2013 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS PREVIEW
June 17, 2013INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
2013 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS PREVIEW
LAST YEAR: 12-4, FIRST IN AFC EAST, LOST IN AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
HEAD COACH: BILL BELICHICK, 14TH YEAR
There never seems to be a dull moment for the New England Patriots. New England decided to make headlines recently by signing QB Tim Tebow. Bill Belichick apparently has plans for Tebow, otherwise why sign him? They have Tom Brady and back-up Ryan Mallet and they are a solid one and two at QB. But remember, OC Josh McDaniel can do many things with the Patriots offense include spread you out, run double and triple tight ends and just about everything in between. So don’t be too surprised when you see Tebow lined up some place on the field. New England was #1 in total offense in the NFL in 2012.
The Patriots are in a championship slump. It has been eight seasons since they have won a Super Bowl. In New England, there are higher expectations for Belichick and Brady, so look for the Patriots to make a strong run for the title in 2013. When Brady is healthy, the Patriots are one of the best teams in the NFL. So what’s the problem? They have been an average team in the playoffs over the last 15 games (8-7). Perhaps the other playoff teams have been wise to Belichick and the magic he used early in his coaching career at New England.
But don’t feel too sorry for Bill and Tom. They will have plenty of talent again in 2013. Brady is playing at a very high level even at age 35. His play has been good enough for the Patriots to sign him to a contract extension. New England was 4th in the NFL in passing yards per game at 291.4. TE Rob Gronkowski is still not 100%. This time he is having back surgery and although the team says he will be ready for the start of the season, one must wonder. Gronkowski was still recovering from a broken arm that required several surgeries. The Patriots will have to do without Wes Welker who signed with Denver. New England signed WR’s Michael Jenkins and Danny Amendola to fill the void. There are hols to fill in the offensive line.
The Patriots have to be better in stopping the pass. They were 29th in the NFL in pass defense. The patriots signed SS Adrian Wilson and drafted Logan Ryan (Rutgers) in the third round, and S Duron Harmon (Rutgers) in the third round. Overall, the Patriots defense has ranked 25th, 31st and 25th in the last three seasons. Thanks to the offense, the defense has been able to slide a little but this may be the big reason why New England can’t win the big one. LB Jamie Collins (Southern Mississippi) was taken in the second round to shore things up and DT Tom Kelly was signed as a free agent. If this defense can make stops, especially in pass defense, look for New England to make a run into the Super Bowl.
2012 SEASON IN REVIEW:
TOTAL OFFENSE: 427.9 (1ST)
RUN OFFENSE: 136.5 (7TH)
PASS OFFENSE: 291.4 (4TH)
TOTAL DEFENSE: 373.3 (25TH)
RUN DEFENSE: 101.9 (9TH)
PASS DEFENSE: (29TH)
2013 NEW ENGLAND DRAFT:
It was a typical NFL draft for the New England Patriots, filled with both applause and puzzlement.
Some picks you loved and some, well, you didn't.
While we won't truly know how good this draft was for a couple seasons, it's never too early to begin analyzing the newest members of the team.
Here's a breakdown of each of the seven newcomers.
Jamie Collins, LB, Southern Miss (2nd Round, No. 52 Overall)
Strengths: Collins' athletic ability is off the charts--he is truly a physical rarity.
His outstanding combine numbers drastically improved his draft stock after performing at the top of almost every category--a 4.64 second forty-yard dash and 7.10 second cone drill chief among them.
Weaknesses: Having started at safety, linebacker and defensive end in college, Collins is certainly a versatile player. However, he's never had a chance to hunker down and refine his skills for one specific position. Consequently, Collins is a bit raw--but few draftees aren't.
Projection: Bill Belichick recently revealed that Collins would start his work as a linebacker (per Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston). Given his explosive athleticism, it seems that Collins will be used as a situational pass rusher and perhaps as a coverage-type linebacker at first.
Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall (2nd Round, No. 59 Overall)
Strengths: Dobson is a big-bodied target who has all the makings of a prolific outside receiver.
Weaknesses: Having played at Marshall University, Dobson's biggest knock is that he didn't consistently play against top-tier competition.
But pundits said the same thing about other Marshall standouts like Randy Moss and Troy Brown, and we all know what they did in the NFL.
