Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 8/21/13
It’s safe to say that when the New England Patriots made the curious decision to let Wes Welker sign with AFC rival Denver Broncos for only slightly more money than what they had been offering, they were confident that the weapons Tom Brady still had around him would be more than enough to make the passing attack one of the best in the NFL yet again. Then they learned Gronk had to get back surgery. Then they found out that Aaron Hernandez had been doing a bad Anton Chigurh impression for the past few years. And suddenly, that passing attack that has ranked in the top 5 in the league for three of the past four years was looking very ordinary. With Welker and Hernandez already out the door and Gronk’s status for the regular season in doubt, the bulk of the targets will go towards Julian Edelman and the newly-signed Danny Amendola, whom the Patriots somehow decided was a better investment than the consistently dynamic Welker. Amendola is undoubtedly a talented and productive receiver when healthy, but the problem is that he hasn’t been healthy in a long time, missing 22 games over the past 4 seasons. Meanwhile, there’s little doubt that the Patriots’ success hinges on the ability of Tom Brady to stay on the field, a reality that became a little more real last week when he limped off the field with an apparent knee injury and caused the hearts of everyone in New England to momentarily stop for a few seconds. It turned out to be a non-issue, but it was a harsh reminder that with a weaker supporting cast than in years past, the Pats are only going to go as far as Brady will take them. Ready for the good news? Good, because there’s plenty of it. For starters, Brady has proved time and time again that he only needs marginally competent receivers to execute a deadly passing attack. If you don’t believe me, take a look at how guys like Deion Branch, David Givens, and David Patten performed after leaving town. The running game should also be even better than it was last year (7th in total yards) with the addition of LeGarrette Blount and Tim Tebow (yes, Tebow will likely be a solid running threat as long as Belichick knows enough to never let him throw) to take some of the load off of Stevan Ridley. And Shane Vereen figures to be the Pats’ version of Randall Cobb or Darren Sproles this year now that Danny Woodhead is in San Diego, as he’s expected to line up all over the field as a kind of super utility man designed to confuse defenses. The offensive line in front of Brady and the running backs figures to be exceptionally strong once again as well, as Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer are only getting better at left and right tackle, respectively, and the interior line of Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, and Ryan Wendell is rock solid. But the best news for New England fans is that the defense, whose awful performance over the past three years (average overall rank: 27) has chipped away at Bill Belichick’s “defensive genius” reputation, has the potential to be very good once again. [Do you want to put your NFL knowledge to the test with weekly fantasy football? Sign-up for FanDuel.com using promo code TSP for a 50% deposit bonus!] Bringing back Aqib Talib on an affordable one-year deal was a huge coup, as his acquisition midway through last season shored up what had been a dreadful secondary to that point. And with All-Pro strong safety Adrian Wilson now lining up next to Devin McCourty, the Pats’ secondary might actually be a strength for the first time in a while. The linebacking corps of Don’t’a Hightower, Brandon Spikes, and Jerod Mayo is solid if not spectacular, and the pass rush will be formidable with highly-touted second-year defensive end Chandler Jones fully healthy. With Rob Ninkovich lining up on the other end and Jamie Collins providing depth, the Pats will have a solid rotation to bookend run-stuffer extraordinaire Vince Wilfork and whoever wins the right to line up next to him at defensive tackle. And the best news of all? The Patriots are still playing among the pu-pu platter of teams that make up the rest of the AFC East. Barring another major catastrophe, they’ll be back in the playoffs once again. By: Craig Lowell Twitter: @CraigRLowell

This article first appeared on The Sports Post and was syndicated with permission.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Rockets have 'serious chance' at landing Chris Paul

MotoGP qualifying for the Dutch Grand Prix saw three frightening crashes Saturday

Report: Knicks attempted to move Joakim Noah with Kristaps Porzingis

Hornets GM mistakenly introduces Dwayne Bacon as Dwyane Wade

Three A's players knock first MLB homers in the same game

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Cuban-American businessman emerges as potential Marlins buyer

Charles Oakley: Kristaps Porzingis was ‘wrong’ to skip exit meeting

Ranking the toughest divisions in the NFL

Sixers already looking to extend Joel Embiid

WATCH: Klay Thompson fails miserably attempting a 360 dunk

Jays closer Roberto Osuna says he’s dealing with anxiety

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

The 'Finest running back from America’s Finest City' quiz

Players who need to turn around their season to save their teams

Sports & Politics Intersect: Washington gets a rare win

Three Up, Three Down: Flouting the written and unwritten rules of baseball

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Billy King Award for worst trade

Kicking it: David Villa isn't interested in a 'retirement tour'

Box Score 6/23: Philly continues to trust the process

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

The 'NBA Draft going back to school?' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Gary Payton Award for best trash talk of the year

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

The 'Finest running back from America’s Finest City' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Billy King Award for worst trade

Players who need to turn around their season to save their teams

Three Up, Three Down: Flouting the written and unwritten rules of baseball

Sports & Politics Intersect: Washington gets a rare win

Kicking it: David Villa isn't interested in a 'retirement tour'

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

The 'NBA Draft going back to school?' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker