Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 3/10/13
2012 Season Summary: The New England Patriots enjoyed a relatively successful campaign despite losing in the AFC Championship game to the ultimate Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens. The offense led the league in scoring and proved, in part, why Tom Brady is the best of the best. Despite fighting through various injuries throughout the year, Brady excelled and the running game found its footing.The defense was a different animal altogether, looking every bit the weak link of an otherwise championship-caliber team. The front line and linebacking corps looked good at times, while the secondary enjoyed a slight boost in performance with the mid-season addition of Aqib Talib. But down-field coverage was their Achilles heel, and can be squarely blamed for their failure. Josh McDaniels could have opened up the playbook a little wider, to be sure, but he did have a bit of a revolving door at every position except quarterback. 2012 record: A division dominating 12-4 record made them, once again, the class of the AFC East. Positions of Need:Bill Belichick needs to remind us of why he came to this franchise as a defensive guru. That is what won three Super Bowls and it is clearly what was lacking in 2012. The defensive secondary led the league, giving up plays of greater than 20 yards. But the front seven needs to apply more pressure on the quarterback. I think the front line is one player away from solving that problem.But the defensive backs need help. Even if Talib is re-signed, they are going to need to get much better at cornerback. rookie Alphonzo Dennard was a steal in last year's Draft. If he is allowed to play in 2013, it bodes well for outside coverage. The real need is for another bump-and-run corner to complement Talib and a hard hitter in the mold of Rodney Harrison. This team misses that element.Finally, with or without Wes Welker in the slot (god forbid), Tom Brady needs a deep threat to stretch the field. Speed and size are what to grab in the early rounds of the draft. First Round Target:With the 29th pick, I see no choice but to secure the top corner available. But I want size; which is why Xavier Rhodes is my first choice. I also have my eye on Johnthan Banks. I like these guys better than Desmond Trufant, who is getting all the rave around the NFL. Rhodes and Banks have the size we need on the outside, and played much more consistent ball in college.Teams To Keep an Eye On:Miami and Tampa Bay both need corner help like the Patriots, as do the Colts. The top corner in this Draft is Dee Milliner, and he will be gone before any of these teams pick. Trufant will probably be the next coveted cornerback, and then Banks. If all of them are gone by the 29th pick, David Amerson is the next best choice. He has good speed and tackles well. As a last resort, I would target Blidi Wrey-Wilson, although I don't foresee that many being picked on day one. Trade Winds:I think it is time to move Ryan Mallett. They picked up Kafka as a back-up to Brady, and I have an ace-in-the-hole. Dennard Robinson is switching to wide receiver, and would make a good alternative/developmental project behind Welker. He could be a third option for the quarterback position. Perhaps adding Arrington and/or Patrick Chung to the Mallett deal, and sending them off to a QB-hungry team like Arizona and the Patriots could find themselves with a full complement of picks come draft day. Draft History:2012: DE Chandler Jones and LB Dont'a Hightower2011: OL Nate Solder 2010: DB Devin McCourty 2009: No Pick- traded down to second round- DB Patrick Chung2008: LB Jerod Mayo2007: DB Brandon Merriweather
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