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Why I’m excited about the Patriots this season

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It’s theme week at SB Nation once again, so let’s take this opportunity and be positive.

NFL: AFC Championship-Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Flores. There I said it.

Brian Flores is the reason why I am excited about the New England Patriots this season. Yes, I understand that he will not completely overhaul the team’s defense as the unit’s de-facto but not yet official coordinator. And, yes, I also understand that he played a prominent role in coaching the defense ever since getting elevated to position coach in 2012. This season will therefore really not be all that different – but in some ways it still will be.

You see, Flores is a highly interesting character not just because of his unique backstory. He also has plenty of experience in New England’s system and has seen it all: he knows what works, he knows what does not work, he knows the players and the scheme holding it all together. Now, he can finally take advantage of this knowledge and turn it into a play calling career without all the added responsibilities that come with the official coordinator role.

So far, the glimpses of this have been marginal. New England has not yet properly game-planned for one of its preseason matchups, and players are indifferent when it comes to the potential changes that may or may not arise with Matt Patricia no longer around. But one thing is for sure: unless disaster strikes, Flores will have a more talented group of players at his disposal when compared to what Patricia had to work with last year.

The defensive front seven is the best example for this. The Patriots will have Dont’a Hightower and Derek Rivers back from injured reserve, Deatrich Wise Jr. with one year of experience under his belt, and both Adrian Clayborn and Danny Shelton as newly added but established veteran presences. Those five players and/or their developments alone should help strengthen New England’s defense – and give the new play caller plenty of bodies to creatively work with.

In the end, the Patriots are still Bill Belichick’s team and the defense is still his brainchild. But I’m still excited about seeing Brian Flores insert himself more into the conversation when it comes to attacking opposing offenses and using the talent available. Matt Patricia did a good albeit sometimes emotionally excruciating job. Maybe Flores can do the former without the latter. All I know is that I’m looking forward to it.