August 27, 2013

NFL Preview: After rough offseason, things looking up for Patriots

The development of a young receiving corp and the ability to create a pass rush are key to New England ending its eight-year title drought.

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New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones laughs with teammates as they jog during team football practice in Foxborough, Mass., Monday, Aug. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

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New England Patriots football quarterbacks Tom Brady, center, Ryan Mallett, right, and Tim Tebow (5) laugh together during team practice in Foxborough, Mass., Monday, Aug. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

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SECONDARY ISSUES: The Patriots were vulnerable to the big play last season. The secondary improved when they acquired cornerback Aqib Talib from Tampa Bay on Nov. 1, allowing Devin McCourty to move to safety on a more permanent basis. "Aqib picked up our system very quickly when he got here last year and has been confident and very fluent in it," Belichick said. Starting cornerback Alfonzo Dennard has been sidelined for part of training camp and faces a hearing Sept. 6 for a potential probation violation after his arrest in Nebraska on July 11 for first-offense drunken driving. Rookie draft picks Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon have promise but may not be ready for steady duty. Veteran safety Adrian Wilson was added as a free agent.

STEADY LEADERSHIP: Belichick is the coach on the sideline. Brady handles that job on the field. In their 13 seasons together, the Patriots have reached the playoffs 10 times and won three of their five Super Bowls. "Tom's like a coach out there on the field," Amendola said. "He knows every intricacy of the offense. He helps young guys out a lot. He's a leader." As long as Brady and Belichick are around, a long playoff run is realistic.

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