By Michael LeDuc @mike_leduc on April 29, 2014
The New England Patriots have championship aspirations for the 2014 season and they are not going to let anyone get in their way. Key players need to step up for the Pats in order to reach the ultimate goal. These particular players need to perform or else they are out the door. Here are five players who are facing make-or-break seasons in 2014.
Hightower showed strides at the end of the season last year. However, he had an extremely slow start. It is crucial that Hightower becomes more of a force in the linebacking corps. If he has a slow start to the season like last year, the Patriots might not be able to afford to wait for this guy to blossom.
The Patriots did not sign a true deep threat in free agency, which means they are relying on Aaron Dobson to stretch the field. Dobson certainly has the tools to take the next step, but he has much to improve. If Dobson continues to be "Drop-son", then his tenure with the Pats will be short-lived.
The signing of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, coupled with the promise of Logan Ryan, means that Alfonzo Dennard may very well be the odd man out -- especially with his legal issues. It is essential for Dennard to remain healthy and make an impact in the pass defense. Despite falling down the depth chart, he can still make an impact on this team. If he fails to improve, he may not be worth keeping.
With LeGarrette Blount headed to Pittsburgh, Stevan Ridley is now the lead running back again, which is a scary thought for Patriots fans. Ridley is a quick, powerful RB with a magnitude of skills; however, he cannot hold on to the freaking ball! Ridley desperately needs to improve his carrying, or else the Pats' running game will have no effect.
Amendola looked absolutely incredible when he was healthy. Unfortunately, that barely lasted one full game. Danny's ailments affected his rhythm with Tom Brady. By the end of the season, Brady lost all confidence with the banged-up receiver and would not even throw his direction. If Amendola plays up to his potential, this offense could be lethal. If not, then Amendola may find himself unemployed.
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