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Thank you for choosing the Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010. This is the second edition of the publication, and we are confident it will build on its successful rookie year. It has been a privilege and a true labor of love to serve as the editor of the first two Patriots Annuals, and the mission remains the same for the sequel: To provide insight that greatly exceeds anything you will receive from any other national pre-season publication, particularly those generic NFL preview issues that offer only a surface look at the football team you know so well. Whether you are devouring Doug Farrar’s detailed breakdown of the offense, Ron Borges’s reminiscence on the career of Mosi Tatupu, an interview with Gino Cappelletti about his 50 years as Mr. Patriot, or one of the 16 other compelling articles, our hope is that it will become obvious to you that each of the 11 writers who contributed really knows the Patriots and recognizes that a high standard is required to meet the needs of an uncommonly knowledgeable fan base. The result, we are confident, is a rich 128-page amalgam of perspectives, packed with analysis and history and enhanced by more than 100 spectacular color photos. We hope you will find it to be a worthwhile companion through what is certain to be another fascinating football season in New England. There is one broad question that hangs over the Patriots as they begin the new season: Who are they, and more specifically, who will they be? A legitimate Super Bowl contender, or a team that’s in gradual transition from the past decade’s dynasty to whatever its next phase will be? The answers will be found on the field, of course, Sunday after autumn Sunday. We hope those answers are foreshadowed here. There was one realization that caught us somewhat off guard as we were putting this publication together: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been working in tandem for ten years now, nine since Brady made the most of the break provided by Mo Lewis and stunningly seized the job owned by Drew Bledsoe, seemingly the incumbent for as long as he wanted to be. Ten years. Has it really been that long? Where does the time go? Seems like just yesterday—or just a few yesterdays ago— that Brady was jumping all over a slightly bemused Bledsoe, exclaiming, “We did it! We did it!” after the upstart quarterback (who wore a far less expensive haircut then, we should note) accelerated his astounding ascension from virtual unknown to icon with the magical victory over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Brady, now 33, is four years older now than Bledsoe was then, and he too has hit a pivotal point in his career. The Patriots have not won a Super Bowl in five seasons, and certain lost opportunities become more lamentable by the year. His contract is up after this season, and with labor strife looming, it’s uncertain if a deal will be done anytime soon. Opportunities to enhance his legacy even more grow fewer by the season. While no team helmed on the field by Brady and off the field by Belichick is truly in transition, the Patriots need specific things to happen if they are to find their way to Dallas in February. A rookie class led by first-rounder Devin McCourty needs to bear immediate fruit. Young veterans such as Brandon Meriweather and Jerod Mayo have to ascend into leadership roles on and off the field. Wes Welker needs to continue his borderline miraculous recovery from a severe knee injury. And it wouldn’t hurt if someone—Brandon Tate? Darius Butler? Tyrone McKenzie?—emerged as the breakout star of the season. It’s not going to be easy. The Jets, with their increased collection of bold-faced names, are a trendy pick, and the savvier Dolphins have upgraded as well. And the schedule appears so hellacious, you’d think a committee of Rex Ryan, Bill Polian, and Arlen Spector had been allowed to handpick their opponents. No matter how it all plays out, here’s to enjoying the journey, one touchdown—and one page—at a time.

Chad Finn July 2010 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank several people who made this publication possible: first and foremost, my wife Jennifer, for her love, encouragement, and endless well of ideas to keep two young children entertained when daddy was handcuffed to the computer; our children Leah and Alex, for their unconditional love and unintentional comedy; Jim Walsh, Jon Franke, Bryan Davidson, and Ryan Bray, for their wisdom and patience on this project; Dave D’Onofrio, for again taking on a Vollmer-sized workload with good cheer and remarkable professionalism; my friends and colleagues at Boston.com and The Boston Globe; and lastly, Clayton Weishuhn and Don Blackmon, two great linebackers who deserved so much more time to prove it.


MAPLE STREET PRESS

PATRIOTS AnNUAL 2010

c

o

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t

e

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1 Letter From The Editor

2010 Pat r iots foot b a l l

5 Back To Basics: 2010 Patriots Position Profiles by Chad Finn

22 2010 Patriots Roster 23 Beasts Of The East: 2010 Patriots Opponents by Dave D’Onofrio

37 2010 New England Patriots Schedule

6

inside the huddle 39 Against The Clock by Dave D’Onofrio History suggests time is working against the Brady-Belichick partnership.

47 Return Man by Ian R. Rapoport Wes Welker’s knee injury gave fans a late season scare, but there’s reason to be optimistic heading into 2010.

51 Mixed Reception by Eric Wilbur Randy Moss is known as much for his outsized personality as he is for making plays. But does perception mirror reality?

55 The Four Faces Of The Offense

48

by Doug Farrar Ever wonder how Brady and company put up all those points? Have a look.

61 It’s About The Job, Not The Title by Albert R. Breer Bill Belichick may be head coach, but he’s got plenty of help on the sidelines.

65 Patriots Go With Who They Know by Dan Snapp Re-signing free agents and maintaining stability were prime objectives for the Pats this offseason.

69 Undisciplined Coverage by Shalise Manza Young See who’s earning their keep and who needs to step up in the secondary.

70


73 One Size Does Not Fit All by Dan Snapp Finding the right linebacker isn’t always easy. Just ask the Pats.

select company 79 Filling In The Holes by Chris Warner From cornerbacks to linebackers to tight ends, meet the newest additions to the New England Patriots.

94

83 Bests And Firsts by Chad Finn Our take on the top first-round picks from the past 40 years.

91 Fantasy And Reality by Joe Oberkrieser Picking Patriots isn’t quite the key to victory it once was, but they can still help produce wins.

highlights and memories 97 Mission Accomplished by Christopher Price How the free agent class of 2001 gave rise to the team of the decade.

103 A Spirited Group In ’76

111

Chad Finn There were ups. There were downs. But the 1976 Patriots won’t be forgotten.

109 An Interview With Gino Cappelletti by Chad Finn Mr. Patriot looks back on his storied career, both on the field and from the broadcast booth.

117 Memories of Mosi by Ron Borges When all was said and done, Mosi Tatupu carved out his own unique legacy amongst fans and teammates.

123 The Talent Of Ten Teams by Chad Finn The 2000s were a wild time in New England. Take a look at the players that took the Pats to new heights: The Patriots All-Decade Team.

Maple Street Press LLC 155 Webster Street, Ste. B Hanover, MA 02339 www.maplestreetpress.com © 2010 Maple Street Press. All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced in any way, stored in any type of retrieval device, or transmitted by any method or media, electronic or mechanical, including, but not limited to, photocopy, recording, or scanning, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. Maple Street Press LLC is in no way affiliated with the New England Patriots or the NFL. The opinions expressed in the articles are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Maple Street Press.

123

Front Cover Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

ISSN: 1947-2854

Main Back Cover Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

Small back cover photos, clockwise from top: Elsa/Getty Images, Focus on Sport/Getty Images, Elsa/Getty Images, Jim Rogash/Getty Images, Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/ Getty Images

All product names and brand names mentioned in this book are trademarks or service marks of their respective companies. Any omission or misuse (of any kind) of service marks or trademarks should not be regarded as intent to infringe upon the property of others. The publisher respects all marks used by companies, manufacturers, and developers as a means to distinguish their products.

Cover and interior design: Garrett Cullen

Printed in the United States of America

Inside Front Cover Photo: David Drapkin/Getty Images

Chad Finn, editor. Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010


2010 Patriots


Back To Basics 2010 Patriots Position Profiles by Chad Finn

T

o begin to understand what the 2010 New England Patriots might become, it’s prudent to first revisit what they were a season ago. And the adjectives that come to mind are not ones often associated with the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era: Disappointing. Underachieving. Fractured. And in specific cases, selfish, teetering on the edge of insubordinate. Of course it was not entirely a failure. They won ten games and reclaimed their place atop the AFC East. Brady returned to health and sensational form. Wes Welker was historically brilliant before his injury. Highlights were not lacking. But you can’t help but keep fast forwarding to that gruesome final scene. The Patriots’ 33–14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs was more evidence that the final score doesn’t always tell the full story of a football game. The Patriots lost by 19. The margin might as well have been 90. The Patriots were beaten up and battered, and it left the faithful staggered as well, because it was so unlike the team we had come to admire during this dynastic era. But in the fifth season since the last Super Bowl victory, with the farewells of Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, and Rodney Harrison leaving a gap in the institutional memory, maybe such a shameful defeat was in character for too many members of this maddening crew. There are some repairs and reparations to be done in 2010, and Belichick’s priorities were telling this offseason. Adios, Adalius Thomas. So long, Shawn Springs. And welcome to a rookie class in which leadership skills were evident long before they were ever timed in a shuttle run. We are confident in saying the Patriots are in a better place entering 2010 than they were in the final moments of the 2009 season. The off-season change has been for the better, and some familiar and admirable players remain. What follows is a position-by-position breakdown of a team out to prove that its disappointing immediate predecessor was the exception, not the rule.

Football


QUARTERBACKS

Knee injury? What knee injury? Tom Brady had plenty of reasons to celebrate in his comeback season… at least until the disappointing end.

2010 ROSTER No.

Player

Position

HT

WT

Year

12

Tom Brady

QB

6'4"

225

11

8

Brian Hoyer

QB

6'2"

215

2

7

Zac Robinson

QB

6'3"

218

R

was a rookie who hadn’t even warranted a selection in the seven-round draft. What if Tom Brady gets hurt again?! What then?! Huh? Huh!? We’ll tell you what! They’re doomed! DOOMED, I TELL YOU! You can’t win with Brian Hoy-AH! Well, fortunately for the Patriots, all the worrying was for naught, more wasted words to fill the days between Sundays. (Not to mention the same skeptics howled the loudest about Matt Cassel in 2008; anyone still think Daunte Culpepper was the solution?) Brady returned from the devastating knee injury that ended his 2008 season midway through the first quarter of the first game, and for the most part, he looked like… well, Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback of his generation. Oh, there was rust to shake off, particularly in the early quarter of the season, and it took him a while to sharpen his instincts and regain his uncanny feel for the pass rush in the pocket. But by season’s end, the numbers alongside his name told the story of a tremendously productive quarterback. Brady finished his tenth NFL season and ninth as a starter—yes, it’s really been that long since Mo Lewis helped introduce him to the world—with 4,398 passing yards, good for fifth in the NFL and the second-highest total of his career. His 28 touchdown passes tied San Diego’s Philip Rivers for sixth in the league, and also tied for the second-most of his career (he’s thrown 28 three times). And not to be disregarded, he started all 16 games. As encouraging as Brady’s comeback season was, the ending left some questions lingering into the offseason. The Patriots were ransacked, 33–14, by the Baltimore Ravens

TEAM STATISTICAL TRENDS

Patriots team %01 avg PASS ATTEMPT YARDS PER

80.9

91.5 78.2

95.6 88.3 78.5

89.1

83.0

83.2

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 4 7 1 7 8

Yards/Attempt

QB Rating

NFL Rank:

116.0

8.5 8.2 7.9 7.6 7.3 7.0 6.7 6.4 6.1 5.8 5.5

8.3

7.7

7.7

6.9

6.8

6.8 6.9

7.0

7.1 7.0

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 5 15 1 16 11

6 | Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010

team DOWN THIRD CONVERSIONS %01 avg

Third Down Conv. Rate (%)

PASSING EFFICIENCY %01 avg

team

118 113 108 103 98 93 88 83 78 73 68

NFL Average

50 48 48.2% 43.7% 46 42.5% 39.5% 43.2% 38.6% 39.5% 44 42.1% 38.7% 38.1% 42 40 38 36 34 32 30 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 8 7 2 7 8

Photo on previous page: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images  Photo this page: Elsa/Getty Images Sport

For those who are bothered by a disregard for conventional wisdom, the Patriots’ decision to go with two quarterbacks for most of the season was one more instance of Bill Belichick flaunting his hubris to the football gods. Such a decision was particularly egregious, or so the shriekers, talk show hosts, and the worry addicts told us, because the second quarterback


PATRIOTS Position Profiles

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS Passing

G

Comp Att

Pct

Yds

TD

Tom Brady

16

371

565 65.7 4398 28

13 96.2 274.9

Brian Hoyer

5

19

27 70.4 142

0

0

Int

Eff Yds/G 82.6

28.4

RUSHING

G

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

Long

Yds/G

Tom Brady

16

29

44

1.5

1

9

2.8

Brian Hoyer

5

10

25

2.5

1

20

5.0

in their one-and-done foray into the postseason, and among the long list of Patriots who performed poorly that day, Brady’s name was at or near the top. He threw three crushing interceptions, completed just 54.8% of his passes (23-of-42) for a piddling 154 yards, and his quarterback rating (49.1) was the lowest among his 19 postseason performances. It may not be the most respectful question, but given that Brady is 33 years old and hasn’t helmed the Patriots to a Super Bowl victory since 2004, it is probably a fair one: Is he capable of leading the transitioning Patriots to another

Lombardi Trophy (or two… or three) before his time with the franchise is done? After winning his first ten postseason starts—and how remarkable is that in retrospect?—he is just 4–4 dating back to the loss to Denver in 2005. While it’s unfair to question his commitment even as his priorities have changed and he’s become a father and husband and father again, the reality is that the window has at least begun to close on his brilliant run here. If there is any consolation to such a notion, it is that the brutal ending to the 2009 season will serve as additional motivation to Brady, and with two full years since his knee injury, he may be in even better condition to do something about it. Whether Brady’s eventual successor is actually on the Patriots roster at the moment depends on the in-house view of Brian Hoyer, who looked like a relatively intriguing prospect during his five mop-up duty appearances as a rookie. The former Michigan State standout completed 19-of-27 passes for 142 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions. He’s the probable backup this season, with rookie seventh-round pick Zac Robinson of Oklahoma State and perhaps a veteran-to-be-signed-later battling for the third quarterback spot. Assuming, of course, that they carry one.  MSP

record book PASSING YARDS, SEASON Rank 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Player Tom Brady Drew Bledsoe Tom Brady Tom Brady Drew Bledsoe

Year 2007 1994 2009 2005 1996

Total 4,806 4,555 4,398 4,110 4,086

PASSING YARDS, CAREER Rank 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Player Tom Brady Drew Bledsoe Steve Grogan Babe Parilli Tony Eason

Years 2000– 1993–01 1975–90 1961–67 1983–89

Total 30,844 29,657 26,886 16,747 10,732

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images Sport

RECENT PASSING LEADERS

Brian Hoyer acquitted himself well as a rookie, completing 19-of-27 passes in five games of mop-up duty.

