Offensive Line

Last year the Patriots’ offensive line did a decent job protecting Tom Brady — until the playoffs. There, the Jets sacked him five times and harassed him all day, hitting him repeatedly after throws. Opponents will surely watch that film. The Patriots used their first pick on a tackle, Nate Solder, and recently signed veteran Brian Waters to bolster the depth.

Special Teams

The Patriots are going to need to find a kick returner after cutting Brandon Tate, who returned two kickoffs for TDs last year. Matthew Slater is listed as the No. 1 return man, but expect to see Julian Edelman — who will likely handle punts — there as well. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski recovers from his injury. When healthy, he is as reliable as there is in the NFL.

Running Game

Yes, the Patriots’ offense flies through the air, with Tom Brady directing the show and sending his receivers all over the field. But last year’s offensive success was built on a strong running attack, where BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. Someone will need to come close to that again to keep the pressure off Brady.


Pass Rush/Interior Defense

The Patriots had trouble getting to the quarterback and also gave up a lot of yards in the middle last year, allowing teams to keep drives going. So they went out and got Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter to bolster things. Combine them with Vince Wilfork, and the Patriots have one of the biggest lines in the NFL. They should be better.


The Patriots have one of the most complicated systems in the NFL. Combined with the lockout and shortened camp, that might make it difficult for any rookie to have the same kind of impact that the team got from cornerback Devin McCourty and the tight end kids Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Still, the rookies will need to produce when asked to.

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