Current Personnel: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Mike Hartline
Summary: The Patriots hold arguably the best starting quarterback in the league in Brady, a backup in Hoyer who has grown comfortable with the New England system over his three years in the league, a highly talented third-string QB in Mallett who could be something much more down the road, and an extra arm to throw in camp in Mike Hartline. The Patriots have all their bases covered.
- Grade: A+
Current Personnel: Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Tony Fiammetta, Spencer Larsen, Eric Kettani
Summary: The Patriots head into the season with Ridley expectedly the featured back, however Vereen was taken in the second-round to be more than a third-down back, so he may have a large role this season too. Ridley showed flash at times last year, but later fell out of favor after a fumble. Woodhead is the third-down back unless Vereen steals that role from him, either way they should feel good about that position. Three fullbacks enter camp on the roster for the first time in a long time in Fiammetta, Larsen, and Kettani. Kettani being the lone man who has not played in the league after serving in the Navy. The team should feel good about the potential of Ridley and Vereen, but the team could use a veteran between the tackles type runner like a Ryan Grant, strictly as insurance.
- Grade: B
Current Personnel: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells, Brad Herman
Summary: The Patriots have the most versatile and talented set of tight ends in the league in Gronkowski and Hernandez, and a solid third man in Fells. Throw in an extra body to take some reps in camp in undrafted free agent Herman, and you have a complete set.
- Grade: A+
Current Personnel: Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, Donte’ Stallworth, Chad Ochocinco, Anthony Gonzalez, Tiquan Underwood, Matthew Slater, Britt Davis, Jeremy Ebert, Matt Roark
Summary: Notice Wes Welker is not listed, although he is expected to be signed before the season. Minus him, the team still has tremendous depth at the position. Free-agent acquisition Lloyd is the unquestioned #1 of the group and should be the most productive of those listed. Branch, Stallworth, and Ochocinco should be battling it out for the role opposite Lloyd. Edelman and Gonzalez would be the leading contenders to hold down the slot role should Welker not return. Davis, Underwood,Ebert, and Roark are longshots to make it to the 53-man roster following training camp. Though Slater is listed, he should have little to no contribution to the offense as his role continues to be focused on special teams. The team has a good mix of youth and veterans, though a more talented young receiver would have been nice to leave the draft with.
- Grade: A-
Current Personnel: Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Brian Waters, Sebastian Vollmer, Dan Connolly, Robert Gallery, Marcus Cannon, Ryan Wendell, Donald Thomas, Nick McDonald, Kyle Hix, Matt Kopa, Markus Zusevics, Jeremiah Warren
Summary: The team enters the season with outstanding depth across the line. The only questions lie at the tackle positions as Solder will need to replace the retired Matt Light full-time at left tackle and often injured Sebastian Vollmer is the right tackle. If Vollmer stays healthy, the Patriots could have one of the best young tackle pairs in the league. If he cannot, Cannon will need to play a big role at right tackle. Guard is the most impressive position depth wise as Mankins and Waters are backed up by Connolly and Gallery, two capable starters. The team also brings many young faces to camp in hopes that offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia can work his magic and develop another Dan Connolly type player.
- Grade: B+
Current Personnel: Chandler Jones, Jake Bequette, Trevor Scott, Jermaine Cunningham, Markell Carter, Aaron Lavarias, Justin Francis
Summary: The Patriots have a very inexperienced group of pass rushing defensive ends where Cunningham is the elder statesman with only two years of experience, much of which was spent on the bench. Jones and Bequette should see much playing time this year as rookies, most likely along with Andre Carter, who is still expected back with the team at some point. Scott has shown promise at points early in his career in Oakland and could become a factor at the position. Cunningham, Markell Carter, Lavarias, and Francis are the least likely contributors and Cunningham could very well be on the outside of the roster looking in after being selected in the second-round in 2010.
- Grade: C
True Defensive Lineman
Current Personnel: Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Jonathan Fanene, Gerard Warren, Brandon Deaderick, Myron Pryor, Ron Brace, Alex Silvestro, Marcus Harrison, Marcus Forston
Summary: The Patriots have great depth on the defensive line but no true stud other than Wilfork. It has come a long way since they lined up all first-round picks on the line in Seymour, Wilfork, and Warren. Love is a good player and there are a few other solid players like Pryor and Deaderick, but just no true standout. Fanene could become a good inside presence in the role Mike Wright formerly filled. This team will not lose because of this line, but at the same time, it will not win them many games.
- Grade: B-
Current Personnel: Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Rob Ninkovich, Dane Fletcher, Tracy White, Jeff Tarpinian, Niko Koutouvides, Bobby Carpenter, Mike Rivera
Summary: The Patriots are loaded at linebacker top to bottom, with players who can fill a variety of roles. The Patriots will likely take the field with a very talented starting three in Mayo, Spikes, and Hightower, a group that should highlight this defense, as long as Spikes stays healthy and Hightower lives up to his potential. Ninkovich will not be a forgotten man, coming off a career-high 6.5 sacks last season. They also have a good pair of special teamers in White and Koutovides. They took a chance on former first-round pick Carpenter, but he will probably be cut unless he steals Fletcher’s role in sub-packages.
- Grade: B+
Current Personnel: Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Josh Barrett, Tavon Wilson, Sergio Brown, Ross Ventrone, Nate Ebner, Malcolm Williams
Summary: This group could be the achilles heel of this defense. Chung, the absolute best player is a good in-the-box safety, but is overrated by many outlets. Gregory is a decent free safety with some coverage ability, but is by no means a star. Barrett may see playing time after spending most of last season on injured reserve. A player who could make things interesting is Wilson, if Belichick found a gem in this second-round pick, things could be better than they look. If any of the others need to take the field, other than special teams, the team is in big trouble.
- Grade: C
Current Personnel: Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Sterling Moore, Will Allen, Alfonzo Dennard, Marquice Cole
Summary: A much-maligned group, but still a good collection of talent. If McCourty can be anywhere near the player he was in 2010, the team will be much better off. Arrington is a solid player who has been their most consistent corner over the past couple of years. Dowling could become a factor if he can stay healthy, but that has been a problem of his his whole life. Moore will look to build off a good playoff run and become a consistent contributor to the defense in 2012. Allen is the one real veteran presence, but he may have a hard time making the roster. The most interesting player is Dennard, who was loooked at as an early pick in the draft, but fell to the Patriots in the seventh-round due to legal issues. If he gets out of his legal troubles, he could be a steal for the team. Cole will have to make the roster through special teams work. The Patriots have a good group of players, but someone will need to go out of sheer numbers. Look for Kyle Arrington to be traded for a mid-round pick between now and the end of training camp, to free up a spot for a player like Dennard.
- Grade: B+
Current Personnel: Stephen Gostkowski, Chris Koepplin, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken
Summary: The team has a great kicker in Gostkowski, a solid punter in Mesko, and a decent long-snapper in Aiken. Back-up kicker Koepplin will obviously not make the team. The other three will.
- Grade: A-