The Matty O Show Week 17 Review: Patriots 38 Dolphins 7

I continue to step in for Matty O as he looks to get his computer repaired.  This is the MattyO Show Review, Scottie style.

New England Patriots 38   Miami Dolphins 7

Bill Belichick played it safe, learning his lesson from last year, having Wes Welker, Deon Branch, and Aaron Hernandez all inactive.  Tom Brady and BenJarvus Green Ellis both played about a half.  Even without the core players, the Patriots annihilated the Miami Dolphins by 35.

Tom Brady threw for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis got to the 1,000 yard mark on the season, the first Patriot to do so since Corey Dillon in 2004.  He had 20 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown.  Watching Green-Ellis gets better and better every week.  He is the polar opposite of a man named Maroney that once danced around (and thats about all he did) the backfield for the Patriots.  BJGE is always going forward and is the definition of a down hill runner. Rob Gronkowski was a beast today catching 6 balls for 102 yards and a touchdown.  I believe he deserves offensive rookie of the year consideration.

Miami simply couldn’t move the ball today as they had less than 300 yards total offense.  I am unsure if that is a reflection of how bad the Dolphins offense is, or how stout the Patriot defense was.  Several times, the Patriots ran unblocked into the backfield getting to either Chad Henne or Tyler Thigpen.  It should come as no surprise that the Dolphins lone score came at the expense of Darius Butler.  He was flagged for a pass interference and then on the next play Davone Bess caught a ball over Butler.

Brandon Tate finally showed some potential on a great route he ran in which Brian Hoyer found him in the end zone for a diving touchdown catch.  He had another play that was a catch and run for 40 yards.  Although it went for big yardage, it was more due to Miami’s inept tackling that anything Tate actually did.  Taylor Price and Hoyer showed a nice rapport on a few slant plays.

Julian Edelman had a huge day with a 94 yard punt return for a touchdown.  He also had 3 catches for 72 yards.  His success today had me thinking, “is it the hair?” The Patriot offense in general was running on all cylinders today with 321 passing yards and 181 rushing yards.  They have a ton of momentum going into the playoffs and look to be the odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl.

The Patriots return to the gridiron in 2 weeks, opponent unknown.

I can be followed on Twitter at Scottientcf.

 

Week 12 – The Mattyoshow Review

In this segment I will provide a weekly review for the previous weekend’s Patriots game, as well as my prediction for next weekend’s game.

-The New England Patriots got off to a slow start in Thursday Thanksgiving Day battle in Detroit, finding themselves in a 17-10 hole going into halftime.  But, a reestablished focus combined with a fiery halftime speech from Tom Brady amounted to a 35 point second half and a blowout of the Detroit Lions.  Much has been made this season of the Patriots young defense not being able to stop the bleeding when teams began piling on points.  Well, on Thursday their defense did just that.  After allowing 17 first half points, the defense tightened up, essentially shutting down Calvin Johnson, and subsequently allowing only 7 Detroit points in the second half.

-It seems that in every edition of the Mattyoshow Review, I can not mention the defense without bringing up two names, Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty.  Jerod Mayo had yet another game where his effectiveness can not be measured in terms of stats.  Although he posted a good stat line (8 tackles, 4 assists), Mayo was seemingly in on nearly every play.  Detroit’s run game was surprisingly effective early in the game, but once the defensive line settled down and started plugging holes, Mayo began to shine.  He stuffed a few runs at the line of scrimmage, and then when the Lions began to abandon the run game, Mayo made nearly every play on the underneath passing routes that the Lions ran.  Countless times Mayo and teammates would crush Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew on catches that they made over the middle.  That’s what is needed and expected from a middle linebacker, and Jerod Mayo continues to deliver.  This guy deserves serious consideration for defensive MVP.  As far as I know, Devin McCourty has missed only one defensive snap the entire season.  It is for a good reason because McCourty is one heck of a football player.  As the season progresses and McCourty becomes more comfortable in the Patriots’ defensive scheme, his personal statistics are beginning to pile up.  McCourty recorded two interceptions against the Lions, which gives him 5 interceptions in his last six games.  The more I am afforded the opportunity to watch McCourty play, the more I see a shutdown corner in the making.  This kid is a special football player, and defensive rookie of the year might be one of many awards McCourty will win in his career.

