By Dan Charest @dannyacharest on June 20, 2014
For you Patriots die-hards, the number you need to know is 79. That's how many days it is from this article being published until the 2014 Patriots take the field for their season opener at the division rival Dolphins. Last season, the Phish upset the division champion Patriots 24-20 in Miami, but this season, the Patriots will have a few contrasting names lining up as starters, which very well could lead to the franchise's fourth crown.
Rob Gronkowski may be on the sidelines nursing an ACL tear when Week 1 rolls around, so into the starting lineup comes "Hooman." The four-year vet had his best season since his rookie campaign a year ago, but those figures were not exactly groundbreaking. Just 12 catches for 136 yards and one score, down from his first year numbers of 13, 146 and three. However, Gronk will likely get injured later in the slate and Hooman will be back.
The two-year run of Steve Gregory at safety ended in February when the Patriots released Gregory and his .6 million salary. A spot on the starting defense is now vacant among the likes of Tavon Wilson, Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung, the former Patriot who spent one-year hiatus in Philadelphia. Harmon, the 2013 third-round pick from Rugters, is the front-runner, after starting three games a year ago in Gregory's place.
The 2004 first-round pick was one of the most stable defensive ends in the NFL, missing just three games in his first nine years until a torn ACL last preseason made 2013 a lost year. If Smith, who turns 33 before the season starts, can muster anywhere close to his old production (67.5 career sacks), coupled with the rehabbing Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, he could force Rob Ninkovich to outside linebacker.
LaFell may be trailing Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson on the Patriots' depth chart, but the sizable import from Carolina could emerge to be the deepest of threats with Tom Brady throwing the ball, a positional asset the signal caller has missed since Randy Moss departed four years ago. With Cam Newton throwing to him, LaFell caught a respectable 93 passes the last two seasons, and that figure could go up with Brady's trust.
Easley may be undersized for a defensive tackle (6-foot-2, 284 pounds), watch Nickelodeon instead of ESPN and be another Patriot recovering from an ACL tear, but later in the season, expect the rookie to see more time for the aging Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly. He certainly represents more upside than Joe Vellano and Chris Jones, the undrafted rookie duo from a season ago that combined to start 19 games.
February 1, 2015 by Jonathan George
Junior Seau is owed by the NFL the same passion that he played with in trying to learn more about CTE and its effects. Read More
February 1, 2015 by Ryan Ratty
Bernard Pollard wants out of Tennesee and he has good reasoning. These five teams should look into the veteran safety. Read More
February 1, 2015 by RantSports Staff
Believe it or not, the Atlanta Falcons could have been using artificial crowd noise at home games. Read More
With Darrelle Revis possibly hitting the open market this offseason, the New York Jets are making it known they'll be interested. Read More
February 1, 2015 by Michael Terrill
Seattle Seahawks offering Marshawn Lynch a massive contract extension will prevent them from having future success. Read More
February 1, 2015 by Steve Ungrey
Is baseball's parity actually better than football's? Find out here. Read More
February 1, 2015 by Aaron Charles
There are a few players the Kansas City Chiefs absolutely can't let leave town. Read More
Auburn Tigers WR Sammie Coates has exactly what the Kansas City Chiefs are missing. Read More
January 31, 2015 by Jonathan George
J.J. Watt never really stood much of a chance against Aaron Rodgers, and it had nothing to do with statistics or play on the field. Read More
Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots is the clear-cut choice for Comeback Player of the Year. Anyone else considered would be a giant waste of time. Read More
January 31, 2015 by Steve Ungrey
Why the St. Louis Rams rookie was a deserving winner. Read More
January 31, 2015 by Kevin Saito
The New Orleans Saints had a big chemistry issue last season thanks to the feud between Sean Payton and Rob Ryan. See why bringing the defensive coordinator back was a big mistake. Read More