Bill Belichick has to be one of the best coaches in the NFL and there is a alot of respect towards his decisions from pretty much everyone in the football community, so much that they have let a couple of bad decisions slide.
This will be the first in a series of slideshows where I will try and read Belichick's mind and project the Patriots depth chart for the 2010 season. I will attempt to predict the starters the backups and even practice squad members.
This is the first in the Series and will focus on the QB, RB, WR and TE positions.
OK lets go.....
There is definitely no quarterback competition in New England and fans will be hoping there won't be for some time yet as Brady's contract is coming to it's final year.
Brady is one of the best QB's in the the league and possibly of all time. He will be looking to lead the offence back to their 2007 heyday form. While I don't think he will reach those heights I do believe he can beat last years stats with another year of recovery from his injury.
The backup role is a little more contested with Brian Hoyer, Mike Teel and Zac Robinson trying to get their spot on the roster. All three of those guys are likely fighting for a single roster spot behind Brady.
Hoyer has to be the favourite to win it as the Patriots were so confident in him last year that they cut a former third round pick just to keep him on the roster. Not only that but they had him as the only backup for Brady all year long. With that I think it would take something special to take the QB #2 spot away from the former Spartan.
So that leaves Teel and Robinson to go at it for a practice squad place. I would have to give the advantage to Teel as otherwise why would they pick him up when they already had three QB's on the roster.
Projected Depth Chart:
1. Tom Brady
2. Brian Hoyer
3. Mike Teel (Practice Squad)
The Patriots appear to be going for a committee approach again this year, with the team possibly carrying five backs. This could be a good idea as Morris, Taylor and Faulk are all the wrong side of thirty.
The main bulk of the carries should be taken by Maroney who was doing well last year and showing some promise until he started to fumble the ball. Despite his fumbling problem late last season he should be given another chance to lead the team in carries as Taylor hasn't played in all sixteen in a season since 2003 and Morris has only done it three times in his career.
Kevin Faulk will continue to do the job he has done so well over the years and remain New England's third down back. Faulk should garner another 300+ yards both receiving and rushing in this coming season.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis could be the darkhorse in this running back group as he has shown he can run when given the chance and was actually quite impressive when he became a starter for a short while during the 2008 season when the roster was hit with injuries. I believe if Maroney goes down with an injury or is benched like he was late last season then Green-Ellis could get another chance to start with Morris and Taylor both being injury prone. However this time I think Green-Ellis could keep the job as starter and possibly break out near the end of the season.
The two running backs who I feel will miss out are Chris Taylor and Pat Paschall who may be able to grab a practice squad place if they are lucky.
Projected Depth Chart:
1. Laurence Maroney
2. Fred Taylor
3. Sammy Morris (FB)
4. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
5. Kevin Faulk (3rd Down Back)
The Patriots receiving corps was handed some excellent news when Wes Welker was seen at OTA's running routes and catching passes. Most people, including me, expected Welker to start the season on the PUP list and miss the first six weeks of the season. However after this recent development that is far from a given anymore. I think Welker will make the week one roster, though it I'm unsure if he will be able to start, as he has battled through adversity for most of his career.So with Welker back he will keep his slot receiver role, though Edelman may have to start for the first few weeks.
The other man in the photo should also keep his job as New England's #1 WR. Don't expect 2007 numbers from Moss but don't expect a downturn from him either as others are predicting. Both Moss and Brady played games injured last season and with another year together after Brady's injury will only help.
But who will stretch the field across from Moss. It is between veteran Torry Holt, second year player Brandon Tate and the longshot rookie Taylor Price. I think Holt will win the starting job for the opener against the Bengals as he will have some veteran knowledge which will give him the edge. Tate however has already received praise from Brady himself this offseason and I see him pushing Holt all the way and possibly winning the job from him sometime during the season. Price is more of a project but could provide a couple of important catches throughout the season.
Edelman may get to start the season for the first few games but once Welker is back he will have to take a backseat. Edelman is very talented though and obviously has a bright future ahead.
This leaves Aiken, Patten and Slater out of a roster spot and not allowed on the practice squad. This means Darnell Jenkins, Bryan Anderson and Buddy Farnham will fight it out for a practice squad place. I think Farnham will win this battle as in the rookie minicamp it was reported he impressed all the coaches and was the biggest surprise there.
Projected Depth Chart:
1. Randy Moss
2. Wes Welker (may miss first few games)
3. Torry Holt
4. Julian Edelman
5. Brandon Tate
6. Taylor Price
7. Buddy Farnham (Practice Squad)
All three of the Tight Ends that should make the roster are brand new Patriots with Alge Crumpler coming through free agency and both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Crumpler being the veteran should be the starter, however that isn't the only reason as Gronkowski is coming off a season long injury and Hernandez isn't a typical every down tight end.
Gronkowski will be a good Tight End around half way through the season when he should be 100%. He is the ideal tight end as he is able to block well and catch the ball when he is asked to and should show why the Patriots took him in the second round.
Hernandez won't be your standard tight end and you shouldn't expect him to be blocking much at all, but you can expect him to catch lots of balls and become one of Brady's favourite targets.
Projected Depth Chart:
1. Alge Crumpler
2. Rob Gronkowski
3. Aaron Hernandez (Exclusive to passing downs)
The offence won't get the results it got in 2007 but it should still remain a top five offensive unit. With Brady getting new weapons in Tate, Price, Gronkowski and Hernandez and also being another year ahead of his injury he should improve his numbers from last season.
The running game should also improve if all the backs can stay healthy for most of the season. with every back bringing their own unique skill set to the table.
Overall this is an impressive set of offensive weapons that should strike fear in to most defences.
In the next installment of this series I will go over the offensive line.