After three weeks of the 2017 football season, the New England Patriots have several red flags that seriously need improvement. Coming off their fifth Super Bowl win this year is no different. New England is an organization that demands excellence. But their are some areas concerning the team. Area number one is the pass protection; Last week against the Saints Tom Brady was sacked three times one sack resulted in a fumble ran back for a touchdown. The Patriots have all their lineman returning from a year ago. Since the season opener against Kansas City, Brady has been under constant pressure. Veteran tackle Nate Solder has been a huge disappointment, so far getting beat on mostly every snap this season. I f the protection doesn’t get better his days as a Patriot may come to an end. Special teams has been another area of concern, for New England. Long time kicker Stephen Gostowski has lost the confidence of the fans,after last years poor playoff performance. Punter Ryan Allen has been sub parr so far this season. After three games this season Allen has been averaging only 35/40 yards per punt. Defense has been the biggest disappointment, this season. Normally the Patriots rank close to the top,but this year the team ranks towards the bottom. Safety Devin McCourty leads the team with 23 solo tackles. In the off season the Patriots went out and signed Buffalo free agent corner Stephon Gilmore. After three games Gilmore has look lost and confused, but does have one interception. Controversial corner back Malcom Butler has been also off missing several assignments. If the defense doesn’t play better, head coach Bill Belicheck may have no choice but to trade some veterans for help up front. Veterans such as Alan Branch and Malcom Butler need to step up if they want to keep their jobs. For a team coming off their fifth Super Bowl win the Patriots realize that their are several areas of concern. Bill Belichick will not stand for complacency; With the NFL trade deadline a couple of weeks away Belichick won’t hesitate, to make deals in order to improve the Patriots.
The NFL has produced some of of the greatest quarterbacks ever to wear a football jersey. Football fans have witnessed the birth of Tom Brady, Dan Marino, Ben Rothlisberger, Joe Montana, Bart Starr and Brett Favre to name a few. Lets’ examine a new breed of quarterbacks that maybe considered elite. As tough of a game football is getting sacked several times a game is not easy physically , nor mentally. James Winston is a big physical quarterback who can take the punishment. In three years Winston has started thirty three games. Last year Winston guided the Bucs to a 9-7 record. This season hes’ led the team to a 2-0 record. With an impressive 29-7 win over the Bears last week, its’ hard to predict if Tampa can keep it up. The next three weeks will be a big test for Winston. The Bucs will face Minnesota, Green Bay , and New England. The 1-1 Eagles have an impressive quarterback in Carson Wentz. In two years Wentz has led the Eagles back to being a fairly respectable team. In his first season 2016 Wentz led the Eagles to a 7-9 record. With proper coaching, Wentz will lead the Eagles hopefully one day to the Super Bowl. Oakland has a gifted quarterback in Derek Carr. The fourth year starter out of Fresno State, has transformed the Raiders as a legitimate AFC powerhouse. Carr led the Raiders to a 12-4 record in 2016. This year Carr and the Raiders are off to a 2-0 start. Carr is surrounded by plenty of talent. With two gifted receivers in Amari Cooper and Sammy Watkins, along with Marshaun Lynch the Raiders should be a favorite in the AFC West. Rewarded with a five year 125 million dollar contract look for Carr to take the Raiders to the AFC championship. After a disap[pointing 2016 campaign ,the Rams decided to rebuild and drafted JaredGoff of California Berkley. Goff so far in two starts has led the Rams to a 1-1 record. If Goff can take the punishment of NFL defenses,then the Rams have something to hope for. Predicting which quarterbacks will turn out to be NFL stars is impossible, but as history shows us their is always room for another hero. If these quarterbacks can stay healthy then they should be in the league for a long time. Making the NFL is elite in itself.
