Over the offseason, I have seen countless articles and comments stating that the Patriots are on the decline, which is a false statement, to say the least.
While I'm not saying that we are a lock for the Super Bowl—which is crazy to say this early about any team—we are certainly not on the decline after adding depth and youth to the team over the past two seasons.
The secondary has been revamped with players like Darius Butler , Leigh Bodden , Devin McCourty , Patrick Chung , and Jonathan Wilhite . There was also improved play by Brandon Meriweather last season; he has become somewhat of a ball hawk and should have another good season this year.
The secondary's speed has improved and game recaps will not be showing as much Patriot CB's getting burned down the field as when Ellis Hobbs II was with the team.
I have seen comments about how linebacker Jerod Mayo did not play well coming back from injury last season, which is another false statement. Mayo still finished the year with over 100 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one interception, and one forced fumble.
A lot of Patriots haters have been nagging us about how slow linebacker Brandon Spikes is and that he will be below average. Spikes may not be fast, but neither was Tedy Bruschi . I'm not saying that Spikes will have a career like Bruschi did, but when I look at these two players, they have a lot of intangibles that are similar.
Sure, Spikes ran one of the worst 40-yard dash times I've seen for a linebacker, but speed isn't everything—just ask New York Jets OLB/DE Vernon Gholston . Like Bruschi, Spikes always seems to make plays on the ball and ball carrier despite lacking speed. Spikes has good instincts that will make up for his lack of speed.
Tully Banta-Cain is the only sure pass rusher on the team and Derrick Burgess is a band-aid until Jermaine Cunningham can learn the defense. Burgess is still capable of getting sacks, though it won't be as much as we would like.
Gary Guyton has good coverage skills and should be replaced to stuff the run with Spikes or veteran linebacker Tyrone Mckenzie.
As for the offense, there are plently of options for Tom Brady to throw to this year that could make a big impact.
Rookies Rob Gronkowski , Taylor Price , and Aaron Hernandez could all surprise other teams this year. Gronkowski, at 6'6" and 265lbs, will be a nightmare matchup problem for any defense; he is more than capable of blocking and has good speed for his size.
Hernandez won't be a blocking tight end, but he is elusive and has good speed. Hernandez was Tim Tebow's favorite target in college and it resulted in a lot of touchdowns.
Price will be a slot receiver and is a clone of Julian Edelman . Price has the speed to be a deep threat and runs excellent routes. Edelman showed last season that he is tough and very hard to cover in the slot, much like the injured Wes Welker.
In the playoff loss to the Ravens last season, Edelman was the only weapon that could produce against the Ravens defense, resulting in two touchdowns.
Receiver Brandon Tate has been injured the past two seasons, but he is healthy now and Brady has already stated that Tate is one of his favorite targets. Tate has the speed to be a deep threat and could play opposite Randy Moss .
Moss is old, but has showed no signs of losing a step. Sure, he takes plays off now and then, but in a contract year, that is a highly unlikely thing for him to do. I find it very interesting that Moss was the only receiver last season to escape off of "Revis Island ."
Receiver Torry Holt has surely lost a step over his career, but he is still one of the best route running receivers in the game.
The year has finally come where running back Lawrence Maroney will be released if he has another bad season. Maroney may have never lived up to how high he was selected in the draft, but when he is not tap dancing at the line of scrimmage and actually runs through the gap, it makes me think twice about him.
Veteran running backs Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor still have something left in the tank and are hard to bring down. Veteran running back Kevin Faulk is still one of the best third down backs in the league despite some questionable calls last season, where the referees did not call it a first down.
My favorite running back on the team, BenJarvus Green-Ellis , aka "Lawfirm ," needs to see more playing time because he runs the ball hard through the gaps without hesitation and is hard to take down.
Offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer is an up and coming player. He played well last season and even held defensive end Dwight Freeney to zero sacks last season in a game where offensive tackle Matt Light was injured.