Football fans from Vancouver to Vero Beach know the names in New England. Brady. Gronkowski. Wilfork. Mayo.
It's easy to point to Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Dont'a Hightower as difference-makers in 2012...but what about some players who might have flown under the radar?
These are the seven Patriots who will fly under the radar and impact the New England Patriots' run to another Super Bowl.
Look at any scouting report about former Arkansas star Jake Bequette, and one word pops up—motor. While some may question Bequette's ability to get off blocks, his straight line speed from either a DE or blitzing OLB spot will likely be a strong complement to Rob Ninkovich.
I know what you're saying—"he has fewer career tackles in seven years than Mayo had in 2010 alone." While that is true, one downfall of the Pats defense last year was putting capable backups on the field when Mayo and Spikes needed a breather. With Dont'a Hightower still learning how to adjust to the speed of the NFL game, Carpenter provides much needed depth at the ILB position.
Oh, the secondary. The primary point of Pats fans' discontent, the addition of the 33-year-old veteran corner adds immediate depth and could also facilitate a move to safety for Devin McCourty.
An undrafted free agent from Ole Miss outlasts a couple of veterans in training camp and appears headed for a roster spot.
If it sounds familiar, it should. Bolden is trying to follow the same path as former Patriot RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The rookie received a Belichick-ean compliment from his head coach, who said he's done a 'decent job' so far in camp, calling him a 'pretty smart guy.'
When Bill Belichick is your head coach, you take what you get for a compliment.
So what does $4 million per year get you, if you're in the market for some help in the front seven? If you're the Patriots, it gets you the unheralded Jonathan Fanene.
A pair of breakout seasons (six and 6.5 sacks in 2009 and 11, respectively) got him the payday, and he's expected to join rookie Chandler Jones rushing from the edges.
The 21st overall pick in the 2012 draft, Chandler Jones was considered to be too lean and skinny to compete for a starting job.
Just a handful of months later, Jones has bulked up; adding strength and speed in the offseason. Whether he gets the starting nod in Week 1 or just comes off the bench, Jones told the Boston Globe, "I’m going to try to work on each and every move so I can have two or three moves to perfect. Hopefully, you’ll see them on Sundays."
It sounds like something from the movie "Necessary Roughness" or "The Replacements."
If Alfonzo Dennard can stay out of jail and out of legal troubles as a whole, he has a chance to not only have an impact, he has a chance to be an excellent overall player.
Dennard was initially projected to get drafted in the second to third round...until a run-in with a police officer outside a Lincoln, NE bar just five days before the April draft. The Pats ended up selecting him in the seventh round, by all accounts a steal if Dennard can stay on the field and out of the police blotter.
A rugby player by trade, Ebner played only THREE defensive snaps last year at Ohio State. So why was he even drafted, and for that matter, on this list?
According to former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and current Arkansas defensive coordinator, Ebner was "the most valuable player on that team last year."
Patriots special teams coordinator Scott O'Brien echoed those sentiments, saying "he has the skill-set to have a chance to do what he did in college and to compete here.”