At some point, it has to end. The Tom Brady-Bill Belichick stranglehold on the AFC East will come to an end when Brady finally hangs it up and Belichick walks away from the sidelines. The New England Patriots have done more with less on offense than any other team in the NFL in the past decade. And while Brady shows no signs of slowing down, there are 31 other teams praying to the NFL gods that this will be his last season slinging a football around Gillette Stadium.
All I can say is don’t hold your breath on that one.
Brady and the New England Patriots won yet another Lombardi last year and further added to his legacy as the greatest of all time. I’m not sure that’s even up for debate anymore. Rings, yards, comebacks. They all help define the man who was the 199th player chosen in the 2000 NFL Draft. And now, what does a five-time Super Bowl champion do for an encore? Maybe that becomes a “hold my beer” moment.
The New England Patriots go into the 2017 season as the odds on favorite to win a sixth Lombardi, for the record books to be rewritten and time to stand still. I’m sure somewhere in there we will see plenty of talk about other Patriots’ players and the organization that keeps on winning no matter what obstacles are in its way.
With training camp a few weeks away, New England still has a few questions (I said a few) it must answer if it wants to hoist yet another trophy in the air at the end of the season.
Here are three questions the New England Patriots must answer going into training camp.
How Much Longer?
Tom Brady, at this moment, can play as long as he wants to. Realistically, that might be four or five more years. His wife, Giselle, has been adamant about wanting to enjoy life with her husband away from the game.
Happy wife means happy life.
The thing is, much like the same in New Orleans with Sean Payton and Drew Brees, Brady and Belichick are an institution. You can’t have one without the other. And if Brady retires, you could see Belichick go as well. If Belichick decides to walk away, then Brady would have a tough decision to make.
As long as Brady puts up solid numbers, there is no telling how long he can keep going.
How Good Will Brandin Cooks Be?
Does outstanding count?
The New England Patriots sent the 32nd pick in the draft to the Saints for Cooks, who could be the best wide receiver to play in Boston since Randy Moss. And with the contract extension for Julian Edelman, the wide receivers on this roster look almost scary. Add Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell and in fact, it is scary. Brady has to grinning thinking of the possibilities.
If Rob Gronkowski returns to full health, then Cooks could see the ball even more if teams focus on the big tight end. Cooks could have the best season of his NFL career.
Will The Defense Be Solid?
Yes. The one thing this organization has done over the years is follow a plug and play mentality. Continuity has been key in the Patriots’ secondary since 2014. Players like Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington have come and gone, but enough of the core group has stayed in place that the Patriots aren’t required to start over every season.
If the back line can hold it down and the front seven can keep rushing the passer, the Patriots defense may not as underrated as it has bene in years past.