July 23, Foxborough, Massachusetts. LAST YEAR:
Despite injuries to key players, mediocre receiving corps and weak run defense, Patriots reached third straight AFC championship game. Lost to Broncos 26-16, allowing 507 yards, most in Bill Belichick's 14 seasons as coach. Injuries sidelining TE Rob Gronkowski, LB Jerod Mayo and DTs Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly were costly. WR Danny Amendola was disappointment in his first year with team. But WR Julian Edelman, with 69 catches in previous four seasons, had 105. IMPORTANT ADDITIONS:
CBs Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner; DL Dominique Easley; WR Brandon LaFell; DE Will Smith; LB James Anderson. IMPORTANT LOSSES:
CB Aqib Talib; RB LeGarrette Blount; LBs Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher; S Steve Gregory. CAMP NEEDS:
Better pass rush, influx of youth on aging offensive line, productive backup for Gronkowski, whose readiness for is uncertain after knee injury. Also must improve young receiving group. WRs Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce should benefit from last season's rookie experience. Patriots also must decide if second-round draft pick Jimmy Garoppolo is good enough for them to keep two quarterbacks and release or trade Ryan Mallett. EXPECTATIONS:
Sixth straight AFC East title is likely. As long as Belichick and Tom Brady are running show, expectations are high in weak division. Defense improved with additions of Revis and Browner, which offset loss of Talib to Denver. Departure of Spikes, who clashed with Belichick, could hurt. But Anderson, solid locker room presence who led Bears in tackles last season, provides pass coverage ability Spikes lacked. Patriots still have RBs Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Courtesy of AP NFL The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.