The New England Patriots have made a big impact in free agency but football remains a team sport so the Patriots will need players within the system to step up in 2014. Here's my list of 3 Patriots Players Who Will Improve, And 3 Who Will Regress over the 2014 season. Also don't forget to check out my article on what Revis will bring to the Patriot defense.
Players Who Will Improve Their Production(Photo By Jeffrey Beall)
1. Jaime Collins - With the loss of fellow linebackers Dane Fletcher and Brandon Spikes the Patriots will need Jaime Collins to step up in 2014. Collins' increase in production won't be simply out of necessity though, as Collins has showed elite pursuit and playmaking abilities in limited time. Look for Collins to end up in the 50-70 combined tackles range playing behind Hightower and Mayo.
2. Alfonzo Dennard - After an impressive rookie campaign Dennard went into last season looking like a lock to start across from Aqib Talib. One arrest and several bad games later Dennard could barely see time on the field, and when he finally got on the field? He was repeatedly torched by Demaryius Thomas. With the addition of Browner and Revis it doesn't look like the team will need Dennard to play outstandingly, but I think Dennard plays much better with competition within the team and will earn his time on the field this year.
3. Aaron Dobson - In the first half of the season Dobson gained the unfortunate title of "Dropson" because of his dropped passes, but when healthy in the second half of the season Dobson was consistently open over the top and middle portion of the field. He will likely still be working on his chemistry with Brady but Dobson remains as the best Patriots wide out at beating press man coverage.
Players That Won't Have The Same Production
1. Kenbrell Thompkins - Thompkins really was a nice story last year, a tough kid who fought the odds and made it to the NFL as an undrafted free agent. But at 25 years old Thompkins cannot be afforded the same time to develop as Dobson (currently 22) and with new acquisition Brandon Lafell added in free agency Thompkins likely will be on the roster bubble this upcoming season. Thompkins likely has a steep hill to climb just to make the roster in 2014 never mind see the field.
2. Chris Jones/Joe Vellano - In a season when the Patriots were decimated by injury on the interior line Jones and Vellano were pleasant surprises. However both of these players will see a decrease in playing time and therefore impact in the 2014 season with Wilfork and Kelly returning to the lineup. Also the Patriots have several local options in Siliga/Armstead and many analyst have the Patriots drafting a DT in the upcoming draft. Jones and Vellano will face too much competition next year to on the interior line to make the same contribution to the team.
3. Julian Edelman - A personal pleasure to watch Edelman had a terrific season least year catching over 100 passes. I don't see Edelman actually playing any worse than he did last season, but with the new additions on defense likely making the Patriots want to slow the game down and several more options being added and developed on offense I can't see Edelman having quite the same volume of passes thrown his way. Less passes his way means less catches, I see his production dropping 10-15 catches next season like I said, not because he is a lesser player, but because the Patriots will have more options.