Today, we begin our complete NFL team preview for 2014 with the New England Patriots. The New England Patriots are one of the most elite teams in the NFL & have been for the entire 2000s. Quarterback Tom Brady & Head Coach Bill Belichick have built one of the most stable organizations in sports. Last season, with an offense that was working on working together & were a patchwork group with the loss of Wes Welker to the Denver Broncos, the Patriots were still able to get to the AFC Championship Game, before falling to the Broncos.
For 2014, the Patriots will be more eager than ever to get to the Superbowl, especially with Brady getting up in age & the dynasty possibly coming to an end soon. We will look at the Patriots offense, defense & special teams unit along with a prediction of their record for the 2014 NFL Season.
New England Patriots Offense
Anything that happens in New England with the Patriots starts & ends with Tom Brady. Brady showed his strong leadership last season by leading a subpar offense to the AFC Championship game, as mentioned earlier.
The Patriots quarterback threw for 4323 yards & 25 touchdowns, which is an extremely low number than what the quarterback is used to. But, in order to be able to get past the AFC Championship game, or even win the division, the offense is going to have to be stronger in the passing game. Julian Edelman has been a great Wes Welker replacement, catching 105 passes for 1056 yards last year, but there has to be more in that passing game or teams will just work on taking the slant patterns away from Edelman, making him ineffective.
Danny Amendola caught 54 passes last year, but Amendola wasn’t the deep threat either. He was similar to Edelman in that sense. The Patriots will be looking forward to the return of TE Rob Gronkowski after several injuries, a player who can actually expand the field & get the ball in the end zone. The Patriots will also look to build the deep game with Aaron Dobson & Kembrell Thompkins, two young players who Brady showed some frustrations with at times last year while they were learning the offensive game & the NFL as a whole & how to work in the Patriots system.
If Dobson & Thompkins can build up the deep passing game & become average threats along with Gronkowski, the Patriots have a basic unit to put up 30 points a game, which will be what they need to get past teams such as the Broncos & Colts to get to a Superbowl.
In the running game, the duo of Steven Ridley & ex-Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB LeGarrette Blount were very strong for the Patriots, compensating well for their lack of a consistent passing game. With Ridley & Shane Vereen being running backs that can go between the tackles & catch the ball out of the backfield & Blount being the bruising back who can be a great goal-line & third down back, the Patriots should have a talented running game against this season.
The team drafted James White out of Wisconsin, the type of back that is a bruiser but has great downhill speed, similar to past Wisconsin running backs & the type that will be strong for the Patriots – keeps nose to the grindstone & is willing to do everything to help the team be successful, has he did at Wisconsin, running for 1444 yards & 13 touchdowns.
We have the opinion that the passing game will take more time to come together than the running game, so early on in the season, the Patriots running game is going to have to be the key to many victories until Brady & Belichick are sure that the receivers are on the same page & that Gronkowski is fully healthy from his broken arm.
The offensive line should be strong again with Nate Solder at the left tackle position, longtime mainstay Logan Mankins & RT Sebastian Vollmer. Brady had strong protection last season, which helped greatly in making sure that he made the absolute best from the receivers he could use & were healthy. The offensive line blocked for over 2000 yards last season.
New England Patriots Defense
The defensive unit of the Patriots has been revamped & for the team’s sake, matured a bit. The unit finished 18th against the pass & 30th against the run, mostly because of the loss of DT Vince Wilfork, who has been one of the best run stuffers in the NFL for many years.
The unit lost their best CB this offseason in Aqib Talib to the Denver Broncos, but gained Darrelle Revis from the Tampa Bay Bucs. Revis has had a year to basically recover from ACL surgery with the Buccaneers defensive unit. On the other side of the field will be Alfonzo Dennard, who can be a solid cornerback on many #2 receivers in the league.
Linebackers Brandon Spikes & Jerrod Mayo are two of the most solid players on the Patriots defense. They will be leaned upon to be the anchors of this unit & bring them back into respectability to take some pressure off of Tom Brady & the rest of the Patriots offense.
No matter what, the main cogs will have to be a healthy Wilfork & a healthy Revis to at least bring the Patriots defense into the top 10 in the NFL to make Bill Belichick still look like a madly insane, yet very genius defensive mind, which he has not in the last few years, no matter what the networks want you to believe.
The New England Patriots will win the AFC East, basically by default with a 12-4 record, same as last year. The Patriots will be able to be a factor in the AFC this year to get back to the AFC Championship game. If the offensive unit can be explosive in the vertical passing game & take some of the edge of defenses that will be looking to put 8 in the box to stop the running game, the New England Patriots are a brand new threat to the Denver Broncos in the AFC & possibly ready for a SuperBowl run.