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The Return of #12

Tom Brady

Four Players To Watch in 2009

1. Tom Brady – QB

Yes folks, the return of Tom Brady. You know the story. Bernard Pollard single handily put a dagger into the hearts of Patriots fans last September, but now Brady is looking for vengeance. We’ve read the articles, we have quotes under our signatures, so I won’t get into that ‘stuff’ too much. The fact of the matter is that without a healthy Brady the Patriots could be in trouble. Or would they be? Kevin O’Connell is currently our second quarterback with Matt Gutierrez and Brian Hoyer battling it out for the third spot. All signs are indicating that Brady is in fact 100% ready to go. So what does this mean for opposing defenses? Think 2007. Randy Moss has already said that this offense has the potential to be better than the one back in that magical season. Will Brady throw for 50 touchdown passes again? Probably not. But expect this offense to be more well rounded as the running game will play a prominent role in the Patriots success.

My biggest question with Brady is how he will respond after he takes a hit, especially near his knee. Of course we won’t see how he reacts to this until a few months from now, but it’s definitely a lingering concern in my head. With additions to the offense that include; Joey Galloway, Fred Taylor, Greg Lewis, Chris Baker, Alex Smith, and Brandon Tate, Brady will have a full onslaught of tools on his side for the fight forward. Buckle your seat belts folks, Brady’s back!

2. Brandon Meriweather – FS

The Patriots 2007 first round pick hailing from the University of Miami will be entering his third season. After picking up on the complicated defensive playbook during his rookie season, the Patriots started to rotate Meriweather with fellow safeties; James Sanders and Rodney Harrison. Although he struggled a bit, he did show promise. His biggest knack his rookie season was his hands. Meriweather is a play-maker, no doubt about it, but he dropped five interceptions during his rookie season. So, what did Meriweather do? He worked on his hands in the off-season. He came back in 2008 and had four interceptions for the Patriots. The Miami product started in 11 games and had 83 total tackles in a role he isn’t accustomed to playing, that being strong safety. With the recent drafting of Patrick Chung, Meriweather will now move back to free safety where he will be able to make plays with the ball in the air, versus playing the box and being forced to make tackles. Last season we got a glimpse of Meriweather’s ability in the open field, but now this season it will be put on full display. If Chung can contribute and see the field, it will only improve Meriweather’s game.

Is this the year that Meriweather takes that next step and reaches a pro-bowl? Can he join the list of great safeties that have come out of Miami? Time will tell. However, Meriweather is one player that I will be watching closely come September.

3. Shawn Crable – OLB

The 2008 third round draft choice showed initial promise when he played very well in the preseason. However, Crable got injured and quickly found himself on the injured reserve. With the departure of Mike Vrabel via trade this off-season, their was and continues to be a gaping hole at the outside linebacker position. With the signing of Tully Banta-Cain, the Patriots were thought to upgrade the position through the draft; that wasn’t the case. The Pats opted NOT to address the OLB in the draft, thus showing the confidence that Bill Belichick appears to have with Crable. Weighing 240 pounds as he entered the league from Michigan, it appears to the naked eye that Crable is around 255 to 260, which should bring a smile to Pats fans faces. Just a year ago around this time, many were stunned to see that Randy Moss and Crable looked similar when both stood next to each other, as both possess very small legs. So this weight gain is indeed a good start to the season for Crable.

Crable is in fact a huge wild-card for this season. Many are expecting him to contribute immediately, but he has played so little that it is uncertain if he can produce at a high level throughout the season. But if he can, the Pats will have found a terrific LB to compliment 2008 first round pick, Jerod Mayo.

4. Laurence Maroney – RB

Every year that I put together a piece like this one, I always seem to have Laurence Maroney in it. Well, it just so happens that year in and year out, Maroney continues to be a player that I’ll be watching. 2009 will not be a bigger year for perhaps anyone on this current roster than it is for Maroney. Most, myself included, believe that this is the last chance Maroney has to prove something before he is shown the door. Hell, Michael Felger has already come out and said that he expects Maroney to be released before training camp begins in late July. Now, I wouldn’t say that, but I’m confident when I say that if Maroney doesn’t produce this season, he is 100% gone. Recently, I laid off of my Maroney hate. He came out and told us that he had a serious shoulder injury and I admire Maroney for playing through it and the injury does answer my question of why Maroney ran out of bounds before the first down marker to avoid a hit by San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis.

In 2006, Maroney’s best season to date, he was complimented by Corey Dillon. Both had great seasons and helped the Patriots make it deep into the playoffs. The following year, 2007, Sammy Morris seemed to overshadow Maroney as Maroney suffered from a lingering injury. However, his play in the playoffs was inspiring and it left all of us Patriots fans with some hope. And back in 2008, Maroney never got himself out of first gear and played horribly, granted he was injured.

So now with a crowded backfield, that includes; Maroney, Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, how will Maroney fit it? Will he see the most carries out of this group? Or will he resort back to his injury ways as we watch Morris and Taylor have success? Time will give us these answers. I’ll be watching Maroney for many of reasons, but one that’s intriguing is the fact that I want to see him salvage the 2006 draft for the Patriots. At the time of this draft the Patriots seemed to have one of the better drafts of any team. I mean, wow, Maroney, Chad Jackson, David Thomas, and a guy like Ryan O’Callaghan! Well fast forward some years and Maroney, Thomas, and O’Callaghan will have to fight to keep their jobs. Kind of funny, how the best pick out of that draft was kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

About Matthew Marcantonio - @M_Marcantonio

Matthew Marcantonio is the Patriots and college football editor at Sports of Boston. Marcantonio has contributed for two newspapers; the Sentinel & Enterprise (Leominster, Mass) and The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La) and held internships with The Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated.

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One comment for “The Return of #12”

  1. […] much anticipated return of No. 12 is finally here. Tom Brady and the rest of the New England Patriots will take the field Monday […]

    Posted by Owens, Bills Travel to Foxboro | Sports of Boston | September 14, 2009, 4:18 pm

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