As part of his breakdown of each division in the NFL, Alex Marvez of Foxsports.com puts the "better" or "worse" label on each team in the AFC East. When it comes to the Patriots, he chooses "worse."
"Even with the free-agent signing of replacement Danny Amendola, losing wide receiver Wes Welker to Denver is a major blow to New England’s offense," Marvez writes. "The ongoing medical issues plaguing tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are another potential concern. And why the Patriots refuse to invest money in a proven outside pass rusher or selecting one high in the draft remains one of the NFL’s great mysteries. Despite all this, the Patriots remain the team to beat in the AFC East."
Marvez also puts the Jets in the "worse" category, while tabbing the Bills and Dolphins as those in the division who are "better."
One could make a case for both sides of the better/worse debate.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft made the point last Thursday that the team returns 22 of its 24 starters (including punter and kicker), so a big part of this offseason has been about retention/re-signings while also addressing depth and in some cases niche roles. In theory, having the same secondary should improve a Patriots defense that struggled at times against the pass in 2012. Furthermore, one would think players making the jump from their first year to second year (Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower) would improve as well.
But the loss of Welker, and how the Patriots fill that void, remains a signficant issue. So does the availability of the top tight ends.
Thus, we'll toss the question out to you: As you look at the Patriots' roster right now, is it better or worse than last year?
Share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog entry.