Before you make your annual Patriots Super Bowl projection for 2013, please remember that Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez, three of Tom Brady’s top four 2012 targets, will not wear the uniform this fall.
That said, even with a receiving corps in disarray, the Patriots retain a talent-laden roster, one that combined with the Brady-Bill Belichick dynamic remains the lone sane pick to win the AFC East.
As the team opens training camp 2013 tomorrow officially, let’s take a position by position peek.
:The automatics: Dan Connolly, Logan Mankins, Nate Solder, Ryan Wendell, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon
:Bubble boys: Will Svitek, Kevin Haslam, Nick McDonald, Markus Zusevics
:Future salesmen: Elvis Fisher, Josh Kline, R.J. Mattes, Chris McDonald, Matt Stankiewich
:Overview (B+): A little old in spots, a little fragile in spots, but nonetheless a quality unit. Can they return to effective as run blockers? We’ll find out soon enough this season.
The automatics: Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett
Bubble boys: Tim Tebow
Future salesmen: None
Overview (A+): Brady still reside as one of the top two QBs in the game in every American household besides the ones with the Manning surname. Mallett remains a mystery, and the battle for the No. 2 with Tebow could make the preseason a little spicey.
The automatics: Brandon Bolden, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Leon Washington
Bubble boys: LeGarrette Blount
Future salesmen: James Develin, George Winn, Ben Bartholomew
Overview (B): I’m not kidding, Blount intrigues me tremendously. Let’s see if Ridley recovers from his fumble-itis. I love the Washington pickup.
The automatics: Rob Gronkowski
Bubble boys: Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui
Future salesmen: Brandon Ford, Zach Suffield
Overview (B): Gronk’s injuries should scare the daylights out of Pats’ fans. I’m not sold on Ballard’s induction into the New England Hall of Fame just yet, like many fans are. The other guys are JAGs.
The automatics: Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce
Bubble boys: Julian Edelman, Matt Slater, Michael Jenkins, Kenbrell Thompkins
Future salesmen: Kamar Aiken, Mark Harrison, Lavelle Hawkins
Overview (C-): The fact that Belichick used a couple draft picks on Dobson and Boyce saves the grade from being a “D.” And I like Amendola.
The other faces could change early and often this month. Keep your flip-card updated.
The automatics: Armond Armstead, Marcus Forston, Justin Francis, Chandler Jones, Vince Wilfork
Bubble boys: Tommy Kelly, Rob Ninkovich, Jake Bequette, Jermaine Cunningham, Michael Buchanan
Future salesmen: Jason Vega, Joe Vellano, Cory Grissom, Marcus Bernard
Overview (B+): There’s a nice mix of youth and experience with a game-changing All-Pro in Wilfork.
Hey, “Manhandler” Jones, you have no excuses. All you have is to prove you really can play.
The automatics: Dont’a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Jamie Collins,
Bubble boys: Dane Fletcher, Niko Koutouvides, Mike Rivera, Jeff Tarpinian, Steve Beauharnais
Future salesmen: A.J. Edds
Overview (C): Jamie Collins the next experiment as a game-changer at linebacker. We shall see.
All the veteran bubble guys will stick because of the kicking game. A pedestrian group, unless Hightower or Collins prove special.
The automatics: Kyle Arrington, Marquice Cole, Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon, Devin McCourty, Aqib Talib, Adrian Wilson, Tavon Wilson
Bubble boys: Alfonzo Dennard, Ras-I Dowling, Nate Ebner, Steve Gregory,
Future salesmen: Brandon Jones, Stephon Morris,
Overview (C): A true strong safety has been located. Adrian Wilson replaces Rodney Harrison — well, six years later. Devin McCourty is the other safety. Aqib Talib has a contract at hand, making you wonder what he’ll give you.
Is Mr. Dennard going to behave himself? And what’s your over-under date on Ras-I Dowling’s season-ending ailment?
The automatics: P Zoltan Mesko, K Stephen Gostkowski
Bubble boys: LS Danny Aiken, LS Mike Zupancic
Future salesmen: P Ryan Allen
Overview (B+): The kicking/punting game has not been a problem here since Mesko hit town.