Bold predictions from Curran, Perry and Giardi
Bold predictions from Curran, Perry and Giardi
A new season is upon us, and – even though they’re the defending Super Bowl champion – the Patriots have some question marks. What can we expect. Well, here are some bold predictions from Tom E. Curran, Phil Perry and Mike Giardi.
TOM CURRAN: BOLD PREDICTIONS NUMBER 1
Travaris Cadet and Dion Lewis wind up being a pair of off-the-radar big-play guys all season long. The two are similar in that they are situational players but, while Lewis is a conventional third-down back, Cadet has a wrinkle to him. He is fully capable of lining up outside and making plays outside the numbers as a receiver while Lewis (or most third-down backs) are between-the-hash receivers. Both will make a large number of impactful plays.
TOM CURRAN: BOLD PREDICTION NUMBER 2
Jamie Collins will be a Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro. By the end of the 2014 season, Collins and Dont'a Hightower were playing extremely well. They understood their roles so well they were both able to turn off the brain and just play. And Collins’ play was eye-opening. He has rare range and athleticism and the buzz he built nationally by the end of the playoffs means he’ll get his due this year.
TOM CURRAN: BOLD PREDICTION NUMBER 3
Malcolm Butler’s transition from Super Bowl hero to full-time NFL starter will be a lot less smooth than hoped. It’s the natural order of things at the cornerback position. Failure is the best teacher. Butler, a bit player for so much of 2014 is now front-and-center and there’s an outsized expectation that he will be a shutdown corner. That’s like being asked to drive 110 mph on a learner’s permit. Butler will be a good starting corner in the NFL and it won’t take long. But it will be a rocky start so prepare for the inch-deep analysts to rev up the “Shoulda kept Revis…” line.
PHIL PERRY: BOLD PREDICTION NUMBER 1
Scott Chandler will catch nine touchdowns. With Brandon LaFell on the physically unable to perform list for the start of the season, the Patriots are going to have to get creative with their weapons in the passing game. A unit that features Rob Gronkowski, Chandler, Edelman and Danny Amendola -- with all four seeing varying amounts of time on the outside -- may be the team's best combination when they want to work through the air. That means that the team's new tight end should see plenty of opportunities early on. Chandler has worked closely with Tom Brady all summer, especially on their timing in the red zone, and he'll find himself one-on-one with smaller opposing defenders while teams focus on slowing down his tight end partner-in-crime. They are different types of players, but if Tim Wright can catch six touchdowns in this offense, which he did last season, Chandler could approach double-digit scores.
PHIL PERRY: BOLD PREDICTION NUMBER 2
Bradley Fletcher will start 16 games at corner. Obviously this is largely dependent on health -- he started all 28 games in which played over the last two seasons for the Eagles -- but the point is that he'll be effective enough to warrant a significant role in the Patriots secondary for the duration of 2015. At 6-feet, 196 pounds, with long arms, and good instincts when the ball is in the air, Fletcher will be a staple in the team's new-look defensive backfield. In the last few weeks, he's become more comfortable in the Patriots system, which should suit him much better than Philadelphia's. What everyone remembers of his 2014 is Fletcher losing battles with Jordy Nelson and Dez Bryant. How often do the Patriots ask their corners to go one-on-one with the NFL's freakiest athletes at the receiver position? Unless your name is Darrelle Revis -- and even then, Revis didn't always get a No. 1 guy -- it almost never happens. Plus Fletcher will be working with a safety in Devin McCourty who is far better than anyone the Eagles trotted out last season. He may not be Bill Belichick's No. 1 on the outside. That job appears to be Malcolm Butler's. But Fletcher will be a reliable presence on the edge in what people will remember as his bounce-back year.
PHIL PERRY: BOLD PREDICTION NUMBER 3
Chandler Jones will set a personal-best in sacks. After going through a season in which injury sapped his playing time last year, the Patriots former No. 1 pick in 2012 appears to be fully healthy and primed for a career year. He made the Year 1 to Year 2 jump that Belichick so often speaks of, going from six sacks in his rookie season to 11.5 in 2013, and if his health remains intact in Year 4, that number should see another boost. What will help him in that pursuit are the teammates around him. The Patriots defensive line is one of their deepest position groups, meaning the team will be allowed to strategically rest players like Jones, Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard, unleashing them with fresh legs in critical situations.
PHIL PERRY: BOLD PREDICTION NUMBER 4
The Patriots defense, despite its losses from last season, will rank in the top 10 in points allowed. No Revis, no Brandon Browner, no Kyle Arrington, no Vince Wilfork, no problem? Well, not exactly. There will very likely be some growing pains as the team gels over the season's first two months. But every year, almost without fail, Belichick seems to figure out a way to take units with varying levels of talent and churn out a defense that places among the league's best in keeping opponents off the scoreboard. Here's how his team's have ranked in points allowed over the last 10 years: 7th (2014), 10th, 11th, 11th, 8th, 6th, 8th, 1st, 2nd, 17th (2005).
MIKE GIARDI: BOLD PREDICTION NUMBER 1
Bradley Fletcher, Tarell Brown and Logan Ryan will do absolutely nothing to make you forget Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington. Browner’s loss is one of the biggest the Pats suffered this offseason. Not just for his physicality, attitude and ability to deal with bigger receivers/tight ends, but also for his intelligence. He never got enough credit for deciphering what was coming at him. It wasn’t quite Revis-like, but it was pretty doggone good. Just ask the Seahawks. As for Arrington, everyone’s last memory will be of him getting torched in that first half of the Super Bowl and sat down for Malcolm Butler. But prior to that, Arrington had a hell of a season, one of the best amongst slot corners in the entire league. A sound tackler and physical presence in the slot, Arrington was as dependable as they come. Now what? Ryan’s confidence is shaky. So is his technique. Fletcher is coming off a miserable year in Philly and while he’s been on the rise here the last two weeks, he’s got to prove he’s back to 2013 form. I like Brown, and think he’s the team’s 2nd best corner, but he too has dealt with injuries and that’s concerning.
MIKE GIARDI: BOLD PREDICTION NUMBER 2
Aaron Dobson’s performance over the first 5 games of the season will make you celebrate Brandon Lafell’s return from PUP like it’s Mardi Gras. The quarterback doesn’t trust Dobson, and Dobson’s snaps with Brady in preseason game number 3 versus Carolina did nothing to change that. Dobson is headed down the flameout road here unless he figures out a way to be a more competitive player but I’m beginning to wonder if he has it in him.