Year 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005

Player Tom Brady Matt Cassel Tom Brady Tom Brady Tom Brady

Total 4,398 3,693 4,806 3,529 4,110

Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010 | 7


RUNNING BACKS A generation ago in the NFL, the adage was that if a team utilized multiple running backs in its ground game, then it didn’t really have a running back at all. It wasn’t exactly the whole truth (seems to go that way a lot with old adages, doesn’t it?), as the Larry Csonka/Mercury Morris/Jim Kiick Dolphins or the Franco Harris/Rocky Bleier Steelers, among other outstanding teams that featured multiple backs, could attest. But there is a kernel of true insight in the adage somewhere, and it does apply in certain circumstances. An observer of last season’s Patriots running game might wonder if it applies to this particular team. It’s not that the offense struggled rushing the ball last season—it finished 12th in the league with 120.1 yards per game, adequate placement in the

2010 ROSTER No.

Player

Position

HT

WT

46

Thomas Clayton

RB

5’11”

220

Year 3

33

Kevin Faulk

RB

5'8"

202

12

42

BenJarvus Green-Ellis

RB

5'11"

215

3

44

Eric Kettani

FB

5'11"

235

1

39

Laurence Maroney

RB

5'11"

210

5

34

Sammy Morris

RB

6'0"

210

11

29

Chris Taylor

RB

6’0”

224

5

21

Fred Taylor

RB

6'1"

234

13

NFL hierarchy. It’s just that the Patriots—and quarterback Tom Brady in particular—would benefit from that having a true feature back, something they have lacked since

Laurence Maroney, who ran for 757 yards and nine touchdowns last season, enters the 2010 season as the closest thing the Patriots have to a feature back. TEAM STATISTICAL TRENDS

Patriots

RUSHES PER GAME avg %01

117.3

115.6 110.9

120.1 116.7

94.5 112.5

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 NFL Rank: 24 12 13 6 12

15 27.4 28.1

32.1

31.2 28.2

28.2 27.3

27.6

29.1 27.5

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 18 6 9 4 10

8 | Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010

Total 20+ Yard Rushes

116.0

Rushes/Game

Yards/Game

142.4 123.1

avg 20+%01 YARD RUSHES

team

team

40 37 34 31 28 25 22 19 16 13 10

12

12

11

9.8

11.7

9 6

7 5

9.6

11.3

4

10.0

3 0

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 T-27 T-10 T-30 T-12 T-23

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images Sport

RUSHING OFFENSE avg %01

team

160 153 146 139 132 125 118 111 104 97 90

NFL Average


PATRIOTS Position Profiles

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS Rushing

G

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

Long

Yds/G

Laurence Maroney

15

194

757

3.9

9

45

50.5

Kevin Faulk

15

62

335

5.4

2

29

22.3

Sammy Morris

12

73

319

4.4

2

55

26.6

Fred Taylor

6

63

269

4.3

4

19

44.8

BenJarvus Green-Ellis 12

26

114

4.4

0

29

9.5

Receiving

G

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

Long

Yds/G

Kevin Faulk

15

37

301

8.1

1

38

20.1

Sammy Morris

12

19

180

9.5

0

35

15.0

Laurence Maroney

15

14

99

7.1

0

17

6.6

Fred Taylor

6

2

17

8.5

0

13

2.8

BenJarvus Green-Ellis 12

2

11

5.5

0

6

0.9

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images Sport

Corey Dillon’s last great season, 2004, when he ran for 1,635 yards and 12 touchdowns. Instead, they have a lot of interesting parts that don’t necessarily add up to an impresive sum. When he was drafted out of the University of Minnesota in the first round in 2006, Laurence Maroney seemed to have the skill set to become a feature back. Instead, he’s become one of the great enigmas in franchise history: a talented runner who too often hesitates whether it’s necessary or not, and a dependable ball handler who suddenly developed a fumbling issue for no apparent reason. There were encouraging signs from the 25-year-old last season—he set a career-high with nine rushing touchdowns and played 15 games after missing all but three in the previous season with a shoulder injury. But he averaged a so-so 3.9

Fred Taylor proved he could still find the holes in 2009, rushing for four TDs in six games.

yards per carry and gained 757 yards, which ranked just 27th in the league. He should be better than that, and entering the final year of his contract, it’s probably his last chance in New England to prove he can be. The Patriots do have one accomplished lead back on their roster. Unfortunately, Fred Taylor will be 35 in January and was limited to six games last season after suffering an ankle injury in Week 4 against Baltimore that required surgery and kept him sidelined until Week 17. The savvy Taylor, who still runs with an impressive combination of power and speed, was effective when healthy—the story of his 13-year career—gaining 269 yards on 63 carries. He ranks 15th on the all-time rushing list with 11,540 yards and while it’s probably too much to ask, the Patriots would be well served if he could add another 1,000 to that total this season. Speaking of gracefully aging veterans, we probably should have mentioned the remarkable Kevin Faulk sooner given all that he contributes. The senior Patriot, in terms of service time—taken in 1999 after a record-setting career at LSU, he was the rare shrewd choice in a sea of washouts during the Bobby Grier era—he’s coming off one of his finest seasons. Faulk, who turned 34 in June, jittered his way to 335 rushing yards (a career-best 5.4 per carry), added another 301 yards on 37 receptions, and even added 24 yards per kick return in limited action. A dozen years into his career, he remains the perfect third-down back. Sammy Morris, record book yet another wily RUSHING TDs, SEASON veteran, ran for 319 yards (a 4.4 average), and also chimes in on special teams. He is arguably the team’s toughest runner, though third-year back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (114 yards, 4.4 average) is tough to stop with a head of steam. Also in the mix is five-year veteran Chris Taylor, who missed the season after going on injured reserve September 9, and three-year veteran Thomas Clayton, formerly of the 49ers.  MSP

Rank Player 1. Curtis Martin Curtis Martin 3. Corey Dillon 4. 4 Tied

Year 1996 1995 2006

Total 14 14 13 12

RUSHING TDs, CAREER Rank 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Player Jim Nance Sam Cunningham Corey Dillon Steve Grogan Curtis Martin Tony Collins

Years Total 1965–71 45 1973–82 43 2004–06 37 1975–90 35 1995–97 32 1981–87 32

RECENT RUSHING TD LEADERS Year 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005

Player Laurence Maroney Sammy Morris Laurence Maroney Corey Dillon Corey Dillon

Total 9 7 6 13 12

Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010 | 9


RECEIVERS & TIGHT ENDS

The Patriots should be in great hands with Randy Moss, who is entering the final year of his contract.

2010 ROSTER No.

Player

Position

HT

WT

Year

88

Sam Aiken

WR

6'2"

215

8

15

Tyree Barnes

WR

6'0"

196

1

82

Alge Crumpler

TE

6'2"

262

10

11

Julian Edelman

WR

6'0"

198

2

13

Buddy Farnham

WR

6’0”

195

R

87

Rob Gronkowski

TE

6’6”

265

R

85

Aaron Hernandez

TE

6’2”

245

R

84

Torry Holt

WR

6’0”

190

11

10

Darnell Jenkins

WR

5'10"

191

1

81

Randy Moss

WR

6'4"

210

13

80

Rob Myers

TE

6'4"

240

1

86

David Patten

WR

5'10"

190

13

17

Taylor Price

WR

6’0”

205

R

18

Matthew Slater

WR

6'0"

198

3

19

Brandon Tate

WR

6'0"

210

2

83

Wes Welker

WR

5'9"

185

7

16

Shun White

WR

5'8"

195

1

cut in which no defender touched him until he was writhing on the turf—a torn ACL and MCL—threatened to carry over into 2010, since the typical recovery time for such an injury is 6–8 months. Yet there he was at the Patriots’ Organized Team Activities in early June, just four months after surgery, in uniform and running routes, if a bit gingerly, with his fellow receivers. Just the vision of the essential Welker, a first-team All-Pro last season who led the NFL with 123 catches, was enough to put a hop in the step of Pats fans everywhere. As for Brady’s other elite target, it will be fascinating to see what Moss, at age 33 and entering the final year of his contract, will bring to the offense this season. Statistically, he was again stellar a season ago—83 catches, 1,264 yards, 13 touchdowns— but he also had his share of frustrating Sundays, including a one-catch performance against Carolina after which his effort was questioned by the Panthers players, and a five-catch,

TEAM STATISTICAL TRENDS

Patriots

RECEPTIONS PER GAME team avg %01

Receptions/Game

Yards/Game

30 28 26 24 22 20 18 16 14 12 10

25.2 22.0 19.1

24.4

20.4

20.4 19.1

21.2

20.3

19.7

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 6 11 2 10 4

10 | Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010

team YARD 20+ RECEPTIONS %01 avg

Total 20+ Yard Receptions

PASSING OFFENSE avg %01

team

300 277.2 286 295.7 218.5 257.5 214.3 272 203.5 258 244 223.1 212.5 211.3 230 204.8 216 202 188 174 160 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 NFL Rank: 2 12 1 12 3

NFL Average

70 65 60 55 50 45 40 35 30 25 20

62 41.2

57

41.9

47 43.0

38 42.3

43 45.8

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2 12 1 T-23 T-15

Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images Sport

The Patriots entered last season with what was arguably the premier tandem of wide receivers in the NFL with future Hall of Famer Randy Moss and slot receiver extraordinaire Wes Welker. They enter 2010 with reasons for optimism at the position—but also reasons for concern, beginning with their two most accomplished pass catchers. Let’s start with the status of Welker, since his status may be the single most crucial variable for the Patriots in the new season. His 2009 season ended with shocking and devastating abruptness during the regular season finale on Reliant Stadium’s choppy turf in Houston. The carnage caused by one


PATRIOTS Position Profiles

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS Receiving

G

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

Long

Yds/G

Wes Welker

14

123

1348

Randy Moss

16

83

1264

11.0

4

58

96.3

15.2

13

71

79.0

Torry Holt

15

51

Julian Edelman

11

37

772

14.2

0

63

48.1

359

9.7

1

29

Sam Aiken

14

32.6

20

326

16.3

2

81

Alge Crumpler

16

23.3

27

222

8.2

1

27

13.9

Matthew Slater

14

0

0

-

0

0

0.0

Brandon Tate

2

0

0

-

0

0

0.0

RUSHING

G

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

Long

Yds/G

Wes Welker

14

5

36

7.2

0

11

2.6

Brandon Tate

2

1

11

11.0

0

11

5.5

Matthew Slater

14

1

6

6.0

0

6

0.4

Julian Edelman

11

2

5

2.5

0

5

0.5

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images Sport

34-yard effort against the Jets. The Patriots need him to be in vintage form—and put his contract status on the back burner. The Patriots have some promising receivers on the roster, from Welker-lite Julian Edelman, the revelation of the 2009 draft, as well as second-year burner Brandon Tate

Julian Edelman won a lot of fans—including, apparently, Pat Patriot—during his 37-catch rookie season.

and rookie third-round pick Taylor Price from Ohio. Veteran Torry Holt signed on in the offseason after catching 51 balls for 722 yards in Jacksonville in 2009. He is not the player he once was, but he’s not Joey Galloway, either. Fellow veteran Sam Aiken is also around to run fly patterns and lead the charge on special teams. At tight end, the Patriots will depend on a veteran who has reinvented himself as his career has progressed and a pair of rookies, both of whom arrive with intriguing skill sets as well as legitimate questions. Veteran Alge Crumpler, 32, made four consecutive Pro Bowls (2003–06) with the Falcons while being to Michael Vick what Ben Coates once was to Drew Bledsoe. But Crumpler, who spent the past two seasons with the Tennessee Titans, has bulked up and slowed down, and is conservatively listed at 262 pounds. He is more of an extra offensive lineman at this point than the receiving threat he was in his Atlanta youth. With the departure of the enigmatic Ben Watson as a free agent to Cleveland, the Patriots required a tight end with at least the capability of being a receiving threat, and in the draft they addressed the need two times over. In the second round (42nd overall), they grabbed Arizona’s Rob Gronkowski, a big (6'6", 265 pounds), brutish Bavaro/Shockey wannabe. Perhaps with the questions about Gronkowski’s durability in mind—or more likely, simply because they couldn’t pass up the value record book in the fourth round (113th overall)—the RECEIVING TDs, SEASON Patriots chose Rank Player Year Total Florida’s Aaron 1. Randy Moss 2007 23 2. Randy Moss 2009 13 Hernandez, a 3. Stanley Morgan 1979 12 gifted receiver and 4. Randy Moss 2008 11 H-back-type who 5. Jim Colclough 1962 10 slipped because of Stanley Morgan 1986 10 at least one failed RECEIVING TDs, CAREER drug test during his Rank Player Years Total time with the Gators. 1. Stanley Morgan 1977–89 67 With Crumpler, 2. Ben Coates 1991–99 50 Gronkowski, and 3. Randy Moss 2007– 47 Hernandez in the 4. Gino Cappelletti 1960–69 42 5. Jim Colclough 1960–68 39 mix—as well as practice squad holdover RECENT RECEIVING TD LEADERS Rob Myers, the Year Player Total only remaining 2009 Randy Moss 13 2008 Randy Moss 11 player at the position 2007 Randy Moss 23 from a year ago— 4 2006 T. Brown & R. Caldwell there are some 2005 Deion Branch 5 compelling options.  MSP

Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010 | 11


OFFENSIVE LINE

Logan Mankins has made two Pro Bowls and earned one All-Pro selection since the Patriots chose him with the 32nd pick in the 2005 draft.

2010 ROSTER No.

Player

Pos

HT

WT

Yr

G

66

George Bussey

OL

6'2"

306

2

64

Dan Connolly

G/C

6'4"

313

5

14

4

77

Nick Kaczur

T

6'4"

315

6

14

13

67

Dan Koppen

C

6'2"

296

8

16

16

62

Ted Larsen

C

6'2"

305

R

64

Mark LeVoir

T

6'7"

306

4

10

0

72

Matt Light

T

6'4"

305

10

11

11

70

Logan Mankins

G

6'4"

310

5

16

16

61

Stephen Neal

G

6'4"

305

9

12

12

60

Rich Ohrnberger

OL

6'2"

291

2

3

0

76

Sebastian Vollmer

T

6'8"

315

2

14

8

74

Thomas Welch

OL

6'7"

310

R

69

Ryan Wendell

G

6'2"

275

2

2

0

71

John Wise

OL

6'5"

298

R

Of course, you may have noticed that we listed just four members of the line there, and there’s the rub. The most fascinating member of the offensive line is also the newest. Sebastian Vollmer’s stunning development from a scarcely known, Kiper-stumping second-round draft choice to the logical heir to Light at left tackle makes him the offensive line’s version of the Most Interesting Man in the World as he embarks on his second season. Vollmer, who was so overlooked during his playing career at Houston that he didn’t even warrant an invitation to the NFL Combine, played 14 games as a rookie, with five starts at left tackle in place of the injured Light and three more at right tackle, not including his start there during the playoff loss to Baltimore. His first start came in the New England’s 59–0 whitewashing of the disinterested Titans on October 18, but his definitive performance came November 15, when he held Colts whirling dervish/defensive end Dwight Freeney to zero sacks. Not only did Vollmer play like the left tackle of the future, he played like he should be the left tackle in the present.