-Prior to Thursday’s game, Tom Brady had thrown for over 300 yards only one time this season (week 10 @ Pittsburgh).  But, on Thursday Brady looked like the 2007 version of himself as he surgically picked apart the Lions defense en route to a 21 of 27 effort for 341 yards and 4 touchdowns, not to mention compiling a perfect passer rating.  Brady did a great job spreading the ball around, completing passes to seven different receivers.  What may have been more impressive than that was his reliance on his two top receivers, Deion Branch (3 catches, 113 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Wes Welker (8 catches, 90 yards, 2 touchdowns).  There has yet to be a game that both Branch and Welker had very good numbers, but Thursday proved to be the day.  Brandon Tate dropped a couple of key passes, which hurt the success of some drives, but Branch and Welker stepped up to pick up the slack.  Hopefully, their joint production will continue throughout the remainder of the season.

-Fred Taylor was active for Thursday’s game, but didn’t see any time on the field.  Thankfully, the Patriots didn’t need him.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis capitalized on the few carries that he got (12 carries, 59 yards, two touchdowns), finding his way into the end-zone twice.  I was wary of how much work BJGE would get with Taylor returning, and in the first half he very rarely saw the football (mainly because the Pats were forced to pass as they were down), but in the second half when he was called upon to ice the game and punch the ball into the end-zone, Green-Ellis delivered.  Looking ahead, a backfield consisting of BJGE, Danny Woodhead, Fred Taylor, and the occasional Sammy Morris sighting could be very effective complimenting Tom Brady and the passing attack.

NEXT WEEK’S PREDICTION: Patriots 20 – Jets 10

Week 11 – The Mattyoshow Review

In this segment I will provide a weekly review for the previous weekend’s Patriots game, as well as my prediction for next weekend’s game.

-Whew!  That game was much closer than it had to be, but what else could be expected when the team on the opposite sideline is led by arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play.  Peyton was sent out their with his top three wide receivers (Wayne, Garcon, and Collie), but lost Collie by the end of the first quarter, and the tight end Tamme couldn’t seem to catch anything meaningful (even though he finished the day with 7 catches for 60 yards, he had a few key drops in the red zone). Interceptions by Devin McCourty, Brandon Meriweather, and James Sanders were all wonderfully timed, proving to be huge momentum changers (McCourty and Meriweather) and game sealers (Sanders).  The secondary was exposed a bit as Manning through for almost 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, but came up with big plays when needed.

-What more can be said about Jerod Mayo that already hasn’t been.  This guy is playing like a flat-out animal.  On Sunday he racked up another 11 tackles (with 4 assists) which gives him 120 combined tackles on the season, according to NFL.com.  Mayo seemed to be in on many more plays than the stats imply, making stops on almost every crossing route that the Colts tried to run.  The Colts, who tallied up a surprising 20 carries, but only amassed 71 yards.  That lack of rushing production was due in part to Mayo’s effectiveness, but also to the play of Vince Wilfork, Gary Guyton, Jermaine Cunningham, and Brandon Spikes.  It was an all around solid effort to slow the Colts’ rushing attack.

-I was very disappointed with the Pats’ inability to pressure Peyton Manning.  Granted, the Colts give up the fewest sacks in the NFL, so getting to him and putting him on the ground isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either.  Cunningham and Banta-Cain couldn’t seem to generate a consistent enough pass rush to disrupt Manning’s rhythm.  That being said, James Sanders’ game sealing interception (on a drive where the Colts looked destined to score and win the game) was caused by pressure put on Manning by Tully Banta-Cain.  So, to be optimistic, I guess it could be said that the pass rushers have very good timing, but they need to do a better job more consistently reaching the qb.