Projection: Dobson will likely be thrown right into the mix as the starting "X" receiver in 2013. He certainly has the the physical attributes that you look for in an outside receiver, but his success in a Patriots jersey will likely be dictated by whether or not he can quickly understand the offensive system.
For what it's worth, Belichick seems confident in the young pass catcher's ability to learn, as he recently gushed about Dobson's football intelligence (per Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald)
Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers - (3rd Round, No. 83 Overall)
Strengths: Coming from a pro-style defense at Rutgers, Ryan is an aggressive cornerback with good size (5'11'', 190 lbs).
His biggest strength is his outstanding ball skills (17 pass breakups, four interceptions in 13 games in 2012, per ESPN.com ), but he also excels in run support, as he's a very willing tackler.
Weaknesses: While Ryan destroyed the 3-cone drill (6.69 sec), he lacks "elite" top-end speed (4.56 in 40-yard dash).
However, Richard Sherman--arguably the best cornerback in the league--also ran a 4.56, so this isn't a huge concern.
Projection: Ryan provides quality cornerback depth behind the top trio of Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington and will likely see the field a lot in sub-packages as the dime back.
He also projects as a potential replacement for Aqib Talib, who enters 2013 on just a one-year contract.
Duron Harmon, S, Rutgers - (3rd Round, No. 91 Overall)
Strengths: And the annual Head Scratcher Award goes to...(drum roll, please)...Duron Harmon of Rutgers!
Considered a big reach by many, there is still a lot to like about the former Scarlet Knight.
First off, he has great size (6'1'', 196 lbs), instincts and delivers crushing hits on a regular basis. His durability is of note, also. He played in every game in his final three seasons.
While he may not wow anyone with his athleticism, he seems like a high-character, football-smart guy.
Weaknesses: One possible reason why Harmon wasn't viewed as a third-round pick by many could be that his ball skills seemed to diminish in his senior year as he only had one interception compared to the five he had the season prior.
Projection: The safety position should prove to be one of the most heated position battles come training camp, with Devin McCourty the only guy who looks like a lock at free safety.
Tavon Wilson, Adrian Wilson, Steve Gregory and now Harmon will all be battling for the starting strong safety gig alongside McCourty.
May the best safety win!
Josh Boyce, WR, TCU - (4th Round, No. 102 Overall)
Strengths: Boyce is an explosive receiver (ran a 4.38 40-yard dash) with a solid frame (5'11''206 lbs) who brings physicality and crisp route-running to the table.
The former Horned Frog can be used not only in the deep passing game but, given his burst and shiftiness, he could also contribute in the short-to-intermediate passing game as well.
Weaknesses: He's had some issues dropping the ball in critical times, despite having sure hands otherwise.
Projection: Boyce should compete with Dobson for a starting job, but he projects as a 3rd or 4th option in his rookie season.
Michael Buchanan, DE/OLB, Illinois - (7th Round, No. 226 Overall)
Strengths: Bill Belichick was probably ecstatic when he saw Buchanan--who was projected by many as a mid-round pick--slide to the seventh round.
Buchanan has a deadly first step, and has the arm length and athleticism to maneuver around offensive tackles.
Weaknesses: At 6'6'' and only 250 lbs, Buchanan is a bit lean. He needs to add some weight to his long frame before becoming an every-down player.
Projection: The Patriots likely look at Buchanan as a very raw prospect with a tremendous amount of upside. He may be used in a situational role initially, but his rookie year will likely be focused on development rather than playing time.
Steve Beauharnais, LB, Rutgers - (7th Round, No. 235 Overall)
Strengths: Beauharnais (yes, another guy from Rutgers) is an all-around solid player.
At 6'1", 240 pounds, Beauharnais is a physical linebacker who plays with refined technique and good instincts.
Weaknesses: Beauharnais isn't going to turn any heads. He isn't great at one thing, but he's good at a lot of things. This may have him destined to be a reserve in the NFL.
Projection: Expect Beauharnais to be thrown into the special-teams mix immediately. He may also give Dane Fletcher a run for his money as the top backup to inside linebacker Brandon Spikes.
2013 NEW ENGLAND SCHEDULE
Sept. 8 at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.
2013 NEW ENGLAND ROSTER