The New England Patriots are consistently one of the best teams in the league. What is their secret?
1. Great coaching.
2. Tom Brady.
3. Player development.
The Patriots have consistently been among the NFL’s elite since the early 2000s, and will continue to do so as long as Tom Brady is the quarterback and Bill Belichick is the head coach. Here are their top needs (in my opinion, and in NO PARTICULAR ORDER) for the 2013 offseason.
1. Wide Receiver
Brandon Lloyd is not getting any younger. Wes Welker is a free agent. Julian Edelman is coming off of a bad injury. The Patriots obviously have two insane weapons with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but they were nearly 19-0 the year they had a sick receiver group. The Patriots need to add some youth to the WR position this offseason, and potentially a veteran who can start on the outside.
Aqib Talib is a free agent, and former Pro Bowl corner Devin McCourty moved to safety. The Patriots appear to have a good one in Alfonzo Dennard, but they have not been able to get much out of Ras-I Dowling. This is definitely a position I could see the Patriots looking to upgrade this offseason with a veteran as well as some draft picks.
The secondary as a whole could use some upgrades, but maybe that’s a lack of consistent pass rush up front causing the Patriots some problems. Some Pats fans were calling for Patrick Chung’s head earlier this season, but it’s really the pass defense as a whole which is ailing the Patriots. They have to improve and find a guy who can provide the impact of an Adalius Thomas from a couple of years ago.
4. Defensive Front Seven
The Patriots went out and got a couple of CFL studs to add to their defensive rotation, which could help out in terms of their depth and pass rush. Still, I think if Rob Ninkovich (no offense) is your best option, you’d better consider some alternatives at rush end. It’s going to be hard for the Patriots to justify replacing a guy who did so much for them a season ago, though. Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, and Jerod Mayo provide the core for a linebacker group that should become one of the best in the league.
On the defensive line, the Patriots need to upgrade their end/tackle positions. Armond Armestead (aforementioned CFL stud) should help a bit, but don’t be shocked to see these guys go after a DL early on in the draft.
4. Offensive Line Depth
Sebastian Vollmer is a free agent, but I think the Pats will retain him. Their offensive line is pretty good, so we’re adding this fourth spot here because the team doesn’t really have any other glaring needs and every team needs offensive line depth. I think you could add QB to this list if Ryan Mallett becomes an attractive trade piece, and some team tries to deal for him. I don’t think that’s very likely, though.