-186 yards and 2 touchdowns is a stat line that you expect from Colt McCoy or Josh Freeman, not Tom Brady.  But, as we all know stats can often be very deceiving.  On Sunday, Brady delivered passes with pin point accuracy, connecting on 19 of his 25 passes.  Brady spread the ball around to six different receivers.  Noticeably missing from the stat sheet once again was speedster Brandon Tate.  Wonderfully showing near the top of the stat sheet was Wes Welker (5 catches, 58 yards, 1 touchdown), who grabbed his first touchdown since week 2 and has performed well in the second consecutive game.  I have made a big deal out of Welker’s ineffectiveness since the Moss trade, and I’m not ready to abandon my stance on that just yet.  Tate still needs to become a bigger part of this offense before Moss will become a distant memory.  But, Welker’s revitalization is something the certainly has me excited for the upcoming weeks.

NEXT WEEK’S PREDICTION – Patriots 34 – Lions 24

Week 10 – The Mattyoshow Review

In this segment I will provide a weekly review for the previous weekend’s Patriots game, as well as my prediction for next weekend’s game.

-As I mentioned in the “What to Look For…” segment, this game was going to serve as a barometer to measure how realistic each team’s Super Bowl aspirations are.  The Patriots proved to the masses what most of us around New England already knew, they are one of the best teams in the NFL.  Even while atop the league in terms of the best record just two weeks ago (at 6-1) there were doubts surrounding the Pats.  Whether it was their anemic offense (which I’m still not convinced by) or the youth of their defense, people were doubting the supremacy of the New England Patriots.  But, after a marquee win on Sunday in Pittsburgh against one of the league’s best teams, the Patriots are not being recognized amongst the best in the NFL, and rightfully so.

-Against a Steelers defense that was allowing a stingy 58.2 yards per game on the ground, the Patriots’ rushing attack racked up a total of 103 yards on the ground, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis leading the way.  BJGE amassed 87 yards on 18 carries, which accounted for an impressive 4.8 yards per carry.  I was sure that the Steelers would stifle the Pats rushing attack, forcing Tom Brady into throwing the ball 50+ times.  Brady attempted 43 passes, which essentially accounted for the majority of the Patriots points, but Green-Ellis was the workhorse that brought the game home.  I continue to question the running back rotation deployed by coach Belichick, where BJGE gets 20 carries one game and 9 the next, but if its purpose is to keep all of the running back fresh down the stretch, then it looks like it is working.

-I would like to be one of the first people to officially welcome Wes Welker back to the New England Patriots.  After a 5 game hiatus, Welker has returned to his old self, reeling in 8 passes for 89 yards.  Granted, the Steelers’ secondary isn’t one of the better units in the league, but Welker had been an exceptionally minimal part of the offense ever since the departure of Randy Moss, so it was good to see him inserted back into a starring role.  Now, if we could only get Hernandez, Welker, Branch, and Tate rolling all on the same day this offense would be unbelievable.

-That being said, I’m still concerned over the same one thing.  Yes, Brandon Tate caught a 45 yard pass.  Yes, Tom Brady threw for 350 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Yes, the Patriots scored the most points against the Steelers in Heinz Field history.  Call me a pessimist, but Brandon Tate needs to involve into a better receiver than he is.  He missed all of 2009 with a knee injury, so he is essentially a rookie.  But this is our deep threat.  Brandon Tate is our Mike Wallace.  Not expected to be the number one guy (see Hines Ward in Pittsburgh and Welker in New England), but expected to be a sparkplug for the offense.  I understand that the Patriots have a ton of weapons and have the ability to use them all.  I don’t care if I come off like a crazy Pats fan that will accept nothing but perfection.  I’m not convinced that this offense can succeed week in and week out without Tate consistently making an impact on the game, especially with downfield threats.

