Pats Posits: Thoughts on a solid preseason showing vs. Eagles

The New England Patriots had a solid showing in their second preseason game of the 2014 summer as the roster battles continue to take shape. Here are some quick-hit thoughts on what stuck out to me.

- Brady is still Brady.

- Hard for a rookie quarterback to be much more impressive than Garoppolo has been in his first two starts. Yes, there’s still a ways for him to go, but his quick release and good decision making continue to shine. He’s an excellent fit for the Patriots’ offensive philosophy.

- All of the Pats’ running backs had their moments, and while I could see them using primarily a three-man rotation of Ridley-Vereen-White, Bolden, Finch and even Jonas Grey made cases for a roster spot with their skillsets.

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Iron Sharpens Iron: Will Revis’ biggest impact for Pats be on Brady?

There’s no secret that the New England Patriots defense hasn’t been stellar in recent years.

They’ve certainly had their moments - 2011’s squad with a healthy Andre Carter and Mark Anderson generating the kind of pass rush the Pats have lacked since the late-2000’s. And in 2012/2013, Aqib Talib gave them their first shutdown man-to-man corner since Ty Law.

But the sum of those parts never quite added up to a top-10 defensive unit, usually due in part to injuries. They flash at times, but most often the Patriots won in spite of their defense, not because of them.

I’ve often joked that Tom Brady and the offense must just march up and down the field on the Patriots defense in practice. Especially when you consider the things the Pats defense wasn’t good at - defending the middle of the field, stopping tight ends and running backs - are very much the strengths of the Pats offense in recent years.

But this year the reports out of camp are that the defense is challenging Brady in a way not seen in a long time in Foxboro.

There’s been plenty of speculation of what the acquisitions of Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis, along with the maturation of various other young pieces like Chandler Jones, Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower, will mean for the Pats’ competition. But their biggest impact might be for the Patriots offense.

We wrote about it earlier this week and there’s little debate that Brady hasn’t quite had his best outings against the better defenses in the playoffs the last few years.

Could it be that the Patriots defense just hasn’t been able to provide enough of a challenge lately to force Brady to the absolute top of his game?

He certainly was pushed by the veteran dynasty defense in the early-2000’s, so perhaps this could result in more performances like we saw out of Brady in 2004’s AFC Championship, when he cut through a very tough Steelers defense in Pittsburgh like warm butter.

It might be a stretch, but early in camp it’s apparent that Brady hasn’t seen this kind of consistent challenge in practice day after day in a long time. 

Perhaps this is just what Brady and the Pats need to get over the hump against the best defenses.

Regrouping after one week of Patriots training camp

We’re one week into training camp for the New England Patriots, and just one week away from their first preseason game, so it’s time to take a look at what we’ve learned so far about this edition of the Pats.

It’s hard not to be excited, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where the Pats are as healthy as we could’ve hoped headed into camp. Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and Will Smith, all coming off major injuries, appear to be on track for the start of the season.

On the back end, the secondary has been as expected with Revis and Browner leading the way. Browner’s attitude and Revis’ high level of play have already seemed to bring a new swagger to the Pats defense that has been missing for a long time.

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Patriots Training Camp Preview: Safety

The New England Patriots finally found an answer at safety in 2013 in Devin McCourty, after years of instability and inconsistency at the position. McCourty became just the third player to be named an All Pro at two different positions.

But with the release of Steve Gregory, McCourty will have a new starter next to him in 2014, with second-year player Duron Harmon the favorite to land the role.

But how do the rest of the safeties match up should injuries strike? Here’s our final training camp positional preview with the safeties.

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Patriots Training Camp Preview: Cornerback

No other position got the makeover that cornerback did for the New England Patriots this offseason. Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner headlines the 2014 free agent class and instantly give the Pats their best secondary since the dynasty years.

But how will the trickle down effect play out for talented young corners like Logan Ryan and Alfonzo Dennard? And where does Kyle Arrington fit in?

Our training camp preview series continues with a look at a reloaded cornerback group.

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Patriots Training Camp Preview: Linebacker

The Patriots lost two linebackers this offseason - Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher, and though they didn’t make a splashy addition to replace them this offseason, they still have a promising starting trio remaining. The headline is that defensive signal caller Jerod Mayo returns from a pectoral tear that ended his 2013 season early.

But the depth behind Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins is still largely an unknown. With a collection of rookie and veteran free agents, the Pats could find themselves with some new faces at the linebacker position making an impact.

Here’s our preview of the linebackers.

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Patriots Training Camp Preview: Defensive End

The Patriots defensive end group starts and almost ends with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. The two combined to play the most snaps by two defensive ends in the NFL.

Behind them the depth is either coming off injury or largely unproven. In a league where your defense lives or dies by their pass rush, do the Pats have enough horses to control the edges for five-plus months?

Here’s our take on the defensive end group.

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Patriots Training Camp Preview: Defensive Tackle

There were some major headlines this offseason for the Patriots at the defensive tackle position. The first was Vince Wilfork restructuring his contract after a somewhat acrimonious beginning in February. 

Tommy Kelly did the same and, along with the first-round selection of the explosive Dominique Easley in the first round of the draft, the Pats have some promise in the front middle of their front seven.

The Pats still have some questions at the position, but if everyone is healthy it might just be one of the deepest and most talented spots on the roster.

Here’s our defensive tackle preview.

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Patriots Training Camp Preview: Tight End

With Rob Gronkowski ending the 2013 season on IR once again, most prognosticators figured the Pats would make a move on a tight end, either in free agency, the draft, or both this offseason.

The Pats re-signed Michael Hoomanawanui, but didn’t spend a single draft pick at the position, when most mocks gave them one of Jace Amaro, Troy Niklas, CJ Fiedorowicz or Austin Seferian Jenkins.

The Pats did kick the tires on a few of the injured free agent tight ends but never made a move. What can we expect to see from a lighter-than-expected tight end group this season?

Here’s our preview of a sparse tight end group.

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