Tuesday, August 04, 2015

RepeatGate: The 2015 New England Patriots Preview

My what a journey it has become being a Patriots fan. As if there wasn’t a big enough target on our collective backs because we’ve essentially become like Duke basketball or the Yankees (winning at obnoxiously high rates), now the scandal that is DeflateGate has emerged. Honestly I want to knock this out first because it is the giant elephant in the room and you can’t be a Pats fan…or human, to not have an opinion. Here’s the thing: I love Tom Brady unconditionally, but there’s no way of getting around how wildly shady all of this is. Whether his suspension is overturned in federal court or the Supreme Court, or is ultimately upheld, there is no way of getting around that the longer this is dragged out, the worse it is doing for his legacy. Here’s a guy who just stamped his name on being the “Greatest Quarterback Ever,” and yet for the time being, none of it matters. It’s really a shame how it has all come to this. When we see Tom Brady again has yet to be seen, but one thing is for certain…

THE CHAMPS ARE HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yup, Pete Carroll should have ran, but he didn’t, so get over yourselves. Last year’s edition of the Patriots truly taught everyone a lesson in the art of perseverance on the road to the team’s fourth Super Bowl title. So now that we’ve reached the promised land, is it possible that we can stay on top?

The short answer is: Maybe, and a longer answer is: Maaaaayyyyybbbbeeeeee. What I can’t really get over, at least for the time being, are all the subtractions from the defensive side. Browner to the Saints, Revis to the Jets (I went from hating him, to not minding him, to loving him, back to hating him), Big Vince to Houston, Arrington to Baltimore…I mean that’s a lot. In starting with the defensive backfield, Bradley Fletcher and Malcolm Butler (yes, THE Malcolm Butler) will now be asked to fill the Revis/Browner void. Don’t get me wrong, I like them both, but you can’t help but think it will be a tall task for them, and their other corner adds (Robert McClain, Chimidi Chekwa), to accomplish. Browner I can see them kind of getting around…I swear when he came back from his suspension last year, it’s almost as if he had no idea what the new rules were regarding contact with receivers, as it rained yellow all over him (that doesn’t sound right at all!), but losing Revis is what I’m chiefly concerned over. He essentially shut down half the field to the point where he didn’t even have to be having a good day, and they still wouldn’t throw in his general direction almost based on reputation. We have nothing like that now, so you have to wonder how susceptible the outside will be.

What we do know is Devin McCourty will be patrolling centerfield for the foreseeable future, so that is reassuring. Along with Patrick Chung, they make a solid up-the-middle duo. Throw in Logan Ryan at nickelback, and suddenly, as a unit, we’re looking okay. Again, not what we had, but not terrible either…so at this point I can’t help but feeling like Mr. Orange bleeding in the back of the car while Harvey Keitel is screaming “You’re going to be okay! Say the GD words! You’re going to be okay!” Yeah, lots of self-convincing. Well at least I can kind of see this working out. It’s not like the Red Sox’ rotation. Oh I tried desperately, but even in my unwavering homer ways, I could never talk myself into that one (my goodness are they awful).

So okay, in getting into more positive things, the linebacking core is nasty. The head of the group continues to be Jerod Mayo, with the only question about him is being able to stay on the field. When healthy (yes, it’s been a big “when” lately), he has been one of the more outstanding middle linebackers in the game. Now being flanked by Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower on the outside, they will stack up against any unit in the league. Hightower and Collins are really coming along though. After watching him develop the past two years, Jamie Collins has the possibility of really turning the corner and entering the “elite” category after this year.

While losing Vince to free agency, the D-Line continues to be strong, and probably the most underrated part about this team. Filling the “underrated” moniker conveniently is Rob Ninkovich, who has quietly put together two solid back-to-back years (153 tackles, 16 sacks). He is a force, and is quite reminiscent of another #50 for Pats fans (that would be THE Ohio State’s Mike Vrabel). On the other side is Chandler Jones, who is downright filthy. Those two make for an incredible outside presence, and both can double as outside linebackers, which plays on Belichick’s model of having tons and tons of versatility with his lineup.

On the inside will be the Pats’ last two first round picks in Dominque Easley and rookie Malcom Brown. Easley is unproven and has had terrible luck with injuries (tore both his Achilles in college and had a season-ending knee injury last year), but despite placing him on the PUP list already, he is still planning on being ready for Week 1. Brown looks like he is a solid prospect who had great tape and rave reviews basically across the board. Obviously they knew the general direction they wanted to go in letting Wilfork go, and that was to be younger and faster along the front.

