By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff.
It’s quiet time here at Patriots Daily, as we’re still catching our breath from the draft, and looking at some time off over the next 10 weeks or so until training camp starts. Yes, it’s really not all that far away.
We won’t be completely gone, I expect we’ll have a post or two about the OTA’s and the madatory minicamp in the coming weeks, and we’ll try and let you know when the Patriots will be featured on NFL Network. If something big happens, such as a bigger-name player being signed or cut, we’ll have something to say about it. We’re on Twitter as @PatriotsDaily and you can also follow @scottabenson or our whole staff with the list @PatriotsDaily/staff . We might not be Patriots “Daily” in terms of blog posts
So what’s been happening since the draft? The Patriots signed defensive lineman Gerard Warren, who interesting was taken ahead of Richard Seymour in that 2001 draft. At this point, I think you can pencil Warren into the starting lineup – he’s not Seymour, but he’s been a solid starter during his career, and gives them another veteran big body at the position. A Warren-Wilfork-Warren defensive line could be seen quite a bit next fall, though I’m sure the hope is that a younger player could step into a bigger role, such as Myron Pryor, Ron Brace, even draftee Brandon Deaderick,who played the 3-4 DE in Nick Saban’s defense at Alabama. Another veteran signee, Damione Lewis is another possibility, as is super-sub Mike Wright, though he appears to be more suited as a fill-in type.
The team also re-signed outside linebacker Derrick Burgess, who was considered a disappointment by most last season, with even WEEI afternoon hosts making jokes about him on a weekly basis. I’m okay with bringing him back, as depth at the position is still a concern. Burgess was actually on the field quite a bit last season, and appeared to get better late in the season. Perhaps a year with the team will result of better pass rush production this season.
A few bored football columnists are already coming out with power rankings, Scott Benson says “I think Power Rankings authored on 5/17 – and then reblogged – are just the media’s way of telling you what ‘storyline’ they’re rooting for.” I couldn’t agree more, especially when you see someone like Peter King put Green Bay as the best team in the league, and the Dolphins and Jets sixth and seventh respectively, with Carolina at eight, and Seattle(!) at 12, while the Patriots are out of the playoffs altogether at 14. Yes, I’m an eternal optimist, but as I’ve said before, this Patriots team wasn’t that far away last season, and most certainly deserves a top 10 ranking at the very least. The Dolphins and Jets have made “splashes” while the Patriots have focused on re-signing their own critical players, and adding veteran leadership, and young talent (most with potential leadership) via the draft – something that John Clayton acknowledged when he declared the Patriots offseason the best of any team.
The biggest question everyone has with this club continues to be the pass-rushing outside linebacker spot. Tully Banta-Cain seems entrenched at one side, coming off his double-digit sack season, but who else will be out there? Burgess? Second round pick Jermaine Cunningham? Former Jets special teamer Marques Murrell? 2008 third round pick Shawn Crable, who has yet to actually play in a game for the team? I’ve even seen it mentioned that on passing downs, Brandon Spikes, slated to play inside, could move out outside linebacker to take advantage of his pass rush skills. Could another player be added to the mix? If someone of note gets released elsewhere in the league, you’ll hear plenty of speculation on the Patriots level of interest. A training camp trade (like the one that brought Burgess here) is another possibility.
Competition at Inside Linebacker, Cornerback, Tight End and the Offensive line are others to keep an eye on, as the team tries to figure out whether veterans still have it, or if a youngster is ready to step in.
This promises to be an interesting offseason and training camp. PD will be with you every step of the way.