3 Biggest Offseason Priorities for the New England Patriots
The 2015 Super Bowl lines are posted at Northbet. Can the New England Patriots do enough in the offseason to cash in?
1 –Wide Receiver
The Patriots got to the AFC Championship Game this past season with a no-name list of receivers. Julian Edelman stood out, Danny Amendola fizzled, and Rob Gronkowski got injured before the playoffs, dealing a crushing blow to a group that was simply not able to perform well in the AFC title game against the Denver Broncos. A lot of commentators pointed out that in the AFC title game, when Tom Brady overthrew receivers on multiple occasions, the New England quarterback lacked a tall wide receiver, a faster version of Gronkowski who could offer a big target and become very hard for a cornerback or a safety to defend in a one-on-one situation. The Patriots, who had Randy Moss on their roster when they rewrote the NFL record books during their 18-1 season in 2007, need to find that next great wide receiver with a big frame and considerable leaping ability, a guy who can get jump balls in traffic and do the kinds of things that have enabled the Baltimore Ravens to win a Super Bowl (behind AnquanBoldin) and the aforementioned Broncos – with Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas – to climb past the Pats for this season’s AFC title.If New England can get this one piece, its odds of returning to the Super Bowl would increase by a substantial margin.
2 –Lock Up AqibTalib
As you read more about the realities of the NFL, you find out which players are peripheral to a team’s success and which players are central to a team’s success. In each of the last two AFC Championship Games, the New England Patriots have watched the best member of their secondary, cornerback AqibTalib, go down with an injury. After Talib’s injuries in each of those games, the Patriots’ secondary wilted, and the Patriots’ opponents – Baltimore last season, Denver this season – were able to pull away and win, punching a ticket to the Super Bowl. If there’s a player on defense the Patriots simply have to retain this offseason, it’s Talib. Without him, this team’s pass defense suffers, and that’s not a one-year aberration; it’s a two-season trend. You can’t ignore those kinds of things when you size up the Patriots this season. They need him or they won’t cash as a Super Bowl champ at Northbet.
3 –Defensive Line
This is slightly more important than the offensive line, because the offensive line – while not at its best against the Denver Broncos in the AFC title game – still achieved richly by helping LeGarrette Blount to run for four touchdowns in the AFC divisional playoffs against Indianapolis. Wide receiver is what this team needs on offense. Meanwhile, the defense has a need for more overall bodies. The defensive line has to be able to get a nasty pass rusher in order to bother Peyton Manning more, if the Patriots meet the Broncos again in the playoffs. New England’s pass rush was snuffed out and silenced by the Broncos’ offensive line. That should be a sign to Bill Belichick that something has to happen.