BOSTON (CBS) – The Patriots ended the 2014-15 season in good fashion by hoisting the Lombardi trophy after defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday night. With the celebration now over, we’re on to the offseason. Looking back on the 2014 season, though, we can learn several aspects about the Patriots and what could possibly be changed going forward into the 2015 season.
1) Bye Stevan RidleyREAD MORE: Rep. Stephen Lynch: 'We Have To Get To An Agreement' On Stalled Infrastructure Bill
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley came into the 2014 season as the starter, but a torn ACL in Week 6 against the Buffalo Bills ended his season. The Patriots put a heavy work load on Shane Vereen (free agent), as well as Jonas Gray (signed), Brandon Bolden (signed), and especially LeGarrette Blount (also signed), who was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers and ended up back on the Patriots roster.
Ridley, who enters the offseason as a free agent, is not a necessity for the Patriots to keep with all their options at running back, not to mention James White (2014 draft pick), Dion Lewis (futures contract) and Tyler Gaffney (claimed off waivers in July). Ridley may be value add for another team needing a running back, but his time with Patriots seems likely to end, unless of course he signs one of those one-year “prove it” deals.
2) Jamie Collins Will Be Huge Asset Going Forward
Not only did the Patriots lose Stevan Ridley for the season to due to injury, but they also lost middle linebacker Jerod Mayo in Week 6, who tore his patella tendon. Unfortunately, this is Mayo’s second season in a row with a season-ending injury. Even though Mayo does have an impact when healthy, the question is how much of the work load can he be relied on for when he returns?
Do not despair Patriots fans, because Jamie Collins has saved the day. Once Mayo went down, both Collins and Dont’a Hightower were revelations, exceeding all expectations, contributing heavily and combining to be one of the more dynamic linebacking duos in all of football. Collins finished the season with 116 tackles, four forced fumbles, four sacks, and two interceptions. The more workload given to Collins, the better he became. The Patriots used Collins in several key situations in blitzing and man coverage that helped the defense in so many ways. Collins, who was used sparingly as a rookie, seemed to have found his footing in 2014.
3) Tom Brady Not Close To Retiring
Most people (like myself) thought that after the Kansas City Chiefs game in Week 4, when the Patriots lost 41-14, Brady’s career was all but done. Once the Patriots torched the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5 43-17, the Patriots went on a roll and Brady was back to being his old self. Even after winning Super Bowl XLIX, Brady didn’t feel he was close to being done — he said as much to reporters.
If the Patriots can keep the young core together, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be favorites to win their fifth Lombardi trophy in 2015, with Brady under center in his 16th season in the league.
4) Dan Connolly Is A Difference Maker
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When the Patriots traded guard Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for tight end Tim Wright, the offensive line leadership role shifted to veteran Dan Connolly. When the Patriots went on a hot streak after the blowout loss to the Chiefs in week 4, the offensive line was a huge factor as to why that hot streak even existed. When Connolly was out with injury for three games in the season, he was missed substantially. Even though Connolly dealt with injuries to his neck and knee, and turns 33 in September, the Patriots know the value Connolly brings when healthy. The Patriots would be wise to bring him back seeing how much he contributed to the offensive line.
5) Trust Bill Belichick, Even If It Means Darrelle Revis Is Not Signed Back
If there is one player that made the biggest difference with the Patriots defense in 2014, it’s star cornerback Darrelle Revis. It can be argued that the Patriots would have not won Super Bowl XLIX if Revis was not on the roster. But the Patriots and Revis have a (very complicated) contract situation to deal with, and the Patriots must decide if it’s worth bringing back the All Pro at $20 million in 2015 (with a cap charge of $25 million).
If the Patriots decide to not bring him back, do not worry because Bill Belichick is still the coach.
We’ve been through this several times before when the Patriots have parted ways with veteran guys, with Wes Welker, Richard Seymour, Adam Vinatieri, Lawyer Milloy and Logan Mankins being a few that come to mind. Very rarely those decisions have come back to bite them, and if you take a look at their opponents for 2015, do they really need Revis?
Home Games: Bills, Jets, Dolphins, Jaguars, Titans, Eagles, Redskins, and Steelers
Away Games: Bills, Jets, Dolphins, Texans, Colts, Cowboys, Giants, and Broncos
The Patriots have the AFC East (obviously), the NFC East and the AFC South on the schedule — not exactly a murderer’s row. The Patriots could easily win 12, maybe even 13 games without Revis.
Of the list, how many elite wide receivers are we talking about here? I see Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr., and Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas if they return to their respective teams in free agency. (Sorry Sammy Watkins, but you don’t have a quarterback and your head coach likes to ground and pound)
So we’re talking four elite receivers at most that Revis would have to shut down in 2015, as opposed to the six they faced in 2014 with A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Demaryius Thomas, Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson and Keenan Allen.
Don’t get me wrong. Please don’t get me wrong. I want him back, but I’m also not going to flip out if the Patriots let Revis go and instead choose to lock up some of their drafted core players, like Devin McCourty, Nate Solder, Stephen Gostkowski etc.
People have questioned Belichick for his past moves and he has proved them wrong almost every time. I’m sure if he were to pass on Revis and uproar started up again, Belichick would prove people wrong once again.MORE NEWS: State Workers Face Sunday Deadline To Get COVID Vaccine Or Risk Losing Jobs
Agree with my takes? Hate ’em with a passion? Sound off in the comments section below!