Patriots’ Strong Draft Punctuates Solid Offseason as Team Gears Up for 2012 as Favorites to Reach Super Bowl
A handful of inches, a tighter grip, a healthier ankle.
The Patriots have been so shut to outlasting the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, and they could point to a handful of moments that could have reshaped the outcome.
Tight finish Rob Gronkowski, taking part in on a balky leg, almost got his fingertips on Tom Brady‘s final-second prayer for the finish zone. Wes Welker, whose hands have corralled far more passes than anyone on the planet in the final 5 many years, couldn’t come via with one particular much more, just minutes ahead of the Lombardi Trophy award ceremony.
Practically nothing can replenish a team’s emptiness right after such a defeat. But there’s solace, even in the postmortem, in the reality that the Patriots departed from Indianapolis in February with respectable probabilities to reach New Orleans 1 yr later on.
Now that the NFL draft is full, the Patriots have additional distanced themselves as the finest team in the AFC. They crushed it in the draft, landing a pair of playmakers in the initial round with Syracuse defensive finish Chandler Jones and Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower. They also additional robust depth with Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette (third round) and Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (seventh round).
Those four are the effectively-acknowledged commodities, so it’s achievable Illinois safety Tavon Wilson (second round), Ohio State safety Nate Ebner (sixth round) and Northwestern slot receiver Jeremy Ebert (seventh round) could come along nicely like the Brandon Deadericks and Julian Edelmans of the world. Or they could be gone rapidly like loads of other unknowns.
Genuinely, even though, the Patriots’ enhancements will come from the best of the depth chart. They entered the draft with a deep roster due to the carryover from final season and a good displaying in free of charge agency, and Bill Belichick and company came away from the draft with prime-finish talent that really should contend for starting up-caliber playing time.
Jones has the capability to be an each-down player on the edge simply because of his consistency against the run and pass. Even if that doesn’t take place in the course of his rookie season, count on him to demonstrate flashes whilst he rotates with the likes of Jonathan Fanene, Trevor Scott, Deaderick and Bequette, among other folks.
Hightower is a relentless playmaker who performs with some necessary nastiness, which seems to make him a cross among Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes. Hightower really should have the skills to play in any formation, whether or not it really is the 4-three, 3-4 or nickel, which Belichick said the Patriots employed much more than 50 % of the time final yr.
Dennard is a wild card. Based mostly on abilities alone, he’s currently been dubbed as the most significant late-round steal of the draft, but he’s got some legal issues to kind out right after he allegedly punched a cop a week ahead of the draft. Belichick immediately stated the Patriots had been “cozy” with Dennard, so there is enough reason to think his passion for football must trump these perspective issues. Dennard could not start correct away, but the possible is there for him to be a great role player who could develop into a starter down the line.
Naturally, the Patriots weren’t the only group to enhance for the duration of the draft — in theory, 31 other teams should have, also — but they deserve credit score for actively trading up in the 1st round to add some top-shelf pieces to their defense, which enhanced all through the playoffs and played effectively for the duration of the quite handful of games when they were reasonably healthy.
As a result, that substantial-end talent will lead to far more ferocious battles in camp, and that will yield the best out of everybody. The front office ought to be excited as it puts the draft in the past and focus its interest on the next seven weeks of offseason routines.
What the front workplace will locate is a group of players who are talented enough to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. The Patriots really should have identified that, anyway, on the heels of their season-ending defeat in February. But with a robust offseason, which utilized the initial round of the draft as its exclamation point, the Patriots have assembled a roster that is good ample to make its way back to the largest stage in the globe.
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