New England Patriots: 5 Most Glaring Holes on Patriots Roster
Finding holes in the New England Patriots roster is an obnoxious exercise in annoying minutia. Indeed, how can one find fault with their success?
Collectively, the team is 9-3 and is in a good position to earn the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
The offense is peaking—it's ranked No. 2 in the league in total offense (424 yards per game) and third in points per game (30.2).
The defense is its good old bendable self, giving up acres of yardage per game (412), yet doing a decent job of keeping the opposition out of the endzone (20.6 points per game)
Individually, the Pats shine in many areas. Tom Brady is having another stellar season, ranking second in both passing yards (3,916) and quarterback rating (105.9)
Rob Gronkowski is having a record-setting year, leading all tight ends with 13 touchdown receptions.
Yet, their success is not without a few caveats. The Patriots have some glaring holes in their roster that may prove fatal come playoff time and prevent them from getting their fourth ring in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era.
Wide Receiver (Deep Threat Variety)
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Yes, this drum has been beaten incessantly. The fact is, however, the team hasn't had a deep threat since Randy Moss (the happy-to-be-here version).
Detractors of this mindset point to two pieces of evidence: the success of the offense since Moss' departure, and the three Super Bowl trophies won without a deep threat.
Both are very good arguments. However, the offense can be shut down by defenses that are able to neutralize Welker, and the state of the league is much different than it was just five years ago.
Without a deep threat, the offense becomes somewhat pedestrian at times against stiff competition, and unfortunately, nobody on the current roster fits the bill of deep threat.
Welker isn't designed to fit that mold. Despite his gaudy numbers, he averages fewer yards per catch (13.5) than Gronkowski (14.3).
Chad Ochocinco has been a bust and Deion Branch doesn't cause any defensive coordinator to lose sleep.
The lack of a deep threat could become a detriment in January.
Offensive Line (Tackle)
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When everyone is healthy, the Patriots have a solid group of tackles in Matt Light, Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer.
Vollmer has an ankle injury, however, that keeps his status as "week-to-week" according to the team.
Although Light has been a stalwart at left tackle, he is 33 years old and struggles against more athletic defensive ends and linebackers.
Nate Solder is the future, but he still is a rookie.
Injuries and matchup problems at the position could spell trouble against a strong defense in the postseason.
Back Up Quarterback
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This may seem like an unimportant aspect of the Patriots roster, but it can instantly become front and center if Brady goes down.
One only has to look at the Houston Texans to see how quickly Super Bowl aspirations can turn to calls of desperation as every has-been is brought in to be a safety net for T.J. Yates
For some reason, the Patriots have treated the backup quarterback position in recent years like the red-headed stepchild of the organization. Matt Cassel's success has given the Patriots a false sense of infallibility when it comes to choosing the guy that holds the clipboard.
Many championship teams have had capable backups. The 49ers had Steve Young behind Joe Montana. The Buffalo Bills had Frank Reich behind Jim Kelly. Both the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants won Super Bowls with backup quarterbacks.
Right now, the Patriots have Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett to turn to if Brady goes down.
I would say that's a bit of a hole in the roster.
Linebacker (Pass-Rusher Variety)
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Rather than making a quarterback wet his pants, this linebacking corps wets his appetite.
The Patriots might not have had an all-world pass-rusher during their Super Bowl heyday, but they still had guys that could get to the quarterback in Willie McGinest and Mike Vrabel.
Now, they have Rob Ninkovich and Jerod Mayo. So scary.
Look, the team doesn't need the second coming of Lawrence Taylor (sans cocaine), but they do need someone capable of making plays in the backfield.
No one on this roster fits the bill. Someone call Andre Tippett and make him an offer, please.
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Julian Edelman is a fun story, but having him in the secondary is not a cause for celebration, but rather a signal of distress.
Please don't bring up the Troy Brown situation, because the circumstances were different back then. Although decimated by injuries in the secondary, the defensive unit that Brown played with had playmakers.
The Patriots defense isn't ranked last in total yard surrendered because of bad luck—it's been a group effort. And the secondary has held up its end of the bargain.
Devin McCourty must be hurting more than is being advertised; at least Patriot Nation hopes so, because McCourty's play has been mercurial this year.
The rest of the secondary this year has consisted of underachievers and vagabonds. Having Sergio Brown and Phillip Adams running around in your defensive backfield is no way to run a defense.
Obviously, if those guys are playing at any point in a meaningful situation, the roster definitely has some holes.