As Training Camp gets underway, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald highlights 5 things to look out for over the next few weeks. Not surprisingly, Rob Gronkowski's recovery was at the very top of his list.
"As long as he's on the field in Week 1 against the Dolphins, no one will care what he does in practice," says Howe. "Still at issue is whether the Pats did enough to protect themselves this offseason. Right now, it's Michael Hoomanawanui and D.J. Williams coming off the bench."
During Wednesday's player press conferences, one of the major focuses was third-down defense. Both Rob Ninkovich and Devin McCourty talked about the need to get more stops on third-downs and Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe agrees with them. She explains that the Patriots were ranked towards the bottom of the league on third down, allowing opponents to convert 42.2% of the time.
With improvements made to the secondary this offseason, Chandler Jones and the defensive line should have more time to get to the quarterback in 2014. In fact, CBS Boston says that Jones is primed for his best season yet.
"With a better secondary behind them, and a young disruptive player like Easley to play alongside some of the bigger bodies, it should open up Chandler Jones for a monster season in terms of getting after the quarterback."
Tom E Curran of Comcast SportsNet provides his own preview for the Patriots defensive ends and he agrees that Jones could be even better in 2014 if the interior defensive line is more stable than it was last year.
While the defense appears to be much improved compared to last year, Mike Reiss asks whether the Patriots did enough to improve the offense. In a post on ESPN Boston, Reiss explains why this year's offense should be much better than last year's. In addition to a healthy Gronk, Reiss believes that the receivers should be more reliable in 2014 after having spent a year in the Patriots system. He also believes that free agent acquisition, Brandon LaFell, should provide value in the red zone.
So if the offense is better and the defense is better in 2014, are the Patriots better than the Denver Broncos? Michael Holley and Jeff Howe discussed this very topic on Comcast SportsNet's "Sports Tonight" and Holley believes that it all boils down to Brady vs. Manning.
"It really comes down to which quarterback do you think is going to perform in the big moment in the AFC Championship game," said Holley. "The Broncos have a more explosive offense… the Patriots should have a better defense, slightly. We're talking about pretty much a coin flip."