If anyone believe that there is a code to be cracked in the NFL they also have to believe the Patriots have cracked it. They are a fixture of the post season, have numerous Super Bowl wins and had one of the greatest teams in history. Maybe it's as simple as having Tome Brady and Bill Belichick as fixtures of the team, but I think it's a little more complicated.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is spending a large amount of his time wondering how Tom Brady and Amendola are going to get along. Brady will turn 36 during this training camp but he shows no signs of slowing down. Last year he was as good as ever and once he develops chemistry with his receivers it should be business as usual. Even last year, with a receiving unit that wasn't up to the standards of what Brady is used to, he still threw a touchdown to interception ratio of 4 to 1.
Ridley established himself as the lead back last year after 1,293 yards last season. He has athletic ability and good change of direction skills, He's not a strong, up the middle type of runner, but he doesn't have to be. The Patriots have always liked to use a running back by committee approach and Ridley will present the guy who can get off tackle for some big yards.
We all know about the hit to the receiving corp this offseason; Welker and Hernandez. The team brought in Amendola to take Welkers spot and on paper some have said it is an upgrade. He does have pretty much the same skill set as Welker and he is younger, but will he perform against the best in the biggest games? That remains to be seen. Not only that, he has a history of missing significant time because of injuries. It doesn't matter how much talent you have, you can't make any plays from the sideline. Edelman and Gronkowski return and both are experienced and very productive on the field.
The defense is young and eager to improve. New England is the type of team that intently studies their opponents and plays the percentages. They know what teams are likely to do in given scenarios and adjust to that. When they aren't right they need to have players who can make adjustments and compensate.
The defensive line is solid, but they need another pass rusher. Wilfork is still one of the best in the business at his position, but other than him tackle is weak. Jones are Ninkovich both played good at times last year but they need to continue to improve.
The team has a very good starting linebacking trio in Mayo, Spikes and Hightower. All are young and will benefit from every extra day they spend together. Spikes leads the pack when it comes to stopping the run. The defense was 9th overall against the run and he was a big part of it. If Hightower can step hp his play it will not only help the defense overall, it will also help free up Mayo to take a few more chances. These guys all have the athletic ability to really make big plays and they are in a system that will let them. The team also drafted Jamie Collins out of Southern Miss to help the unit. He played OLB, S and DE in college and the Patriots know how to make the most out of a versatile player. They'll likely try to put him spots where he can rush the passer.
There have definitely been offseasons where the team looked better, but they always look good. They are now, as they have been for awhile, the team to beat in the AFC East. Brady always finds a way to make the most of whatever receivers he has in front of him and this year will be more of the same. More time in a solid system like the one the Patriots have consistently helps players. The guys they choose to keep on their rosters always improve as long as they are there and they usually play better as Patriots than when they go to another team. That's not because all the guys they trade away become washed up when they leave, it's because the Patriots know how to put their players in the best position to succeed.