The New England Patriots have been one of the most successful franchises in football — if not all sports — for the last decade or so. They’ve started each and every season at the very top of everyone’s list of Super Bowl favorites.
But this year, things are different. This year, Tom Brady and company come into camp with some real question marks. The defense — a weakness the last few years — is getting better, but is it ready to carry the team yet? And if it’s not, is the once high-flying offense still at the level they need to be to lead the team to a championship?
That offense, led by Brady, has been the bread and butter of the Patriots for years now. This year, however, they start the season without any reliable weapons in the passing game. But that isn’t the problem. We’ve seen the Patriots get by with no-name receivers before. Nobody knew the likes of Deion Branch, David Patten or Troy Brown before Brady made them stars. Chances are, he’ll do the same with this group.
No, the receivers aren’t the problem, the problem will be keeping Brady upright and comfortable in the pocket so he can get them the ball. The offensive line, once a major strength of the Patriots, is the problem this year.
New England has two unproven tackles, a banged-up center and a journey man tackle converted to guard. Sure, they still have one of the best interior lineman in the game in Logan Mankins, but he can’t do it all by himself.
This group is serviceable at best if they all stay healthy, but things get even worse when you look at the depth on the line. If any of those guys go down, former fifth-round pick Marcus Cannon is the only backup you have who has given us any sign that he can get the job done. After him, it’s a bunch of young, unproven players.
If the Patriots are going to live up to expectations, which are always championship or bust in New England, they’re going to need another big year out of Brady and the offense. To do that, they’re going to need a great year out of the offensive line, something that’s going to be a problem for them this year.
The Patriots are still one of the best teams in the league, despite the rough offseason they had. There aren’t many problems for this squad, but the lack of depth on the offensive line could be one this season.
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