TEAM STATISTICAL TRENDS

Patriots

PASS PER SACK team ATTEMPTS avg %01

NFL Rank:

3.4 4.0

3.9 4.2

4.1 4.1

4.4

4.1

4.2

4.2

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 30 18 14 7 21

Pass Attempts/Sack

Yards/Rush

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0

35 32 29 26 23 20 17 14 11 8 5

27.9 20.1 13.9

18.2 14.1

15.5

11.1 16.0

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 6 9 5 26 2

12 | Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010

SCORING OFFENSE %01 avg

32.9

15.5

NFL Average

team

Points/Game

YARDS avg PER RUSH %01

team

GS

40 37 34 31 28 25 22 19 16 13 10

36.8 21.7

23.7 20.6

24.1 20.7

25.6 22.0

26.7 21.5

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 10 7 1 8 6

Photo: Paul Jasienski/Getty Images Sport

Cohesiveness, of course, is crucial in offensive line play— blocking at the NFL level is the ultimate “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” operation. And the Patriots have been fortunate that, for the most part, they have had that necessary cohesion during the last several seasons, with guards Logan Mankins and Stephen Neal, center Dan Koppen, and left tackle and senior member Matt Light combining for eight Super Bowl rings and four Pro Bowl berths in their time together.


PATRIOTS Position Profiles

Photo: Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty Images Sport

The catch, as Bill Belichick has noted, is that he’s perfectly capable of playing either tackle spot effectively, while Light, the ten-year veteran and mainstay of the three Super Bowl championship teams, is much more comfortable and effective on the left side. Light played 11 games last season, missing five straight after suffering a knee injury against Denver on October 11. Should the two-time Pro Bowler miss any time this season, the blessing for the Patriots is that they know they have a capable replacement on the other side of the line. The interior line is again anchored by cerebral center Koppen, who is entering his eighth season, and guards Logan Mankins (providing his dissatisfaction with his contract situation doesn’t linger into the regular season, which is a possibility) and Stephen Neal. Mankins, entering his sixth season, receives the most acclaim among the Patriots linemen nowadays—he was named to his second Pro Bowl last season despite some observers believing that the unsung Neal actually had the better season. Neal, who will turn 34 in October, considered retirement during the offseason after being limited

to 12 games last season because of injuries. The Patriots are a better football team for having him back. The numbers suggest the offensive line did its job at a very high level last season. While Patriots quarterbacks Tom Brady and mop-up reliever Brian Hoyer combined for 592 passing attempts, the fifth-most among all NFL teams, the line allowed just 18 sacks, the fewest allowed by a Patriots team since the NFL switched to the 16-game schedule in 1978. Only the Indianapolis Colts (13) and Tennessee Titans (15) allowed fewer. Some of the credit for that, of course, must go to the habitually poised Brady; after all, a season ago, the Patriots line allowed 48 sacks as Matt Cassel learned on the fly how quickly decisions must be made against an NFL pass rush. The offensive line was a little bit less effective when the Patriots chose to run the ball; they were tied for 19th in the league in yards per carry (4.1) after finishing seventh at 4.4 a pop in 2008. And the Patriots were 12th in total rushing yards (1,921) after coming in sixth with 2,278 yards in 2008, which was New England’s highest total since 1985. As is the Belichick way, the Patriots have plenty of depth and more than a couple promising projects on the offensive line. Nick Kaczur, who has started 62 games plus seven more in the playoffs during his six seasons in New England, is joined by enormous (6'7", 305) Mark LeVoir as the reserves at tackle. Dan Connolly, a versatile fifth-year player (third with the Patriots), played a career-high 14 games last season, starting four in place of the injured Neal. He’s capable of filling the jack-of-all-trades role filled a few seasons ago by Ross Hochstein, who’s currently with the various other Patriots alumni playing for Josh McDaniels in Denver. Second-year players George Bussey and Rich Ohrnberger will be in the mix for reserve spots, though both are primarily guards. Bussey spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve, while Ohrnberger, a fourth-rounder a year ago, saw action in three games on the special teams protection units. Thomas Welch, a 6'7", 310-pound seventh-round pick out of Vanderbilt, will also compete for a spot, and he also has potential as a long snapper. Ted Larsen, a sixth-round pick out of North Carolina State, is the only other true center listed on the roster other than Given how difficult it is to find a quality tackle, the selection of Sebastian Vollmer in the second round could be the steal of the 2009 draft. Koppen.  MSP

Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010 | 13


DEFENSIVE LINE 2010 ROSTER

It was the biggest move of the offseason for the Patriots, in both the literal and figurative sense. On the very first day of free agency, March 5, nose tackle Vince Wilfork signed a five-year, $40-million contract ($25 million guaranteed) to remain with the franchise that drafted him in the first round back in 2004. Statistics—he had 43 tackles and no sacks a season ago, if you must know—do not begin to tell the story of Wilfork’s value. He is the undeniable anchor of the Patriots defense, stuffing the run, occupying blockers, and holding down his turf so those around him can get the glory. The Patriots were 13th in rushing yards allowed (1,768), but third in rushing touchdowns allowed (just six). Whatever success they had was in large part due to the big man in the number 75 jersey.

No.

Player

Position

HT

WT

97

Ron Brace

DT

6'2"

330

2

53

Derrick Burgess

DE

6'2"

255

10

96

Jermaine Cunningham

DE

6'3"

260

R

71

Brandon Deaderick

DL

6'4"

305

R

65

Adrian Grady

DT/DE

6'1"

290

1

92

Damione Lewis

DT

6'2"

301

11

91

Myron Pryor

DT

6'1"

310

2

90

Darryl Richard

DT

6'4"

290

2

68

Gerard Warren

DL

6'4"

325

10

94

Ty Warren

DE

6'5"

300

8

66

Kade Weston

DL

6'5"

315

R

75

Vince Wilfork

DT

6'2"

325

7

99

Mike Wright

DT/DE

6'4"

295

6

There may not be a more valuable player on the Patriots defense than Wilfork, but there is plenty of talent surrounding him on the defensive line. Ty Warren, entering his eighth season, has battled injuries in recent seasons (an ankle problem kept him out of the final three regular season games last season), but he remains dependable against the run and a borderline Pro Bowler when healthy. Six-year veteran Mike Wright is steady and versatile, playing all 16 games (nine starts) last season and finishing with five sacks. Derrick Burgess wasn’t as advertised as a pass rusher after coming over from the Raiders in a pre-season trade—he finished with five sacks, not a particularly high number given that getting to the QB was supposedly his specialty—but he was re-signed in May. Rookie second-round pick Jermaine Cunningham of Florida had 19.5 sacks in his college career and could give the Patriots a boost either from defensive end or linebacker. Jarvis Green, who was often of considerable value as a backup defensive end during his eight seasons in New England, joined the various other expatriated ex-Patriots in Denver. The suspicion is that the timing was right to let him go: After compiling 14 sacks in 32 games (14 starts) from

TEAM STATISTICAL TRENDS

Patriots

NFL Rank:

4.0

3.9 4.2

4.4 4.1

4.1 4.2

4.4 4.2

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 6 10 26 15 23

60 55 50 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10

%01

44

33 36.9

SACKS

SCORING DEFENSE avg %01

avg

36.3

team

47 34.4

31 32.4

31

34.4

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 23 5 2 T-14 T-23

14 | Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010

Points Allowed/Game

3.6

Total Sacks

Yards/Rush

5.5 5.1 4.7 4.3 3.9 3.5 3.1 2.7 2.3 1.9 1.5

team

NFL Average

30 28 26 24 22 20 18 16 14 12 10

19.3

21.1

22.0

20.6

17.8 21.5

17.1 14.8

21.7

20.7

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 17 2 4 8 5

Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images Sport

Vince Wilfork provides a sizable challenge to any opponent hoping to run on the Patriots.

YARDS ALLOWED PER RUSH team avg %01

Year


PATRIOTS Position Profiles

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS Tackles Solo Asst Total

Sacks

Int- Yds

Pass Def

45

1

0-0

1

43

0

0-0

2

12

41

0.5

0-0

0

10

35

5

0-0

2

25

10

35

2

0-0

1

16

27

7

34

5

0-0

0

Myron Pryor

13

12

9

21

0

0-0

0

Ron Brace

9

6

2

8

0

0-0

0

DEFENSE

G

Ty Warren

13

33

12

Vince Wilfork

13

31

12

Damione Lewis

16

29

Mike Wright

16

25

Gerard Warren

16

Derrick Burgess

2006–07, he had just three sacks in 27 games (15 starts) the past two seasons. Green’s departure doesn’t mean the Patriots will lack for veteran depth. Defensive tackle Damione Lewis was signed April 10 after the Carolina Panthers released him. Precisely two weeks later, the Patriots signed Gerard Warren. Warren, who is immense (6'4", 325 pounds) and can play anywhere on the line, spent the past three seasons with Oakland before he was released in March after totaling 57 tackles and six sacks over the past two seasons. Coincidentally, Warren was the third overall selection in the 2001 draft by the Cleveland Browns, chosen three picks before the Patriots selected Richard Seymour. Seymour was Warren’s teammate in Oakland last season and, despite an

acrimonious and shocking departure from the Patriots before the start of last season, Seymour helped convince Warren that New England would be a good fit. In that same 2001 draft, Lewis was chosen 12th overall by the St. Louis Rams. Three second-year linemen should also be in the mix for meaningful playing time. Ron Brace, a second-round pick a year ago out of Boston College, spent the brunt of his first season living out the old Bill Parcells “Ball In High Grass” theory: the kid was lost. Brace was active for just eight games, starting twice at nose tackle when Wilfork missed the final three games of the regular season with an ankle injury. It did not reflect well on Brace that fellow rookie Myron Pryor, a sixth-round pick in the same draft out of the University of Kentucky, had an easier time acclimating to the Patriots’ system and the NFL. Pryor played 13 games a season ago, making 21 tackles. Darryl Richard, a seventh-rounder last year, spent the entire season on the practice squad, but in a sign that the Patriots are confident he’ll eventually be a contributor, he was awarded with an active-player salary rather than a practice squad salary near the midseason mark. Rookie defensive tackles Brandon Deaderick and Kade Weston, both seventh-round picks, will battle 2009 practicesquadder Adrian Grady and rookie Kyle Love for a place on the roster.  MSP

record book SACKS, SEASON Rank 1. 2. 3. 5.

Player Andre Tippett Andre Tippett Mike Vrabel Andre Tippett Willie McGinest Garin Veris

Year 1984 1985 2007 1986 1995 1986

Total 18.5 16.5 12.5 12.5 11.0 11.0

Years 1982–93 1994–05 1993–00 2001–08 1986–93

Total 100.0 78.0 51.0 48.0 43.5

SACKS, CAREER Rank 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Player Andre Tippett Willie McGinest Chris Slade Mike Vrabel Brent Williams

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

RECENT SACK LEADERS Year 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005

Player Tully Banta-Cain Richard Seymour Mike Vrabel Rosevelt Colvin Rosevelt Colvin

Total 10.0 8.0 12.5 8.5 7.0

Ty Warren is often in the middle of the run-stuffing action for the Pats D.

Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010 | 15


LINEBACKERS In a certain dynasty not so long ago, the linebacker position was arguably the greatest strength of a football team that had a whole lot of them. Willie McGinest and Mike Vrabel were the large, intelligent, ultra-versatile pass rushers. Roman Phifer was the jack of all trades who was particularly adept in pass coverage. Ted Johnson was the designated run-stuffer, Rosevelt Colvin proved smart and savvy after a hip injury affected his pass-rushing burst, and, of course, Tedy Bruschi was the overachieving heart of it all, the role player who became a star. Actually, now that we mention it, maybe it was so long ago. It felt that way at times last season, as the Patriots struggled with the transition to a younger defense. After eight seasons in New England in which he may have been

2010 ROSTER No.

Player

Position

HT

WT

Year

52

Eric Alexander

LB

6'2"

240

6

95

Tully Banta-Cain

LB

6'2"

250

8

98

Shawn Crable

LB

6'5"

243

3

45

Dane Fletcher

LB

6’2”

244

R

59

Gary Guyton

LB

6'3"

243

3

51

Jerod Mayo

LB

6'1"

242

3

44

Tyrone McKenzie

LB

6'2"

243

2

93

Marques Murrell

LB

6'2"

250

4

50

Rob Ninkovich

LB

6'2"

255

5

55

Brandon Spikes

LB

6’2”

250

R

48

Thomas Williams

LB

6'1"

237

2

58

Pierre Woods

LB

6'5"

250

5

the player who most epitomized the Belichick philosophy, Vrabel was unceremoniously sent to Kansas City along with quarterback Matt Cassel for a second-round draft choice. When Bruschi retired after 13 seasons at the end of training camp, not only had the Patriots lost a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge, they also lost leadership that was virtually impossible to replace. In 2009, it never was. That’s not to suggest it wasn’t time for them to go. Both had slowed noticeably, particularly Bruschi. But to lose them both at the same time left a void on the field as well as off. When veteran Adalius Thomas proved a locker room malignancy, one couldn’t help but notice that his petulant challenges of Belichick’s authority happened during his third season in New England, but the first without the pair of veteran leaders. Thomas, mercifully, was discarded after a season in which the alleged pass rusher, who was in the middle of a five-year, $35-million deal, collected all of three sacks, a number barely surpassing his number of game-day deactivations (two). But what’s past is past. We’ve already spent too much time dwelling on the past here, particularly since there is plenty of promise in the Patriots’ youthful core of linebackers.

TEAM STATISTICAL TRENDS

NFL Rank:

team YARDS ALLOWED PER PLAY %01 avg

35 28.0

31

28.5

22

28 27.1

24.8

18 28.0

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 31 4 T-9 T-20 T-12

6.5 6.2 5.9 5.6 5.3 5.0 4.7 4.4 4.1 3.8 3.5

5.3 5.1

5.0

4.9

5.2

5.2

5.4 5.3

5.4 5.3

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 25 10 7 19 19

16 | Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010

NFL Average

OPPONENTS’ team avg3RD DOWN CONV. %01 3rd Down Conv. Allowed (%)

40 37 34 31 28 25 22 19 16 13 10

TAKEAWAYS avg

%01

Yards Allowed/Play

Total Takeaways

team

Patriots

50 44.4% 47 42.0% 39.5% 44 38.1% 35.9% 37.1% 38.7% 38.6% 41 38 33.7% 35 39.5% 32 29 26 23 20 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 29 8 4 26 12

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images Sport

Jerod Mayo has led the Patriots in tackles in each of his two seasons.


