State of the Franchise: New England Patriots

2012 Record: 12-4 (1st in Division)

General Manager: Bill Belichick (de facto)

Head Coach: Bill Belichick

Offensive Coordinator: Josh McDaniels

Defensive Coordinator: Matt Patricia

Special Teams Coach: Scott O’Brien

Overview

The AFC powerhouse that is the New England Patriots will be looking to go deep into the post-season in 2013, but with their tumultuous off-season will they be able to stay poised and conquer the AFC East for yet another year?

The Patriots off-season headlines were as follows, Aaron Hernandez arrested for possible murder(s), wide receiver corps rebuilt, Gronkowski injuries and surgeries, and Patriots sign wondering apostle Timothy Tebow. Bill Belichick isn’t a coach who likes his team associated with these types of headlines.

The Patriots had a nice run in the 2012 season before the Baltimore Ravens took their revenge in the AFC Championship game for their loss the prior year. The Patriots will face an uphill battle to return to that game in 2013.

Tom Brady

Offense: Total Offense (1st), Passing (4th), Rushing (7th), and Scoring (1st).

The finely tuned machine that is the Patriots offense will still have Tom Brady as their engineer, but there will be plenty of new faces filling the roles around him. Wes Welker defected to Denver to play with Brady’s long time rival Peyton Manning this off-season, and coming in to fill his role will be ex-Rams receiver Danny Amendola. There will be high expectations for him since Welker hauled in plenty of passes during his stay in Foxborough. The Patriots also had a very nice running attack in 2012. Stevan Ridley plowed his way to over 1,200 yards and twelve touchdowns making the Patriots one of the most well rounded offenses in 2012.

Vince Wilfork

Defense: Total Yards (8th), Passing (4th), Rushing (24th), and Sacks (15th-T).

Defense was not as effective as their offense in 2012, and that can easily be seen in the stats above. The run defense was solid and kept the opposing teams to an average of 102 yards and 10 touchdowns. That is a nice year for a run defense, but it was a different story for their secondary. The Patriots secondary ranked as the fourth worst in the league. On average teams threw for 271.5 yards a game on the Patriots. The past few years Belichick has drafted a few no namers in the early rounds of the draft to improve his woeful secondary. Hey Bill, you might want to try a new approach.

Gostkowski Snow

Special Teams: Field Goals (9th-T), Kick Returns (25th), and Punting (32nd).

Stephen Gostkowski had a good year kicking for the Patriots in 2012, but realistically how often does Brady lead a drive that stalls and leads to kick from forty plus? Do not underestimate Gostkowski, he can make some big time kicks. The Patriots need to get better at returning kicks. Devin McCourty was a non-factor in the return game besides one touchdown. Returning kicks is not as much about touchdowns as it is about getting good starting field position for your offense, McCourty did not do that. Zoltan Mesko had an extremely average year punting the ball and he was not much of a factor for a defense that could have used help with field position.

2012 Off-season Impact:

Brandon Lloyd

Key Acquisitions: RB Joseph Addai, FB Tony Fiammetta, WR Brandon Lloyd, WR Jabar Gaffney, WR Dont’e Stallworth, G Robert Gallery, DE/DT Jonathan Fanene, DE/OLB Trevor Scott, OLB Bobby Carpenter, CB Will Allen, CB Marquice Cole, and S Steve Gregory.

Key Losses: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, WR Chad Ochocinco, OT Matt Light, DE Andre Carter, DE Mark Anderson, OLB Gary Guyton, CB Antwaun Molden, and S James Ihedigbo.

 

 

 

 

Jones and Hightower

Draft Picks:

Round 1, Pick 21: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse

Round 1, Pick 25: Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama

Round 2, Pick 48: Tavon Wilson, S, Illinois

Round 3, Pick 90: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas

Round 6, Pick 197: Nate Ebner, DB, Ohio State

Round 7, Pick 224: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska

Round 7, Pick 235: Jeremy Ebert, WR, Northeastern

Brandon Lloyd and Addai were good additions to the offense, but other than that no one else was that special for the Patriots in 2012. They seemed to lose more than they gained in players like Green-Ellis, Light, and Carter. James Ihedigbo is a great backup at safety and could have helped a poor secondary in 2012. Let me preface this draft section by saying I personally believe Bill Belichick is the most overrated drafter in the NFL.

