brady-garoppolo

 

 

 

Tom Brady is the obvious choice to wrap the five most important Patriots heading into training camp series. The quarterback is entering this season amid something he has never dealt with before, a swirl of controversy. He is currently under a four game suspension and will sue the league in Federal Court to attempt to get the suspension wiped out. Even if he is exonerated in court and plays all 16 games, this story will not leave him anytime soon.

If he does have to serve any time. focus will switch to second year back-up and potential Brady heir Jimmy Garoppolo. If that situation occurs, Brady will have to help prepare Garoppolo while also coming to terms with the fact that he is guilty in the court and public’s eyes and will have to miss time. Brady is also cognizant of how he got his job in the first place, replacing a quarterback who could not play when Drew Bledsoe was injured in 2001.

Brady will have to deal with all this while also attempting to lead his team to a repeat as Super Bowl Champions. He also no longer has Shane Vereen or Stevan Ridley as well as a question mark at left guard. He is also one year older and not far removed from the September 2014 talk of his physical and performance decline. Of any quarterback in league history, Brady has done the most with less. However, 2015 will be his biggest test.

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I’m firm on this — if Tom Brady is unsuccessful in battling his ridiculous suspension in federal court, which may mean he won’t be in Gillette Stadium for the NFL opener. If that’s the case, then #NoBradyNoBanner!

#NoBradyNoBanner

#NoBradyNoBanner

Head coach Bill Belichick is always essential to the Patriots success, but the 2015 training camp will provide him with potential challenges that are beyond the norm. First, his team is fresh off a Super Bowl win in 2014 and will have to remain hungry and focused as the rest of the league is now working to take them off the top of the NFL mountain. Second, he still does not know which quarterback will start opening night and unlike other teams with that issue, this is not by design. Belichick has the best quarterback of all time on his roster, but as of now will not have him in September. He also has a defense with some major changes and an interior offensive line that is not quite figured out yet.

Belichick has always been a master as keeping his teams focused and turning any slight, real or perceived, into a mountain of motivation. The 2015 training camp will be a busy one for the hall of fame coach, as all the moving parts mentioned above will need to be squared away before the Thursday night opener against the Steelers. As of now, it looks like the NFL is going to uphold Tom Brady’s suspension (via ESPN), which will likely mean a court battle. This added distraction will be unlike a Belichick coached team has faced in a season. Although the Patriots fought through controversy in 2007 and 2013, they did not have their best player suing the league with a potential suspension hanging over his head.

If not handled properly, any one of the issues above could cost the Patriots games this season. There is little doubt that of all NFL coaches, Belichick is most likely to handle these situations well. The intriguing part of the 2015 training camp is that Belichick not only has coaching challenges (secondary, offensive guard), but major mental and off the field challenges as well.

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Gronk

Superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski lands at number three on the list of most important Patriots heading into training camp. Number two on the list will be posting Tuesday, stay tuned…

 

Rob Gronkowski is one of if not the most dynamic weapons in the NFL. No list of important players heading in to camp would be complete without him. Gronkowski finally had a season and postseason in which injuries did not play a major role in 2014, the first time that had happened since 2010. The result was dominance as Gronkowski re-established himself as one of the NFL’s premier weapons. He had 82 catches in the regular season for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. In the Patriots postseason run, Gronkowski hauled in 16 passes for 204 and three touchdowns, including one in Super Bowl XLIX.

With some potential early season quarterback uncertainty as Tom Brady waits to hear word on his appeal, Gronkowski’s presence in the New England offense will take on a greater importance than usual. If Jimmy Garoppolo is forced to start any games for New England, he will look the way of number 87 often. A great target at tight end can be huge for a young and inexperienced quarterback, and Garoppolo would have the premier player at the position to look to. Even if Brady’s suspension is completely wiped away, Gronkowski will still have a large role in the offense, as always.

Gronkowski is looking to have back to back fully healthy seasons and postseasons for the first time in his career. The one time that almost happened (2010- the AFC Championship game in 2011), Gronkowski was unquestionably the best tight end in the NFL and one of the best red zone targets out there. There is no reason to doubt that if Gronkowski stays healthy, he will be a major factor for New England this season. Regardless of who is throwing him the football to start the season, Gronkowski remains an opponent’s nightmare.

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Patriots Sign Tarell Brown

July 24, 2015 at 7:11pm in Featured, Patriots
Tarell Brown Raiders

The New England Patriots have bolstered their cornerback position by signing free agent Tarell Brown to a one year deal. Throughout his seven year career, Brown has played for the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders.

As Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston notes, the reasoning behind Brown still being available on the free agent market is due to a broken foot he suffered last December which caused the Raiders to place him on season ending injured reserve. Continue reading Patriots Sign Tarell Brown »

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Devin McCourty

Next up in the five part series of most important Patriots heading into training camp is freshly-extended free safety Devin McCourty.  Number three is likely to post on Sunday, stay tuned…

After signing a long term extension in March, Devin McCourty then saw Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Kyle Arrington all leave the secondary. Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, and Patrick Chung are back and rookie Darryl Roberts could be a sleeper to get some playing time. But there is no doubt that this is now McCourty’s secondary and he will have to lead both in play and character.

McCourty shouldn’t have much trouble doing either, he has established himself as an elite free safety and a great locker room guy. However, due to the reduction in talent around him McCourty will have more on his shoulders than ever. He had the luxury of Revis last season and could play a ranging, center field type safety. He will likely be forced into more coverage this year and even when he can play center field, he will have to more cautious than he would be if he had his former teammates with him. He will also have to compensate for when younger, less talented corners get beat deep and it’s a strong possibility McCourty’s pass break ups down the field will go up.

McCourty will have to be a stabilizing force for a Patriots secondary that could take half a season to figure out. Even at that point, that won’t necessarily mean they will be very good. If McCourty sees a dip in his play, it could prove disastrous for the Patriots defense. If he, however, can play up to his usual level, it will make the loss of Revis and Browner hurt less than it would on most teams.

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Over the next week I will be posting a series on the five most important Patriots heading into training camp. First up is number five, rookie guard Tre Jackson.

 

As this writer highlighted previously (http://sportsofboston.com/2015/06/17/why-tre-jackson-could-be-patriots-most-important-rookie/), Tre Jackson has one of the most important opportunities heading in to camp. With the retirement of Dan Connolly, at least one guard spot is wide open and there could be another one open as well depending on how well Ryan Wendell performs in August.

Everyone saw how problematic it was for the Patriots last September when their offensive line failed to play well. If that happens again this season, even more damage could be done. The Patriots play one the NFL’s best defensive lines in week two (Bills) and will likely be in a high scoring game in week five against Dallas’ high flying offense. Although the Pittsburgh defense has declined over the past several years, they still have a formidable pass rush that will provide the Patriots with a week one test.

If Jackson can win a starting spot and play well, the Patriots will not have to worry about Tom Brady’s protection. If he cannot, there is a strong chance Brady will spend a lot more time on his back in 2015 than any season before. Another name to watch at the guard spot is Shaq Mason, but Jackson is ahead of him in development and already has a rapport with starting center Bryan Stork, as the two were teammates at Florida State. All in all, Jackson is a player who essential but under the radar to the Patriots offense in 2015.

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