According to Vegas, common sense and recent history, the New England Patriots are the second-best team in the AFC.
Have they done enough since last season’s title-game loss to Denver, their second straight stumble one step shy of the Super Bowl, to get over the top in 2014?
On the surface, it is a little hard to say yes.
Well lets look at that a little more closely...
Losses on Defense – LB Spikes, CB Talib, S Gregory, DE Carter, LB Fletcher
FA additions on Defense – CB Revis, CB Browner, DE Will Smith, LB Anderson
Second year players – LB Collins, CB Ryan, SS Harmon, LB Beauharnais
Trying to gage just how well the Patriots did improving the team (or adversely trying to figure out what they lost) is almost impossible. And that is because we don’t know what the Patriots plan on doing with their Defense… other than getting the best mix of players out there, that they believe can help them defeat their given opponent.
The best we can truly do, is look at the abilities of the players lost, and look at the abilities of the players gained, and try to figure out if the sum total of what they gained is greater than what they lost.
When Talib was healthy and at his best, the D only allowed 12 points-per-game... According to PFF, the top rated cornerback last year was Revis, now replacing Talib, who was the 58th rated cornerback in 2013.
In addition they added former Seattle Seahawks 6'4 CB Brandon Browner. Let me say that again... six foot four CB... Browner when on the field last year, held opposing quarterbacks to a cumulative 78.8 quarterback rating in passes into his coverage (per PFF). In 15 games in 2012, Browner allowed opposing quarterbacks to a cumulative 77.6 quarterback rating, and in 2011 a 70.1 (per PFF).
Talib as good as he was, didn't show up for half of the last two seasons, and was chilling on the sidelines in two consecutive AFCCGs with a trip to the SB on the line... and now the Patriots have Revis and Browner instead. Oh, and second year CB Logan Ryan as well. Last year's #2 and #3 CBs... Dennard and Arrington, could fall pretty far down the depth charts this season.
The Patriots don’t have a #1 RB job… they have a stable of RBs, some better at running it up the middle, some better at catching screens and being elusive, each brings something a bit different to the table…
I personally believe they have more potential to get production out of White, Finch and Houston this season than Ridley and Vereen… if only because Ridley loves to fumble and get himself benched, and Vereen can’t stay healthy.
White totaled 15 touchdowns and more than 1,700 total yards from scrimmage his final season at Wisconsin, with 221 carries for 1444 yards. (thats over 6.5 yards per carry)
Houston finished fourth on Indiana’s all-time rushing list with 25 rushing touchdowns. Last season, he rushed for 753 yards on 112 attempts. (thats almost 6.75 yards per carry) Read more about Houston Here
And then there is the living ping-pong ball 5’7 (at best) RB Roy Finch from Oklahoma, only 5.9 yards per carry as a senior (59 carries, 347 yards). But he had 43 career returns for 1,099 yards and a touchdown. (that’s more than 25 ½ yards per touch)…
If there is ANY position where the Patriots have excelled at getting production from UFAs… it’s the RB position… players like BJGE and Woodhead proved equal to the task, while top picks like Maroney never lived up to the hype.
Blount is a big loss, he came up big more than once last season, but it will more likely be one or more of the rookies that step up when given the opportunity, rather than it being Ridley who shoulders the load of that lost production.
Lastly, I don’t think Burke even mentions the three new rookie O-linemen, and the impact they can have on improving the running game, to say nothing of the line’s ability to improve protection for Brady.
the 2014 Patriots will resemble very closely the 2013 Patriots.
I suppose the Patriots could once again lose their top 5 playmakers on offense by week 2…
I suppose all those second year players, and this year’s rookies and new FAs, could have no real impact…
But then again, the 2014 season could resemble 2013… the way the 2003 season resembled 2002…