By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff
Are you ready for some football? The season finally gets started for real this afternoon at 1:00pm. (CBS) Check back here in the Twitter box for thoughts and observations as the game goes along.
In the meantime, check out five fearless predictions for the 2010 Patriots.
1) The Defense Will Get Better As The Season Goes Along.
The number one concern people have with the Patriots is the defense, specifically against the pass. Don’t be shocked if they struggle mightily in the early going. New England is likely going to have to win some shootouts until the defense can hit its stride.
This is a very young defense, and there will need to be considerable learning on the job throughout the year, at all spots – defensive line, linebackers and the secondary. I think a big reason that James Sanders is still here is the lack of experience on the defensive side of the ball. As Thanksgiving approaches though, look for the mistakes to lessen, and the overall defense to tighten up as guys get used to their assignments and comfortable playing with one another.
2) Tom Brady Will Throw 35 TD Passes
It won’t be 2007, but this offense will be very, very good as long as they can keep Brady upright. He’s going to have more targets this season, after having had to put Sam Aiken on the field as a third receiver at times last year, this season Brady has targets at tight end, but also more receivers in Edelman, Tate and Price.
The running game is still suspect inside the Red Zone, so the Patriots gave Brady big new targets in Rob Gronkowski and Alge Crumpler just for this purpose. Look for Brady to target those big tight ends a ton while inside the 20.
3) Brandon Tate Will Be Electric As A Kick Returner
Watching some games from the 2003 season, I’m always amazed at what a weapon a kick returner like Bethel Johnson was at times. In the Indianapolis game that season, Johnson brought back a kick for a TD immediately after a Colts TD, and nearly did it two other times, giving the Patriots a short field. Ellis Hobbs was their last decent kick returner and they had no one with a chance to break one last season. Second year receiver Brandon Tate showed his stuff with a return for a TD in the preseason, and was incredible in college. He’s going to make an impact on special teams this season.
4) Shawn Crable Will Find His Way Onto The Field At Some Point.
The 2008 third round pick has been a bust. On IR his first two seasons, Crable showed up for camp unable to pass the conditioning test, and was waived before camp even began. After cutdowns this past weekend, the Patriots signed Crable to the practice squad. Hopefully the message sunk in to the former Michigan linebacker, who has the physical tools that Bill Belichick covets in his outside linebackers. I think he will find his way onto the active roster sometime this season, and get into a game. That’s all I’m predicting for him at this point.
5) Logan Mankins will be traded for a second round pick.
I can’t see Mankins coming back before week ten, and I can’t imagine the Patriots allowing him to just show up then and put in the time he needs to accrue another season and get to unrestricted free agency. Something will happen, and I don’t think either side with cave on the contract end of things. I think sometime before the trade deadline the Patriots will trade Mankins away for a second round pick.