– A week after Peyton Hillis had the best game of his career against the Patriots defense, that same unit held the Pittsburgh Steelers to 76 yards rushing.  What is even more impressive than the yardage itself is that Roethlisberger got 12 of those 76 yards on a late game scramble, and Mendenhall grabbed 34 of those yards on a long scamper in the first half.  So aside from those two plays, the Patriots allowed only 30 yards rushing.  Mendenhall is one of the better backs in the league, and he was held to 50 yards on 11 carries.  He didn’t play much in the second half, leading me to believe that he sustained some sort of injury.  But, the defense stepped up and rebounded after a disastrous week and notched one of their best performances of the year.

NEXT WEEK’S PREDICTION – Patriots 37 – Colts 35

Who’s the Answer?

By now, almost all sadness and anger surrounding the Randy Moss deal has vanished.  The focus of Patriot fans not lies squarely on who will fill the void that opened when Randy Moss departed to Minnesota.  Rumors have been swirling about Vincent Jackson, Deion Branch, and even Larry Fitzgerald.  All of these crazy scenarios being thrown around got me thinking about who, realistically, will be filling the Moss void.

Vincent Jackson

I said it last Wednesday and I’ll say it again, there is no shot that Vincent Jackson winds up in New England.  The trade just doesn’t make sense for either side.  Tom Curran was throwing it out there that the Pats and Chargers were exploring a Vincent Jackson for Logan Mankins deal.  In what world do we live in where a Pro Bowl guard is a suitable trading asset in return for a Pro Bowl wide receiver?  Then there were rumors that Belichick was stockpiling picks so he could deal them away for a guy like Jackson.  I think that we have learned over the years (especially on ever-frustrating draft day) that the Patriots love draft picks.  They may value draft picks more than any other team in the NFL.  Coach Belichick becomes giddy like a school girl when the opportunity presents itself for him to trade down in the draft and grab an extra pick.  So would it make much sense for Belichick to give up a second and third rounder (if not more) for Jackson?  I don’t think so.

Aside from those ridiculous rumors, Vincent Jackson is in the middle of a contract holdout.  The 27 year old, sixth year receiver reportedly wants to make around $9-$10 million a year.  Over his six year career, Jackson has amasses 3,400 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns.  Over Randy Moss’ 13 year career, he has amassed 14,604 yards and 151 touchdowns.  Let us consider what these players, on average, have produced per season.  Over six years, Jackson has averaged 567 yards and 4 touchdowns per season.  Over 13 years, Moss has averaged 1123 yards and 12 touchdowns per season.  So, if you wouldn’t pay Randy Moss $10 million a year, why again are you willing to give it to Vincent Jackson?

Oh, you want to pay Vincent Jackson because he isn’t a “problem player” like Moss?  If Vincent Jackson became a member of the New England Patriots today, he would be facing a 6-game suspension because of violations of the league’s substance abuse policy (3 games) and because the Chargers placed him on the roster-exempt list because of his holdout (3 more games if he plays for another team).

Then you want Vincent Jackson because he is younger, and projects to be more productive at 28 and 29 than Randy Moss and 34 and 35?  First off all, Randy Moss’ 2008 and 2009 were both more productive than Jackson’s 2008 and 2009 seasons.  Secondly, Chargers’ current number one wideout Malcom Floyd is on pace to have about 1,100 yards and 9 touchdowns; a season very similar to Jackson’s 2009 campaign.  Is Malcom Floyd not worthy of a $10 million a year contract?  Or maybe is the Chargers number one wideout (regardless of the name) a beneficiary of San Diego’s wide open, gin-slinger type offense?

