2014 NFL Season Preview- New England Patriots
The New England Patriots finished the 2013 season with a 12–4 record and the AFC's No. 2 seed for a second consecutive season. Along with their seeding, New England was awarded a first-round bye in the playoffs for the fourth season in a row. This was only the second such occurrence for any team since the league switched to a 6-team playoff format in 1990. The Patriots defeated the Colts 43–22 in the Divisional round of the playoffs, but lost in the AFC Championship game to the Broncos by a score of 26–16.
Quarterback Tom Brady had up and down year as he dealt with turnover and consistency problems regarding his target. He played through an injured throwing hand during the season which ultimately affected his accuracy. His completion percentage and passer rating were the lowest in 10 years and he was sacked the most times in his career in 2013. Running back LaGarrette Blount took the starting job midway through the year and averaged five yards per carry and over 700 yards on the year. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was a factor in the games he did play but went out once again for the season with an ACL injury.
Head coach Bill Belichick saw his defense decline in 2013. Losing defensive tackle Vince Wilfork early in the season to an Achilles injury affected the teams run defense. Defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich totaled 19.5 sacks together on the year. Cornerback Aqib Talib was a factor despite fighting injuries and the rest of the secondary were solid.
The rookie class overall played well. Linebacker Jamie Collins started midway through the year and showed great versatility. Wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins stepped in after departures to Deion Branch and Wes Welker and dealt through injuries, drops, and inconsistent route running.
Patriots 2013 Rankings
Opponent Passing yds
Opponent Rushing yds
NFL Rank- 10th
NFL Rank- 9th
NFL Rank- 18th
NFL Rank- 30th
NFL Rank- 7th
NFL Rank- 26th
The 2013 offseason was a major headline not only in New England, but around the league as well. Not only dealing with the departure of Wes Welker to play with rival Peyton Manning, but also the murder trial and release of tight end Aaron Hernández. This offseason has been relatively quiet in terms of distractions.
With Tom Brady entering his 15th season, many people are seeing the window closing for him. This offseason, he needs to improve on his worst season since pre 2007.
Notable additions- WR Brandon LaFell, CB Darrelle Revis, CB Brandon Browner, FS Patrick Chung
Notable departures- CB Aqib Talib, LB Brandon Spikes, RB LeGarrette Blount
Patriots 2013 Highlights
2014 NFL Draft
Having the 29th pick in the draft, the team had many positions that needed to be addressed. Most notable at tight end, wide receiver, and the defensive line.
Rob Gronkowski has shown to be injury prone, Aaron Hernández is in prison, and Michael Hoomanawanui isn't a receiving threat by any means. New England needs a playmaker to stretch the field down the middle.
Danny Amendola was injury prone, The rookies were inconsistent, and Julian Edelman is better suited for the slot position. The team has to add an outside target to make Josh McDaniels' offense effective.
With Vince Wilfork coming off an Achilles injury, the team needs an impact player at tackle and could also use depth at defensive end.
On draft day, the team selected Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley with pick number 29. Easley was praised for being one of the most versatile tackle coming out of college. His size doesn't make him a good fit for a 3-4 defense and not an every down player in the 4-3.
The team also selected Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round and Wisconsin running back James White in the fourth. Garoppolo was considered one of the smartest quarterbacks coming into the draft but was critiqued for his lack of throw power and inconsistent footwork. White continued the legacy of great running backs at Wisconsin but his size will limit his use in the NFL.
Dominique Easley Highlights
What to Expect
The offense will continue to rank at the top of the league. Tom Brady will work hard to reduce the number of turnovers and increase his efficiency. The running back position is an enigma as to who will be the starter. Stevan Ridley was the starter but was benched due to fumbling issues, Shane Vereen has been used mostly as a receiving back, an LeGarrette Blount is no longer with the team. There is also the issues at receiver with inconsistent play from last season and on whether or not Rob Gronkowski will be ready for the start of the season.
The addition of Easley with the return of Wilfork will make for an improved defense. The secondary is something to be feared by having a tall Brandon Browner on one side and the one of the leagues best shutdown corners on the other in Darrelle Revis. By bringing back Patrick Chung to team up with Devin McCourty, the safety positions now has two playmakers.
Like in past seasons, expect the team to struggle early on but like in past years the team will hit its stride by October. The rest of the AFC East can't even compare to talent on New England's roster. As long as Bill Belichick is head coach, the Patriots will continue to be a force in the NFL.
Best record they can hope for- 12-4