Why the New England Patriots' Offseason Strategy Will Pay Huge Dividends in 2011

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Why the New England Patriots' Offseason Strategy Will Pay Huge Dividends in 2011
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This New England Patriots team might be the best Bill Belichick has had during his tenure as the Pats head coach.

That's saying something, considering he has coached three Super Bowl champions and a 2007 Patriots team that broke almost every offensive record in the book and went undefeated in the regular season.

The 2011 version of the Patriots is better than all of those teams, and I will tell you why in five words: best offseason in team history.

I know, the Patriots collected Randy Moss and Wes Welker in 2007.

But this team doesn't need a Moss and Welker to win a Super Bowl in 2011. It needed pass-rushing help, it needed a tall, athletic wide receiver (to fill Moss' shoes) and it needed to lock up the unhappy leader of the offensive line, Logan Mankins.

Check. Check. Check.

Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Andre Carter (underrated signing alert) and Mark Anderson were all very successful pass-rushers at some point in their respective careers.

  • Haynesworth is going to give the line an interior attack-the-quarterback presence that it hasn't had since the Richard Seymour trade.
  • Ellis, who the Pats stole away from the New York Jets, should provide stability as a defensive end. We all saw how well he can penetrate the offensive line when he brought down Tom Brady twice during last season's battle in the AFC divisional round.
  • Carter has 66 career sacks, and will bring a speed-rushing ability not seen in New England since, well, ever (Roosevelt Colvin and Adalius Thomas were supposed to be, but they were epic failures).
  • Mark Anderson may not make the opening day roster, but if he does, his speed will be a big asset for the Pats in any passing situation.

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After the Pats lost to their main rival—the New York Jets—fans were clamoring for a downfield threat to challenge superb cornerback tandem Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. The offense last season seemed like it couldn't have been better.

Check out the stats:

  • First in the NFL with 32.4 PPG. Next highest? San Diego Chargers with 27.6. Total dominance.
  • Second in the NFL in 3rd-Down percentage, converting 48 percent of all third downs.
  • Only five fumbles lost on offense, first in the NFL.
  • Ready for the game-breaker? PLUS-28 on turnovers, best in the NFL by 11. I know that is partially the defense, but combine Brady's interceptions with the fumbles, and that is only nine turnovers all season for the Pats. NINE.

Nope. The Patriots were not as good as the numbers indicate. They got man-handled by the Jets in that playoff game, and they certainly looked like they were missing a top receiving threat.

Enter Chad Ochocinco, the animated, yet immensely hard-working wide receiver from the Cincinnati Bengals.

Ocho has size (6'1"), skill (nearly 11,000 career receiving yards), and the ability to make plays downfield like no other receiver that is currently listed on the depth chart. Sure, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski can make an impact down the field, but Ocho is a world-class route runner who will accomplish his goals with precision and a terrific set of hands. Also, Ocho can get down the sidelines, something we have yet to see from the young tight ends.

Beast Mode

Lastly, we come to Mankins. The once-angry lineman is now satisfied after signing a six-year extension with the Pats.

He held out for the first part of the 2010 season, and his presence was sorely missed. Once back, Mankins returned the "punch" that the offensive line had lacked, and the toughness, grittiness and power that he brings to the field every Sunday. Not only will a happy Mankins pay dividends for the Pats in 2011, he will pay dividends for them for the next six years.

So, what do you get when you add up all of these moves?

You get a potential Super Bowl champion that has the greatest offseason in team history to thank for all of its success.

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