On the Offensive: Will the 2011 New England Patriots be More Dynamic than the 2007 Squad?
The 2007 New England Patriots’ Offense was an historical season. That has been stated, analyzed, debated and reported about time-and-time-again. The team featured the most prolific single-season quarterback-wide receiver tandem in the league’s history as Tom Brady and Randy Moss combined for a truly remarkable year.
Brady threw 50 touchdown passes, and Moss caught 23, both single-season NFL records. Although the team seemed unstoppable, their offense was halted in the Super Bowl thanks to a perfect New York Giants scheme: hit Brady early and often, and prevent him from connecting with Randy Moss.
The offense became too predictable by the end of the year, as defenses realized that the most prolific offense in NFL history was also fairly one-dimensional.
Laurence Maroney led all Patriots rushers with 835 yards, and his indecisive running style prevented him from ever being a legitimate threat to defenses.
The 2007 Patriots offense could be summed up with the following three players: Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker.
This season, however, the Patriots benefit from having legitimate options throughout their offense.
|2007 Offense||2011 Offense||Edge|
|Quarterback||Tom Brady||Tom Brady||Wash|
|Wide Receivers||Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney||Chad Ochocinco, Wes Welker, Deion Branch||2007, slight edge.|
|Running Backs||Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris||BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Kevin Faulk/Sammy Morris||2011|
|Tight Ends||Benjamin Watson, Kyle Brady||Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski||2011|
Starting with the wide receivers, the 2011 Patriots include Deion Branch, Wes Welker, and of course, Chad Ochocinco. Welker is the game’s best slot receiver, impossible to defend due to the impeccable timing of his route-running.
Deion Branch has consistent hands and enough NFL experience to regularly find openings in coverage. He doesn’t drop many passes and although he has lost a step, is still quick enough to out-maneuver less agile defensive backs.
Chad Ochocinco has been a premier wide receiver for the better part of the decade, totaling six 1000 yard seasons in 10 seasons. He does drop the occasional pass, but his speed, quickness and size make him a threat after receiving the ball. He has a knack for getting open on 15-20 yard passing routes, and has the size and leaping-ability to win jump-balls.
Not to mention a potential emergence of a young receiver such as Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman or Taylor Price, which could prove invaluable in keeping defenses guessing.
This group of receivers can certainly hold a candle to the 2007 squad, but Randy Moss and Wes Welker’s unbelievable seasons may be hard to replicate under any circumstances.
While the receiving core may not be as dangerous as it was in 2007, the 2011 Patriots have two new weapons: Tight Ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
Both players are mismatch nightmares. Hernandez has the speed of a wide receiver, while Gronk has the strength to run over would-be tacklers. Enhancing their physical attributes is their ability to catch the ball. Both showed impressive hands last season, highlighting the major difference with 2007 tight end Benjamin Watson.
The Boston Herald describes Gronkowsi’s performance in practices as “dominant…[making] every defender look overmatched and overwhelmed.” (Guregian).
Last (but potentially least), is rookie tight end Lee Smith. Smith was drafted to help fill the role of Alge Crumpler as the primary blocking tight end.
He has looked great in practices in the blocking game (as expected) but has shown a surprising knack for catching the football.
Brady now has 4 premier red zone options (Ochocinco, Hernandez, Gronkowski, Welker), after having just 2 in 2007 (Moss, Welker).
Lastly, the Patriots have put together a consortium of running backs, including BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead, and potentially Kevin Faulk or Sammy Morris.
The group features a powerful, downhill runner in Green-Ellis, as well as immense quickness in Woodhead and Vereen. While there is no premier back on the squad, each has his own positive attribute that can attack a defense.
Essentially, this 2011 team has more offensive options than the 2007 squad. The team cannot be predictable, simply because of the sheer number of players they have who can make significant contributions.
Clearly, every single skill player on the 2011 squad has the potential/has demonstrated the ability to penetrate opposing defenses. In contrast, the 2007 team had only three such threatening players.
The last segment of the offense that will be focused on is the offensive line. The 2007 line was one of the best lines the game had seen, but the 2011 line has significantly upgraded their right tackle, usurping Nick Kaczur with Sebastian Vollmer.
The 2011 line should have similar success.
The offense is clearly good, but will the 2011 defense be good enough to bring the Patriots back to the Super Bowl? They get to practice against the Patriots offense everyday, so we’ll see.
Image Credits: www.wikipedia.com
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