The conventional wisdom coming out of the draft is that the New England Patriots took huge strides toward another Super Bowl appearance in February 2008. I thought they did the same thing last year – but they used a totally different approach. Last year, the Patriots had a number of quality tight ends like Ben Watson, Daniel Graham and Christian Fauria. I thought the Pats would play power ball with Dillon and Maroney and run roughshod over the AFC East. I was suprised by the late season emergence of Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney and a wide open passing game sans Deion Branch. It worked so well that the Patriots led the Colts 21-6 at halftime in Indianapolis and were 30 minutes away from facing the Bears.
Things fell apart from there, but the Patriots did not make minor additions and tweaks to their approach. They’ve reinvented themselves – again – and sit poised to make the strongest run at the Super Bowl in 2007-08. Full disclosure: I hate the Patriots. As a Steelers fan, I have 4005 reasons (2001 playoffs + 2004 playoffs) to hate that team. Yesterday, I was getting calls from Giants fans, Jets fans and just about everyone else crying about the Patriots offseason moves. If you haven’t been counting, here it is:
Randy Moss from Oakland
Kelley Washington from Cincinnati
Donte Stallworth from Philadelphia
Torey James from Cincinnati
Sammy Morris from Miami
Adalius Thomas from Baltimore
Wes Welker from Miami
That’s painful. And then they started drafting players from college:
Round 1: Miami’s standout free safety, Brandon Merriweather. More pain. The rest of the Patriots draft passed rather quietly, but I imagine that a couple of these players will make the squad. Training camp is going to be a bitch!
Tom Brady will have bigger, faster, more athletic targets than any quarterback in the AFC. He started and ended last season as the most accomplished, most clutch, coolest quarterback in the league – and now he adds Moss, Stallworth, Welker and Washington! Unbelievable.
NFL defenses are going to have their hands full when the Patriots go to a single back formation with a tight end (Ben Watson, 4.4/40), and Moss, Stallworth and anyone else on the field. If it’s Chad Jackson (last year’s second round pick from Florida), look out. If it’s Wes Welker, it won’t be any easier. If it’s Kelley Washington, it will be ugly. Over the past few years, the Patriots have had a difficult time with the Broncos and Chargers (excluding last years playoff game, which the Chargers went out of their way to lose) and Colts. With these running and receiving options, the Pats now have a formidable counter attack for Champ Bailey, the speedy cover linebackers of the Chargers and the Cover 2 of the Colts.
The New England Patriots will be everyone’s favorite to win the Super Bowl next year. You won’t get any argument from me – for now.
I know he’s smiling on the inside.