The New England Patriots' strong start to the preseason has surprised some football analysts and some fans who follow the team. After solid performances against the Saints and Falcons, I have heard some say, "This team is going to be better than I gave them credit for, and I don't think I am alone in that."
It's always dangerous to put too much stock into preseason results, but if I had to put a finger on why the perception surrounding the team might be changing after the past two weeks, it traces to the element of the "unknown."
The Patriots enter 2010 relying on several players who are relatively unproven in key spots, a group including tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, cornerbacks Devin McCourty and Darius Butler, receiver Brandon Tate, offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, safety Patrick Chung and even inside linebacker Brandon Spikes.
This traces back to a conversation with Bill Belichick from March in which he said something along the lines of, "A big part of our success this season will be based on how our young players develop."
It's been a long time since the Patriots were counting on so many players at such an early stage of their career. Because of that, I think the perception of the club was a bit down. Now that those players have shown promise in two preseason games, and some of the old standbys still look strong, it makes sense that opinions might be shifting.