The Quiet Before the Storm: Highlighting Patriots’ Offseason
While the early summer months mark the beginning of countless cookouts and beach days across New England, it also marks one of the most agonizing times for die-hard Patriots fans. With the opening of training camp still a month away, fans now find themselves in what is one of the quietest times on the NFL calendar.
There are no more “splashes” to be made in free agency. There are no more mock drafts to applaud or squawk at in disapproval. There is nothing left to do but anxiously await the beginning of training camp, where question marks will begin to be answered and position battles will truly start to unfold.
With that said, Patriot Nation can be anything but disappointed with how this offseason transpired. Moving up twice in the first round of the NFL draft for two defensive studs, as well as going on a shopping spree in free agency, this has truly been one of the Patriots’ most exciting offseasons in the Bill Belichick era.
In what could be described as a free-agent binge, the Patriots signed, barring quarterback, at least one player from every position group, embracing the idea that “depth wins championships.”
Signing high-motored defensive linemen such as Trevor Scott and Jonathan Fanene as well as grabbing bright and versatile safety Steve Gregory, the Patriots filled immediate needs and built quality depth on the defensive side of the ball.
The Pats also created a logjam of talent at the wide receiver position, with the acrobatic Brandon Lloyd headlining the group as the much-needed deep-threat receiver. With the early departures of Anthony Gonzalez and Chad Ochocinco (now with the rival Miami Dolphins), the group is beginning to take form with Wes Welker, Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney atop the depth chart.
The Patriots also decided to re-sign longtime center Dan Koppen and jack-of-all-trades offensive lineman Dan Connolly. Belichick also brought veteran guard/tackle Robert Gallery on board. With right guard Brian Waters’ future with the team murky and left guard Logan Mankins’ ACL recovery time-table uncertain, these moves along the offensive line may turn out to be the smartest of the offseason.
Fans across New England were pinching themselves when they saw the Patriots move up twice in the first round of NFL draft this past April.
It was a dream come true.
After two years of watching his defense struggle, Belichick finally decided to pull the trigger and cash in on his collection of high draft picks.
In the first round, the Patriots moved up from the 27th to the 21st spot and drafted Chandler Jones, a defensive end with long arms, freakish athletic ability and a deadly first step.
“Three years from now,” said Mayock. “I’m going to say Chandler Jones is the best defensive player to come out of this draft.” Lombardi added, “I think what Mike Mayock said is right. He is the best defensive player in the draft.”
The Pats made another unexpected move when they leaped from the No. 31 overall to No. 25 overall to bring in Alabama standout linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
Hightower’s ability to play all linebacker positions in both a 3-4 and 4-3 alignment make him just the kind of chess piece Belichick covets in his multifaceted defense. Add in Hightower’s background in a Patriots-like defensive system during his time under Nick Saban in Alabama and it’s easy to understand why Belichick was so aggressive to ensure he would be in a Patriots jersey in 2012.
With strong depth across the board and potential game changers on both sides of the ball, the Patriots–a team that was only one tough catch away from winning it all a season ago–look like a much improved team.
Before the start of free agency, the Patriots’ roster was already among the NFL’s finest, sporting names like Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork. Now, with additions like Lloyd and first-rounders Jones and Hightower, the Pats may be in a class of their own.
By all accounts, it appears that the pieces are in place and now fans must sit and wait out the quiet before the storm–the storm that might finally bring that lingering fourth Lombardi Trophy back to New England.