By: Jonathan Janas, KCOU Sports
Only twice in the Tom Brady Era have the New England Patriots not gone to the playoffs. The first was in Brady’s first full season as a starter, they finished tied for first in the AFC East but lost the tiebreaker to the New York Jets. The second was when Brady went down in the first game of the 2008 season. Having won the AFC East now six seasons in a row, it’s not hard to imagine seeing the reigning Super Bowl Champs in the postseason yet again next year.
Now while winning back-to-back Super Bowls is probably the toughest task in the game, we know Bill Belichick and the Patriots can do it. After all, the last team that won back-to-back Super Bowls was Belichick, Brady, and the Patriots. There are three positions that need to be improved upon in the offseason if the Patriots want to reign supreme in 2016.
The Patriots ranked 18th in the NFL in rushing offense. I will say this is quite surprising considering the willingness by the Patriots to avoid running the ball, but imagine a New England offense that can cause safeties and linebackers to step up and create more space and one-on-ones for Tom Brady to take advantage of. Look for the Pats to target a young, raw running back via the draft. A back like Todd Gurley might be able to step in and be the Eddie Lacy of this franchise.
23 players had over 1,000 receiving yards this past season; the only Patriot among those was Tight End Rob Gronkowski. Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell were in the low 900’s of receiving yards, but they can credit that to the amount of passing plays that the Patriots ran. Brady is in need of a #1 receiver that can reduce LaFell to the number two receiver he is and keeps Edelman in the slot permanently. With the ridiculous amount of talent in this upcoming free agent class, don’t be surprised to see the Patriots move some money around and make an offer at a guy like Larry Fitzgerald, Demaryius Thomas, or Reggie Wayne.
Russell Wilson made New England’s pass rushers look like slow fools. The NFL quarterback is now almost required to be able to roll out of the pocket and make plays with his feet and throw on the run, and the Patriots proved in the Super Bowl that they don’t have the talent to consistently get to the quarterback. Whether it is through the draft or free agency, talent needs to be added but the money that the Patriots have to spend may be limited when/if they re-sign Darrelle Revis.
The Patriots have what it takes to get back to the AFC Championship game and maybe even the Super Bowl once again, but winning it against a new and improved NFC Champion may present quite the obstacle. Even the Super Bowl Champions have room to improve, and if the Patriots play their cards right, we might see them hoisting the Lombardi Trophy this time next year, too.