Chance of Vincent Jackson winding up in New England – 0%

Deion Branch

The possibility of Deion Branch winding up in New England is certainly greater than the Jackson deal happening, but I wouldn’t say that it is a sure bet either.  Ever since Branch left New England after the 2005-2006 season, he has not lived up to the label as a number one wideout.  People tend to forget that in Branch’s best season with the Pats (2005-2006) he racked up only 998 yards and five scores.  That certainly isn’t a season to be scoffed at, but a wideout worthy of a first round pick in a trade?  I’m not buying it.  But, the Pats have been thanking the Seahawks for that deal ever since they drafted Brandon Meriweather with that pick in 2007.  Anyways, Branch has some familiarity with the system, but it has changed dramatically since 2006.  But, you can’t overlook the chemistry that he and Brady had.  Chemistry that lead to Branch being the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX (an epic 11 catches for 133 yards).

Branch would be a good fit to come in and help the Pats.  No one is going to replace Randy Moss, but Branch could provide some speed on the outside to try and help keep some of the coverage off of Wes Welker underneath.  And, at a price tag of a 5th or 6th round pick, Branch might be somewhat of a steal.

Chance of Deion Branch winding up in New England – 30%

Larry Fitzgerald

You are coach Ken Whisenhunt, and you know that your team isn’t doing much this season (even at 3-2 currently).  Your starting quarterback is an undrafted rookie.  What other reason do your fans have for coming to the game other than to watch Larry Fitzgerald play?  It took a first, third, and sixth round pick from the Cowboys to get Roy Williams away from Detroit.  I can’t even imagine what you would have to give Arizona for Fitzgerald, probably something like a 1, 2, and 4…if not more.  The Pats have the picks to do it, and I would love to see Fitzgerald in a Patriot uniform, but I can’t see Belichick making a deal even remotely close to that.

Chance of Larry Fitzgerald winding up in New England – 1%

Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Tate, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, etc.

The most plausible way to fill the void left by Randy Moss is by using the talent that the Patriots have amassed at the offensive skill positions.  Much has been made of Aaron Hernandez’s and Rob Gronkowski’s success as rookies so far in New England.  With Moss now gone, I can easily see each’s respective role growing.  Hernandez is a bigger version of Wes Welker.  He isn’t really fast, but he has exceptional quickness for a guy that is 6’1” 245lbs.  Hernandez can run through the middle and up the seam to try and keep the linebackers and safeties of opposing teams honest, and away from Welker.  Gronkowski is more of a mauler than Hernandez, but he has great hands for a big guy.  Look for Gronkowski’s size to be taken advantage of in both the run and pass game.  More two and three tight end sets will be seen to pound the ball with BJGE, as well as deploying Gronkowski into the end zone as a red zone target.  Brandon Tate has shown glimpses of electricity so far this season, and his role will look to expand with Moss’ departure.  Tate is not one of the few, if not the lone deep threat for the Pats (depending on Taylor Price’s contributions as the season progresses), and will be used as just that.  The deep ball will not be thrown as often in this new-look offense, but when it is thrown Tate is the most likely recipient.  Julian Edelman hasn’t played much so far this season, but we saw some of his ability last season when filling in for the then injured Wes Welker.  Edelman and Welker’s skill set are comparable, so similarly to Hernandez, look for Edelman to run a lot of those underneath routes to take some coverage away from Welker.

Chance of the aforementioned players being the main replacement for Randy Moss – 69%

Trading a sure-fire Hall of Fame player like Randy Moss is never an easy thing to over come.  But, it is important to realize that for Belichick to make this move he has to have a lot of confidence in the young offensive weapons that are currently on the roster.  Look for more emphasis on the run and play action passing, but to be completely honest, I don’t foresee much of a dip in the offensive production out of New England, even without Randy Moss.

Just a Quick Review

Reviewing what was encouraging and what questions remain after the Patriots second preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, August 19th.

Encouraging Signs…

-How can I not begin with the return of Wes Welker?  The man has just returned to action in the National Football League just seven and ½ months removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL.  Extraordinary.  I was encouraged to see how Brady tried to incorporate Welker into the offense immediately.  The first play of the game was a holding penalty, but the next three plays were directed at Welker.  Granted, two catches for 20 yards doesn’t look huge in the box score, but the simple fact that he is healthy enough to even be on the feel is a great sign for the season to come.  Forget about trying to develop young kids to fill in during Welker’s absence.  We are now developing these young receivers to compliment Welker and Randy Moss.

