NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed
If the 2010 Patriots matched up against the 2011 Patriots, who gets the edge? After the jump, we pick sides.
2010: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
2011: Brady, Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
Brady may be a year older, but until he shows signs of aging, I’ll safely assume he’ll continue to be the best quarterback in the league. Hoyer is a year older and a year better and Ryan Mallett is either the future QB of this team or tradebait for a future first round pick.
2010: Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor
2011: Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead
Lawfirm is the only holdover on the 53 man roster from last season’s week 1 roster (remember Woodhead came in after week 1). A jolt of youth improves this squad with the addition of Ridley and Vereen. The Pats didn’t skip a beat transitioning from Faulk to Woodhead as a third down back. Each back gives the Patriots a different look and no RB on this roster should be in long enough to get fatigued.
2010: Julian Edelman, Randy Moss, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater, Brandon Tate, Wes Welker
2011: Deion Branch, Edelman, Ochocinco, Price, Slater, Welker
The question here is, do we base the 2010 WR crew based on what we knew then? Or what we know now? If it’s then, I might have to give the 2010 WRs the nod since Moss was so impressive in 2009. Since Moss was ineffective on all three teams he played for, it’s obvious the 2011 WRs are better. Branch and Ochocinco may be getting older, but there’s nothing like a little Brady juice to put a hop in your step. Welker will continue to man the slot and Taylor Price has the ability to stretch the field with his size and speed. Edelman adds a real threat in the return game with his elusiveness and Matthew Slater certainly looked improved as a WR during the 2011 preseason.
2010: Alge Crumpler, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez
2011: Dan Gronkowski, Gronkowski, Hernandez
Older Gronk may not be the blocker that Crumpler was, but adding a year of experience to younger Gronk and Hernandez improves this unit tenfold even without a typical offseason. If last season was Gronkowski and Hernandez’s breakout, this season might be their evolution. Gronkowski should continue to be a red zone threat and Hernandez can not only stretch the field, but he might also be the hardest target to cover this season for the Pats.
2010: Dan Connolly, Nick Kaczur, Dan Koppen, Mark LeVoir, Matt Light, Steve Maneri, Stephen Neal, Sebastian Vollmer, Ryan Wendell
2011: Connolly, Koppen, Light, Logan Mankins, Nate Solder, Vollmer, Brian Waters, Wendell
The Patriots are carrying one less offensive lineman this season, which should give you a hint that Vollmer is probably more healthy than his recent practice history is suggesting. The Patriots lost a great player in Neal, but getting 16 games out of Mankins will be a major addition. Even if Waters doesn’t work out, Connolly proved to be more than capable as a backup guard last season. Solder gives the team a great backup at tackle if Light or Vollmer should miss extended time. The Patriots have seven starting caliber players on this squad.
2010: Ron Brace, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren, Vince Wilfork, Mike Wright
2011: Mark Anderson, Andre Carter, Jermaine Cunningham, Shaun Ellis, Albert Haynesworth, Love, Pryor, Wilfork, Wright
This has got to be the Patriots most improved squad in 2011, right? The addition of Anderson, Carter, Ellis and Haynesworth adds a major element that the Pats didn’t have last year: a pass rush. The depth of this unit will allow a steady rotation of players coming in and out. As long as the Patriots opponents don’t use a barrage of no huddle, the New England line should never get tired.
2010: Tully Banta-Cain, Cunningham, Dane Fletcher, Gary Guyton, Jerod Mayo, Marques Murrell, Rob Ninkovich, Brandon Spikes, Tracy White
2011: A.J. Edds, Fletcher, Guyton, Mayo, Ninkovich, Spikes, Jeff Tarpinian, White
This is a unit that I’m glad stayed together for the most part. I think it’s safe to say the 2011 Pats aren’t missing Banta-Cain or Murrell much. A year of experience will help Fletcher and Spikes, both of whom should be manning the MLB spot in the Pats 4-3 base. Mayo should be playing all over the place and Ninkovich will typically be a pass rusher in this alignment. This is another deep unit, I wouldn’t expect anyone other that Mayo to play more than 75% of the snaps on the season.
2010: Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Brandon Meriweather, Jarrad Page, James Sanders, Terrence Wheatley, Jonathan Wilhite
2011: Arrington, Josh Barrett, Leigh Bodden, Sergio Brown, Chung, Ras-I Dowling, James Ihedigo, McCourty, Antwaun Molden
This is probably the closest we’ll get to seeing a 2010 squad being better than 2011. Still, with Leigh Bodden coming back as the Pats CB2, that’s a bigger improvement than Sanders/Meriweather are at safety. I’m predicting a major breakthrough season for Chung this season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take the Pro Bowl spot Meriweather grabbed last season. My biggest question here going into 2011 is who is the Patriots third cornerback? I believe it will eventually be Dowling, but I don’t think he’s ready for week 1. I think Arrington will be the first CB off the bench, but I’m sure we’ll see Dowling and Molden in week 1. I’ll bet Barrett and Brown split snaps with Chung being the only safety on the field at times.
2010: Stephen Gostkowski, Jake Ingram, Zoltan Mesko
2011: Danny Aiken, Gostkowski, Mesko
Last year there may have been some doubt about Zoltan, this year we know he’ll be one of the best (and most entertaining) punters in the league. I have no idea about Aiken and Gostkowski is coming off of an injury. To hedge my optimism a little bit, I’ll give the edge to 2010 here.
2010: Barrett, Bodden, George Bussey, Bret Lockett, Brandon McGowan, Quin Ojinnaka, Darryl Richard, Ty Warren, Kade Weston, Mankins
2011: Brace, Marcus Cannon, Christian Cox, Deaderick, Faulk, Kyle Hix, Lockett, Rich Ohrnberger
New England is actually in a good situation this year with their pup players. Brace, Deaderick, Faulk and Cannon could be very helpful come week 7 if the Pats have any major injuries. In 2010 some of the Patriots best players were not on the week 1 roster.
2010: Brown, Tony Carter, Shawn Crable, Javarris James, Darnell Jenkins, Tyrone McKenzie, Prince Miller, Rich Ohrnberger
2011: Markell Carter, Eric Kettani, Matt Kopa, Aaron Lavarias, Nick McDonald, Kerry Taylor, Ross Ventrone, Thomas Welch
The Patriots had a current starter on their 2010 practice squad, I doubt that will be the case with any of this year’s practice squad members.
So am I being too optimistic? Do you see any positions where you’d give the edge to the 2010 week 1 roster? I believe the Patriots are in great shape going into 2011. Our biggest question mark is in our secondary, but with Leigh Bodden coming back, it’s already improved from last year.