Since free agency opened March 10, front offices around the league have been busy retooling rosters and preparing for the upcoming season. Here at CSNWashington.com, we’ve kept a watchful eye on the moves made by teams that appear on the Redskins’ 2015 schedule. Who’s gotten better? Who’s slipped a bit? Let’s take a closer look.
New England Patriots (Week 9)
2014 record: 12-4.
Key additions: DL Jabaal Sheard (Browns), QB Matt Flynn (Packers), CB Bradley Fletcher (Eagles), TE Scott Chandler (Bills), RB Travaris Cadet (Saints), LB/special teams Jonathan Freeny (Dolphins), DL Malcom Brown (1st round pick/Texas), G Tre’ Jackson (4th round/Florida State), WR Brandon Gibson (Dolphins) and CB Robert McClain (Falcons).
Key departures: CB Darrelle Revis (Jets), RB Shane Vereen (Giants), DL Vince Wilfork (Texans), LB Akeem Ayers (Rams), RB Stevan Ridley (Jets), CB Brandon Browner (Saints), LB/special teams Jonathan Casillas (Giants), G Dan Connolly (retired), TE Tim Wright (Buccaneers) and CB Kyle Arrington (Ravens)
Key move: Bill Belichick’s decision not to keep Darrelle Revis, who inked a five-year, $70 million deal (including $39 million guaranteed) to rejoin the AFC East rival Jets. The 30-year-old was the NFL’s fourth most effective corner last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com. With Revis’ departure, a position that had been a strength for the Patriots during their Super Bowl run has become a weakness.
What it all means for the Redskins: The good news is that Jay Gruden and Co. will have two weeks to prepare for the Super Bowl champs after their Week 8 bye.
The bad news is that Tom Brady figures to be making his fourth start after returning from a four-game suspension (unless he wins his appeal and comes back sooner). Either way, it’s likely he’ll still be plenty fired up about the whole Deflategate flap.
The most noticeable changes for the Patriots are on defense, where they’ve said goodbye to cornerbacks Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington as well as massive defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. On paper, at least, New England appears to have taken a small step back on this side of the ball.
On offense, however, the core hasn’t changed a whole lot and the lineup appears as potent as ever. In fact, with the exception of losing pass-catching running back Shane Vereen, they’re mostly the same old Pats who ranked fourth in the NFL last season in scoring (29.3 points per game).
Brady, 37, isn’t getting any younger but he remains one of the game’s elite signal callers, having passed for 4,109 yards, 33 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2014. And, of course, he’s still got Rob Gronkowski, who is virtually unstoppable. Gronk, 26, led all tight ends with 1,124 receiving yards and tied for the lead in touchdowns with 12.
Which brings me to the matchup to watch at Foxboro: Brady and Gronkowski vs. a Redskins defense that has routinely struggled to contain pass catching tight ends. Sure, it’s an obvious one. But it’s also a potential game-deciding matchup.