The Pats franchised Stephen Gostkowski (I mention this in the middle because I didn’t want to end this by talking about kickers…snoozer!). In all honesty though, this could be one of the better moves they made. They did a similar move with Adam Vinatieri back in the day. You have to appreciate the peace of mind in having arguably the best kicker in the game back there. Also, having one that can put one through in the clutch. Gostkowski has been a beast…at least as beastly as a kicker could possibly be.

When you talk Pats offense, of course you start with Tom Terrific. Again, the greatest quarterback of all time. Period. Whenever he does take the field, he hasn’t really shown any signs of slowing down at all. He nickel-dimed/dink and dumped all over one of the best defenses of our lifetimes in the Super Bowl, and has shown the ability to adapt to what the defense is giving him. Of course with his suspension still holding, we’re bracing for the Jimmy Garoppolo era to officially get under way. It’s an unfortunate situation, but in attempting to find a silver lining in all of this, I really do want to see what Jimmy G is all about. I mean he’s supposed to be the heir-apparent right? Also, it’s not like he’s being rushed into the situation. He’s known he’s going to start the season being the starter as soon as the suspension was handed down, so you have to think he’ll be ready to go, especially after training camp and the preseason. Again…just four games. That’s what you have to keep saying…

“You’re going to be okay!!”

4/5 of the line from last year are back to protect Tom and The Jimmy (with Dan Connolly being the exception after retiring). Solder and Vollmer on the outside have proven to be solid, and I think that Bryan Stork, who was a rookie last year, is going to go down as one of the best steals this team has had in the draft in the Brady era. Already he looks like he could possibly get to an All-Pro level. The guard position could be in trouble without Connolly…definitely something to watch going forward.

The backfield has been shaken up with the loss of Shane Vereen to the G-Men. I have to say that I think this one will sting because it’s tough to see anyone replacing his production. They signed Travaris Cadet in an attempt to, but still, it’s tough to find RBs that are good for eight or nine catches a game on a consistent basis. LeGarrette Blount will be out the first game after his run-in with the law in his now infamous time with the Steelers…you know, the team he walked out on and then subsequently walked into a Super Bowl ring with us…yeah them. In any event, that first game will likely showcase Brandon Bolden, who has been a solid contributor the past three seasons (averages 4.6 yards a carry for his career). His role should expand this season, which is something I think Pats fans are fairly comfortable with.

The emergence of Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell has finally given the receiving corps some legitimacy. Edelman has shredded his “Welker Clone” label to become one of the best slot receivers in the game. You have to love you some Julian Edelman. LaFell gives them the vertical threat they had been craving since Randy Moss was running routes. Throw in Danny Amendola, who played extremely well in the playoffs, and Tom finally has some weapons both inside and outside the numbers.

Once the Pats get in a position to get down near the end zone, they are going to be almost impossible to beat. Gronk is not only one of the best red zone targets in the game now but in the game all-time. He is the game-changer. It’s a wildly different team when he’s not healthy. Simply no specimen has ever graced the league the likes of him, which is saying a lot because there have been a lot of big dudes who have played this game, but his power/speed combo is unhuman. It’s completely unfair for opposing defenses. Now throw Scott Chandler into the equation, who had terrified the Pats for years up in Buffalo, and you could be looking at the greatest two-headed tight end duo we’ve seen in a while (you know, since we had what’s his name who decided to go schizoid and start murdering people).

All and all, even with the departures of some big names on defense, the offense remains mostly intact, and any time you have Tom Brady, you have a chance. Yes, we’re going to be hearing about deflated balls and being cheaters until the end of time, but when it came down to a game where it was impossible to cheat, the Pats came out on top because ultimately, scandal aside, they were the best team last year. Going forward this year, it’s going to be tough to repeat, but they are going to be in it until the end, and as a fan, that’s all you can ask your team to do. Put yourself in a position every year to win a title, and luckily, for the past 15 years, we have been able to do just that. Go Pats! #FreeBrady. Peace.

~Mell-o

1 comment:

Iftekhar Ahmed said...

I must appreciate the way you have express your feelings through your blog!
PPC Expert