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2015 NFL Season Preview- New England Patriots
New England's 2014 season was filled with both success and controversy.
The Patriots finished 12-4 for the third straight year, winning their sixth straight AFC East title, as well as the top-overall seed and home field advantage for the AFC playoffs. New England defeated Baltimore 35–31 in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, advancing to their fourth straight AFC Championship game. There, they defeated the Colts 45-7 to advance to their 8th Super Bowl. There was much controversy after the AFC Championship as it was discovered that the New England offense had been playing with deflated footballs throughout the game which led to a big investigation. New England defeated the defending champion Seahawks 28-24 to win their fourth Super Bowl in franchise history.
Quarterback Tom Brady put together another strong season after a slow start to the season. The team resigned running back LeGarrette Blount after he was cut by Pittsburgh and he became the team's most productive runner. Stevan Ridley tore his ACL after six games and Shane Vereen proved to be one of the best receiving backs in the league. Jonas Gray rushed for over 200 yards and four touchdowns in his first start, but soon found himself in the doghouse after oversleeping for practice. Rob Gronkowski bounced back from a torn ACL and returned to his dominating ways. Julian Edelman was Brady's most frequent target and Brandon LaFell was a good free agent signing. The offensive line was solid despite the team trading All-Pro guard Logan Mankins.
Vince Wilfork returned from a torn Achilles and played well. Chandler Jones is a versatile defender against the run and pass and Rob Ninkovich was one of the most consistent defenders despite being undersized and over 30. The linebackers played well despite losing Jerod Mayo for the second straight season. The secondary became a strength after the team acquired Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
The rookie class offered both promise and disappointment. Defensive tackle Dominique Easley did little to contribute before going on injured reserve. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had an impressive preseason and looks to be the heir to Tom Brady. Center Bryan Stork took over as the starting center after Logan Mankins was traded and played well. Running back James White was a healthy scratch for much of the year. Undrafted cornerback Malcolm Butler made the game saving interception in the Super Bowl.
Patriots 2014 Rankings
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 9th
NFL Rank- 18th
NFL Rank- 17th
NFL Rank- 9th
NFL Rank- 11th
NFL Rank- 13th
Even after winning the franchises fourth Super Bowl, head coach Bill Belichick knows there is a lot to do if the team wants to keep that success. Players like Darrelle Revis have a cap figure of $25 million and could be a causality.
On May 6, the NFL published a 243 page report regarding the deflation of footballs used in the AFC Championship game. The report concluded that, more likely than not, Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the intentional deflation.
On May 11, quarterback Tom Brady was suspended for four games by the NFL for his involvement in the Deflategate scandal based on "substantial and credible evidence" that Brady knew Patriots employees were deflating footballs and that he failed to cooperate with investigators.
Notable Additions- QB Matt Flynn, TE Scott Chandler, DE Jamaal Sheard, CB Bradley Fletcher
Notable Departures- RB Stevan Ridley, RB Shane Vereen, TE Tim Wright, G Dan Connolly, DT Vince Wilfork, LB Akeem Ayers, CB Kyle Arrington, CB Brandon Browner, CB Darrelle Revis
Patriots 2014 Highlights
2015 NFL Draft
New England held the last pick in the first round of the draft and had several positions to upgrade. Primarily at guard, defensive linemen, and defensive back.
Dan Connolly retired this offseason and non of the players behind him are capable of being a starter. They need young players to develop.
Vince Wilfork is now in Houston and Dominique Easley was out for much of last season. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are solid, but the line needs more potential.
The Patriots were able to resign Devin McCourty but Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner were lost to free agency. The secondary needs more depth and starting material.
New England ended up selecting Texas defensive tackle Malcolm Brown with the 32nd overall pick. Brown looks the part and has natural feet with good range. He was mainly criticized for lacking power and technique when shedding blocks.
The team also notably drafted Florida State guard Tre' Jackson and Georgia Tech center Shaq Mason in the fourth round. Jackson was the best pulling guard in the draft but has relied too much on his mass rather than technique. Mason was viewed as the best run blocking center in the draft but is shorter than ideal and is inconsistent with his technique in pass protection.
Malcolm Brown Highlights
What to Expect
As long as the man in the hoodie is head coach, New England is going to contend.
Tom Brady will miss the first four games of the year because of suspension. Jimmy Garoppolo is more than capable of running the offense. LeGarrette Blount should still be the team's starting running back but the team will miss Shane Vereen's production as a receiver. Gronkowski will continue to be a matchup nightmare and Julian Edelman has exceeded all expectations as both a receiver and kick returner. With the retirement of Dan Connolly, the team has to decide on whether or not Tre' Jackson is starting material or if Bryan Stork needs to move to guard and have Shaq Mason play center.
The defense is going to suffer after losing Vince Wilfork, Darrelle Revis, and Brandon Browner. Dominique Easley and Malcolm Brown are not the players Wilfork is. Bradley Fletcher was beat a lot last season in Philadelphia and he is nowhere near the talent of either Revis or Browner. The only consistent force on this defense looks to be the linebackers.
In all, I see nothing to see why they still can't be AFC East champs, but the losses on defense may hurt them in the long run.
Best record they can hope for: 11-5