Foxboro blog reached out to me this week to do a little AFC East offseason Q&A. You can check out the questions I answered for them regarding the Dolphins’ plans this offseason right here. Needless to say, I liked the idea, as I’m awfully intrigued by how the Dolphins’ rivals will go about addressing their needs in the draft. Please welcome in Ricky Keeler from Foxboro Blog to answer a few questions about the Pats’ offseason.
Phins Phocus: What are the Patriots’ biggest needs this offseason?
FB: The biggest needs for the Patriots are that they need a pass rush and some help on the offensive line. First, on the offensive line, we are unsure about the return of Matt Light and Stephen Neal retiring. New England knows how to scout the offensive line position after they got a steal in the second round two years ago in Sebastian Vollmer. But, the main story is the pass rush. Without a pass rush, this team can not “cover a nosebleed” according to Bart Scott. With a young secondary, Belichick’s defense has to get after the quarterback a whole lot more. It improved as the season progressed, but in the playoff loss, Mark Sanchez has too much time to find Santonio Holmes.
Phins Phocus: With two first round picks to work with, who are some of the prospects that you believe the Patriots will consider in round one?
FB: On Foxboroblog.com, we have done mock draft recaps every two weeks, so you guys can check that out for a more detailed description of who I like New England to pick. But, with the two picks they have in the first round, I see them addressing the DE/OLB position with guys like J.J Watt from Wisconsin, Cameron Jordan from California, or Muhammad Wilkerson from Temple. These guys are players who are multi-technique players who can rush the quarterback and play a key role against the run. Also, I could see them address the offensive line position with players like Danny Watkins from Baylor, Tyron Smith from USC, or Mike Pouncey out of Florida, which is where Belichick gets a lot of his players from. My prediction would be Pouncey at 17 and then Wilkerson at 28, if they keep the picks.
Phins Phocus: Are you fan of the way the Patriots usually trade back in the first and load up on second round picks? Do you feel like they may do some more maneuvering in this year’s draft?
FB: On draft days, I am never usually a fan especially last year at draft time when they took Devin McCourty rather than Dez Bryant. But, in the end, you have to feel that Belichick is making the right moves in terms of preparing this team for the future. With the exception of Jerod Mayo, New England does usually pick toward the beginning of the draft. This draft I think they will do that a lot with the 2nd and 3rd round picks that they have because of this unstable labor situation. That way, New England can prepare for the 2012 Draft with a lot more picks for the future.
Phins Phocus: If you had to be pessimistic for a moment, is there any reason to believe that the Patriots’ run of dominance in the AFC East is anywhere close to being over?
FB: This is the perfect question to ask to somebody like me. I am a Patriots’ fan, but I also live in the heart of Jets’ country in New York City. There is always the thought in the back of New England’s fans minds in terms of how long this team can continue to win and when will the window finally close. The Jets have built up a great team with Mark Sanchez maturing year by year at quarterback and they are buying into Rex’s system. Your Dolphins, in my opinion, are a QB away from going place, and Buffalo could get a franchise changing pick if they get Cam Newton. However, as long as Belichick is here, as we saw in 2008, this team can stay competitive as long as the stability in the organization continues.
Phins Phocus: Where do you place the most blame for the lockout? When do you predict the owners and players will come to a compromise?
FB: The blame has to be put on the owners here or at least the bulk of it. They are running too much of a good thing here asking for the 18 game schedule and then the rookie wage scale. Now, instead of trying to negotiate with the players, you move the kickoffs up, which takes away some of the huge players in the game like a Devin Hester or a Joshua Cribbs. The NFLPA gets the blame for the whole draft chaos in terms of the thought of not allowing rookies to attend the draft. I think we won’t solve this lockout without missing a couple of games. I hope they can put aside their differences for the sake of the sport, but Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith are too stubborn not to do that. So, my guess is we are not playing NFL football till the postseason begins in baseball. NOT GOOD!