It has been a rather interesting offseason for the World Champions. The ongoing saga that is “Deflategate” looks like it is set to continue until just before the season opener.
I have to start with the “DeflateGate” issue. The apparent deflation of footballs in the demolishing of the Colts in the AFC Championship game has left a sour taste in the mouths of many NFL fans who feel that Tom Brady and the Patriots have once again cheated. That AFC game was a blowout as the Patriots systematically took the Colts apart in that game. As a result however it looks like Brady will miss the opening four games of the new season for his apparent role and subsequent lack of cooperation according to the NFL however this is widely argued by Brady and the Patriots, however baring the suspension being overturned by the New York Federal Court of which I think there is a good chance it may be, Brady will miss the home opener against the Steelers, followed by a trip to division rivals the Bills, then at home to the Jaguars and then at the Cowboys before Brady would return in Week 5 at the Colts which will be a hugely anticipated game. This will mean an earlier than anticipated start for Jimmy Garoppolo who will be looking to prove he is the right man to take over Brady’s mantle when he eventually retires. The one positive aspect is that he will have the entire training camp to ensure he is ready to step up and negotiate the Patriots through the first four games and give Brady a platform to emulate the success of the previous season and retain the Lombardi trophy.
The Patriots have worked hard in the offseason to try and ensure that they could hold on to much of the roster that won the SuperBowl last season however there were a couple of big losses. Vince Wilfork has signed for the Texans, Derelle Revis and Steven Ridley have both moved to losing seasons with the New York Jets. Brandon Browner has also departed and signed for the Saints, while versatile running back and SuperBowl record holder Shane Vereen has signed with the Giants.
On the other hand the Patriots have resigned Safety Devon McCourty, Nose Tackle Alan Branch and wide receiver Brian Tyms. There were also extensions for kicker Stephen Gostkowski and punter Ryan Allan. To replace those who have left, they have signed TE Scott Chandler who will add to the already strong TE group. Corner backs Bradley Fletcher, Jonathan Freeney, Robert McLain and veteran Tarell Brown will have to try and emulate the success of the departing cornerbacks and Derek Cox was also signed and will add depth at defensive back. Another interesting pick up is that of Jabaal Sheard who, often overworked in the past could be an excellent pick up for the Patriots.
With 11 draft picks in total it was a strong draft for the World Champions. First rounder Malcom Brown will be looked upon as a replacement for the departed Wilfork and with his impressive combination of size and strength. Guard, Tre Jackson, was expected to go higher but when he fell to no.111 the Patriots quickly snapped up the highly thought of interior lineman. Trey Flowers will also see a lot of reps this year at defensive end. Richards in round 2 and Grissom in round 3 also look like exciting prospects in the future.
The Patriots will be looking to Brady and Gronk to continue the unbelievable partnership they have in terms of production while the receiving group is again looking strong. The offensive line looks to be getting stronger and will be interesting to see how they continue to work under OC Josh McDaniels. The defence looks to still be very strong with some good additions and will continue where they left off last year.
The schedule this season will be tough this year with trips to the Colts, Cowboys, Giants and Broncos, plus the season opener without Brady, it will be anything but easy, however the Patriots are rather dominant in the AFC East and despite a strong offseason for the Patriots divisional rivals, all of them lack that franchise quality QB to try and compete with the Patriots.
If the Patriots can get through the first four games reasonable unscathed, I’m hopeful we can comfortably win the division again, and I’m hopeful or a record of 13-3 although it wouldn’t surprise me to recreate the 16-0 season of 2007.
All in all the Patriots are looking good again this year, and I’m hopeful of a return to the Superbowl and add to the legacy of Tom Brady and cement his name as the Greatest of all Time.
You can follow Patriots Fan, Chris Ritchie on Twitter at @Ritchie1903.