Sorry for being gone most of the week- it's interview week for summer internships and I'm looking for jobs! Anyways, I think it's a great time to look at which Patriots deserve a double-take this summer. These Patriots are important to the health and success of the franchise as we move forward.
10. Tom Brady - We'll start with an easy one. Brady had a phenomenal regular season as he returned to his peak condition. He appears to be fully recovered from his knee injury, so this off-season is crucial as he must retain his top form. He must use this off-season to get over the Jets loss because I feel like the recent playoff struggles are playing with his mind. At the end of the Jets game, Brady wasn't fired up at all; it appeared as if he was suffering from a terrible case of "Awww-here-we-go-again"itis. He needs to buckle down and be the constant fire for the offense.
9. Wes Welker - Welker needs a rebound season. He was tops in the league in drops and he had a few costly miscues in the Jets playoff game. He needs to regain confidence in his knee and he needs to find his burst. He experienced a decrease in 1 yard/reception for the season, but he seemed to be back at his old 11 yards/reception form for the second half of the season. If Welker can strengthen his legs and become Welker again, he'll be due for a large contract extension.
8. Brandon Tate - Bethel Johnson. Chad Jackson. Brandon Tate? Tate is primed to be just another receiver in a long line of failed receivers for the Patriots. The common theme: all are burners. Tate, for all the reported hard work that he puts in, just is not on the same page as Brady. He has no rapport whatsoever. Much like how Welker and Brady spent time this off-season working out together, Tate needs to set some extracurricular time to get a rhythm with the quarterback. If not? Tate could be a goner.
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7. BenJarvus Green-Ellis - BJGE must have a solid encore season. He earned the confidence of the coaches and most of the fans, but he'll need to have another solid season to make himself a more cemented piece of the offense. For now, he's a replaceable part who had a great season. He needs to get to the next level and become a better overall running back. He needs to be able to block the pass rush, he needs to work on his second level speed, and he needs to continue to fight for the short yardage.
6. Devin McCourty - McCourty had a monster rookie season and got better as the season wore onwards. He was a ballhawk that quarterbacks avoided. However, there have been other rookie cornerbacks who had solid rookie seasons and who faltered as sophomores (Darius Butler). Of course those corners were never as great as McCourty, but the principle stands: McCourty needs to have dynamite second season. The better the season McCourty has, the better the overall defense will become as the pass rush will have more time to reach the quarterback.
5. Aaron Hernandez - Mr. Mistakes makes the list. Hernandez was a huge part of the offense early in the season, but saw his role diminish for the second half of the season as Rob Gronkowski emerged. Hernandez needs to remain a large part of the offense as a complement to the receiving core. There's no reason why Hernandez can't thrive for the whole season, so he did something to fall out of the coaches' graces. He must re-find his game because if Hernandez can become an elite weapon for Brady, then the offense might have found its big-speedy man.
4. Leigh Bodden - Bodden is returning from a major injury that kept him out for the whole season. His 2009 season was phenomenal for the Patriots' and if he can play at that same level, the Patriots could have the best cornerback tandem in the league. However, if Bodden can't play as well, then the Patriots are in the same spot as last season- vulnerable on one side of the field. He must work extremely hard to get back in shape and back in form in order to improve the defense.
3. Logan Mankins - Mankins is the best offensive lineman on the Patriots. He's one of the best linemen in the entire league. He brings the unit to a whole new level as the rush offense and pass offense both increase tremendously. However, he's at odds with the owners of the franchise. I believe Mr. Kraft is willing to put everything behind him without an apology. I also think that Mankins will be offered a top contract in the league. The question is whether Mankins accepts the offer after being franchised and whether a different team might offer him more money.
2. Bill Belichick - The coach. He has a lot on his plate. Belichick must spend the off-season: finding elite free agents that fit with the Patriots' schemes, find the best draft picks for the team, develop a new defense with the returning and more experienced personnel, and so much more. His plate is extremely full. We all know he can handle the workload, it's just a matter of better executing his plans. He's done a great job the past two off-seasons. One more and I believe the Patriots will be primed to make a Super Bowl run.
1. Robert Kraft - Ah. Mr. Kraft, you must work out the CBA to make sure there is a season next year. Please. You have to pay the players on the team, but you must also repay the fans who have given you so much over the years. I know that you have your priorities, but don't be blinded by one facet of the debate. Look at the league as a whole and see what is really important. Share that with the other owners. Come to an agreement with the players and let's have a season.
Who are your most important Patriots?