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Jerry previews the New England Patriots.

When I was a kid, there was a popular, and I thought at the time,  silly joke about a man who kept hitting his head against a wall. When asked why he was doing that, his reply was, “Because it feels good when I stop….” Well, after following the Red Sox for the past several months, I’m not sure it was so silly, because every time I turned around, they were giving you another reason to hit your head against something hard. But at last, I spy  a rapidly approaching shiney object that is, in fact,  Tom Brady’s smile, and that cry I hear in the distance, is the hopeful fans chanting; “The Patriots are coming! The Patriots are coming!” And not a minute too soon…..I may be jumping the gun a tad in trying to write a preview of the Patriots with preseason games against Tampa Bay as well as the Giants remaining, and with them, the threat of significant injury still a real possibility. But I’ve grown tired, and bit repetitive, when it comes to the Sox, so let us look ahead and discuss how the Pats can be the first Super Bowl losers (and it hurts to just write that) to return to the Championship Game, in a very long time.

Speaking of the 35 year old Mr. Brady, it should be obvious that he remains the key to what should be an even more powerful offense. Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker will continue to cause match up problems for the rest of the NFL, with the 6’1″ Hernandez expected to have a huge year, benefitting form the  extra concern ‘Gronk’ is expected to generate. Add to that the potential deep threats the Pats have added in Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, and Dante’ Stallworth, and it seems likely that ‘Air Brady’ will continue to thrive. As far as the running game goes, Coach Belichick seems to have given up on the dependability of BenJarvis Green-Ellis, in favor of the potential breakaway capabilities of second year backs Shane Vareen and Steven Ridley, although neither is yet to have overly impressed anyone in preseason action.

Gronkowski should open things up for the rest of the passing game.(Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Of course, everything I talked about in the last paragraph hinges on the one unit that has clearly been the most questionable so far- the offensive line. Although officially they don’t seem to be worried, there are a few questions left unanswered. For one thing, where is the talenetd Mr. Waters (guard Brian, that is), who is going to replace Matt Light (I expect it to be Nate Solder, but not without a great deal of help from Logan Mankins) and will the 6’8″ Sebastian Vollmer ever be healthy? It seems to this point that Vollmer is a bad back with a history of playing once in a while. But as I said, the coaching staff doesn’t seem unduly concerned, which leaves me to believe they are giving the veteran Waters training camp off and that he’ll be around in time for the season. With Boston College grad Dan Koppen at center, Dan Connolly at guard and one of the many tight ends the Pats have to help Solder, the offense should be good to go, and go, and go.

This brings me to what is likely to be the most improved unit on the team, the defense. It seems the defensive genius that is Bill Belichick finally thought back to his championship seasons and remembered the importance that big play makers like Ty Law, Rodney Harrison, and Tedy Bruschi had on those teams. Consequently, he went out and used six of his seven 2012 draft picks on the defensive side of the ball. The 6’4″, 260 pound DE Chandler Jones, although drafted as more of  project, has already impressed and is being looked at as a difference maker. Hopes are high that Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower will also be an impact player at the linebacker position, which will in turn make the now veteran backer Jarod Mayo even more effective. The pressure is on a couple of third year backers, Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes, to stay healthy and produce or else they maybe be asked to take their ‘potential’ somewhere else. So far they have looked good (I believe it was Cunningham who knocked Michael Vick out of Monday’s game), but now they must maintain it. Second year cornerback, Ras-I Dowling- whose name sounds like a character in a “Dark Knight” movie- has been getting plenty of playing time in preseason and is being looked upon to, along with newcomer Steve Gregory, help strenghten what was a decided weakness in last year’s defense. With Vince Wilfork as their anchor and a resurrected  CB Devin McCourty, then perhaps the Patriots can get away from the bend-but-don’t-break approach to ‘D’ and back to the aggressive-make-something-happen style of their glory years.

At this point in time, I like the Pats chances of once again winning the AFC East. Miami will likely struggle with a young quarterback and, although you have to respect the defensive mind of Rex Ryan, the circus he has created will likely eventually consume him and the Jets. That leaves the new and improved Buffalo Bills. Although the Bills have always played the Pats tough and are definitely better, I don’t think they have enough offense to bypass New England. So step one is they win the East and set themselves up for another run at the Super Bowl.

So, let the games begin! Please!

Featured image courtesy of: Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff 

Jerry Ballgame

About Jerry Ballgame

The personification of "old school", Jerry Ballgame was born in the shadow of Dr. Naismith's peach basket, and baptized in that "Dirty Water." Designated by his "Uncle" Ted, to keep an eye on things, he's here to tell everyone what his view is like from the Hub of the Universe.

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