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5 Biggest Questions For New England Patriots In The 2014 Offseason

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5 Biggest Questions For New England Patriots In The 2014 Offseason

New England Patriots
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2013 season fully in the books for the New England Patriots it's time to start looking forward to the offseason. The Patriots vastly overachieved this season, making the AFC Championship Game despite a lack of playmakers on offense and a defense that was devastated by injuries. If they want to find themselves back on top next year they’re going to need to address several key issues moving forward.

The first and foremost is the offense. Most of the issues with the defense will solve themselves when their young players come back healthy and ready to go. If fact, if they’re smart with who they bring back and who they let go this offseason, the Patriots could come back with a better defense than offense for the first time in over a decade. The offense, however, is a whole other story.

For the first time in a number of years there are legitimate questions being asked about the future of Tom Brady. Of course he’ll still be the starter next year if he wants to be, but whether he still has what it takes to lead the team to a title is very much a debate. His lack of playmakers is an even bigger issue. If the Patriots don’t do something proactive about the receivers, nothing else will really matter next season.

There are plenty of questions the team will need to address between now and the start of training camp in July, but these five are the most pressing.

Ben Sullivan is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter @bensullivan52, "Like" him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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5. Who Will Be Back At Corner?

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Aqib Talib is one of the most talented cornerbacks I’ve seen in a long time. He’s one of the three or four guys in the league who can legitimately cover elite receivers man-to-man and have any type of success. On the other hand, he can’t stay healthy and sometimes lacks consistency. If the Patriots don’t bring him back -- and we all know they won’t if he refuses to sign a team-friendly deal -- New England will once again be forced to patch together a group of under-qualified defensive backs.

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4. Can They Improve The Offensive Line?

Offensive Line
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

The hidden secret about this team was that the offensive line let them down too often this year. Sure, they looked good beating up a bad Indianapolis Colts front seven, but they looked equally as bad getting thrown around by the totally average Denver Broncos defensive line. Dan Connolly is a free agent, and the team should look for serious upgrades over guys like Ryan Wendell and Marcus Cannon, who are more suited as backups than starters.

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3. How Much Does Tom Brady Have Left?

Tom Brady
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It pains me just to ask the question, but it has to be done. Brady, unquestionably one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, played downright average at times this season. In fact, you can’t even call his play in the most important game of the year average; it was poor at best. No doubt he’ll be the starter next season if he wants to be, but for a team that has always prided itself on being proactive with older players the rumors will start swirling this offseason that they might have a short leash with Brady.

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2. Will Rob Gronkowski Be Healthy Ever Again?

Rob Gronkowski
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

For short stretches we’ve seen tight end Rob Gronkowski be about as dominant a receiving tight end this league has ever seen. His rare blend of speed, athleticism and pure size is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Unfortunately, that body has continually let him down. If he can stay healthy for a full season the Patriots will be right back where they left off this year, but if he once again can’t stay on the field they will be in big trouble.

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1. Who Will Be The Receivers?

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

This is the big one. The rest of their issues can be solved as long as the team gets some legit receivers to open up the offense. Without any reliable threats on the outside the team was forced to rely on an old-school, power running attack in the playoffs. Yeah, we all saw how well that worked for them.