-Big ‘ol Ron Brace finally got his oversized ass onto the field.  It only took him a little more than two weeks to pass the team’s conditioning test (pathetic, I know).  But, he saw his first day of practice a week ago today (the Monday before the Thursday preseason game), and then finally got some game action in the game Thursday night.  Brace played decently, piling up 3 tackles and one forced fumble.  But, what was most encouraging was not his actually performance, but just his presence on the field.  The Patriots are thin at the defensive end position, still trying to fill in from the losses of Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green.  Newcomer Gerard Warren will likely start on one side with Mike Wright across the way, but behind those two there is little depth.  If Brace can catch up quickly through practice then he may have a shot to contribute to this defense in 2010.

-For the second game in a row the Patriots ran the ball with a good amount of success.  In the first game against the Saints, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Laurence Maroney led the charge as the team compiled 125 yards on 35 carries, topped off by 3 rushing touchdowns.  On Thursday Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris got the bulk of the work as the team compiled 120 yards on 30 carries, topped off by 2 rushing touchdowns.  Belichick’s emphasis on the run game is something that I have been calling for since 2006 when the Pats made Maroney a first round pick.  The real question is whether or not this trend will continue into the regular season?

-Earlier this summer I predicted that rookie cornerback Devin McCourty’s biggest area of impact would be on special teams, especially in the return game.  I am certainly excited to say that I may have been wrong.  For the second week in a row, McCourty has started opposite Darius Butler and has impressed in both outings.  We knew that he was fast, but his level of physicality was something that I just wasn’t expecting.  Compile that with his exceptional closing speed and we may be looking at a rookie cornerback that will make a huge impact this season in nickel packages (assuming Darius Butler and Leigh Bodden will win that starting spots).

-Man, do I love Brandon Spikes.  This kid was born to play as a 3-4 inside linebacker.  He is tall, strong, has the ability to shed blocks, can fill holes, blitz is he has to, and can even run sideline to sideline.  Spikes and Mayo, within a season or two, could comprise the best inside linebacker tandem in the NFL, they both have that kind of talent.  I’ve repeatedly knocked Belichick for his inconsistency in terms of success with high draft picks (see Bethel Johnson, Chad Jackson, Adrian Klemm, etc.), but, so far at least, it seems like Bill got it right in 2010.

-Zoltan Mesko can kick the hell out of the ball.

Remaining Questions…

-The offensive line still scares the hell out of me.  Yes, the Patriots had pretty good success running that ball the past two weeks and the line has done a decent job of protecting the quarterbacks (although Hoyer takes some mean shots).  But, there is no way in hell that I feel good about this o-line going against the Jets, Ravens, Steelers, Chargers, Dolphins…damn just about anybody!  I’ve pretty much given up on Mankins at this point, but I really think that a move needs to be made to sure up the middle of that line.  (JUST HEARD ON WEEI WITHIN THE LAST 30 SECONDS THAT NICK KACZUR IS OUT FOR THE SEASON BECAUSE OF BACK SURGERY).

-Although the running game has put up some good numbers over the past few weeks, I would still like to see coach Belichick define roles within the running back group a bit better.  At this point there are four possible starters for the 2010 NFL season at running back, Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, or BenJarvus Green-Ellis.  I don’t know whether Maroney is going to put up 1,000 yards or is going to get cut.  I don’t know what the hell is going on anymore!  It has to be frustrating as a player to not know whether you are going to carry the ball 30 times or sit the entire game.

-I really hope that Brandon Tate lives up to the hype that has been surrounding him this training camp.  If Tate plays the way that he has supposedly been playing throughout camp then the Pats will have five or six viable options to catch passes (Moss, Welker, Edelman, Hernandez, Gronkowski, and Tate).  If Tate’s talents fail to translate onto the field then that split end receiver position opposite of Moss will be a dead zone for the third consecutive season.

