulk, or Welker? We've seen all of these things before. The Patriots this year will still be in playoff contention with yet another chance to bring home the Lombardi. There's not a doubt in my mind. The only thing I don't know yet is how they'll do it. I'm eager as ever, though, to tune in and find out. That's why we play the games.