PATRIOTS Position Profiles

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS Tackles Solo Asst Total

Sacks

Int- Yds

Pass Def

103

1.5

0-0

0

85

1.5

0-0

4

20

55

10

0-0

2

11

23

0

0-0

0

4

10

14

1

0-0

2

10

8

4

12

0

0-0

0

14

0

5

5

0

0-0

0

DEFENSE

G

Jerod Mayo

13

70

33

Gary Guyton

16

55

30

Tully Banta-Cain

16

35

Pierre Woods

16

12

Rob Ninkovich

15

Marques Murrell Eric Alexander

The undeniable leader of the new generation is Jerod Mayo, who enters his third season not only with the blessing of Bruschi, who marveled at his work ethic and maturity during and after his rookie season, but as the leading returning tackler (70 solo, 33 assists). The next step for the Tennessee product is to become more of a playmaker. He has just two forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks, and no interceptions in 29 career games. Mayo is joined inside by 2008 rookie classmate Gary Guyton, who finished last season second on the team with 85 tackles (55 solo). While the speedy Guyton is a max-effort player, he struggles to shed blockers at a lithe 245 pounds, and he’s more suited to a limited role, though he was awarded with a two-year contract extension in June. Guyton will be

pushed inside by Tyrone McKenzie, a third-round pick in 2009 who missed his entire rookie season after suffering a knee injury in training camp, and 2010 second-round pick Brandon Spikes, who draws comparisons to former Patriot Bryan Cox for his tenacity. Both Spikes and McKenzie impressed in OTAs in June. After two well-compensated but ineffective seasons in San Francisco in which he compiled just 3.5 sacks, Tully Banta-Cain returned to the team that drafted him in the seventh round in 2003 and thrived as an outside linebacker/ pass-rushing specialist. Banta-Cain had ten sacks in 16 games (ten starts) last season and received a three-year contract in March. The other outside linebacker spot, vacated by Thomas, is where the Patriots could have some interesting competition. Pierre Woods, the fifth-year veteran who started five games on the outside last year, is an adequate place holder. Among the intriguing candidates is second-round pick Jermaine Cunningham—who will also see time at defensive end in the hybrid-type role—and 2008 third-round pick Shawn Crable, who is yet to play an NFL down because of repeated leg injuries. Six-year veteran Eric Alexander, Rob Ninkovich, Marques Murrell, Thomas Williams, and Dane Fletcher are also in the mix and will have to prove their worth on special teams.  MSP

record book TACKLES, SEASON Rank 1. 2. 3. 5.

Player Vincent Brown Rodney Harrison Tedy Bruschi Reggie E. White Rodney Harrison

Year 1988 2004 2003 2005 2003

Total 158 138 133 133 127

Years 1996–08 1988–95 1996–02 1995–04 1994–05

Total 1,067 811 763 760 668

TACKLES, CAREER Rank 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Player Tedy Bruschi Vincent Brown Lawyer Milloy Ted Johnson Willie McGinest

Photo: Rob Tringali/Sportschrome

RECENT TACKLE LEADERS

Tully Banta-Cain savors one of his team-high ten sacks, this one coming at the expense of Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan.

Year 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005

Player Jerod Mayo Jerod Mayo Tedy Bruschi Tedy Bruschi Mike Vrabel

Total 103 126 93 113 108

Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010 | 17


DEFENSIVE BACKS

Brandon McGowan (30) and Brandon Meriweather (31) are arguably the two hardest hitters in the Patriots secondary.

2010 ROSTER No.

Player

Position

HT

WT

Year

27

Kyle Arrington

CB

5'10"

196

2

23

Leigh Bodden

CB

6'1"

193

8

38

Sergio Brown

DB

6'2"

210

R

28

Darius Butler

CB

5'10"

183

2

25

Patrick Chung

S

5'11"

212

2

43

Terrence Johnson

DB

5'9"

190

R

26

Bret Lockett

S

6'1"

211

2

31

Brandon Meriweather

S

5'11"

200

4

32

Devin McCourty

CB

5'10"

193

R

30

Brandon McGowan

S

5'11"

207

6

36

James Sanders

S

5'10"

210

6

41

Ross Ventrone

DB

5'8"

190

R

22

Terrence Wheatley

CB

5'9"

183

3

24

Jonathan Wilhite

CB

5'11"

185

3

Patrick Chung, a hard-hitting safety who looked ready for an expanded role during June’s OTAs, as well as rookie firstround cornerback Devin McCourty). It’s an intriguing group, with the potential to form the Patriots’ best defensive backfield since the Law-HarrisonWilson-Poole-Samuel heyday in 2003–04. But there are also flaws to overcome, or at the least improvements that must be made. Last year, the Patriots allowed just five pass plays of 40-plus yards, tied for fifth-best overall, but they gave up 42 plays of 20-plus yards, which was near the middle of the pack, rating 12th. The fundamental conclusion: The Patriots rarely got burned deep, but were very susceptible to big plays in the middle of the field. The surprise selection of McCourty—who could emerge as the nickel back and cover the opposing slot receiver as a rookie—in the first round makes more sense when you realize the Patriots gave up over 400 total yards four times, including a humiliating 38–17 loss to the Saints November 30 in which New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees was 18-for-23 for 371 yards and five touchdowns.

TEAM STATISTICAL TRENDS

Patriots

PASSING EFFICIENCY AGAINST team avg %01 Opponent QB Rating

Yards Allowed/Game

100 96 92 88 84 80 76 72 68 64 60

89.8

87.8

83.2

78.2

78.1 80.9

81.7 83.0

66.1 78.5

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 27 2 11 23 13

18 | Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010

INTERCEPTIONS %01 avg

team

Total Interceptions

PASSING DEFENSE avg %01

team

300 280 260 231.4 209.7 240 203.5 200.2 190.1 201.4 218.5 214.3 211.3 204.8 220 200 180 160 140 120 100 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 NFL Rank: 31 12 6 11 12

NFL Average

30 27 24 21 18 15 12 9 6 3 0

22.0 16.3

10.0 15.8

19.0 16.7

14.0

18.0 16.4

14.5

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 T-26 4 T-6 T-15 T-11

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images Sport

Barring health issues or an unexplained extended cameo by Chris Canty, there is little doubt that the defensive backfield will be one of the deepest and most well-rounded positions for the Patriots this season. Skeptical? Then take a look around at the various demographics: there’s prime-of-career experience (cornerback Leigh Bodden, safety James Sanders), a rangy safety coming into his own (Brandon Meriweather, who made his first Pro Bowl in his third season), and the promise of youth (turbocharged second-year corner Darius Butler and classmate


PATRIOTS Position Profiles

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS DEFENSE

G

Tackles Solo Asst Total

Sacks

Int- Yds

Pass Def

Brandon Meriweather 16

52

30

82

0

5-145

9

Brandon McGowan

16

50

20

70

0

0-0

5

Leigh Bodden

15

47

8

55

0

5-60

17

James Sanders

14

30

16

46

0

0-0

3

Jonathan Wilhite

14

35

8

43

0

2-17

5

Darius Butler

14

32

3

35

0

3-91

8

Patrick Chung

16

17

12

29

2

1-2

1

Bret Lockett

10

5

2

7

0

0-0

0

Kyle Arrington

8

0

4

4

0

0-0

0

Terrence Wheatley

5

1

0

1

0

0-0

0

Photo: Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Overall, the Patriots owned the 12th-best pass defense in the league, allowing 209.7 passing yards per game, and that respectable number came despite a pass rush that finished tied for 23rd in sacks (31) and struggled to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback. In a related note, they were tied for 11th in interceptions with 18. Tough to make a big play when the quarterback has all day, yet Bodden managed to do so enough last season to earn a four-year, $22 million contract ($10 million guaranteed) in

If the Pats secondary is going to improve, Darius Butler is going to have to take a step forward in his second year.

the offseason. Bodden, 28, tied Meriweather for the team lead in interceptions with five, three coming against the Jets and hyped rookie Mark Sanchez in Week 11. He’s also a dependable tackler—he had 47 solo stops—and defended 17 passes. The starter opposite of Bodden is likely to be Butler, the small but remarkably quick UConn product. As a rookie, he had three interceptions in five starts, including a 91-yard return for a touchdown in the regular season finale at Houston. Butler’s competition includes the rookie McCourty (who is more likely to have nickel back duty), third-year man Jonathan Wilhite, who struggled in eight starts in ’09, and 2008 second-round pick Terrence Wheatley, who is in a make or break season, having played just 11 games in two seasons due to injury and an inability to make the game-day roster. At strong safety, Meriweather emerged as a core building block in his third season after being chosen in the first round in 2007. He started all 16 games, intercepted five passes, and led the DBs with 82 tackles, 52 solo. While he sometimes still takes Tebuckian routes to ball carriers, he generally proved worthy of the praise his former mentor Rodney Harrison often sent his way from his porch on the NBC Football Night in America set. The Patriots had a noticeable juxtaposition at free safety last year, where smart but unspectacular James Sanders began the season as the starter, lost his job to hard-hitting but not always disciplined Brandon McGowan in Week 2, then earned it back for the final four games record book of the season when INTERCEPTIONS, SEASON Bill Belichick decided the defensive backfield lacked cohesion. Chung, who showed promise in a limited role as a rookie, shouldn’t be overlooked. Also in the mix for reserve and special teams duty are holdovers Kyle Arrington and Bret Lockett, who both excel on kick coverage, as well as rookie free agents Sergio Brown, Ross Ventrone, and Terrence Johnson.  MSP

Rank 1. 2. 3. 4.

Player Ron Hall Asante Samuel Ty Law Ronnie Lippett Mike Haynes

Year 1964 2006 1998 1986 1976

Total 11 10 9 8 8

INTERCEPTIONS, CAREER Rank Player 1. Ty Law Raymond Clayborn 3. Fred Marion Roland James Ron Hall

Years Total 1995–04 36 1977–89 36 1982–91 29 1980–89 29 1961–67 29

RECENT INTERCEPTION LEADERS Year 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005

Player Meriweather & L. Bodden

Brandon Meriweather Asante Samuel Asante Samuel Samuel & E. Hobbs

Total 5 4 6 10 3

Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010 | 19


SPECIAL TEAMS It’s a bit unusual, and perhaps even initially alarming, when among the first attributes discussed regarding a brand-new first-round pick is his ability to play special teams. Yet such was the case in late April when the Patriots selected Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty with the 27th overall selection. “He’s a special teams demon!”, we were told, which led to an obvious question. A kick-coverage specialist in the first round? Okay. But, um, is he any good at, you know, cornerback? The latter, of course, is to be determined over dozens of Sundays, but his special teams skills—he blocked seven kicks in his 52 games at Rutgers—undoubtedly gave him an extra element of appeal to coach Bill Belichick.

2010 ROSTER No.

Position

HT

WT

Year

3

Stephen Gostkowski

Player

K

6'1"

210

5

47

Jake Ingram

LS

6'2"

232

2

14

Zoltan Mesko

P

6'5"

231

R

McCourty will be joining a core of proven special teamers in New England, most likely including last year’s captain, wide receiver Sam Aiken, and cornerback Kyle Arrington, who tied Pierre Woods for the team lead in special teams tackles (18) despite playing just eight games. Woods and Eric Alexander are longtime contributors but their ownership of spots on the roster depends upon whether they can beat out younger linebackers also capable of playing special teams. The Patriots’ return game a season ago was effective if hardly spectacular. They finished fifth in the NFL in punt returns at 11.7 yards per return and 15th overall on kick returns with an average of 22.7. Wes Welker handled the brunt of the punt return duties last season, fielding 27 for an average of 12.5 yards per return. That is extremely unlikely to happen again anytime soon, given his return from a knee injury and the risky business of having such a crucial player in that line of duty. The only other Patriots to return punts last season were Julian Edelman (six) and Kevin Faulk (five), so it’s probable that someone such as receivers Brandon Tate and Taylor Price, second-year cornerback Stephen Gostkowski has developed into one of the NFL’s best kickers.

NFL Rank:

36.8

34.6 37.1

36.1 37.3

PUNT avgCOVERAGE %01

team

team

36.8 37.5

34.1 38.3

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 5 29 24 20 T-31

20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0

14.4 9.6 8.1

9.3

11.1 8.7

9.0 8.5

5.4 9.1

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 27 26 2 30 21

20 | Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010

Yards/Punt Return

38.3

NET avg PUNTING %01 Yards Allowed/Punt Return

Yards/Punt

team

45 43 41 39 37 35 33 31 29 27 25

Patriots

13.0 12.2 11.4 10.6 9.8 9.0 8.2 7.4 6.6 5.8 5.0

NFL Average

PUNT %01 avg RETURNS 11.7

11.4

8.7

10.3 9.4 7.9

8.5

9.3

9.1

8.1

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 16 3 11 9 5

Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images

TEAM STATISTICAL TRENDS


PATRIOTS Position Profiles

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS FG Pct 0-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ Lg Blk M-A Stephen Gostkowski 26-31 83.9 0-0 7-7 12-13 5-8 2-3 53 0

Place Kicking

Punting

No

Yds

Avg

Lg

TB

FC

In 20 Blk

(NO RETURNING PLAYERS AT THIS POSITION) Punt Return

No

Yds

Avg

Long

TD

Wes Welker

27

338

12.5

59

0

Julian Edelman

6

63

10.5

35

0

Kevin Faulk

5

31

6.2

15

0 TD

Kick Return

No

Yds

Avg

Long

Laurence Maroney

13

279

21.5

52

0

Matthew Slater

11

269

24.5

35

0

Julian Edelman

11

241

21.9

32

0

Kevin Faulk

6

144

24.0

32

0

Brandon Tate

4

106

26.5

34

0

Darius Butler

5

104

20.5

26

0

Wes Welker

2

45

22.5

27

0

Darius Butler, or perhaps even McCourty will get a long look in camp. Kick return duties a season ago were split among Laurence Maroney (13 returns, 21.5 yards per return), Matt Slater (11, 24.5), and Edelman (11, 21.9), with four other players returning at least two kicks. Tate, who was a dynamic

return man during his days at North Carolina, could emerge as a threat in his second NFL season should he overcome his injury issues. He averaged 26.5 yards in four returns over two games last season for the Patriots. The Patriots have had security in their kicking game since undrafted free agent and Amsterdam Admirals refugee Adam Vinatieri won the job before the 1996 season, and that strong legacy continues four years after the future Hall of Famer’s departure. In his fourth season, Stephen Gostkowski again proved he’s an elite kicker—and again confirmed he’s a morethan-worthy successor to Vinatieri—by scoring 125 points, good for sixth in the NFL. He has reached the 100-point mark in each of his four seasons, and last season nailed 26-of-31 field goal attempts and all 47 of his extra-point tries. Veteran Chris Hanson handled the punting chores last season, but after finishing 35th among qualifying NFL punters last season in average (39.7) and 34th in net average (34.1) he was not re-signed. Massive (6'5", 231 pounds) rookie Zoltan Mesko, a fifth-round pick out of Michigan, is the frontrunner, if not a downright shoo-in, for the job, and with his comic-book hero name and affable personality, he has a chance to be a cult hero. The long snapper is second-year man Jake Ingram, who proved a capable successor to Lonie Paxton as a rookie though he could be pushed by rookie Thomas Welch.  MSP

record book FIELD GOALS, SEASON Rank Player 1. Stephen Gostkowski 2. Tony Franklin 3. Adam Vinatieri 4. Adam Vinatieri 5. 4 Tied

Year 2008 1986 2004 2000

M-A 36-40 32-41 31-33 31-39 27

FIELD GOALS, CAREER

Photo: Doug Benc/Getty Images Sport

Rank Player Years 1. Adam Vinatieri 1996–05 2. Gino Cappelletti 1960–70 3. John Smith 1974–83 4. Stephen Gostkowski 2006– 5. Tony Franklin 1984–87

M-A 263-321 176-333 128-191 103-121 93-125

RECENT FIELD GOAL LEADERS Year 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005

Player Stephen Gostkowski Stephen Gostkowski Stephen Gostkowski Stephen Gostkowski Adam Vinatieri

M-A 26-31 36-40 21-24 20-26 20-25

Pierre Woods led the Patriots in special teams tackles last season with 18.

Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010 | 21


2010 Numerical Roster #

NAME

3

Stephen Gostkowski

POS

HT

WT

YR

#

POS

HT

WT

YR

K

6'1"

 210

 5

 53

7 8

NAME Derrick Burgess

DE

6'2"

 260

 10

Zac Robinson

QB

6'3"

 218

 R

 55

Brandon Spikes

MLB

6'2"

 249

 R

Brian Hoyer

QB

6'2"

 215

 2

 58

Pierre Woods

LB

6'5"

 250

 5

 10

Darnell Jenkins

WR

5'10"  191

 1

 59

Gary Guyton

LB

6'3"

 242

 3

 11

Julian Edelman

WR

6'0"

 198

 2

 60

Rich Ohrnberger

OL

6'2"

 291

 2

 12

Tom Brady

QB

6'4"

 225

 11

 61

Stephen Neal

G

6'4"

 305

 9

 13

Buddy Farnham

WR

6'0"

 185

 R

 62

Ted Larsen

C

6'2"

 305

 R

 14

Zoltan Mesko

P

6'5"

 231

 R

 63

Dan Connolly

OL

6'4"

 313

 5

 15

Tyree Barnes

WR

6'0"

 196

 1

 64

Mark LeVoir

T

6'7"

 306

 4

 16

Shun White

WR

5'8"

 195

 1

 65

Adrian Grady

DL

6'1"

 290

 1

 17

Taylor Price

WR

6'0"

 212

 R

 66

Kade Weston

DT

6'5"

 315

 R

 18

Matthew Slater

WR

6'0"

 198

 3

 66

George Bussey

OL

6'2"

 306

 2

 19

Brandon Tate

WR

6'0"

 210

 2

 67

Dan Koppen

C

6'2"

 296

 8

 21

Fred Taylor

RB

6'1"

 228

 13

 68

Gerard Warren

DL

6'4"

 330

 10

 22

Terrence Wheatley

CB

5'9"

 183

 3

 69

Ryan Wendell

G

6'2"

 275

 2

 23

Leigh Bodden

CB

6'1"

 193

 8

 70

Logan Mankins

G

6'4"

 310

 5

 24

Jonathan Wilhite

CB

5'11"  185

 3

 71

Brandon Deaderick

DL

6'4"

 287

 R

 25

Patrick Chung

SS

5'11"  212

 2

 71

John Wise

OL

6'5"

 298

 R

 26

Bret Lockett

DB

6'1"

 211

 2

 72

Matt Light

T

6'4"

 305

 10

 27

Kyle Arrington

CB

5'10"  196

 2

 74

Kyle Love

DL

6'1"

 301

 R

 28

Darius Butler

CB

5'10"  183

 2

 74

Thomas Welch

OL

6'7"

 310

 R

 29

Chris Taylor

RB

6'0"

 30

Brandon McGowan

 31

Brandon Meriweather

 32

Devin McCourty

 33

Kevin Faulk

 34

Sammy Morris

 35

Pat Paschall

 36

James Sanders

 38

Sergio Brown

 39

Laurence Maroney

 41

Ross Ventrone

 42

BenJarvus Green-Ellis

 43  44

 224

 5

 75

Vince Wilfork

DL

6'2"

 325

 7

S

5'11"  207

 6

 76

Sebastian Vollmer

OL

6'8"

 315

 2

S

5'11"  200

 4

 77

Nick Kaczur

T

6'4"

 315

 6

CB

5'10"  193

 1

 80

Rob Myers

TE

6'4"

 240

 1

RB

5'8"

 202

 12

 81

Randy Moss

WR

6'4"

 210

 13

RB

6'0"

 220

 11

 82

Alge Crumpler

TE

6'6"

290

 10

RB

5'11"  206

 R

 83

Wes Welker

WR

5'9"

 185

 7

S

5'10"  210

 6

 84

Torry Holt

WR

6'1"

 190

 11

DB

6'2"

 205

 R

 85

Aaron Hernandez

TE

6'2"

 250

 R

RB

5'11"  220

 5

 86

David Patten

WR

5'10"  190

 13

DB

5'8"

 190

 R

 87

Rob Gronkowski

TE

6'6"

 265

 R

RB

5'11"  215

 3

 88

Sam Aiken

WR

6'2"

 215

 8

Terrence Johnson

DB

5'9"

 190

 R

 90

Darryl Richard

DT

6'4"

 290

 1

Tyrone McKenzie

LB

6'2"

 243

 2

 91

Myron Pryor

DT

6'1"

 310

 2

 44

Eric Kettani

RB

5'11"  235

 1

 92

Damione Lewis

DT

6'2"

 301

 10

 45

Dane Fletcher

LB

6'2"

 244

 R

 93

Marques Murrell

LB

6'2"

 250

 4

 46

Thomas Clayton

RB

5'11"  222

 3

 94

Ty Warren

DL

6'6"

 300

 8

 47

Jake Ingram

LS

6'2"

 232

 2

 95

Tully Banta-Cain

LB

6'2"

 250

 8

 48

Thomas Williams

LB

6'2"

 237

 2

 96

Jermaine Cunningham

DE

6'3"

 266

 R

 50

Rob Ninkovich

LB

6'2"

 255

 5

 97

Ron Brace

DT

6'3"

 330

 2

 51

Jerod Mayo

LB

6'1"

 242

 3

 98

Shawn Crable

LB

6'5"

 243

 3

 52

Eric Alexander

LB

6'2"

 240

 6

 99

Mike Wright

DL

6'4"

 295

 6


Beasts of the East Schedule features tough divisional match-ups by Dave D’Onofrio

W

hen the NFL realigned its divisions to make room for the Houston Texans in 2002, and sliced a team from the AFC East, simple math suggested that every year the Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, and Jets would each, theoretically, have a one-in-four chance of winning its championship and the corresponding playoff spot. Theory and reality, though, have rendered far different results. Although there’s one fewer team for each club to contend with, the fight for the East has actually been as lopsided as ever. In eight seasons New England has won the division six times. This year that could be poised to change. Las Vegas still says the Patriots are the team to beat, but considering that both the Jets and the Dolphins spent the offseason doggedly trying to upgrade already decent teams, and the difficulty of the New England schedule, the Pats may enter this season with as little security as they’ve had in a while. Based on last year’s records, the schedule rates as the sixth-hardest in football—and really does New England no favors. The early run of division games could put them in a hole quickly, and it’ll be tough to climb out with good teams looming in five of the six weeks after the bye. Even the easiest game on the schedule, against Detroit, could be complicated with just three days to prepare. So if the Patriots are to continue their reign in the East, they’re certainly going to earn it. Dave D’Onofrio is a sports reporter for the Concord Monitor (NH), where he’s covered the World Series, the city Little League championship, and everything in between. The recipient of five national awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors, he lives in the Boston suburbs with his wife and dog.

Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010 | 23


2010 Patriots football

CINCINNATI

SEPTEMBER 12 gILLETTE STADIUM, 1:00 PM

When their 2009 season began with one of the flukiest defeats After tabbing the quarterback with the top pick in the football has ever seen—as Denver’s Brandon Stokley came 2003 draft, Cincinnati spent much of the last decade with its down with a deflected pass, then raced 87 yards to the end zone hopes hinged to Carson Palmer and a high-powered offense, for a mind-blowing, buzzer-beating touchdown that made the though last year’s success was predicated more on a defense Broncos winners in a 12–7 stunner—the only facet that made that played its way onto the NFL leader boards in a variety of any sense was the identity of the victims. These, after all, were critical categories. the Bengals. Decades of difficulty said no disaster was beyond Only five teams gave up fewer points than the Bengals the reach of their failures, and so logic suggested it was simply (18.2 per contest). On average they yielded just 203.1 yards the start of another long season in through the air (ranking sixth), and Cincinnati. only 98.3 on the ground (seventh), But logic was wrong. resulting in eight games where they A week after losing to the held opponents to 14 points or less. Broncos, the Bengals beat the Packers Linebacker Dhani Jones led the at Lambeau Field. The next week they way with 113 tackles in the middle of knocked off the reigning champion Cincinnati’s 4-3 defense, while Antwan Steelers. Then in the two weeks after Odom had eight sacks (in just six that they won division road games games) coming off the right end, and against the Browns and Ravens. By the cornerbacks Leon Hall and Jonathan end of that stretch they’d faced four Joseph each had six interceptions— teams that eventually finished with leading a unit that’s oldest projected winning records, and the Bengals were starter will have been 30 for just a 4–1—suddenly feeling good about month by opening day. After showing off his fancy footwork on where their franchise might be headed. That leaves plenty of room Dancing With The Stars, Chad Ochocinco is “They believe they can win,” coach for the Bengals defense to get even ready to show off his moves on the field. Marvin Lewis told reporters at the time. better, and with Cedric Benson’s By the end of the regular season Cincinnati had won 1,251 rushing yards bringing balance to Palmer and a passing ten times, and beaten out Pittsburgh and Baltimore for the attack that’ll feature Pro Bowler Chad Ochocinco, big-money title of AFC North champion, so when they kick off 2010 at free-agent Antonio Bryant, and first-round tight end Jermaine Gillette Stadium the Bengals are likely to be carrying that same Gresham, the offense should be good enough to win games. confidence in a program that certainly appears to have moved And, as last season proved, these aren’t the same ol’ in a different direction. Bungles anymore.  MSP

Bengals At-a-Glance 2009 Points For-Against: 305-291 2009 vs. Playoff Teams: 3-3 2009 vs. Division: 6-0 Coach: Marvin Lewis, 56-57 in 7 years with Cincinnati Last Meeting: Patriots 34, Bengals 13; 2007 @ Cincinnati All-Time vs. New England (regular season): Patriots lead 13-8

2009 STATS (NFL Rank) Offense yy Points/Game: 19.1 (22) yy Total Yards/Game: 309.1 (24) yy Rush Yards/Game: 128.5 (9) yy Pass Efficiency: 82.7 (17) Defense yy Points Allowed/Game: 18.2 (6) yy Yards Allowed/Game: 301.4 (4) yy Rush Yds. Allowed/Game: 98.3 (7) yy Pass Eff. Against: 73.6 (7) Team yy Turnover Margin: Even (18) yy Time of Possession: 32:29 (5) yy Penalty Yards/Game: 53.9 (26)

24 | Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010

Key Players LB Rey Maualuga: Offseason included a DUI arrest and ankle surgery; will he progress in his second season? QB Carson Palmer: His 3,094 passing yards last year were 742 fewer than any other full season of his career. WR Antonio Bryant: Had 39 catches for 600 yards with Tampa, then got a four-year, $28 million deal with Cincy. The Good News & The Bad News yy Passing game ranked 26th despite Palmer’s full season. yy AFC’s fourth-best in points allowed in 2009.

Photo: Tom Dahlin/Getty Images Sport

HISTORICAL RECORD 2009 Record: 10-6 (1st AFC North) Lost in Wild Card Playoffs


Beasts Of The East

NEW YORK (A)

SEPTEMBER 19, 4:15 PM (AWAY) DECEMBER 6, 8:30 PM (HOME)

A win is a win, and style points probably mean less in football spring, each of the players they acquired arrived at the brand than in any other sport, so the Jets deserve credit for getting new Giants Stadium with some serious questions among the four they needed to reach the AFC Championship Game their baggage. a season ago. They put themselves in position then played In the cases of running back LaDainian Tomlinson and well enough to seize the opportunities presented to them. linebacker Jason Taylor, those questions pertain to what each And those opportunities were presented. On a silver plathas left, with the former coming off the worst season of his ter big enough for Rex Ryan’s appetite, no less. career and the latter a 36-year-old pass rusher who last year The first came a week after the had just 1.5 sacks after Halloween. coach mistakenly apologized for missAnd in the cases of wideout ing the playoffs, when Indianapolis Santonio Holmes and cornerback pulled its starters instead of protecting Antonio Cromartie, the wonder is a lead in the second half. The next whether football really matters to came a week later, when Cincinnati either of them. Holmes may be among didn’t bother to show up because its the more talented receivers in the place in the postseason was secure. game, but will miss the first four games The Jets were just plain better due to a substance-abuse suspension. than the Bengals when the teams met Cromartie, meanwhile, borrowed again in the postseason the following money from his new team to make week, but it’d be hard to make the child-support payments, and the uptick same case for the subsequent divisional of those bills has seemingly come in round. New York was outgained and inverse proportion to his on-field skills. We’re used to seeing LaDainian Tomlinson outplayed by San Diego, but got one Is Ryan up to the challenge of holding a football. But that Jets jersey will long Shonn Greene touchdown run fitting them into his sytem? To this take some getting used to. and Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding point, he’s proven himself a defensive missed three field goal tries as the Jets won by three points. mastermind—led by shutdown corner Darrelle Revis, the Jets Sure, it was a feat to get within a game of the Super Bowl were the league’s stingiest team in 2009—but now he’ll need before losing to the Colts. But let’s not overstate how good the to continue building his program while incorporating a handJets were in 2009 when assessing their chances for 2010, either. ful of big-ego veterans. That’ll be a serious leadership test. For much of the year they were a flawed team with New York also needs quarterback Mark Sanchez to make some obvious weaknesses, and while they were aggressive in major gains in year two, after an offseason that included knee attempting to fill their needs with some big name talent this surgery.  MSP

Jets At-a-Glance HISTORICAL RECORD 2009 Record: 9-7 (2nd AFC East) Lost AFC Championship Game 2009 Points For-Against: 348-236

Photo: Al Pereira/Getty Images Sport

2009 vs. Playoff Teams: 3-2 2009 vs. Division: 2-4 Coach: Rex Ryan, 11-8 in one season with New York 2009 vs. Patriots: NYJ 16, NE 9 @ New York; NE 31, NYJ 14 @ New England All-Time vs. New England (regular season): Jets lead 50-48-1

2009 STATS (NFL Rank) Offense yy Points/Game: 21.8 (17) yy Total Yards/Game: 321.0 (20) yy Rush Yards/Game: 172.3 (1) yy Pass Efficiency: 62.0 (28) Defense yy Points Allowed/Game: 14.8 (1) yy Yards Allowed/Game: 252.3 (1) yy Rush Yds. Allowed/Game: 98.6 (8) yy Pass Eff. Against: 58.8 (1) Team yy Turnover Margin: +1 (16) yy Time of Possession: 32:07 (7) yy Penalty Yards/Game: 42.3 (7)

Key Players RB Shonn Greene: Ran for 540 yards in the regular season as a rookie, then 304 in the playoffs. CB Darrelle Revis: Has quickly become the type of playmaking cover man who can eliminate half the field. NT Kris Jenkins: The key to New York’s 3-4 front, if he can recover from his third season-ending injury, an ACL tear. The Good News & The Bad News yy Second-worst pass offense produced 148.8 yards per game. yy Top-rated pass defense yielded 153.7 ypg.

Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010 | 25


2010 Patriots football

BUFFALO

SEPTEMBER 26, 1:00 PM (HOME) dECEMBER 26, 1:00 PM (AWAY)

In the days after firing Dick Jauron last November, the reliable-if-not-remarkable players including a linebacking Buffalo Bills began flirting with Mike Shanahan. They gauged corps of Chris Kelsay, Kawika Mitchell, Paul Posluszny, and the two-time champion’s interest in becoming their coach, Patriots-killer Aaron Schobel. they flew to Denver to have a discussion, and one rumor Offensively, however, Buffalo needed major upgrades floated that ownership might consider offering him a contract after ranking 30th in yardage (273.9 per game) and 28th in worth $50 million if that’s what it took. points (16.1) last season—yet the Bills did little to address They recognized the need to those issues. change the culture in Buffalo, where The quarterback will come from the team has now suffered through six among the uninspiring trio of Trent straight losing seasons, hasn’t made Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Brian the playoffs since 1999, and was in Brohm, and the guy who emerges will desperate need of someone to orchesplay behind the same offensive line trate an organizational overhaul. that surrendered the fifth-most sacks Instead they wound up with in football last season, while throwing Chan Gailey. to a since-depleted receiving corps. And so the Bills’ swirling cycle Josh Reed and Terrell Owens are gone, seems destined to continue. leaving Lee Evans as the only returning Gailey was head coach of the wideout who caught at least ten balls for Cowboys for a couple years, in Buffalo last season. Over the spring they 1998–99, and after moving to Georgia signed Chad Jackson to compete for the Tech for much of this decade, took #3 role. Yes, that Chad Jackson. The Bills chose speedy Clemson his most recent NFL job as offensive The lone bright spot for the Bills running back C.J. Spiller with the coordinator for the Chiefs. He lasted attack is running back Fred Jackson, ninth overall pick of the April draft. all of 16 games in that role, leading the a running/receiving/returning threat league’s 26th-ranked offense in 2008, then being relieved of his who led the NFL in all-purpose yards a year ago. But that just duties three games into the ’09 preseason—and somehow still made more curious Buffalo’s choice to spend its first-round convinced the Bills he was the man to lead their resurgence. pick—the ninth overall—on back C.J. Spiller. The personnel changes Buffalo made on the field aren’t The beat goes on for Buffalo, where impact has seemmuch more inspiring than those on the sideline, either. ingly become an afterthought. And they’ll likely live another Defensively the club was decent last year, when it fell in year in football purgatory, along with Chan Gailey, to the middle of the pack statistically, and it returns a cast of prove it.  MSP

Bills At-a-Glance 2009 Points For-Against: 258-326 2009 vs. Playoff Teams: 2-4 2009 vs. Division: 2-4 Coach: Chan Gailey, 1st year with Bills, 18-16 in 2 NFL seasons 2009 vs. Patriots: NE 25, Buff. 24 @ New England; NE 17, Buff. 10 @ Buffalo All-Time vs. New England (regular season): Patriots lead 58-40-1

2009 STATS (NFL Rank) Offense yy Points/Game: 16.1 (28) yy Total Yards/Game: 273.9 (30) yy Rush Yards/Game: 116.7 (16) yy Pass Efficiency: 71.7 (24) ) Defense yy Points Allowed/Game: 20.4 (16) yy Yards Allowed/Game: 340.6 (19) yy Rush Yds. Allowed/Game: 156.3 (30) yy Pass Eff. Against: 61.1 (2) Team yy Turnover Margin: +3 (12) yy Time of Possession: 28:12 (29) yy Penalty Yards/Game: 53.4 (25)

26 | Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010

Key Players RB Fred Jackson: Had 46 catches to go with 1,062 yards rushing and 1,083 yards returning, for 2,516 all-purpose yards in 2009. LB Aaaron Schobel: Registered 10 sacks, forced three rumbles, and returned a pick for a score last season. WR Lee Evans: Scored seven times in ’09 but other numbers slid significantly to 44 catches for 612 yards. The Good News & The Bad News yy Enter the season with no starting QB. yy Only Jets yielded fewer passing yards (184.3 per game).

Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

HISTORICAL RECORD 2009 Record: 6-10 (4th AFC East)


Beasts Of The East

MIAMI

OCTOBER 4, 8:30 PM (AWAY) JANUARY 2, 1:00 PM (HOME)

In their first year under the purview of Bill Parcells, the Dolphins Nolan isn’t the only thing the Dolphins took from took one big step forward, bounding from one win to a playoff Denver, either. Miami shipped a pair of second-round picks berth. But after going 7–9 in 2009, Miami approached this latto the Mile High City for turbulent but talented receiver est offseason hoping to keep from going two steps back. Brandon Marshall. The wideout blends speed and strength Parcells and his front office were active and aggressive about as well as any in the game. throughout the spring, diving headfirst into free agency, It looks as though Chad Henne will be the one delivering initiating a trade to make their biggest acquisition, and using the ball to Marshall and the emerging Davone Bess, but once the draft to help fill other needs exposed in the course of last again the Dolphins are expected to predicate their attack year’s inconsistency, when the team never won more than two around a running game that ranked fourth league-wide last straight games. year—even though Ronnie Brown The biggest problems came on the missed the final seven games. Ricky defensive side of the ball, where Miami Williams is coming off a 1,121-yard allowed 24.4 points per game (25th campaign at age 33, and Brown is in the NFL), and yielded 349.3 yards expected to be fully healthy for his per contest, thanks to 40 pass plays role as runner of the ball and of the that gained at least 25. So Parcells and Wildcat offense. general manager Jeff Ireland made a Both of those backs will again priority of remaking that unit. They have the protection of left tackle cut starting safety Gibril Wilson, and Jake Long, who has made the Pro let three of their four starting linebackBowl in both seasons since becoming ers go, including Akin Ayodele, Jason the top overall pick in Parcells’ first Taylor, and Joey Porter, even after the draft with the Dolphins. That put the Brandon Marshall had more than his share of troubles in Denver, but was all latter two combined for 16 sacks. former coach’s stamp on the team smiles upon joining the Dolphins. To replace them, Miami right from the start, and if his career guaranteed $22 million on a $43 million deal with Karlos trends continue, next year could be a good one for Miami, Dansby, then made effective use of their early draft picks by since Parcells won a Super Bowl in his fourth year with tabbing end Jared Odrick and outside ’backer Koa Misi, both the Giants, made a Super Bowl in his fourth year with the of whom are projected as possible starters this season. They’ll Patriots, and returned to the playoffs in his fourth year with all be working under Mike Nolan, the newly hired defensive the Cowboys. coordinator who spent last year in Denver, and boosted the First, though, he’s trying to make sure the third is Broncos defense from 29th in the league to seventh. good, too.  MSP

Dolphins At-a-Glance HISTORICAL RECORD 2009 Record: 7-9 (3rd AFC East) 2009 Points For-Against: 360-390 2009 vs. Playoff Teams: 3-4

Photo: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

2009 vs. Division: 4-2 Coach: Tony Sparano, 18-15 in 2 years with Miami 2009 vs. Patriots: NE 27, Miami 17 @ New England; Miami 22, NE 21 @ Miami All-Time vs. New England (regular season): Dolphins lead 49-37

2009 STATS (NFL Rank) Offense yy Points/Game: 22.5 (15) yy Total Yards/Game: 337.6 (17) yy Rush Yards/Game: 139.4 (4) yy Pass Efficiency: 73.3 (23) Defense yy Points Allowed/Game: 24.4 (25) yy Yards Allowed/Game: 349.3 (22) yy Rush Yds. Allowed/Game: 114.7 (18) yy Pass Eff. Against: 86.9 (19) Team yy Turnover Margin: -8 (26) yy Time of Possession: 32:01 (8) yy Penalty Yards/Game: 40.0 (4)

Key Players RB Ricky Williams: Six years between 1,000-yard seasons, but at 4.7 yards per carry, his 2009 was impressive. RB Ronnie Brown: In five years he’s played one full season, so don’t be surprised if he’s hurt. CB Vontae Davis: The young corner had four picks as a rookie—and two were against Tom Brady. The Good News & The Bad News yy Lost two best pass rushers, Joey Porter and Jason Taylor. yy Ronnie Brown’s return gives Miami two 1,000-yard threats.

Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010 | 27


2010 Patriots football

BALTIMORE

october 17 gILLETTE STADIUM, 1:00 PM

It was March 8, still six months from the start of the season, Ravens’ running game as soon as Ray Rice went 83 yards and barely six weeks removed from seeing his offense shut to initiate Baltimore’s 33–14 blowout in the wild card round down by an ordinary Indianapolis defense. But with a new of the playoffs. But when the Colts keyed on the ground game weapon seated alongside, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh a week later the Ravens couldn’t muster anything more than couldn’t wait to get back to business. a single field goal, largely because neither Derrick Mason nor “This is something that has been in the making for a Mark Clayton is a true #1 target at this point in his career. long time, and this is something that That’s why Boldin could we’ve been hoping for, for quite a ultimately prove to be the offseason’s while, as a football staff,” the coach most significant acquisition. He’s had said during a press conference to infive seasons of at least 83 catches and troduce Anquan Boldin, the top-flight 1,024 yards in his seven-year career, receiver the Ravens had just acquired and with a playmaker of his caliber, from the Cardinals. complementary pieces like Mason, “He fits us just perfectly, so we’re Todd Heap, and Willis McGahee get excited about what’s in store, and I even more dangerous around stillknow I can’t wait to get started on developing—but physically gifted— some football.” quarterback Joe Flacco. A budding star In terms of fit, Harbaugh was like Rice gets even better, too. talking about Boldin as a big target The names at the heart of the and as a blocker who’s unafraid to be defense remain the same, with Lewis physical. But others across the league and Reed leading the way, while Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is entering have spoken of Boldin fitting in as, lineman Haloti Ngata and linebacker his 15th season in the NFL. Go ahead, you perhaps, the final piece in Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs have been to the Pro try telling him he’s lost a step. championship puzzle. Bowl over the last couple of seasons. Embodied by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the Ravens have Baltimore also spent its first two draft picks on defenders been built around their defense for more than a decade, who played in last season’s NCAA championship game and while last year was the seventh straight season in which (Texas’s Sergio Kindle and Alabama’s Terrence Cody), so Baltimore ranked among the NFL’s six best on that side of clearly the team recognizes that its defense remains the scrimmage, the club’s playoff exit once again prompted calls top priority. for an offensive upgrade at the receiver position. Although it’s Boldin and offense that have them—and Patriots fans could vouch for the effectiveness of the many others—anxious to see what the Ravens can do.  MSP

Ravens At-a-Glance 2009 Points For-Against: 391-261 2009 vs. Playoff Teams: 1-6 2009 vs. Division: 3-3 Coach: John Harbaugh, 23-14 in 2 years with Baltimore 2009 vs. Patriots: NE 27, Bal. 21 @ NE; Bal. 33, NE 14 in AFC WC game @ NE All-Time vs. New England (regular season): Patriots lead 5-0

2009 STATS (NFL Rank) Offense yy Points/Game: 24.4 (9) yy Total Yards/Game: 351.2 (13) yy Rush Yards/Game: 137.5 (5) yy Pass Efficiency: 87.4 (13) ) Defense yy Points Allowed/Game: 16.3 (3) yy Yards Allowed/Game: 300.5 (3) yy Rush Yds. Allowed/Game: 93.2 (5) yy Pass Eff. Against: 71.9 (6) Team yy Turnover Margin: +10 (4) yy Time of Possession: 29:33 (19) yy Penalty Yards/Game: 68.4 (32)

28 | Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010

Key Players S Ed Reed: Talked about retirement after last season, and health is an issue to start this year. DT Terrence Cody: Could help on an aging d-line, considering no runner gained 100 yards in any of his 26 starts at Alabama. QB Joe Flacco: With Boldin aboard, he’ll be expected to carry a heavier load in the offense. The Good News & The Bad News yy Suspect corners could spoil an otherwise stout defense. yy Running back Rice appears on the verge of stardom.

Photo: Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty Images Sport

HISTORICAL RECORD 2009 Record: 9-7 (T-2nd AFC North) Lost in Division Playoffs


Beasts Of The East

SAN DIEGO

OCTOBER 24 QUALCOMM stadium, 4:15 PM

For the first time since he arrived from Texas Christian in through its personnel decisions: San Diego’s window might 2001, the San Diego Chargers will kick off a season and be starting to close. LaDainian Tomlinson won’t be the face of the franchise. In “We don’t take it for granted,” the team’s leading receiver fact, he won’t even be part of the franchise. told reporters after an off-season workout, “and you can tell Indeed, things have changed a bit for the Chargers since we got the sense of urgency.” their latest Super Bowl-less season, which followed the same At 28 and coming off consecutive 4,000-yard passing pattern of so many before it. Again seasons, Rivers still has good football San Diego came down the stretch ahead of him. So does Gates, the looking like a team to beat in the AFC. 29-year-old who set a career best And again they went home early after with 1,157 receiving yards a year ago, a hard-to-swallow playoff loss. and scored on eight of his 79 catches. In its wake, Tomlinson was let go And so does Jackson, who emerged and became a Jet. Antonio Cromartie, as a legitimate #1 wideout with nine a starting cornerback, followed him touchdowns last season. If Jackson there via trade. Special teams ace is happy, and in the fold, 2009’s Kassim Osgood left for Jacksonville. fifth-best passing attack should be fine Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna again in 2010. went to Chicago. And linebacker The bigger offensive question Shawne Merriman fell further out of is in the running game, where favor, while receiver Vincent Jackson Tomlinson was so good for so long— and left tackle Marcus McNeill both and leaves such a large void. His exit Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threatened to sit out the season if their leaves the Chargers without a player is much better at throwing the football Pro Bowl seasons weren’t rewarded who’s ever had more than 100 hauls than convincing officials to listen to with long-term contracts. in a season. Of the leading candidates what he has to say. Key parts of the nucleus remain, expected to replace him, Darren of course, with quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Sproles has run the ball just 199 times in five NFL seasons, Gates to lead the offense, and terrorizing end Shaun Phillips and Ryan Mathews is a rookie out of Fresno State. joining veteran corner Quentin Jammer on the defensive side. That’s quite a bit different than the sure-fire Hall of But after reaching the playoffs in five of the past six Famer who’ll move past Tony Dorsett and into seventh seasons, and having only three wins to show for those opall-time with 250 yards this season—with his face inside the portunities, Gates acknowledged verbally what the team did white and green helmet of the Jets.  MSP

Chargers At-a-Glance HISTORICAL RECORD 2009 Record: 13-3 (1st AFC West) Lost in Division Playoffs

Photo: Donald Miralle/Getty Images Sport

2009 Points For-Against: 454-320 2009 vs. Playoff Teams: 3-1 2009 vs. Division: 5-1 Coach: Norv Turner, 35-19 in 3 years with San Diego Last Meeting: Chargers 30, Patriots 10; 2008 @ San Diego All-Time vs. New England (regular season): Patriots lead 18-14-2

2009 STATS (NFL Rank) Offense yy Points/Game: 28.4 (4) yy Total Yards/Game: 360.1 (10) yy Rush Yards/Game: 88.9 (31) yy Pass Efficiency: 103.1 (3) Defense yy Points Allowed/Game: 20.0 (11) yy Yards Allowed/Game: 327.0 (16) yy Rush Yds. Allowed/Game: 117.8 (20) yy Pass Eff. Against: 84.2 (17) Team yy Turnover Margin: +8 (6) yy Time of Possession: 29:58 (15) yy Penalty Yards/Game: 35.6 (3)

Key Players RB Darren Sproles: Piled up 2,323 all-purpose yards in ’09, including 1,300 on kick returns and 497 receiving. QB Philip Rivers: Threw 28 touchdowns to just nine picks, and also led the NFL in yards per attempt (8.8) for second straight year. LB Shawne Merriman: After 39.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles from 2005–07, he’s got four sacks without forcing a fumble since. The Good News & The Bad News yy Running game could be problem. yy Vincent Jackson is beginning to emerge as top-tier wideout.

Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010 | 29


2010 Patriots football

MINNESOTA

OCTOBER 31 GILLETTE STADIUM, 4:15 PM

Like the rest of the football world, the Minnesota Vikings of which came against the porous defenses of Cleveland and spent much of the offseason wondering what the future Detroit. And he also lost six fumbles (which was at least two might hold for Brett Favre. Apparently not even a $25 million more than any other 1,000-yard back), and then let the ball contract and a trip to the NFC title game can buy the team slip twice more in the NFC championship. the courtesy of clarity, so instead the club waited along with Still just 25, it’d be crazy to suggest Peterson is already everybody else to learn whether their quarterback would on the downward slope of his career. But it’s worth wondering return for his 20th season. whether the Vikings may have some That answer might well doubts about his long-term durability determine just who’s the team to after deciding to depart with secondbeat in the NFC this season, given and third-round picks to move up that the Vikings were one-and-done 11 spots and take Heisman finalist before Favre’s arrival, and an overtime Toby Gerhart with the 51st choice away from the Super Bowl with the in April’s draft. gunslinger under center. But in terms Favre helped make up for what of Minnesota’s future beyond this was lost on the ground, as did a deseason, Favre’s status probably isn’t fense that ranked among the league’s even the biggest question. ten best in terms of points and yards The bigger question there might allowed, thanks largely to a ferocious actually pertain to Adrian Peterson, the pass rush that led the NFL with 48 running back who was outstanding over sacks. Dynamic end Jared Allen led his first two seasons in the league—but the way with 14.5 takedowns, while The Patriots will have to deal with who appeared to regress a year ago. Ray Edwards had 8.5 coming off the arguably the best running back in the NFL Yes, he scored 18 touchdowns. other edge, and a total of 11 players when they host Adrian Peterson and the And yes, his 1,383 yards ranked fifth took down the opposing quarterback Vikings in Week 8. in the NFL. But Peterson’s per-carry at least once. average dipped for the second straight year, now having gone Minnesota didn’t change much in the offseason from 5.6 to 4.8 to 4.4 over his three seasons. He was less defensively, so it should be similarly strong again this explosive, signified by a 40% drop in carries of at least 20 season—particularly if middle linebacker E.J. Henderson is yards (from 20 to 12). He gained almost 24 fewer yards per healthy again after a broken leg—and thus the Vikings should game than he did the previous year, sliding from 110 to 86.4. be competitive again. Regardless of who is crouching under He rushed for more than 100 yards in only three games—two center.  MSP

Vikings At-a-Glance 2009 Points For-Against: 470-312 2009 vs. Playoff Teams: 4-1 2009 vs. Division: 5-1 Coach: Brad Childress, 37-30 in 4 years with Minnesota Last Meeting: Patriots 31, Vikings 7; 2006 @ Minnesota All-Time vs. New England (regular season): Patriots lead 6-4

2009 STATS (NFL Rank) Offense yy Points/Game: 29.4 (2) yy Total Yards/Game: 379.6 (5) yy Rush Yards/Game: 119.9 (13) yy Pass Efficiency: 107.3 (1) Defense yy Points Allowed/Game: 19.5 (10) yy Yards Allowed/Game: 305.5 (6) yy Rush Yds. Allowed/Game: 87.1 (2) yy Pass Eff. Against: 92.5 (27) Team yy Turnover Margin: +6 (9) yy Time of Possession: 32:51 (4) yy Penalty Yards/Game: 47.3 (13)

30 | Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010

Key Players WR Sidney Rice: Became a Favre favorite, catching 83 balls for 1,312 yards and eight scores. DT Kevin Williams: Earned his fifth All-Pro nomination with six sacks and seven deflections along the defensive line. OG Steve Hutchinson: One of the game’s best linemen had off-season shoulder surgery, but hasn’t missed a game since 2002. The Good News & The Bad News yy Mediocre pass defense didn’t improve much in the offseason. yy Harvin piled up 2,081 all-purpose yards as a rookie.

Photo: Tom Dahlin/Getty Images Sport

HISTORICAL RECORD 2009 Record: 12-4 (1st NFC North) Lost NFC Championship Game


Beasts Of The East

CLEVELAND

NOVEMBER 7 CLEVELAND BROWNS STADIUM, 1:00 PM

To understand the task ahead of Mike Holmgren as he a 5-11 finish by effectively ditching the passing game in favor of endeavors to rebuild the Browns, and appreciate the chala smash-mouth commitment to running. Journeyman Jerome lenge in front of him, one really need look no further than Harrison thrived under that philosophy, rushing for 561 yards quarterback—the cornerstone spot of any successful franchise. in three games. By early summer he’d given coach Eric Mangini three To continue improving the offense’s balance, Holmgren options under center. The first was Jake Delhomme, the veteran hired Gil Haskell, his former offensive guru in Seattle, to help Carolina castoff who threw eight touchformer Pats assistant Brian Daboll downs and 18 interceptions last season. hone his skills as a coordinator. And The second was Seneca Wallace, who he does have two decent building carries value in his versatility, but hasn’t blocks in left tackle Joe Thomas and proven himself as much more than a speedy hybrid Joshua Cribbs, both of trick-play weapon over a seven-year whom were voted All-Pro after last career that includes just 14 starts. And season. But it’d be hard for Holmgren the third was Colt McCoy, the rookie to reconstruct an organization around who fell to the late third round in two guys who touch the ball about April’s draft because of concerns about five times a game, other than kick his height and arm strength. returns. Especially when the defense Now consider that Holmgren needs a makeover, too. has already rid himself of the QBs The Browns used their first two who shared the job last year, thereby picks on defensive backs Joe Haden suggesting he believes the Delhommeand T.J. Ward, attempting to shore up Jake Delhomme had eight touchdown Wallace-McCoy collection to be an a secondary that allowed 244.7 yards passes and 18 interceptions last season upgrade—now you have a sense of the a contest last season. They also made for Carolina. The Browns apparently saw mess that Holmgren inherits. their biggest free agent splash by something they liked. Other than Cleveland, no team in giving linebacker Scott Fujita a threefootball ranked worse than 30th in both yards gained and yards year deal, and traded with the Eagles for corner Sheldon allowed a season ago, when the Browns rated second-worst by Brown and ’backer Chris Gocong. giving up an average of 389.3 yards per game, and the offense Those moves will likely help, but don’t expect Cleveland ranked last in the NFL by accumulating just 260.2 yards per tilt. to be rebuilt in a day, a month… or even a year. The guy Eventually, and with nothing to lose, the Browns wound under center will almost certainly be a reminder of how far up the season with four straight wins, turning a 1–11 start into they still have to go.  MSP

Browns At-a-Glance HISTORICAL RECORD 2009 Record: 5-11 (4th AFC North) 2009 Points For-Against: 245-375 2009 vs. Playoff Teams: 0-7 2009 vs. Division: 1-5

Photo: Diamond Images

Coach: Eric Mangini, 5-11 in one season with Cleveland Last Meeting: Patriots 34, Browns 17; 2007 @ New England All-Time vs. New England (regular season): Browns lead 11-9

2009 STATS (NFL Rank) Offense yy Points/Game: 15.3 (29) yy Total Yards/Game: 260.2 (32) yy Rush Yards/Game: 130.4 (8) yy Pass Efficiency: 55.8 (32) Defense yy Points Allowed/Game: 23.4 (21) yy Yards Allowed/Game: 389.3 (31) yy Rush Yds. Allowed/Game: 144.6 (28) yy Pass Eff. Against: 90.6 (24) Team yy Turnover Margin: -12 (29) yy Time of Possession: 28:54 (23) yy Penalty Yards/Game: 42.4 (8)

Key Players TE Ben Watson: The ex-Patriot got three years and $12 million from the Browns. RB Jerome Harrison: His 286 yards in Week 15 broke Jim Brown’s team record. WR Joshua Cribbs: Returned four kicks for scores in 2009, but averaged only 6.8 yards per reception. The Good News & The Bad News yy Ranked 31st in the NFL in yards allowed, 32nd in yards gained. yy Cribbs versatility makes him dangerous on every play.

Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010 | 31


2010 Patriots football

PITTSBURGH

NOVEMBER 14 HEINZ FIELD, 8:20 PM

Throughout the spring and summer, much of the attention paid The emergence of Rashard Mendenhall—1,108 yards to the Pittsburgh Steelers centered around Ben Roethlisberger last year, with a 4.6 per-carry average—should help alleviate and allegations of sexual assault against the quarterback, which some pressure. But, the Steelers best hope of being competinever resulted in criminal charges but did earn him an NFLtive could be a reemergence from its defense, which means a mandated suspension. The entire situation dragged his reputareturn to health for Troy Polamalu. tion through the mud… and might well have taken the Steelers’ Few players across the league have as much impact on the season down along with it. success of their team as the Steelers Roethlisberger was really the only safety, who missed all but five games thing Pittsburgh had going in 2009. with a pair of knee injuries. Without He was allowed to throw more in his him over the last two years, Pittsburgh sixth year, and finished with career has surrendered almost 65 yards highs in completions (337), completion more per game than it has with him. percentage (66.6), and yardage (4,328) Accordingly, the team is 5–7 when he’s while throwing 26 touchdowns and just out of the lineup, and 16–4 when he’s 12 interceptions. His passer rating of on the field. 100.5 was more than 20 points higher Not only is Polamalu a factor than it was the previous season, when when the ball’s in the air, but he’s also he won his second Super Bowl—and the bullet in many of Dick LeBeau’s yet the Steelers still missed the playoffs blitzing schemes, so his presence makes by going 9–7. dangerous pass rushers James Harrison That leaves serious questions and LaMarr Woodley even more Ben Roethlisberger’s well-documented about whether Pittsburgh can stay difficult to stop. off-the-field transgressions leave the afloat under the stewardship of Byron Thanks to Roethlisberger, though, Steelers’ quarterback situation unsettled. Leftwich, Charlie Batch, or Dennis there’s havoc in the Steelers’ own backDixon while Roethlisberger is out, particularly with leading field, too. And so this figures to be the toughest test of Mike receiver Santonio Holmes (and his iPod) having been shipped Tomlin’s young coaching career. In three seasons he’s gone off to the Jets. Whoever wins the job will be throwing to 31–17, made the playoffs twice, and won a Super Bowl—but by a receiving corps that includes a 34-year-old Hines Ward, early June ownership had not guaranteed his contract beyond second-year player Mike Wallace, the re-acquired Antwaan this season (there’s a team option for 2011), and so his ability to Randle El, as well as former 49er Arnaz Battle. And he’ll stand navigate through troubled waters could be what determines his behind an offensive line that allowed 50 sacks a season ago. future near the junction of the three rivers.  MSP

Steelers At-a-Glance 2009 Points For-Against: 368-324 2009 vs. Playoff Teams:4-3 2009 vs. Division: 2-4 Coach: Mike Tomlin, 34-18 in 3 years with Pittsburgh Last Meeting: Steelers 33, Patriots 10; 2008 @ New England All-Time vs. New England (regular season): Steelers lead 13-7

2009 STATS (NFL Rank) Offense yy Points/Game: 23.0 (12) yy Total Yards/Game: 371.3 (7) yy Rush Yards/Game: 112.1 (19) yy Pass Efficiency: 98.1 (5) Defense yy Points Allowed/Game: 20.2 (12) yy Yards Allowed/Game: 305.3 (5) yy Rush Yds. Allowed/Game: 89.9 (3) yy Pass Eff. Against: 83.4 (14) Team yy Turnover Margin: -3 (20) yy Time of Possession: 32:52 (3) yy Penalty Yards/Game: 48.1 (16)

32 | Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010

Key Players CB Bryant McFadden: Pittsburgh let him go after ’08 then traded for him this offseason and he’s projected to start. RB Rashard Mendenhall: Through three games last year he had seven carries for 45 yards; averaged 82 yards per game after that. WR Mike Wallace: Had only 39 catches, but with six 40+ yards his average was 19.4 per touch. The Good News & The Bad News yy Missing Roethlisberger could doom season from the start. yy Woodley and Harrison combined for 23.5 sacks in 2009.