Super Bowl or Bust?

As we look forward to the 2010 NFL season for the New England Patriots, it is hard to ignore the past.  Between 2001-2009 the New England Patriots were the most successful franchise in the NFL.  The Pats amassed three Super Bowl titles (2001, 2003, 2004), no losing seasons, the only sixteen game undefeated regular season in NFL history, seven AFC East titles, four AFC Championship game victories (out of five appearances), arguably the greatest offensive season of all time, and compiling 111 wins.  There is little argument against the New England Patriots being declared the team of the decade.  But, as successful as the past decade has been for the Patriots, 2010 is a new season that brings about its’ own set of challenges.  Even though it is time to look ahead towards the future and leave the past in our rear-view mirror, the past decade can certainly be used as a building block that the New England organization can mold its’ future with.

As for the 2010 season, there are certainly a number of questions that need to be answered before 1pm on Sunday September 12th when the Cincinnati Bengals come to town to open the season.  The biggest question, in my opinion, may lie under center with number 12.  2010 will mark Tom Brady’s second season since returning from a torn ACL and MCL suffered in the 2008 season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.  Almost 4,400 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions (Brady’s 2009 statistics) are certainly nothing to scoff at, but at times last season (particularly towards the end of games) Brady’s play become sloppy and lacked the crispness that has always defined his play.  The Patriots success will rely completely on the play of Tom Brady (as it has over the past 4-5 seasons).  I expect Brady to return to his 2007 self (granted expecting 50 touchdown passes is quite outrageous) and play like the Tom Brady that we have come to know and love.

The running game has been a question mark since the Patriots drafted Laurence Maroney with the 21st overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft.  Sammy Morris is returning from an injury plagued 2009 season, as is Fred Taylor.  I’ve been calling for Belichick to put more influence on the run game for three seasons now, and I’m going to call for it again.  Establishing the run with three very capable running backs will do nothing but open up alleys for the passing game.  But, I expect little to change with the Pats’ philosophy and for them to use the run sparingly as usual.

I have lofty expectations for this group of receivers/tight ends for the upcoming season.  Randy Moss is a year older, but he is still a number one wideout in the league and will put up good numbers.  Welker has undergone arguably one of the fastest recoveries from ACL surgery for a professional athlete ever.  It is complete truth when they say every ACL surgery that gets done, the surgeons get a little bit better and the recovery time becomes a little bit shorter.  I think it will take a few weeks for Welker to get his head back on straight (you need to expect at least a minimal amount of apprehension towards making sharp cuts on his bad knee), but after week four or five I expect him to be back to his old self.  Torry Holt has certainly lost a step, but he will provide a target on the opposite side of the field from Moss that the Pats haven’t had since Stallworth left.  I am very excited about the contributions that will come from Brandon Tate, Taylor Price, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez.  I expect Hernandez to make the biggest contribution right out of the gate.  He has the perfect body type/athletic ability/skill set to excel in the “H-Back” position (similarly to Chris Cooley).  But, Gronkowski will be the starting tight end by the end of the season, and I expect Tate to contribute to the team by that time as well.  Coming from a small school, Price may need time to develop and master the playbook, but his speed alone makes him a great asset.

The Logan Mankins contract situation is certainly something that worries me.  Mankins seems prepared to sit out for a while, and as one of the best guards in the league, the Patriots cannot afford that loss.  Nick Kaczur has some experience and was supposed to fill Mankins’ spot at left guard, but an injury has sidelined him thus far in training camp.  Aside from Mankins, the offensive line will look the same as last season.  I’m excited to see how much Sebastian Vollmer has developed with one offseason of NFL workouts and preparation under his belt.  Matt Light becomes more and more of a liability every season.

Within the next couple of days I will preview the 2010 New England Patriots’ defense and special teams, as well as provide my expectations for the 2010 season as a whole.