New England Patriots Preseason: 5 Reasons the NFL Should Fear the Patriots
We all love the NFL for many reasons.
The high speed action, the hard hits and the unpredictability. Among others, these are just a few reasons that make us tune in every Sunday religiously.
What stands out in that short list is the unpredictability. One of the reasons we all watch sports is because everyone loves the underdog and the upset. Thanks to the way the NFL is structured, it is very difficult for a team to have success over a long period of time.
The New England Patriots are one of the few teams that have been able to defy that trend.
Since Bill Belichick took over as head coach in 2000, the Patriots are 126-50 in the regular season and 14-5 in the playoffs. Including three Super Bowl championships.
There have only been three seasons under Belichick in which the Patriots have not made the playoffs and two of those he was without Tom Brady as his starting quarterback.
Now fast forward to 2011. The NFL lockout shook up a lot of teams plans and again added another variable to an already unpredictable game.
Yet, once again after two preseason games the Patriots look posed to be one of the best teams in the NFL.
This shouldn't surprise anyone, but here are some reasons the rest of the NFL should fear playing the Patriots this year.
As unpredictable as the NFL can be from game to game and year to year, the Patriots have been able to match that with their transactions.
Once again they make headlines by trading for Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth. It has been debated to death whether these two will fit in on the Patriots, but so far there have been no legitimate reports that say otherwise.
New England has made several other pickups including former Jet Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter, among others. The focus has been on improving that defensive line, which I'll get to later.
The additions of these veterans to a young team will go a long way.
While we have yet to see Haynesworth, Ochocinco made a splash in his first preseason game, catching a touchdown pass.
If Haynesworth and Ochocinco can recapture the magic of their younger years like so many who come to the Patriots have then it is just another dangerous element to this team.
Another weapon for Brady and a monster for Belichick on the defensive line is bad news for any team in the NFL.
Improved Running Game
It is hard to gain a lot of attention as a running back when the quarterback handing you the ball is Tom Brady.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis was able to stand out last year topping 1,000 yards and scoring 13 rushing touchdowns. Fellow back Danny Woodhead became a local legend with his small stature and explosive play-making ability.
To many surprise the Patriots drafted two running backs in this years draft. With Shane Vereen currently not playing, Steven Ridley has been getting a fair share of carries this preseason.
Ridley has impressed early with 148 yards and two touchdowns with just 30 carries over the course of the first two preseason games. He is a hard runner who appears to be earning himself some looks once the regular season comes.
This kind of depth and versatility only makes an already dynamic Patriots offense scarier.
Belichick will be able to use each back in the situations that allow them the greatest chance to succeed. I would not want to be a defensive coordinator that has to game plan to stop this offense.
With Green-Ellis and Woodhead looking good again as well the Patriots running game is looking the best it has since Corey Dillon was in uniform.
If it translates over to the regular season things will only be tougher on defenses that have to match up against them.
New Defensive Look
The downfall of the Patriots last year was their inability to really shut down other teams on the defensive side of the ball.
New England's defense relied on the "bend but don't break" mentality. Teams were able to move the ball, but the Patriots would never give up big plays.
The hope being that the Patriots would be able to either force a turnover or get a few consecutive stops. However, this isn't the kind of defense that will win you a championship.
With the defensive line pickups this off season, highlighted by Haynesworth, the Patriots have moved in a new direction.
After absolutely dominating Tampa Bay's offensive line in their last preseason game it is clear that New England has found a pass rush. The performance left some experts saying the Patriots defense looks as if they have been playing together for years.
It has been hard enough for teams to have to out score the high powered Patriots offense over the years. If this defensive performance will transfer over to the regular season we could be seeing a whole new level of dominance.
This Patriots defense appears similar to those of the early 2000s. If this is the case than you can expect the same kind of success.
Young Talent Developing
One of the biggest factors in long-term success in the NFL is the draft. If you don't draft well you are going to have a hard time winning year in and year out.
New England has always done a great job of targeting needs and value in the draft. Even though it seems as if they are constantly just trading down for more picks the Patriots have put together a great young core of talent.
As I mentioned earlier Steven Ridley has already made an impact and appears as if he will be a key contributor this year.
The young tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez brought a whole new dynamic to the offense last year. With another year under their belts they should be even more efficient.
Defensively Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty, and Patrick Chung are establishing themselves as the leaders of that defense. Their contributions have already been felt and expectations for them should only get higher this year.
That is just skimming the surface.
New England has used the draft to inject their team with a new nucleus of young talent. If they continue on the track they are on there is no telling how good this team could become.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick
They are still here too.