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NFL New England Patriots

5 Unheralded New England Patriots Who Must Step Up in 2014

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5 Unheralded New England Patriots Who Must Step Up in 2014

Aaron Dobson
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots were big winners during free agency and have drastically improved their team. However, there are several players in various positions who need to step up in order for the Patriots to make a serious run at a Super Bowl Championship. Here are five unheralded players who must step up for the Patriots in 2014.

5. Josh Boyce

Josh Boyce
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

5. Josh Boyce

Josh Boyce
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Boyce is a promising, young receiver with terrific speed and athleticism. The fourth-round pick was at the bottom of the depth chart in 2013 and needs to take on a bigger role in 2014. He doesn't exactly need to make an impact in the passing game, but rather in special teams. Boyce needs to step up in the kick return game and be the guy New England has needed for a long time. He certainly has the right tools to fill that hole.

4. Dont'a Hightower

Dont'a Hightower
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

4. Dont'a Hightower

Dont'a Hightower
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Dont'a Hightower's weaknesses were exposed with the losses of Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork. The linebacker struggled for most of the season and became more of a liability on defense. However, he did play better in the last few weeks of the season. In 2014, Hightower needs to continue his improvement and be a force on defense. The 24-year-old has to be the run-stuffer and become more of a play maker in the open field.

3. Stevan Ridley

Stevan Ridley
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

3. Stevan Ridley

Stevan Ridley
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

LeGarrette Blount may not be back next season, which makes Stevan Ridley the No. 1 back on the depth chart. This may worry many Patriots fans because his fumbling problems the last two seasons. There is no questioning Ridley's skill, however. He has the perfect combination of speed and power to be a top-back in the league, but he desperately needs to fix his fumble problems and earn his starting job.

2. Duron Harmon

Duron Harmon
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

2. Duron Harmon

Duron Harmon
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Safety remains one of the Patriots' biggest question marks heading into the 2014 season. Next to Devin McCourty, second-year player Duron Harmon is the best safety on the depth chart. He has shown steadiness and consistency in the secondary, but can he take on the larger role that is being thrust upon him in 2014?

1. Aaron Dobson

Aaron Dobson
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

1. Aaron Dobson

Aaron Dobson
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Dobson has earned himself a pretty shaky reputation in New England; however, the young receiver displayed his ability and potential in flashes throughout the season. He has the tools to become the deep-threat target Tom Brady would love to see in the offense. Dobson needs to make a huge second-year leap in 2014 in order to put New England over the top.