I'm not going to address every single position in this article, but just the positions that will actually make or break our 2010 season.
Left Outside Linebacker
Likely Starter: Pierre Woods because of his experience and knowledge of the defense, he is not going to produce a lot of sacks, but he is big enough to hold his own.
Wild Card: Jermaine Cunningham, still not sure if he will be able to convert to a 3-4 OLB, but he has the athleticism to do so. He also played in a similar defense at Florida, but as a defensive end. BB showed some 4-3 fronts last year, so Cunningham could see some time as a situational pass rusher on the line.
Odd Man Out: Shawn Crable, this guy can never stay healthy so nobody really knows what kind of effect he will have in the NFL yet.
Notable Mention: Rob Ninkovich, got some playing time last year when the game was in control, suitable back up and decent situational pass rusher
Likely Starter: Alge Crumpler, he is long in the tooth, but he is still a capable blocker and receiver.
Wild Card: Rob Gronkowski, his back injury really concerns me, but if he can stay healthy and learn the offense quickly he could start as soon as day one. Gronkowski is a big tight end that can block and catch. He has drawn comparisions to Dallas' tight end Jason Witten, but as a more willing blocker and more athletic.
Odd Man Out: Aaron Hernandez, alot of people have him converting to a H-back in the NFL, but Hernandez has to put on some more weight to go along with his blazing speed and he could be a capable back up to Gronkowski for the future. Hernandez reminds me off Ben Watson, let's just hope he has better hands.
Likely Starter: Brandon McGowan, he showed a lot of promise last season making big hits and coming up with some interceptions. He has good size and speed and will hopefully have an even better season than last year's.
Wild Card: Pat Chung, I had trouble deciding on the wild card spot with James Sanders not seeing the field that often last year. Chung is very physical and has good speed, he was also a good player on special teams last year showing BB he will do whatever it takes. Not to mention that Patriots did not list Chung as a FS or SS, but as a DB. I know nobody is going to supass Brandon Meriweather right now in his prime, so I think Chung would pair nicely with Meriweather.
Odd Man Out: James Sanders, like I said right above Sanders barely saw the field last year and played more of a leadership role. He could very well do the same this year again.
Wide Receiver(pre Wes Welker coming back from injury)
Likely Starter Opposite Moss: Torry Holt, he has been in the NFL for at least a decade and has certainly lost a step, but he runs excellent routes and has sure hands. His leadership doesn't hurt either.
Slot Receiver: Julian Edelman, probably the closest comparision to Welker and has great speed. He runs good routes and possess soft hands.
Notable Mention: Brandon Tate, Taylor Price, Sam Aiken
Likely Starter Opposite Bodden: Darius Butler, a better cover corner than Jonathan Wilhite and Butler also made three interceptions last year, not bad for a rookie. He is on track to have a good sophmore season and should be an up and coming player in the NFL.
Likely Nickel Corner: Jonathan Wihite, alot of people ripped on Wilhite for last year, but not all of what you saw on the field was his fault. A lack of pass rush by our front seven gave QB's plently of time to pick apart our defense and a bad pass rush always exploits DB's. Also, our safties were being over agrressive at times and bit on play action. Sometimes it just wasn't the right call by BB.
Notable Mention: Devin McCourty could snag the dime spot from Shawn Springs
Likely Starter Opposite Mayo: Brandon Spikes, Spikes reminds me alot of Tedy Bruschi becuase he does not possess great speed, but runs good enough sideline to sideline. Also, Spikes just like Bruschi is very instinctive and a thumper inside.
Wild Card: Gary Guyton, not much of a thumper or instinctive player, but he gets the job dones when it counts. With Spikes and McKenzie in the mix I see BB moving Guyton into sub packages in coverage when his speed will make a difference. I don't know if anyone remembers, but Guyton ran a 4.33 at the combine and is better suited in coverage on obvious passing downs.
Odd Man Out: Tyrone McKenzie, he spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve and not much is known about his ability in the NFL yet.
Right Defensive End
Likely Starter: Mike Wright, with no other real option right now Wright seems to be the answer.
Notable Mention: Myron Pryor, he played well last year in the trenches and will most likely be used to spell Wright to keep the defensive line's legs fresh. Brandon Deaderick is also an intersting prospect at 6'6 314, has Richard Seymour size and at the very least adds depth to the line.
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