Even though the Patriots suffered an embarrassing 42-27 loss to the Chiefs, it’s time to move on. The Patriots pure and simply got punched in the mouth. Kansas City has given the Patriots fits before. The quest for championship number six begins now. The coaching tandem of Belichick and Brady has been together for seventeen years. No other coaching tandem in football has won more. And their’s been a lot of great tandems over the years. Tandems such as Lombardi and Starr, Shula and Marino , not to mention Noll and Bradshaw. No matter how great the tandem can be if they don’t play sixty minutes of football any team can be beat. This was the case Thursday night as the Chiefs Tyreek Hill exposed the Patriots Defense pretty badly. With Drew Brees and the Saints Sunday the Patriots cannot afford to many turnovers. Even though the Patriots committed less turnovers they still lost by fifteen points. The reason was the Patriots defense just didn’t stop the run. New Orleans has two great running backs in Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson. If the Patriots don’t tighten up then it will be a long afternoon Sunday. Stopping the run was one of the reasons the Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl last year. You can bet assured that the loss did not sit well with head coach Bill Belichick. As history has shown Patriot fans he’ll do whatever needs to be done to win. Last year for example linebackers Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones were traded midway through the season. With fifteen games to go the Patriots need to focus on Defense. Their front seven ranked eighth overall in the NFL last year. You would never no by their performance in game one. If anything defensive backfield is better with ex Bill Stephon Gilmore at corner. But Gilmore played poorly in the opener. Talent wise the Patriots are one of the best in football. Even with the retirement of Rob Ninkovich the defense is still better than most teams. One thing is for sure the quest for number six will not be accomplished with poor performances as opening night.
With NFL training camps officially opened across the league the New England Patriots received some unexpected news last week.Eight year veteran Rob Ninkovich officially announced his retirement. With Ninkovich officially retired the next question is who will replace Ninkovich at outside linebacker? In eight years with New England Ninkovich has made three trips to the Super Bowl winning two of them. Not only has he won two of them from 2010 until 2016 Ninkovich played in all sixteen of the Patriots regular season games. That in itself is a pretty impressive milestone. Whoever does earn his position it won’t be easy replacing his durability and work ethic. One name to keep an eye on is third year man Trey Flowers. Flowers rose to the occasion last year in the playoffs and had a great Super Bowl. Aside from Flowers look for linebackers Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy and Geno Grissom to compete. Newly acquired David Harris and Kony Ealy will provide depth but may not be the solution. With just four draft picks in 2016 the Patriots selected two players on defense. Derek Rivers an outside linebacker from Youngstown State was their number three pick. With the fourth pick they selected Deatrich Wise a defensive tackle from Arkansas. Don’t expect to much from Rivers or Wise maybe with the exception of special teams. Out of the group the best bet to replace Ninkovich is Trey Flowers. The Patriots should have a good idea who can replace Ninkovich after the final preseason game. Don’t be surprised if the Patriots make some moves during the summer if Belichick isn’t satisfied with what he sees. One interesting name to keep an eye on is free agent Dwight Freeney. Freeney is thirty seven years old but still has plenty of juice in his legs. Freeney would be a perfect short term fit for two or three years. If the Patriots don’t feel happy with what they have he would certainly be an upgrade . No matter which direction the Patriots go in Rob Ninkovich certainly leaves behind an impressive resume three trips to the Super Bowl and winning two of them not to mention ninety six straight games.
It’s a scary thought that the 2016/17 Super Bowl champions got better in the off season. But the truth of the matter is they did. The Patriots pulled far ahead of the AFC pack this past off season. The only teams that were more active than the Patriots were the Browns, Raiders,Colts and Titans. Patriot nation is talking about a 19-0 season but it is what it is just talk. When the clock struck twelve this past March 1st the Patriots went right to work stockpiling in quest of super bowl number six. The Pat’s started out by signing Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore to seven years the biggest free agent signing in Patriot history. Then it was a trade with the Saints that bought 23 year old receiver Brandon Cooks to New England. On a normal season Pat’s fans hope that veterans Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola can stay healthy. But hopefully not this year Cooks joins Amendola, Edelman, Chris Hogan and Andrew Hawkins In the tight end department the Pat’s got another shot in the by signing Colts tight end Dwayne Allen and Chiefs tight end James O’Shaughnessy . If Gronkowski goes down the Pats are well stocked. On the defensive side of the ball the Pats reached at one year deal with holdout Malcom Butler. The long rumored deal had Butler going to New Orleans for it’s 11th pick in the first round but the deal never happened. Butler and Gilmore will be the toughest backfield to throw on. If the Pats stay fairly healthy they could make their second trip to the Super Bowl in two years. Make no mistake about the schedule is not as easy as people think. Any game at Pittsburgh is tough as is the Falcons and Raiders. A trip to Miami later on in the season is no easy task. Don’t forget the 10-6 Dolphins were one of the most improved teams in the AFC last year. If all goes according to plan look for the Patriots and Raiders to meet in the AFC Championship game in January. I look for the Raiders to win the AFC west in 2017.