These Are The Patriots To Watch In 2013
The NFL's free agent signing period has cooled down, with only a handful of impact players still left on the market. So with the NFL draft in April aside, team rosters are starting to fall into place.
For the Patriots, it's safe to say players like Tom Brady will predictably lead the team in statistics and boost morale. In 2012, Brady put up numbers that put him in the running for NFL MVP. But there were other players that broke out statistically for New England, like running back Stevan Ridley in his first season as the go-to back.
Here's a list of several players to watch out for in 2013 who could lead the Patriots statistically.
Tom Brady: 2012 stats - 4,827 passing yards, 34 touchdown passes, eight interceptions, 63 completion percentage, 98.7 QB rating.
Shocking, I know. Since Brady's season-ending knee injury in week one of the 2009 NFL season, he has thrown for 30-plus touchdowns in three of four seasons. And the AFC East isn't exactly the toughest division in football to play in, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Five of Brady's touchdown passes in 2012 came against the Bills' revamped defense that included Mario Williams and highly-touted rookie Stephon Gilmore. Even though Brady will have different receiving options in 2013 (no Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd), look for his impressive stat line to continue.
Stevan Ridley: 2012 stats — 1,263 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, 4.4 yards per carry average, 82 first downs.
This will be an interesting year for Patriots running backs with no Danny Woodhead as the go-to third down back, which means Ridley could see additional time on the field. The Patriots also have Shane Vereen, whom they drafted one round before Ridley in the 2011 April draft. Ridley carried the ball 87 times his rookie season, then got bumped up to 290 in 2012. The only thing holding Ridley back from a premiere rushing role is his ball control. Ridley fumbled four times last season in cruicial situations, and was benched from time to time by Bill Belichick. But since the Patriots know what Ridley's potential is, 300 carries seems very likely in 2013 (barring injury), and 12 touchdowns could increase in 2013 with additional touches.
Rob Gronkowski: 2012 stats — 790 receiving yards, 11 touchdown catches, 14.4 yards per reception average, 55 catches.
Gronkowski's stats in 2012 took a hit after the third-year tight end missed five games due to a broken forearm he suffered against Indianapolis. He returned against Miami in the regular-season finale at Gillette Stadium, but under close and careful watch. But if the 6-foot-6 tight end can stay healthy, look for him to rebound nicely with inflated stats. Eleven touchdown receptions on a shortened season is a strong showing for Brady's favorite target.
Aqib Talib: 2012 stats — 19 combined tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception, 1 touchdown
Talib recently signed a one-year contract with the Patriots after being traded to New England from Tampa Bay in 2012. Talib had health issues as well last season, but impressed the Patriots as a cover corner in six games played with the team. If he can stay healthy as well, look for him to break out in 2013 in his first full season in New England as the guy who will be responsible for covering Mike Wallace, Steve Johnson and Santonio Holmes.