Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Are the New England Patriots in Trouble?

The Patriots have a roster loaded with veterans. They also have some significant problems. They have no running game. They have players working to overcome significant injuries at important positions. Their most important player needs to be re-signed soon or they may offend him straight out of town.
Lawrence Maroney and assorted over-the-hill complements have gotten the job done on the ground. Most of that thanks to the passing game doing most of the offensive work. Maroney is promising, now, after four disappointing seasons, to be a rougher and tougher runner. He had his best season in 2009, but the other backs on the team received more combined carries.

Even as Maroney is vowing to do less "Dancing with the Stars" and hit the line faster and harder, other backs are gaining favor with the coaching staff. Head Coach Bill Belichick praised the work of third-year running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
"I think he's improved over the last two years significantly," Belichick said. "...Benny works hard and he's tough. He's very professional and he really takes his job seriously. When you tell him to improve in something, he'll work very diligently to do it."
Belichick said that if Green-Ellis continues to work hard and impress the coaching staff, he could receive a greater portion of the carries. Green-Ellis has a career 3.9 yards-per-carry average which suggests that he could be effective as the primary running back, if not particularly special. Last season, the Patriots ranked 12th in the NFL with 1,921 rushing yards and sixth with 19 rushing touchdowns.

Meanwhile the offensive line is a mess. Left Guard Logan Mankins is unsigned and sitting out a contract dispute with the Patriots. This situation is made worse because Makins projected replacement, Nick Kaczur is out with a serious back injury. Sebastian Vollmer is supposed to fill the right tackle position that Kaczur vacated. This is not good for the running game or the passing game.

Quarterback Tom Brady is already annoyed because the Patriots have refused to pay him like the top quarterback he is. A season of increased pressure, contact and sacks is not likely to make him feel better about sticking around. In addition he has a receiving core getting older and coming off major injuries. Just because he reported to camp does not mean he's happy.

This is a team in transition and that makes it a dangerous team for fantasy owners.

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