New England Patriots: Secondary Will Be Key to 2013 Season

Travis Wakeman@@traviswakeman10Featured Columnist IVSeptember 1, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 18: T.Y. Hilton #13 of the Indianapolis Colts catches a pass before running in for the touchdown in front of Aqib Talib #31 of the New England Patriots during the game on November 18, 2012 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

With Tim Tebow dominating headlines in training camp over whether or not he would make the New England Patriots' roster, much of what the team did in preseason was lost in the shuffle.

As and various other sources confirmed early Saturday, Tebow was informed that he will not be in the team's plans for the 2013 season.

The Patriots have decided upon the 53-player roster that they will carry this season, and they seem to have answered one of the most pressing questions this offseason concerning their passing game.

How would Tom Brady make up for all those lost weapons? 283 receptions are missing from last year's team, and tight end Rob Gronkowski probably won't be ready when the season starts.

However, the team had several players step up in training camp and preseason games.

The rookie trio of Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce all look more than capable of aiding Brady in the passing game and Danny Amendola, if he can stay healthy, is a fine replacement for Wes Welker.

The team also has the versatile Julian Edelman as a guy they can plug in on certain formations. In a nutshell, the Patriots' passing game will show no ill effects due to the players the team lost.

The bigger question comes on the other side of the ball—specifically in the secondary.

In 2012, the Patriots ranked No.29 in the league in defending the pass, giving up an average of 271.4 yards per game.

They still managed to reach the AFC Championship Game, but they allowed Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to throw three second-half touchdown passes, leading to a 28-13 defeat.

With an inexperienced wide receiving corps, the Patriots aren't a team that wants to get into a shootout to win. Eventually, the secondary will have to make some stops.

As reported by Pro Football Talk, safety Adrian Wilson has been placed on injured reserve, a move that many probably didn't see coming.

Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory will likely start at the safety positions, just as they did last season. Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard will play the cornerback positions with Kyle Arrington still in the mix.

Also making the final roster were Marquice Cole, Logan Ryan, Nate Ebner, Tavon Wilson and Duron Harmon. Outside of Cole, none of those players have more than one year of NFL experience.

So how will things be any different than they were last year? Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will have to put his head together with his two secondary coaches, Josh Boyer and Brian Flores, to figure that out.

The player to keep your eye on is Ryan. Drafted in the third round out of Rutgers, he displayed very good coverage ability and great ball skills as a college player.

He could give the defense a solid boost off the bench and should be a much better option than Arrington.

2012 OpponentCompletionsYards Per CompletionTD PassesGame Result
San Francisco1415.74Loss

According to Pro Football Focus, Arrington allowed an eye-popping 80.5 percent completion percentage on passes thrown his way last season.

The bottom line is, the team will need to try something different this year by mixing in their new players. The secondary doesn't need to rank in the top 10 in the league; it just needs to be better.

That will be the difference between the Patriots making another playoff run that comes up short and them reaching their ultimate goal of another Super Bowl victory.


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