By Tyler McMullen @Direct_Snap on July 25, 2014
The New England Patriots are the kings of the AFC East and looking to continue their dominance within the division this season behind an improved roster loaded with young talent. The Patriots need their young players to step up this season if the team wishes to fight their way through the AFC Playoffs and into the Super Bowl.
Here are the the top ten players to watch this season in New England.
Thompkins was a key contributor during his 2013 rookie season where he collected 32 receptions for 466 yards (14.6 avg) and four touchdowns in 12 games (eight starts). Thompkins is by no means a No. 1 receiver, but he does possess the type of body and ability that New England values in their receivers. He could be in line for a sneaky good season in 2014.
McCourty is one of the NFL's most underrated free safeties and is a key contributor to the success of the New England defense. He is coming off a decent 2013 seasons where he collected 69 total tackles (48 solo), nine passes defensed, one interception and two forced fumbles. With two new corners in town, who have the ability to lock down their respective assignments, look for McCourty to be freed up to roam the field and play off the quarterback.
Dobson was another key contributor in 2013 as a rookie, collecting 37 receptions for 519 yards (14.0 avg) and four touchdowns in 12 games (nine starts). Dobson has a huge body and was one of the key red zone targets used by QB Tom Brady in 2013. He was quite inconsistent during his rookie season and struggled catching the football. If he can improve that facet of his game, Dobson could be a nice receiver for New England in 2014.
Collins is perhaps the most athletic player on the New England defense and will likely be featured this season as not only a pass rusher, but also as a coverage specialist. He played well during his rookie campaign in 2013, collecting 43 total tackles (24 solo) and four passes defensed in 16 games (eight starts). With LB Brandon Spikes now out of town, Collins' role within the defense will increase, meaning his stats will shoot through the roof.
LaFell had quite a nice season in 2013 working as the Carolina Panthers' No. 2 receiver for QB Cam Newton, collecting 49 receptions for 627 yards (12.8 avg) and five touchdowns in 16 starts. LaFell has been a consistent 600-yard receiver over the past three seasons, but that number could increase this season working with his new QB, Tom Brady. LaFell should be featured as New England's No. 1 receiver in 2014.
Easley will work in as the team's No. 3 defensive tackle this season after being selected with the 29th overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft out of the University of Florida. He is coming off an ACL tear but should be ready to go at some point during his rookie season. Easley provides an intriguing pass rushing defensive tackle to pair with DE Chandler Jones.
Ridley is going to understand how to hold onto the football eventually, right? Sure he will. He put together a solid 2013 campaign rushing for 773 yards and seven touchdowns on 178 carries (4.3 avg) in 14 games (six starts). Ridley has been in New England's dog house as of late due to his inability to hold onto the football, but it's likely that the former LSU star will finally get it and become the back New England desperately needs.
Jones has been one of the league's top young pass rushers during his short tenure in the league. In his sophomore season, Jones collected an astounding 79 total tackles (40 solo), 11.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 16 starts. Now entering his third season, Jones will look to break out in a big way for New England. He surely has the ability to do so, and I believe we will see him cross the 15-sack barrier in 2014.
Everyone in New England loves their versatile back in Vereen. Unfortunately, Vereen missed the majority of the 2013 season, only playing in eight games and only collecting one start with 44 carries for 208 yards (4.7 avg) and one touchdown, but his effectiveness as a receiver is what has him this high on the list after collecting 47 receptions for 427 yards (9.1 avg) and three touchdowns. Vereen is similar to Darren Sproles versatility-wise.
Revis-Island now resides in New England, and he could very well make the lives of Ryan Tannehill, EJ Manuel and Geno Smith much more difficult than they were in 2013. Revis is coming off a nice season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in which he collected 50 tackles (43 solo), a sack, 11 passes defensed, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Revis instantly boosts New England's defense and takes them to the next level.
June 3, 2015 by Kyle Mountain
Joe Flacco's 2013 contract extension had many up in arms, thinking the Baltimore Ravens were drastically overpaying. However, a close look at Cam Newton's new contract is far more baffling. Read More
June 3, 2015 by Nick Sardina
The New England Patriots are very strong in some positions and have some key question marks at others. Here are my positional rankings from worst to first as the Pats head into training camp. Read More
June 3, 2015 by Jerry Landry
It's not about going out on top, it's about getting out when it's best for all involved. Read More
June 3, 2015 by Calvin Cress
The Oakland Raiders put together an interesting 2015 draft class that could disappoint as rookies. Read More
June 3, 2015 by Vincent Rapisardi
How will the Seattle Seahawks' 2015 draft class play out? Here's a look at how each selection will impact the team in the coming season. Read More
June 3, 2015 by Michael Terrill
Russell Wilson isn't overly confident about getting a contract extension done with the Seattle Seahawks, which is a huge cause for concern. Read More
June 3, 2015 by Bill Zimmerman
Despite being a highly productive back, the Chicago Bears should let Matt Forte leave via free agency at the end of the season. Here's why. Read More
June 2, 2015 by Ryan O'Bleness
The Detroit Lions drafted seven players in the 2015 NFL Draft. Here is a prediction of the role each player will play on the team. Read More