The New England Patriots are tied for the best record in the NFL right now at 11-2, but there is always room for improvement.
It’s important to let the season play out, but it’s never too early to start planning ahead to figure out which areas of the roster the team can improve.
With age, depth and potential free agents it would definitely be good for the Pats to beef up their roster.
Here are the areas of biggest need.
Leigh Bodden’s season-ending shoulder injury in the preseason really exposed the lack of depth at the corner back position. They have a number of young, inexperienced guys that they liked, but those players need to go through trial by fire rather than take time to develop.
They have grown a little, and some guys like Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington have done some solid work. However, they have gone through considerable growing pains and coverage has been spotty.
Again, they have gotten a little better as the season has gone on, and they have done enough lately—but it would certainly help to bring in a solid veteran to add depth. The return of Leigh Bodden should help with that.
Patrick Chung has really stepped up this year and played well. He’s been a nice surprise. Brandon Meriweather has been up and down throughout this season and was not even a starter the first couple weeks of the year.
The team will see three safeties enter free agency this offseason: Josh Barret, Jarrad Page and Brandon McGowan.
They could add someone who would not only give depth at the position, but who could also be an improvement over the current starters—most likely Meriweather.
The Patriots let their defensive unit, specifically their linebackers, get old without developing young talent underneath them. So when guys like Junior Seau and Teddy Bruschi retired the unit was left depleted.
The Patriots can’t let that happen to their offensive line, especially with the impending free agencies of Logan Mankins and Matt Light.
Sebastian Vollmer and Dan Connelly have filled in nicely when Light and Mankins have missed games which is a good start. But it would help to add guys behind Nick Kaczur and Stephen Neal. Kaczur will be 30 next season and was on the PUP list for most of this season. Neal will be 35 years old next season and in the last year of a two-year deal he signed this offseason.
It’s time to start grooming the next generation that will protect Tom Brady.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead have been extremely underrated this season. No one expected much from them this season—Woodhead wasn’t even on the opening day roster—but they have been extremely productive. They have complemented each other well, and their skills have really balanced out the offense.
The situation is that BGE, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor will all be free agents at the end of the season. BGE has earned not only an extension, but a shot at competing for the starting job—but does the front office believe he’s the long-term answer, especially if other teams are willing to pay him for his services?
Faulk and Taylor have battled injuries this year and are nearing, if not already reached, the end of their careers.
It’s hard to believe that all of them will return, so depth will be an issue. And the team could look to go in a different direction with their starting running back, regardless of whether they bring back BGE or not.
The pass rush has been average but needs to be more potent. You get what you expect from Vince Wilfork, but that’s about it. Again, injuries have hurt this unit, as Ty Warren was placed on the IR and Myron Pryor has missed the previous five games with a back injury.
Ron Brace, Mike Wright and Brandon Deaderick—not the most famous or impactful of players though they certainly play a part in the depth of the team—have all missed games this season.
Gerard Warren will be a free agent at the end of the year, but the team may be looking to replace him anyway.
Improvements in this unit, specifically a good rusher off the edge, would be welcome.