Photo: Bill Amatucci/Diamond Collection

HISTORICAL RECORD 2009 Record: 9-7 (2nd AFC North)


Beasts Of The East

INDIANAPOLIS

NOVEMBER 21 GILLETTE STADIUM, 4:15 PM

Given the magnitude of memorable games that have made it false, that doesn’t mean this year’s encounter with Indy can’t their rivalry one of the sport’s best, a November 21 renewal be a barometer as well. Until they see the Colts, the Patriots between the Patriots and Colts isn’t likely to seem an overly defense will face just one foe that finished last year with a special occasion. It falls in the 11th week of the regular seatop-five passing attack. So a meeting with football’s secondson. No matter how it turns out, there’ll be plenty of football best aerialists could come at the perfect time to see what left for both sides. progress Darius Butler, Devin McCourty, and the rest of the But don’t dismiss the importance young secondary has made, and what of that game entirely. Since 2001, New needs to be done with the postseason England and Indianapolis have met looming. during the regular season in all but Peyton Manning is about as one year—and each time the team that tough a test as they could take, and has won has also been the team that the four-time league MVP could be lasted longer in the postseason, a fact even scarier this season after another validating the notion that the NFL’s year to get acclimated with Austin two winningest organizations of the Collie and Pierre Garcon. He’ll also past decade have really been measurhave Anthony Gonzalez back from ing themselves against each other a knee injury that cost him much of throughout their runs. If the Pats are last season. Oh, then there’s Reggie good enough to beat the Colts, or the Wayne and Dallas Clark, too. Colts are good enough to beat the There continue to be questions Pats, they know they’re probably built about the defense, but the team Pats fans are so familiar with Peyton to succeed on a league-wide level. re-signed the reliable Gary Brackett, Manning that they can probably tell by It’s why some glass-half-full is optimistic safety Bob Sanders can the look on his face whether the Colts Patriots fans entered last year’s tournarecover from perpetual injury, and are winning or losing. ment touting the team’s chances, bestill has Robert Mathis and Dwight cause by all rights they could have—and should have—beat the Freeney converging on quarterbacks from the edge. Indy Colts when the teams tangled last November. New England led also spent each of its first three draft choices on the defensive by three touchdowns in the fourth quarter that day, and was up side of the ball, so they’ll still be a challenge if they can 34–21 when things fell apart with just 2:23 to play. stay healthy. The fact the Pats could play with the Colts provoked a And if the Pats can meet that challenge, you have to like certain confidence, and although Baltimore eventually proved their chances moving forward.  MSP

Colts At-a-Glance HISTORICAL RECORD 2009 Record: 14-2 (1st AFC South) Lost Super Bowl XLIV 2009 Points For-Against: 416-307 Photo: Tom Hauck/Getty Images Sport

2009 vs. Playoff Teams: 3-1 2009 vs. Division: 6-0 Coach: Jim Caldwell, 16-3 in one season with Indianapolis 2009 vs. Patriots: Colts 35, Patriots 34; 2009 @ Indianapolis All-Time vs. New England (regular season): Patriots lead 42-28

2009 STATS (NFL Rank) Offense yy Points/Game: 26.0 (7) yy Total Yards/Game: 363.1 (9) yy Rush Yards/Game: 80.9 (32) yy Pass Efficiency: 95.4 (9) Defense yy Points Allowed/Game: 19.2 (8) yy Yards Allowed/Game: 339.2 (18) yy Rush Yds. Allowed/Game: 126.5 (24) yy Pass Eff. Against: 80.6 (12) Team yy Turnover Margin: +2 (15) yy Time of Possession: 27:40 (31) yy Penalty Yards/Game: 34.1 (2)

Key Players DE Jerry Hughes: A rookie speed rusher who figures to fit in Indy’s system and who some hoped the Pats would target. RB Joseph Addai: Totaled just 828 yards last season, gaining 3.8 per carry—but went for 4.5 in playoffs. WR Pierre Garcon: Had 21 catches for 251 yards in three playoff games. Could be precursor to a breakout year. The Good News & The Bad News yy Addai averaging just 3.7 per carry since 2007. yy Clark, Wayne combined for 521 catches in the last three years.

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2010 Patriots football

DETROIT

NOVEMBER 25 FORD FIELD, 12:30 PM

The joke seemed to run longer than the receivers who helped In 2009, Detroit drafted its quarterback of the future in make it a cruel reality. Every year the Lions entered the draft Matthew Stafford then nabbed five others who’ll challenge needing serious help. Every year they were positioned to get for a starting spot this season. The year before it found a right it. And pretty much every year they screwed it up. tackle in first-rounder Gosder Cherilus. And the year before It became as much an annual rite of passage as the losing that it landed superstar receiver Calvin Johnson. seasons it produced—which is why it was a little weird, in Those picks haven’t exactly paid dividends in the the days after this year’s draft, to see standings quite yet—lest we forget, Detroit widely praised for its execution. the Lions are 2–30 over the last two “The Lions entered the draft seasons, and have lost 20 consecutive needing to add impact players on road games—so the Patriots losing both sides of the ball,” it said at at Ford Field on Thanksgiving Day NFL.com, “and they came away would undoubtedly leave turkey with two difference-makers in the dinners tasting terribly across New first round.” England. “Find the weak link here,” chalBut Mayhew and Schwartz appear lenged the analysts at AOL Fanhouse. to be steering things in the right direc“Go on. You can nitpick... but they were tion in the Motor City. After giving all good picks at positions of need.” up more yards and points than any “GM Martin Mayhew and head team in the league last season, Detroit coach Jim Schwartz sought to land let 11 defensive players leave via free difference makers on each side of the agency or trade. And after registering While the Lions have struggled in recent ball,” according to Pro Football Talk, fewer sacks than all but three teams seasons, receiver Calvin Johnson often “and with the addition of Ndamukong in football, the club aggressively spent makes opponents’ plans go up in smoke. Suh and Jahvid Best, whom they $26 million to sign Kyle Vanden Bosch, traded into the first to secure, that is exactly what they did.” the end who had 38.5 sacks in five seasons with Tennessee. The overwhelming consensus suggested that by using the It’s a couple of rookies that have Lions fans hopeful second overall pick to scoop up Suh, a mammoth defensive their historic futility might finally be part of the past. In Suh, lineman, then trading back into the late stages of the first they see a monster who could anchor the defensive line for round to score Best, a running back, the Lions made progress a decade. In Best, they see a speedy playmaker who can be a in piecing together a nucleus for the future. And continued to multipurpose threat out of the backfield. And the draft experts distance themselves from their draft troubles. say they’re seeing things clearly.  MSP

Lions At-a-Glance 2009 Points For-Against: 262-494 2009 vs. Playoff Teams: 0-7 2009 vs. Division: 0-6 Coach: Jim Schwartz, 2-14 in one season with Detroit Last Meeting: Patriots 28, Lions 21; 2006 @ New England All-Time vs. New England (regular season): Patriots lead 5-4

2009 STATS (NFL Rank) Offense yy Points/Game: 16.4 (27) yy Total Yards/Game: 299.0 (26) yy Rush Yards/Game: 101.0 (24) yy Pass Efficiency: 58.1 (31) Defense yy Points Allowed/Game: 30.9 (32) yy Yards Allowed/Game: 392.1 (32) yy Rush Yds. Allowed/Game: 126.6 (25) yy Pass Eff. Against: 107.0 (32) Team yy Turnover Margin: -18 (32) yy Time of Possession: 28:57 (22) yy Penalty Yards/Game: 48.0 (15)

34 | Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010

Key Players WR Calvin Johnson: Look for improvement on his 984 receiving yards as his QB gets comfortable. LB Julian Peterson: Forced a team-high five fumbles and added 4.5 sacks in his first season as a Lion. DE Kyle Vanden Bosch: Was at his best alongside Albert Haynesworth; Suh could have a similar effect. The Good News & The Bad News yy Allowed 57 TDs last season while scoring 28. yy Johnson is a receiving threat most teams must double team.

Photo: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images Sport

HISTORICAL RECORD 2009 Record: 2-14 (4th NFC North)


Beasts Of The East

CHICAGO

DECEMBER 12 SOLDIER FIELD, 1:00 PM

There are quarterbacks who have more talent, and who have arguably the best player on the market, as well as running enjoyed more success. There are quarterbacks who make back Chester Taylor, and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna. more money, and who have more cachet in the locker room. Problem is, the Bears didn’t get much better. And they There are quarterbacks who command more respect, and who lacked the capital to do much more. By the time they got to have more credibility. minicamp they’d acquired just one more player expected to But there may be no quarterback in the NFL who had start—ex-Carolina safety Chris Harris—and so units that more influence on his team’s offseason ranked 19th in points scored and tied than the Bears’ Jay Cutler. for 21st in points allowed will both About a year after Chicago made return almost intact for a team that a deal with Denver thinking it had finished 7–9. acquired a franchise quarterback on The hope, of course, is that the the cusp of his prime, the Bears did return of Brian Urlacher (who missed indeed spend the spring building all but one game a year ago) will fortify around him. But it wasn’t exactly as the defense. And that Cutler, in year if they were building up around the two, will be much better as the main foundation he was footing. It was cog in Chicago’s offensive engine. basically because they had no If he had been a Pro Bowler—or other choice. even serviceable—in his first season as As part of the bounty to acquire a Bear, his wide-reaching impact on Cutler, the Bears had to give the the organization would’ve been much Broncos their first- and third-round easier for fans to stomach. But instead Matt Forte had a disappointing sophomore picks in 2009, as well as their top he was brutal for stretches. season, running for 929 yards but selection in the most recent draft—and Cutler wound up with 27 TDs averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. that left Chicago without the resources against a league-high 26 picks, while to replenish naturally by plucking young talent at positions throwing for almost 900 fewer yards than he had the season of need. before, and prompting Chicago to hire Mike Martz as its The Bears didn’t own a draft pick earlier than 75th this offensive coordinator. It was another move made with the spring, so they were forced to get aggressive in veteran free quarterback in mind, and if that doesn’t work there could still agency, and wound up spending more than $107 million for be more to follow. Head coach Lovie Smith is in the final year three players on the very first day. Those included Julius of his contract, and, as most things with the Bears these days, Peppers, the freakishly athletic defensive end who was it’s Cutler who could ultimately decide his future.  MSP

Bears At-a-Glance HISTORICAL RECORD 2009 Record: 7-9 (3rd NFC North) 2009 Points For-Against: 327-375 2009 vs. Playoff Teams: 1-6 Photo: Tom Dahlin/Getty Images Sport

2009 vs. Division: 3-3 Coach: Lovie Smith, 54-46 in 6 years with Chicago Last Meeting: Patriots 17, Bears 13; 2006 @ New England All-Time vs. New England (regular season): Patriots lead 7-3

2009 STATS (NFL Rank) Offense yy Points/Game: 20.4 (19) yy Total Yards/Game: 310.3 (23) yy Rush Yards/Game: 93.3 (29) yy Pass Efficiency: 75.6 (21) Defense yy Points Allowed/Game: 23.4 (21) yy Yards Allowed/Game: 337.8 (17) yy Rush Yds. Allowed/Game: 126.4 (23) yy Pass Eff. Against: 92.3 (26) Team yy Turnover Margin: -6 (23) yy Time of Possession: 28:37 (26) yy Penalty Yards/Game: 52.3 (23)

Key Players DE Julius Peppers: Since 2004, he’s failed to amass double-figure sack totals just once (2.5 in 2007). TE Greg Olsen: Had 60 catches and 8 TDs in ’09, but Martz doesn’t typically feature tight ends in the passing game. RB Matt Forte: Averaged just 3.6 per carry in gaining 929 yards during his second season. The Good News & The Bad News yy Tight end Olsen was the only Bear with 60 catches in 2009. yy Martz says Jay Cutler could be Warner-esque in his high-octane offense.

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2010 Patriots football

GREEN BAY

DECEMBER 19 GILLETTE STADIUM, 8:20 PM

It may have been inspired by upper-lip legends like Tom Only the Super Bowl-champion Saints (who outscored Selleck, Chuck Norris, and Ron Burgundy, but the motive beopponents by 169 points) were more decisive winners. hind the mustache Aaron Rodgers wore during the clipboardA ball-hawking defense led by nine interceptions from carrying portion of his career was neither trendy nor in tribute. NFL Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson furnished “It was just a way to make my teammates laugh,” he an impressive plus-24 turnover ratio for the Packers, who led explained then. the league in both picks (30) and passes defended (102)—and Funny, because now it’s Rodgers were the most difficult team to run who’s getting the last laugh. against, too. A.J. Hawk and Nick Five years ago the nation watched Barnett were key to that effort, comuncomfortably as he fell to 24th after bining for 190 tackles as the middle arriving at the draft in the discussion linebackers in Green Bay’s 3-4 front, to be the first overall pick. Two years while Clay Matthews racked up ten ago it watched, again uncomfortably, sacks coming off the edge as a rookie. as Brett Favre attempted a power play There are a couple holes to fill on aimed at stealing back the starter’s job the left side, with Johnny Jolly facing in Green Bay. But now it’s watching drug charges and Aaron Kampman the birth of a superstar, fully comforthaving signed with Jacksonville, though able and entrenched as he leads one Rodgers and the offense are more of football’s best franchises through a than capable of keeping the ship afloat new era of championship ambition. while the Packers locate the plugs. Despite ranking as the NFL’s Back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons have Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers youngest team for the fourth consecuestablished Ryan Grant as a go-to finished fourth in the NFL in passing tive season, the Packers finished last runner, while Donald Driver and Greg yards (4,434) and touchdown passes year at 11–5, and with that up-andJennings have each had consecutive (30) in 2009. coming nucleus returning for another 1,000-yard receiving seasons since season together, the team’s impressive two-way numbers only Rodgers took the reins. figure to get better. And the quarterback himself only figures to get better. He Green Bay was outstanding on both sides of the ball last spent the early part of his offseason honing his fundamentals season, when its offense ranked third by scoring 28.8 points per with head coach Mike McCarthy, who is quick to remind that game, its defense was seventh at 18.6, and the combination creat 26, Rodgers is still a young player. ated a scoring margin of 164 points over the 16-game schedule. And likely to keep laughing quite a while longer.  MSP

Packers At-a-Glance 2009 Points For-Against: 461-297 2009 vs. Playoff Teams: 3-3 2009 vs. Division: 4-2 Coach: Mike McCarthy, 39-28 in 4 years with Green Bay Last Meeting: Patriots 35, Packers 0; 2006 @ Green Bay All-Time vs. New England (regular season): Series tied 4-4

2009 STATS (NFL Rank) Offense yy Points/Game: 28.8 (3) yy Total Yards/Game: 379.1 (6) yy Rush Yards/Game: 117.8 (14) yy Pass Efficiency: 101.8 (4) Defense yy Points Allowed/Game: 18.6 (7) yy Yards Allowed/Game: 284.4 (2) yy Rush Yds. Allowed/Game: 83.3 (1) yy Pass Eff. Against: 68.8 (4) Team yy Turnover Margin: +24 (1) yy Time of Possession: 33:03 (2) yy Penalty Yards/Game: 66.1 (31)

36 | Maple Street Press Patriots Annual 2010

Key Players TE Jermichael Finley: Caught 55 passes for five touchdowns last season to emerge among the game’s dangerous tight ends. CB Charles Woodson: Returned three of his nine picks for touchdowns, and also forced four fumbles. WR Donald Driver: Aiming for his seventh straight year of 70 catches and 1,000 yards at age 35. The Good News & The Bad News yy Led the league with 118 offensive penalties last year. yy Only the Saints and Vikings scored more points last season.

Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images Sport

HISTORICAL RECORD 2009 Record: 11-5 (2nd NFC North) Lost in Wild Card Playoffs


MSP Patriots Annual 2010 sample