2004 New England Patriots Season Preview

<b>Head Coach: </b> Bill Belichick ( 82-70) <br><br> <b> Last Season's Record:</b> 14-2, AFC East Champs, AFC Conference Champs, Superbowl Winners <br><br> <b> Last Play Off Appearance: </b> 2003-4 Superbowl XXXVIII

09/09/04 Indianapolis
09/19/04 @Arizona 
10/03/04 @Buffalo
10/10/04 Miami 
10/17/04 Seattle
10/24/04 NY Jets 
10/31/04 @Pittsburgh
11/07/04 @St. Louis
11/14/04 Buffalo 
11/22/04 @Kansas City
11/28/04 Baltimore
12/05/04 @Cleveland
12/12/04 Cincinnati 
12/20/04 @Miami 
12/26/04 @NY Jets
01/02/05 San Francisco
Running back Corey Dillon #28 of the New England Patriots looks to run for a ring, something he never had a chance to do in Cincinnati. But, Can Dillon stay "Team Positive" ? 
Getty Images/Craig Jones

Key matchup(s): Sept. 9th Indianapolis AFC Conference Championship rematch (9:00 pm on ABC); Oct. 10th Miami, 1st rematch without Ricky (1:00pm CBS); Nov. 22nd @ Kansas City MNF (9:00 pm on ABC); Dec 20th @ Miami MNF (9:00 pm on ABC)

Star Power: Tom Brady, QB, 5th , 6-4 225; Troy Brown, WR, 12th, 5-10 196; Ty Law, DB, 10th, 5-11 200; Adam Vinatieri, PK, 9th, 6-0 202; Tedy Bruschi, LB, 9th, 6-1 247; Rodney Harrison, S, 11th, 6-1 220

Notable Additions: Corey Dillon, RB (Cincinnati), Josh Miller, P (Pittsburgh), Ben Watson, TE (1st round draft), Vince Wilfork, DL (1st round draft), Keith Traylor, DL (Chicago)

Notable Subtractions: Ted Washington, DL (Oakland), Damien Woody (Detroit), Terrell Buckley, DB (Cut), Chris Akins, S (Miami)

Notable Returnees: Rosevelt Colvin, LB (returns from IR); Russ Hochstein, OL

Offensive Overview: The offense that is the Patriots revolves around one player, and that is Tom Brady. When Brady is given time, his passes are sharp, he finds the open receiver and he can lead a team down into Vinatieri's FG range. As a testament to both Superbowl wins, Brady's ability to drive the team down the field lead late in the game led to Vinatieri winning both games with his foot. Gone is the slow plodding Antowain Smith, in with rookie Cedric Cobbs and FA Corey Dillon. The offseason addition of Dillion from the Bengals gives the Patriots the every down back they need to balance their attack. Coach Bill Belichick and Offensive Coordinator Charlie Weiss must have had to pinch themselves when looking at their WR corp. Not only have the players gained valuable experience, but also those with injuries or question marks have impressed in camp (notably David Patten). The team added TE Ben Watson (1st round), who should remind pats fans of the days of dependable Ben Coates. The concern for this offense is if either Brady gets hurt, OR the additions to the OL don't mesh well after losing C Damien Woody and Mike Compton. The line seemed to rally around Brady last year, and 2nd year C Dan Koppen , veteran Joe Andruzzi will be counted on again this year. Look for a more balanced attack this year. There still may be the occasional Troy Brown end around, but you can bet on a much-improved threat from play action pass with Corey Dillon in the backfield.

Defensive Overview: The Patriots Defensive unit appears to be well populated with skill players, but not household names. Gone is perennial run-stuffer Ted Washington, and the physical cover corner Terrell Buckley. In are players like Keith Traylor, and Rookie DL Marquise Hill. Hill Traylor, Ty Warren, Richard Seymour and rookie 1st Rounder Vince Wilfork should make for a pretty solid defensive line. Belichick being the ever-minded defensive genius that he is also has a sold LB core manned by versatile Mike Vrabel (superbowl TD), the ever-present Tedy Bruschi, recently returned from injury Rosevelt Colvin and aging Ted Johnson. The DL to LB experiment for Dan Klecko (son of Jets great DL, Joe), is going well. In Belichicks 3-4 scheme, Klecko seems to have found his niche. As an undersized DL, he would get lost on run plays, as a LB, Klecko fills holes quickly, and has the size to be a serious run stuffer. The concern for the team is the secondary. With Tyrone Poole and Asante Samuel in the backfield, its unlikely teams will fear taking shots deep. Obviously Ty Law will have to be accounted for, but Rodney Harrison has proven this preseason that without a good pass rush, teams may be able to beat the Patriots deep. Look for the Patriots to try to get to the QB quickly with different schemes up front, akin to the days in Pittsburgh, which gave the team the nickname "Blitzburgh." With more inexperience in the backfield, Law will be counted on again to keep the Pats in striking distance for Vinatieri's foot.

Special Teams Overview: The Patriots Special team is well known for the leg of Adam. Adam Vinatieri that is. You can feel his confident swagger as he launches 50 yard FGs in practice. With the return of Vinatieri, the FG unit is set. The team added Pittsburgh punter Josh Miller, who has a pretty decent leg. Miller had no trouble booting 60 yard Punts in camp. The question is; can he launch one on a consistent basis in game situations? That was the knock on him in Pittsburgh. The return game is still in flux, as starting WR Troy Brown continues to takes turns returning kicks.

Team Prediction: Now that Ricky (Williams) has retired, and Drew (Bledsoe) is facing a make-or break season, and the Jets annual move of players to the NFC East has happened, the Patriots are in better shape this year to go win back-to-back Superbowls than in 2001. It's hard to find another more complete team out there in a division ripe for the taking. The Patriots will be able to win the Superbowl again, if; 1) the referees don't go overboard trying to make up for last season. 2) If for some reason the injury bug hits the offense.

TheInsiders.com 2004 NFL Football Preview
BuffaloMiamiNew EnglandNY Jets

Scout NFL Network Top Stories