Patriots’ Youngsters Look to Improve in 2014-15


It’s easy to say that the Patriots have a much better looking roster this season than last. With a healthy Rob Gronkowski joining new acquisitions like Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Tim Wright and Brandon LaFell, things are already looking good for the Pats on both sides of the ball; Brady has some new weapons to play with, while the secondary finally looks threatening (maybe even terrifying) to the rest of the league.

But, my optimism doesn’t end there.

As we know, new players don’t always dictate the difference between two seasons. In many cases, the X factor in a new season is the improvement and development of returning players; in particular, the youngsters. And, looking at this years roster, I see a lot of young players who have the chance to make significant strides in their pro potential.

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First, on the offensive side of the ball, Brady should have a much better receiving core to work with. Starting with a couple of vets, we can expect another big season from Julian Edelman. After a career year, Edelman has cemented himself as TB12’s number one target. And of course, if Gronk can stay healthy, he’ll finally have the chance to end the ‘Gronk vs. Jimmy Graham‘ talks once and for all. But, the biggest possible upsides (or downsides) lie in the hands of the hands of the returning sophomores. At this point, Aaron Dobson might be the biggest question mark. After all the hype that was generated after he was drafted, we haven’t quite been able to see a healthy Aaron Dobson on the field for an extended period of time. But, after a successful foot surgery, we might finally see another Marshall wide receiver have a big year for New England. Finally, we reach the receiver I might be most excited for; Kenbrell Thompkins. Coming off a year where he had to prove himself just to make the squad, we now get to see what he can do after a year under the wing of Tom Brady. As long as Thompkins (and Dobson, for that matter) have spent enough time learning better ball security over the offseason (remember “Dropkins” and “Dropson”?), we might be witnessing a couple of Jimmy Garappolo’s future targets.

Aug 28, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Aaron Dobson (17) celebrates with wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins (85) after scoring a touchdown against the New York Giants during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

On defense, things are looking pretty similar. Along with the (great) new faces that have arrived, the young guns have a great chance to provide help in each aspect of the defense. First, on the line, Chandler Jones might have more potential than anyone else on the squad. After a huge rookie year and an impressive preseason, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Chandler’s name at the top of the league in sacks within the next couple of years. Moving back to the LB, we find Jamie Collins. Even though he didn’t see much playing time until the end of the season, he still showed us some spurts of greatness. And, with the departure of Brandon Spikes, this couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Lastly, to the secondary, Devin McCourty has finally found his niche at safety, and has received a deserving “C” on his jersey. Plus, even with Brandon Browner serving his suspension, the Pats still have the depth to accommodate, with both Logan Ryan and Alfonzo Dennard.

So what does this mean? Well, obviously, some of these guys will develop quicker than others. One or two of them might be near their peak while some might still have a few years to go. But, every single one has the ability to make a positive impact this season. And, combining that with veteran talent can definitely make the Patriots the favorites in the AFC.