Here are my opinions on the 2013 Patriots, illustrated in bold black, as I respond to the Mike Reiss article, below:
The following is a look at the New England Patriots' updated roster with a quick-hit thought at each position:
Quarterback (2): Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett
Quick hit: They have two openings on the practice squad, and it will be interesting to see if they fill one of them with a quarterback.
RESPONSE: Tom Brady continues to be Tom Terrific. But, at age 36, how much longer can he go on? Ryan Mallett's third preseason in NE as his best. But, the jury remains out as to whether he can become a franchise NFL QB.
Running back (4): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden
Quick hit: No real veteran presence among the group, which is part of the reason they might regret releasing Leon Washington.
RESPONSE: A solid set of RBs. But, without Leon Washington, the Pats lack a similar type of player to back up RB Shane Vereen, and seemingly have no one worthwhile to return kick-offs. Sorry...but I don't see Blount as a feared kick-off returner.
Wide receiver (6): Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson, Matthew Slater
Quick hit: Boyce, the speedy fourth-round pick, could also be a factor as the primary kickoff returner.
RESPONSE: I haven't seen enough of Boyce to lead me to believe that he'd be a dymanic kick returner. Aaron Dobson has been a disappointment thus far. Though he has the size to be a good red zone target, he appears to be having problems getting off the line of scrimmage on pass plays, and in getting separation. Hope I'm wrong.
Tight end (3): Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, Zach Sudfeld
Quick hit: Sudfeld, the undrafted rookie from Nevada, is the new "move" option, replacing Aaron Hernandez.
RESPONSE: Rob Gronkowski will likely miss the first 2-4 games. That's why the Pats cut James Develin, and added TE Mulligan...who has the rep of not being much as a receiver, but is an excellent blocker. The Hoo-man remains, because he modified and restructured his contract. Suds has potential, if he can stay healthy.
Offensive line (10): Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Will Svitek, Josh Kline, Braxston Cave, Chris Barker
Quick hit: After not drafting an offensive lineman in each of the last two years, the Patriots fill the back end with three undrafted free agents. Hard to imagine all three sticking.
RESPONSE: The OL is solid, though unspectacular. There are questions as to how much longer Logan Mankins' and Dan Connelly's knees will hold up...and, as to Sebastien Vollmer's oft injured back.
Defensive tackle (4): Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Joe Vellano, A.J. Francis
Quick hit: Former Maryland teammates Vellano and Francis are among eight undrafted rookies on the roster.
RESPONSE: A position of great concern. Both Vince Wilfolk and Tommy Kelly are 32 years old. Backing them up is little of consequence. You can tell that a contending team is starting to fade when they must scour the waiver wire of lesser teams for positional help. This is a by-product of all of those bad BB drafts, since 2006.
Defensive end (4): Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jake Bequette, Michael Buchanan
Quick hit: Bequette could be given a chance as an interior sub rusher in sub packages.
RESPONSE: The play of Chandler Jones will go a long way towards deciding how good the 2013 Pats will be. Nink is in his thirties, and in his contract year. In other words, this is likely his last year in a Patriots' uniform. Though he was outplayed throughout the pre-season by Marcus Bernard, a decent closing performance by Jake Bequette against the Giants bought him a repreive. Michael Buchanan showed promise, and has the physical qualities to succeed as a pass rusher. But, than again, so did Jermaine Cunningham.
Linebacker (7): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Dane Fletcher, Steve Beauharnais, Chris White
Quick hit: With Jeff Tarpinian on the practice squad, this is a deep group.
RESPONSE: Deepest, and best position on the team, other than QB. As is the case with Chandler Jones, Hightower must stay healthy, and step up in a big way. We all pretty much know what to expect from Spikes and Mayo. Dane Fletcher is an excellent reserve on the inside...and I really like the potential of Steve Beauharnais. Jamie Collins is a huge question mark. Thus far, he appears to be more of an athlete than a football player. This is one second round pick that BB must get some mileage out of.
Cornerback (5): Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan, and Marquice Cole
RESPONSE: More proof of BB draft failures. Top CB Aqib Talib was acquired by trade, costing the Pats a 4th round pick. Arrington and Cole were acquired off the free agency scrap heap. Dennard was a 7th round pick, due to off field issues. Other than Dennard, only Ryan, selected by BB with he 83rd overall pick this season, is a BB drafted CB, who made the team. Missing on three former second round picks (Wheatley in 2008, Butler in 2009, and Dowling in 2011) at this position leads is the main reason for this relatively weak CB stable. This is basically the same group that participated in a pass defense that finished 29th in the league, last year. Not good.
Safety (5): Devin McCourty, Steve Gregory, Duron Harmon, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner
Quick hit: Outside of Harmon, a 2013 third-round pick, this is the same group as last year.
RESPONSE: Horrific job by BB in the off-season of strengthed this position. Terrible decision to sign the washed up, 33 year old Adrian Wilson to a three year deal. Perhaps for cap reasons, Wilson starts the season on IR...but should be released. Maybe there's something in a name, because former 2012 BB 2nd round pick, Tavon Wilson, is about as useful as Adrian Wilson is, on IR. Tavon looked terrible in the preseason. Evidently, he also hasn't impressed BB, who used his 91st overall pick this year to reach for another safety, Duron Harmon, presumably to replace Wilson. The rookie Harmon currently is sitting ahead of Wilson on the depth chart. Steve Gregory is an okay reserve, but is out of his element as a starter. Nate Ebner plays special teams, only. Draft misses on first rounder Meriweather in 2007, and second rounders Chung in 2009, and T. Wilson in 2012, have really hurt this team.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
Specialists (3): Ryan Allen (punter), Stephen Gostkowski (kicker), Danny Aiken (long-snapper)
Quick hit: Allen was swarmed by reporters in the locker room Sunday as few saw him winning the competition over since-released Zoltan Mesko.
RESPONSE: It remains to be seen whether Allen will be as consistent a punter as Zoltan Mesko was. Stephen Gostkowski is one of the most overrated PKs in the league. BB should have brought in some competition for him during training camp. I have zero confidence in "The Ghost", who I wish would just disappear.