As the New England patriots entered this off-season after a crushing defeat to the rival Indianapolis Colts, they were left with many questions that needed to be addressed.
With the lack of premier wide receivers on the field what were the Patriots going to do to try and shore up this depleted position? In 2006, as most everyone knows with the departure of Deion Branch and David Givens, the Patriots were playing with a core of makeshift receivers who would normally be number twos and number threes on another staff. Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney did a good job, but were never considered an elite corps of receivers.
The position of linebacker aging as each week passes. What were the Patriots going to do to make the position younger and faster with players like Bruschi and Vrabel getting up in the years? With the injury to Junior Seau and the departure of Banta Cain to the 49ers, the off-season created a gaping hole that was already exposed during the AFC Championship game against the Colts when Indianapolis Colts' tight end in Dallas Clark shredded the Patriots. That game exposed the weakness in the New England defense and everyone asked; How were the Patriots going to patch it?
The secondary was another great concern for the team and fans alike. With the aging , injury-prone Rodney Harrison and emergency room bound Eugene Wilson; the Pats definitely needed to address the safety position. In the championship game the cornerbacks held their own in keeping Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne at bay, but the safety position was lacking that cover and pop.
As you know, the last game that this team played was against the Indianapolis Colts, but in all honesty, that is who the Patriots will have to judge themselves against in 2007. A cliché phrase that people hear all of the time is, "defense wins championships." We rate the Patriots' defense against two of the best offenses in the league: the San Diego Chargers and the Indianapolis Colts.
So Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli immediately hit the ground running when the off-season came around. They were being proactive when they signed Sammy Morris before the departure of Corey Dillon. They answered the questions at linebacker by signing Adalius Thomas -- who brings youth and speed -- from Baltimore.
As for the position of wide receiver, they went crazy by signing four premier wide receivers and a tight end to bring that position back to an area of strength for this team. The additions of Dante Stallworth, Wes Welker, Kelly Washington and the much-maligned Randy Moss have answered Tom Brady's and the fan's concerns about this position.
This organization, which usually keeps their playing hands close to the vest and doesn't spend a lot of money and resources in the off-season, is spending money where they need. They made trades and acquisitions that has Patriot nation buzzing with excitement.
Then, at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, came the NFL draft. The Patriots were both shrewd and patient at the same time in this draft. They strategically planned for the future and also solidified some needs for this year.
They completed an overhaul of a lot of different positions through free agency already but, one of those concerns, mentioned earlier, was the position of safety. New England and they immediately picked up the hard-hitting safety from Miami, Brandon Meriweather, with their first pick.
With the second pick of the draft, New England traded it away for a number one for next year. This might have been a very smart move because they felt that the pool of talent this year really wasn't what they were looking for. It also answers another looming question about the future of Bill Belichick seeing as to how this is his last year on his contract. He seems to be planning for the future with this team and staying with Scott Pioli and this organization after Pioli turned down the job in New York earlier this year.
The biggest move of earthquake type proportions was the signing of bad boy receiver, Randy Moss from the Oakland Raiders.
This move was a "no brainer" for the New England Patriots. Not only did the Patriots only have to give up a fourth round pick for an amazingly talented receiver but he asked to come here and restructured his contract to do so. He took approximately a seven million dollar paycut to play in Foxborough. Moss wanted to come to New England and have a chance to win games. With this acquisition being a one-year contract, this is a win/win situation for both the Patriots and Moss.
Many people have voiced their concerns over the fact that Randy Moss doesn't play hard and is a bad locker room guy.
Remember when the Patriots signed Corey Dillon, they heard the same thing about him. Fans heard that he was a cancer for the team and always ran his mouth and brought down the morale of the team. We all know how Corey Dillon turned out for this team. Do you remember Rodney Harrison before he came over from San Diego? He was labeled as a dirty, vicious player. He came to New England and has been nothing short of perfect when healthy and has helped them win championships and has been one of the leaders on this team. I think that Randy Moss will work out the same exact way. People are afraid of his character and how it will mesh with the team chemistry. If anyone can get maximum performance and team effort out of someone, Bill Belichick and this organization can.
I think the New England Patriots are an organization that teams are trying to pattern themselves after when it comes to solid drafting, overall winning attitude, and leadership on the field. That's probably no surprise to many who follow the league, but this year's off-season just goes to prove it.
This is going to be a great year for fans rooting for the Pats on and off the field. As you sit back and see where the Patriots are, remember how fun this is now and remember to enjoy every minute of it. It is a good time to be a Patriots fan.
When does training camp start? I know I can't wait.
Shane is a lifelong Patriots fan who grew up in Worcester, MA. He showed his Patriots spirit by representing his home team all over the world while in the military. A resident of Bangor, ME, Shane remains a diehard fan of the team and regularly makes the 500 mile round trip trek to watch them whenever he can.