So the dream is dead. For any Pats fan worth his red blue and silver the 2013 season began the minute the AFCCG ended. I certainly started writing this piece about an hour after the game ended. Free agency and the draft are on their way so you’d better get ready to sound like you know what you’re talking about.
That being said I’ve compiled my list of things I just plain don’t want to see anymore in 2013. As a disclaimer, I fully recognize that certain facets of this team have improved drastically. In what should be known as the year of Brandon Spikes, the Pats had the 6th best rush defense in the league, the 7th best rushing offense in the league (up from 20th last year), and only gave up a single 100 yard running game this year. There is a lot of talent and promise on this team.
Still, it’s a football sin to repeat the same mistakes year after year. And for that, and for the sake of being a categorical Negative Nancy I gave you the Please No More – Suggestions for 2013.
PLEASE NO MORE… Steve Gregory
I hated Gregory from the minute I saw him tackle in the preseason. Yes, the San Diego Chargers pickup had a couple of nice INTs over the course of the season. Yes, as bad as Gregory was at time he was still an unbelievable improvement over Josh Barrett. But ask him to tackle anyone in the open field, smack a receiver in mid-catch, knock the ball loose or anything that you might define as necessary tasks for a good safety and forget all about it. All things considered Gregory was probably the softest DB the AFC East has seen since Kerry Rhodes and you’re talking about a guy with a girl’s name. In 23 games since Gillette opened its doors for training camp I don’t think I went through 60 minutes of football without calling #28 a pansy or worse. I get that he’s a smaller guy but he’s only 5 pounds lighter than Ed Reed. That’s no excuse for tackling like Matt Bahr. Watching Dennis Pitta match up against him in the AFCCG was like watching Charles Barkley abuse an Angolan point guard in the 92 Olympics. Maybe things are just more relaxed in San Diego, but waving your arm at a big bulky TE doesn’t get things done on a team that actually expects to win a few games. All in all he’s an Edgar Renteria: doesn’t play like he belong here, doesn’t look like he belongs here, but happens to have a parking spot and a uniform.
In House: Expect the pressure to be on 2nd round pick Tavon Wilson to develop. We saw nice flashes of potential early in the year, and he even had a chance to knock Gregory out of the starting line. Saying he blew it is a little harsh for a rookie especially considering Wilson (IMO) exceeded the expectations many of us had for him. Either way Gregory crept back in. The same can be said about Pat Chung who really has the skill and experience level to be a starter but couldn’t hang onto the job. I’ve stood up for Chung a hundred times over his short career and he kind of made me look like an idiot this season. He’s got all the talent to be a Pro Bowl safety and I don’t get what the problem is.
The Draft: One way or another you’re going to have to find safety and/or DB talent in the draft this year. Unfortunately there are only a few big names at the position, and I’m of the opinion that a lot of them are more hype than talent. If you absolutely need to have a big name on your list then look out for Oklahoma’s Tony Jefferson, who had a rep for being a “do your job” kind of player. Personally, I’m very intrigued by FIU’s 6’0″ 210 lb Jonathan Cyprien who is one of the more physical prospects at the position. Then again if headbangers are what you’re really looking for then let’s talk about Florida’s Matt Elam, or the former LSU Tiger Tyrann Mathieu.
Free Agents We’re all thinking the same thing, and rightfully so. But beyond Ed Reed there aren’t a lot of quality free agent options. Giants RFA Stevie Brown might be an option to consider as a coverage safety. There’s a guy who bounced around the league for a couple of years and then explodes with 8 INTs last year. He’s not much of a run stopper but he’s the youngest of all the safety free agents and a chance to get more than a stop-gap solution out of someone. The Giants have been clearing out cap space, but don’t have a lot of room for him position-wise. Buffalo also jettisoned 7 year veteran George Wilson who has 28 career tackles and an INT against the Patriots. Maybe even bringing in an aging CB like Quentin Jammer and asking him to convert to safety would be an option.