New England Patriots: 5 Players Facing Make-or-Break Seasons in 2013
Five Patriots Facing Make-or-Break Season
The New England Patriots are coming off of another strong regular season with nothing to show for it in the postseason. They went 12-4 and won the AFC East Title in 2012 but after winning the Divisional Playoff round against the Houston Texans, they came up short in the AFC Title game against the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
After a run of three Super Bowl rings in four years, Tom Brady and the boys have suffered a reoccurring disaster. They have lost twice in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants and have been eliminated prior to the Super Bowl in all other seasons, even though they have still been the most successful franchise during the regular season.
The Patriots are a team that is loaded with talent year after year, and this year will be no different. They still have one of the top five quarterbacks in NFL history in Brady. They have a newly-established running game thanks to Stevan Ridley and they have an improving defense that head coach Bill Belichick has been able to address through the draft.
But the problem is the old saying: what have you done for me lately? While the Patriots have been good during the regular season, owner Robert Kraft has not been able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy since 2004. The loss of Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead will be tough on the offense, but Belichick always finds a way to replace guys and never skip a beat.
Even so, Kraft is going to have to start to seeing some more postseason results to be satisfied. It’s tough to say that a team that wins the division every year might be facing a make-or-break season but nevertheless, there are five players that need to help the Pats turn the corner right now.
No matter what, everyone will compare Danny Amendola to Welker, and that’s the way it should be. Bellichick saw enough in Amendola to offer him a five-year, $31 million contract and to let the most productive receiver in the NFL leave for the Denver Broncos. Amendola has big shoes to fill, as Welker averaged 112 catches per year in his six seasons with the Pats.
The Patriots invested heavily in Nate Solder when they selected him 17th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. He got his chance to start last year at left tackle and had his ups and downs. He started every game, but there were times when he did not do his job of protecting the blind side of Brady. With Brady another year older, he’ll be even less mobile. It’s up to Solder to protect him, or Belichick will find someone else who can.
Julian Edelman is another guy similar to Welker who will be asked to pick up his production. Edelman will be entering his sixth season with the club, but boasts a career total of only 69 receptions. With the departure of Lloyd and Welker, Edelman becomes the only receiver on the roster with playing experience in the Patriots system. If he doesn’t step up, he’ll be gone; just ask Lloyd, Welker, Randy Moss and Chad Ochocinco how easy it is to be replaced as a Patriots wide receiver
The Patriots took a chance at the trade deadline on Aqib Talib and looked past his off-the-field-issues by acquiring him from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Like always, a Belichick gamble paid off and Talib anchored the Pats secondary. They brought Talib back on a one-year deal and this time, there are no excuses. Belichick has a zero tolerance policy for bad behavior, and many players in the past have turned their lives around under his guidance. He needs to stay out of trouble because he is the best player in the secondary and will give them the best chance to win.
Dont'a Hightower was a first round pick of the Pats in the 2012 NFL draft. He showed flashes as a rookie with 43 tackles, 4 sacks and two fumble recoveries, but he did not show enough promise to stop the Pats from selecting another linebacker in this year’s draft. With top draft choice Jamie Collins breathing down his neck, Hightower needs a breakout sophomore campaign to stay on the field.