By Justin Patrick @calling_allfans on May 21, 2014
The NFL is now in a post-draft world. NFL fans have looked over the schedules for their favorite teams to try and determine what their records will be at the end of the regular season. Fans are also anxious for their favorite teams' opening games. Who will be the starters for the Patriots in their opening game at Miami on September 7? Here’s a preview of what the Patriots’ starting lineup could look like.
Come on. Unless something horrible happens to Brady (every Patriots fan is knocking on wood right now), Brady will be under center. Brady is a future Hall-of-Famer for sure. There is no way Ryan Mallet or Jimmy Garoppolo takes Brady’s job.
Ridley had some fumble problems last season, but he will probably be the starting running back when the 2014 season starts. LeGarrette Blount signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent this offseason. Shane Vereen will also get his share of carries, but if Ridley can hold onto the football, look for him to get the bulk of the carries this season.
Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL when he’s healthy (no disrespect to Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints). If Gronkowski has recovered from the ACL injury he suffered last season, he will be the starting TE in Week 1 for the Patriots. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels likes to run a two-TE set, but he may not have the personnel to do that much this season.
Edelman led the Patriots in receptions last season with 105. He will continue to be one of Brady’s top targets. Amendola has shown he can be productive when healthy. Both Dobson and Thompkins (along with Josh Boyce) have proven they have playmaking ability. The Patriots signed free agent Brandon LaFell this offseason, who will provide some competition. Without more depth at TE, look for these four to start at WR.
The Patriots re-signed Wendell to a two-year deal with $ 850K guaranteed in March. Even though Wendell started every game for the Patriots in the past two seasons, I thought the Patriots wouldn’t re-sign Wendell and would move Dan Connolly to center. While that is still a possibility, it seems that the Patriots re-signed Wendell with the idea of him still being the starting center.
If Wendell does stay at center, Connolly will most likely be the starting right guard for the Patriots. The Patriots did draft Bryan Stork (fourth round) and Jon Halapio (sixth round) in this year’s draft. The Patriots could save roughly $ 3 million if they cut Connolly, and if Stork and Halapio prove themselves, maybe that happens. Mankins has proven himself at left guard, and it is very doubtful he will lose his starting position.
Both Solder and Vollmer have proven they can play at a high level. It is doubtful either loses their starting position. Vollmer, Solder and Mankins will be the key guys on the Patriots’ offensive line. If they play like they are capable of, Brady will probably be upright more often than not.
The Patriots do not have a ton of depth at defensive end, but Jones and Ninkovich have proven that they can get pressure on opposing QBs. Both Jones and Ninkovich played a lot snaps last season, and that may continue this season.
Both were injured last season and both should return to their starting roles on the Patriots’ defense. The Patriots would probably have been okay had they cut Wilfork, but he restructured his contract this offseason. The Patriots used their first-round draft pick on Dominique Easley, who is currently recovering from his second ACL injury. If Wilfork and Kelly are healthy they will be the starters. Both are especially good at stopping at the run.
Brandon Spikes signed with the Buffalo Bills as a free agent this offseason, and Hightower will probably assume this role this season. Mayo will probably play in the middle, and Collins, who could make the biggest jump of all of the Patriots who are entering year two in the league, will probably start at weak side linebacker.
Revis is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, and the Patriots were wise to sign him this offseason. Look for Revis to be locked on to opposing teams' top wide receivers. Browner was also signed as a FA this offseason and he will probably be the other starting cornerback on the outside. Logan Ryan will probably start at the slot cornerback position. Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington will probably see some time as well.
McCourty is the best safety on the Patriots’ roster and will be the starter at free safety. Some say McCourty is the second-best safety in the NFL, with Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks being the best.
With Steve Gregory no longer in New England, the Patriots are hoping that Harmon steps up and becomes the strong safety they need to complement McCourty. This remains to be seen, but more than likely Harmon is the starter at strong safety when the season begins. The Patriots also have Patrick Chung on the roster right now, who can play on special teams and is familiar with the Patriots’ scheme.
Gostkowski has been criticized by some, but he is one the best kickers in the NFL. Maybe some competition will be brought in, but it is almost a lock that Gostkowski will be the Patriots’ kicker when the season begins.
Some Patriots’ fans were peeved when Zoltan Mesko was cut, but Allen has proven to be a very effective punter. It is highly unlikely that anyone who may be brought in as competition will take Allen’s job.
Edelman was great as a punt returner last season. Look for him to get most of the opportunities again.
With LeGarrette Blount now in Pittsburgh, look for Boyce to get more opportunities as a kick returner this season. If he doesn’t work out, the Patriots may look to Matthew Slater, but it is probably Boyce’s job to lose.
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