NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed
Back in September, I did a 2010 vs. 2011 roster comparison. Today I’m going to review that column, include the end of 2011 roster and comment on how it all turned out.
2010: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
2011: Brady, Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
What I said in September: 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.
Playoffs: Brady, Hoyer, Mallett
Today’s take: 2011 still gets the edge. Brady had an even better year throwing for 1300(!) more yards and three more touchdowns. He had more interceptions, but I can honestly say those were mostly on tipped passes. The addition of Mallett adds to the future and we could see Hoyer traded this offseason.
2010: Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor
2011: Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead
What I said in September: 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.
Playoffs: Faulk, Green-Ellis, Lousaka Polite, Ridley, Vereen, Woodhead
Today’s take: 2011 was better, but only slightly. Green-Ellis dealt with some injuries which slowed him down, and Woodhead wasn’t utilized as successfully as he was in 2010, but Ridley really showed off his potential averaging 5.1 yards per carry with 87 carries for 441 yards and a touchdown.
Vereen only played two games this season, but he was impressive in both. The addition of two players who should revitalize the Patriots running game was very important. Green-Ellis still had 11 touchdowns this season and Woodhead was an important piece in the no huddle offense. Faulk didn’t contribute much, and Polite is a new guy, but we’ll see how the Patriots use a prototypical fullback in the playoffs.
2010: Julian Edelman, Randy Moss, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater, Brandon Tate, Wes Welker
2011: Deion Branch, Edelman, Ochocinco, Price, Slater, Welker
What I said in September: 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.
Playoffs: Branch, Edelman, Ochocinco, Slater, Tiquan Underwood, Welker
Today’s take: Branch slowed down and Price got cut, but Welker had such a revitalized season, I still have to give the edge to 2011. Ochocinco didn’t do nearly as well as anyone expected, but he did contribute some important catches to the season. Underwood hasn’t done much. Overall, it was a slightly disappointing season for the 2011 WRs, but Welker might have had the best season ever by a slot receiver, that can’t be ignored.
2010: Alge Crumpler, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez
2011: Dan Gronkowski, Gronkowski, Hernandez
What I said in September: 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.
Playoffs: Rob Gronkowski, Hernandez, (Solder)
Today’s take: This is easy, 2011 was WAY better. Gronk emerged as the best tight end in football with perhaps the best season by a TE ever and Hernandez clinched his spot in the top 5 receiving TEs in football. I went over it earlier this week, but the Patriots TEs finished with 175 touches, 2284 yards and 25 touchdowns. That’s unbelievable.
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
What I said in September: 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.
Playoffs: Marcus Cannon, Connolly, Light, Mankins, Nick McDonald, Solder, Donald Thomas, Waters, Wendell
Today’s take: Well, Vollmer didn’t stay healthy, Water really really worked out, Connolly proved to be a capable backup at a different position and Solder was a great backup. It’s unbelievable how many offensive linemen the Patriots used successfully this season (12), which is due to Dante Scarnecchia’s great work as an offensive line coach. The future looks bright with Cannon and Solder and the Patriots proved they can pretty much throw anyone out there to successfully block Brady with McDonald, Thomas and Wendell all having starting roles at one point this season. Mankins didn’t play as great as we all expected, and he got hurt, but Light and Waters more than made up for him. I’ll still give the edge to 2011.
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
What I said in September: 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.
Playoffs: Anderson, Brace, Deaderick, Ellis, Love, Warren, Wilfork
Today’s take: I’d give the edge to 2011 for the regular season, but they’re so beat up now it’s tough to see. Carter and Anderson were great additions to the Patriots squad, while Ellis and Haynesworth were major disappointments. Cunningham barely contributed and Pryor and Wright got hurt before we ever fully got to appreciate them. Still, Wilfork continued to be a great cog in the defense and Love had a great season stopping the run. Deaderick continued to improve as well and showed off nice versatility playing DE in a 4-3 just as well as he did in a 3-4.
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
What I said in September: 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.
Playoffs: Fletcher, Guyton, Niko Koutoutvides, Mayo, Ninkovich, Spikes, White
Today’s take: Unfortunatley, I’d probably give the edge to 2010 here. The Patriots had so many injuries to this unit, there were stretches where three of the four best linebackers on the roster were injured. Still, Fletcher continued to show he should be an impressive player for years in New England and Ninkovoch improved as the season went along. Guyton was even worse this 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
What I said in September: 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.
Playoffs: Arrington, Brown, Chung, Ihedigbo, Nate Jones, McCourty, Molden, Sterling Moore, Malcolm Williams, (Edelman, Slater)
Today’s take: Where to start? I guess I’ll start by saying the 2010 squad was better. Arrington had an improved season, but struggled as the season progressed, Barrett got hurt, Bodden was cut for an injury, Brown was terrible, Chung was out for half the season, Dowling was placed on IR, Ihedigbo was very up and down, McCourty had a much worse season than 2010. We saw many players come and go this year, but there were some bright spots. Sterling Moore shined in week 17 and did a decent job filling in as an emergency safety for a couple weeks. Edelman has shown huge potential as a slot corner.
2010: Stephen Gostkowski, Jake Ingram, Zoltan Mesko
2011: Danny Aiken, Gostkowski, Mesko
What I said in September: 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.
Playoffs: Aiken, Gostkowski, Mesko
Today’s take: Not much to say, the special teams did their job for the most part. Aiken did exactly what he was asked and we didn’t notice him all year.
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
What I said in September: 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.
Playoffs: Barrett, Carter, Christian Cox, Cunningham, Dowling, Kyle Hix, Koppen, Lockett, Ohrnberger, Pryor, Tarpinian, Wright
Today’s take: That’s a lot of injuries, and plenty of important injuries. It makes sense that there were so many injures this season without much of a preseason, but you can’t help but wonder what could be with players like Carter, Dowling, Pryor and Wright healthy for the playoffs.
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
What I said in September: 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.
Playoffs: Carter, Britt Davis, Dorin Dickerson, Kopa, Lavarias, Mike Rivera, Alex Silvestro, Ventrone
Today’s take: Really, what more could you ask for in a practice squad player than what Ventrone brought us this year? He provided constant jokes about his 20+ roster moves, he played in eight games and contributed on special teams and he has the best twitter of any current NFL play (@RustyBenson35). Sure, he’ll never be a starting safety on an NFL roster, but he’s a fun scrappy player to follow. Carter was essentially given a redshirt season, it will be interesting to see what he can contribute this year. Dickerson is a fun prospect to follow as well. He’s a tight end who has legit 4.40 speed. From the beginning of the year’s practice squad, the Patriots got some regular season use out of McDonald, Ventrone and Welch.