Will Brandon Lloyd become another 1,000 yard receiver for Tom Brady and the Patriots Offense?
With the 2012 NFL regular season officially underway, rosters are set and new stars are ready to be born. For every emerging star, however, comes a player who won’t live up to expectations and takes a step back from their previous success. Each team across the league will experience their share of these booms and busts. Luckily for Patriots fans, Head Coach Bill Belichick has been able to produce more booms than busts throughout his career with the team.
Now before you all start thinking about who will surprise and who may disappoint for the Patriots this season, I’ve made it a lot easier by offering five bold predictions to keep an eye on for the Pats 2012 campaign.
Devin McCourty will return to form in his third season
The drop off we saw from McCourty during his sophomore season was mind boggling. One year removed from a seven interception season, McCourty got torched by the league’s top receivers week in and week out. Given the production during his rookie season, McCourty’s play can only improve the third time out. I expect McCourty to rebound nicely this year and take ownership for his poor performance from a season ago. McCourty and Kyle Arrington should form a reputable corner back pairing in 2012.
No Patriots Running Back rushes for 1,000 yards
This was the case last year and will be the case again this season. BenJarvus Green-Ellis barely eclipsed 1,000 yards two seasons ago and now he’s the lead back in Cincinnati. With the departure of Green-Ellis, a serious time share could occur in the Patriots backfield. While second year running back, Stevan Ridley, is supposed to get a majority of the early down work, we can expect Danny Woodhead as usual on third down situations. Then there comes Shane Vereen, also a second year back who will likely be added to the mix should he stay healthy. With three running backs involved and all rather unproven, I wouldn’t expect any Patriots running back to become a shining star this season.
The Patriots will have four receivers with 900+ yards
For any other team in the league, this would be unfathomable. Not even the Aaron Rodgers led Packers have enough talent on offense to pull this off. The Patriots, however, have the personnel to accomplish this amazing feat. While this may be the boldest of my predictions, 900 yards across four players totals 3,600 yards, a number that should be far passed by quarterback Tom Brady. Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez each cracked the 900 yard mark last season, with Welker and Gronkowski going well over 1,000. If those weapons weren’t enough for Brady, the Pats strengthened their offensive attack in the off season by acquiring down field threat, Brandon Lloyd. With Lloyd and Brady already clicking in practice, the respected Lloyd has a legitimate shot at 1,000 yards this year as well.
Tom Brady throws for 40+ Touchdowns
See prediction above. With Brandon Lloyd now in the mix, Brady will have even more ammo to rack up touchdown pass after touchdown pass, building on the 39 TDs he threw for last year. Brady has shown what he’s capable of when given elite talent to throw to. If anyone remembers the historic season he had with Randy Moss in 2007, they will thoroughly understand the reality of this and almost expect Brady to throw for 40+ touchdowns. As long as he stays healthy, Brady could challenge his 50 touchdowns from 2007.
No one on the Patriots will record more than 6 sacks this season
Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. This has consistently been a problem for the Patriots defense in recent memory and it may not be solved this season either. With the departure of Andre Carter, who recorded 10 sacks a year ago, the Patriots are in desperate need for one of their pass rushers to breakout in 2012. Aside from Carter, Rob Ninkovich was the only other Patriots player to surpass six sacks last season as he finished with 6.5. There will be a heavy burden on rookie defensive end, Chandler Jones, to emerge as the team’s leading pass rusher. While I expect Jones to make an impact and contribute immediately, expectations should not be set too high for a young player with untapped potential. Aside from Jones and Ninkovich, I cannot see too many other formidable pass rushing options for a team that has struggled mightily in that defensive category.
These are just five things to keep an eye on in what should be another phenomenal season for the Patriots in 2012. What will you be watching for when the Pats kick off the season this Sunday in Tennessee?