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2011 Patriots Off-Season Needs

2011 Patriots Off-Season Needs by Frank Hyun

The Patriots 2010 season sadly came to an end earlier than any of us would have wanted. However, this season was, I believe, a great stepping stone for this young Patriots team that overachieved by winning 14 games. With better conditioning, this year’s rookies will shine even more next season. However, even teams like Patriots have areas to fix going forward. This article will only address the needs, and I will have a follow-up article with whom I think the Patriots should get.

Defensive Line

Everyone knows how many injuries the Patriots suffered in the defensive line. Ty Warren, starting left end and a borderline Pro-Bowl player, was put on injury reserve due to a hip injury during training camp. Mike Wright, starting right end and one of my favorite players on the team, was put into injury reserve when he suffered a concussion during the week 11 game against the Indianapolis Colts. Ron Brace, second year pro who seem to have adjusted nicely, was put into injury reserve due to an elbow injury he suffered during pre season as it deteriorated. Darryl Richard, reserve defensive lineman from Georgia Tech was put into injury reserve due to a foot injury. Thanks to surprising contributors such as Gerald Warren, Myron Pryor, Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick, the Patriots have not suffered as much of a drop off as I expected  performance wise. However, more talents and depth are needed. The most dire need is starting right end that was manned by Mike Wright. He is more suitable for a super utility role than the starter. Also a prototypical nose tackle prospect must be obtained for depth purposes.

Offensive Line

The need for offensive line depends on whether Logan Mankins and Matt Light are re-signed and Stephen Neal decides to retire or not. Worst case scenario, Patriots will need a starting right tackle and two super utility players, one who can play as a swing tackle (tackle who can play both left and right side) and one who can play guard and center. Assuming that all three players depart, Nick Kaczur will be manning one of the guards positions, most likely left guard position as he has played there before and Sebastian Vollmer will man left tackle. Projected line-up would be LT: Sebastian Vollmer LG: Nick Kaczur C: Dan Koppen RG: Dan Connolly RT: unknown. This line-up is does not warrant much confidence as Vollmer struggled a bit this season whereas Kaczur is coming back from lingering back problems. Dan Connolly deserves a starting job but his versatility will be missed. Also because Patriots use screen pass heavily in their offense, right tackle must have athleticism, which is often not required from right tackles. Patriots do not have back-up players on the team that can fill right tackle position as of right now. I see Matt Light returning to Patriots with 2 year deal, Logan Mankins being franchised and Stephen Neal returning for the one more season.

Outside Linebacker

Patriots’ outside linebackers amassed total of 12 sacks, which is less than each of top 6 NFL sack leaders contributed for their teams. (Demarcus Ware for Cowboys, Tamba Hali for Chiefs, Cameron Wake for Dolphins, Clay Matthews for Packers, John Abraham for Falcons and Jason Babin for Titans) Patriots had record setting turnover differential of +28 this season but this was due to Patriots offense scoring a lot of points, thereby forcing opponent to play pass than defense bringing pressure to opponent’s quarterback and forcing turnovers. Before going any further, Patriots DO NOT have a great defense or even average defense. Yes they are “opportunistic” but as we saw with Saints, “opportunistic” defense is not consistent and is vulnerable. For Patriots to truly have formidable defense, Patriots’ outside linebackers must register 20-25 sacks a season. Rob Ninkovich and Tully Banta-Cain as starting outside linebackers is simply not enough. As I stated in my Patriots 2010 draft review, I do not see Jermaine Cunningham becoming elite pass rusher. Acquiring elite pass rusher is MUST for Patriots.

Wide Receiver

The Randy Moss experiment is over and 2004 Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch is back!!! When the Patriots basically swapped Randy Moss for Deion Branch, everyone thought that Patriots had given up on the season. However, now the move is thought of as one of best roster moves Coach Belichick has ever made. I am sure that some of you are wondering why wide receiver position is one of the needs when Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Julius Edelman, Brandon Tate and Taylor Price produced enough. However, the Patriots do not have a #1 receiver. Before you argue that Patriots do not need a #1 receiver as long as they have Tom Brady and Patriots won three Super Bowls without prototypical #1 receiver, I must tell you that Patriots, like any other teams in the league, do need a #1 receiver and that the three Super Bowls are won by defense even though Tom Brady certainly warrants credits. However, the defense is not what it used to be and offense now carries the team more than defense does. #1 receiver without attitude (someone like Andre Johnson or Calvin Johnson) would allow de facto offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien to attack opponent’s defense various ways.

Extra!!!

I strongly believe that Coach Belichick should name Bill O’Brien as Offensive Coordinator and either hire a Defensive Coordinator or name one of assistant to the position. One of few things that I noticed from past 3 seasons compare to 2001-2004 seasons was lack of coordinators. Coach Belichick, in my opinion is THE best coach in NFL and one of best in any sports, but Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel’s impact cannot and should not be underestimated as we saw two of them turning Chiefs from NFL’s bottom feeders to playoff team. I believe that head coach should oversee entire team and assist coordinators in planning game strategies. But without coordinators, I feel that Coach Belichick, even with his football knowledge and work ethics, is stretching himself too thin by working as a defensive coordinator and head coach. In house candidate for defensive coordinator job are Defensive line coach Pepper Johnson and Linebacker coach Matt Patricia.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me at guswngks@yahoo.com and I will reply as soon as possible.

4 comments:

  1. Nice thoughts, and I really agree with you on the need for a number one receiver. We need to select a receiver at least as early as the second round this year and I would be up for the Patriots 1st pick in the 2011 draft being a receiver.

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  2. I hope we can get Julio Jones from Alabama but if history tells us anything, Coach Belichick will trade 1st round (17th overall).

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  3. Nice point on reciever. I hear ochocinco is lobbying for the pats to make a play for him.

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  4. Julio Jones is gonna go earlier than 17th...bill is gonna go for DE early in the draft. I would hope they get mark ingram though

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