The 2012 draft for the Patriots was a potential signal for the end of the world on December 21st, 2012. The Patriots are notorious for trading down and stockpiling picks, but in 2012 they traded up, twice. Their first two picks in Jones and Hightower were great selections. When there is a guy(s) you want in the draft you go and get them. The other thing Belichick is notorious for in the draft is selecting that player where everyone, including draft “experts”, goes “who?….”. That player in 2012 was Tavon Wilson, who had a decent rookie year.

I thoroughly enjoy watching the draft on NFL Network each year and seeing Mike Mayock scrambling to make up a explanation for the pick and the crew to put together a video for him. “Alfonzo Dennard in the seventh round?! What a steal!” said Patriots fans. Sorry Patriots fans but you just drafted Pacman Jones 2.0. I hope you enjoy seeing Dennard behind bars because he’ll be there more than on the field. Jake Bequette may be the best pick in this class for the Patriots. Down the road he could be a solid piece in that front seven. Not a bad draft for the Patriots, but it isn’t hard to hit on two first round picks and maybe a third rounder.

2013 Off-season:

Tebow Patriots

Key Acquisitions: QB Tim Tebow, RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Danny Amendola, WR Donald Jones, WR Michael Jenkins, OT Will Svitek, G Tyronne Green, DT Tommy Kelly, DT Armond Armstead, S Adrian Wilson, and KR Leon Washington.

Key Losses: RB Danny Woodhead, RB Jeff Demps, WR Wes Welker, WR Brandon Lloyd, TE Aaron Hernandez, G Donald Thomas, G Brian Waters, DE Trevor Scott, and S Patrick Chung.

Jamie Collins

 

Draft Picks:

Round 2, Pick 52: Jamie Collins, DE/OLB, Southern Miss

Round 2, Pick 59: Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall

Round 3, Pick 83: Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers

Round 3, Pick 91: Duron Harmon, S, Rutgers

Round 4, Pick 102: Josh Boyce, WR, TCU

Round 7, Pick 226: Michael Buchanan, DE/OLB, Illinois

Round 7, Pick 235: Steve Beauharnais, LB, Rutgers

This was a much better offseason in 2013 than 2012. While the Patriots lost some key players they seem to have added others to counterbalance what was lost. As for the draft they also did a much better job this offseason. Jamie Collins was a good selection, but in the long run Michael Buchanan may be the better player in the long run. Buchanan was a steal in the seventh round and will see the field unlike Alfonzo Dennard. Aaron Dobson could be a number one receiver in the NFL in a few years, but they can’t expect him to become that player right away. No Patriots draft class is complete without the Belichick “who?…” pick. That honor goes to Duron Harmon od Rutgers this year. There were a plethora of safeties to choose from at that point in the draft such as Shamarko Thomas, Phillip Thomas, Earl Wolfe, Josh Evans, Bacarri Rambo, or even Zeke Motta. Another mind blowing secondary pick early in the draft for Belichick.

nfl_pwr_rankings 2013

Power Ranking:

6th

Sixth may be a little to high for my taste a month later, but the Patriots offense is a machine. As long as the Patriots have Tom Brady as their quarterback they will be a potential playoff team. To keep their sixth overall ranking they will need to solidify their secondary and pass rush this season. They have plenty of pass rushers on their roster and they will need to help the secondary. Also the receivers need to hold their own and make plays for Brady.

Conclusion: 

Maybe the Patriots are not a sure thing for the winning the division with their shaky offseason and the Dolphins nipping at their heels, but if Tom Brady has anything to say about that they will be playoff bound. Their isn’t much to say about the Patriots other than the usual. They have a machine of an offense, solid front seven on defense, and their secondary will still be soft. It will be an interesting year for the Patriots for sure.