I thought I’d take my feelings of intense deep-seated violence and bury them deep down within my being, as us Mainers are prone to do; and instead focus my attentions on the Patriots for a change.
Whereas the 2009 Red Sox season might be juuust about over, the 2009 Patriots season has only just begun. Let’s take a quick run down the roster and see what the team’s gonna look like this upcoming season. Don’t consider this the season preview, per se. We’ll go more in depth as the preseason progresses, take a look at the schedule, the division and everything else. We’ll start at the bottom and work our way to the top.
Four years ago, we had the number one kicker in the NFL. This year, we have the number one kicker in the NFL. Stephen Gostkowski is one of the most accurate kickers in the history of the league (knocks on wood). The Pro Bowl kicker who is two and a half months younger than me (guh) figures to keep improving. Our punter Chris Hanson has finished another offseason of capturing pedophiles and is looking forward to a season full of—aw, who cares, he’s the punter. Matt Slater, whom I’m pretty sure was a Saved By The Bell character, will return kicks. And Wes Welker, whom is quite scrappy (white), will return punts.
Leigh Bodden was a huge acquisition for the Patriots as they haven’t had a true cornerback since the Reagan administration. (Or at least since Asante Samuel..) He will be joined on the front lines by Jonathan Wilhite and Terrance Wheatley. Wilhite’s got the slight edge for the starting job. He came in last season to replace Deltha O’Neal, who I’ve come to believe was some sort of elaborate prank put on by Belichick & Kraft. Good one, gang. Shawn Springs and rookie Darius Butler round out one of the best cornerback groups the franchise has ever seen. James Sanders has the edge over ex-Bear Brandon McGowan for the free safety spot, and Golden Panther-stomper Brandon Meriweather is our strong safety of the future (and the present) and possibly a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year this season. (I did not smoke crack before writing this column, I usually do that afterwards in celebration of a job well done.)
Jerod Mayo is the other strong candidate for Defensive Player of the Year and the anchor of our linebacking corp; the group that everyone seems to be the most worried about going into 2009 (offensive line, anyone?). The ageless, stroke-impervious Tedy Bruschi joins him on the inside; and those fine gentlemen will be flanked by Tiger’s French cousin Pierre Woods and Adalius Thomas, whom I have no clever jokes for ‘cause he scares me. Derrick Burgess, Paris Lenon, Tully Banta-Cain (my favorite Pat name) and Shawn Crable round out the corps. Gotta say, I’m not nearly as worried about these guys as I am with the O&D-lines and the backfield.
Vince Wilfork, whose wife is gorgeous thank you very much, is the new leader of this squadron. Richard Seymour still has that figurative Varitek ‘C’ on his chest, but Wilfork is the man down low. Ty Warren does a decent job on the left side, but it’s the bench where this group starts to get a little hazy. Jarvis Green, Mike Wright and LeKevin Smith are our first guys off the bench if Vince, Rich and Ty go down. A man named LeKevin doesn’t exactly instill LeConfidence.
Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Steve Neal and Nick Kaczur have basically been our starting offensive line (barring injuries here and there) since 2005. Light dates all the way back to 2001, which seems like Ancient Sumerian times at this point. We’re basically depending on the five men who folded over and let the Giants take Super Bowl 42 to carry us to Super Bowl 44. I dunno. The one man who could be a backup or a starter on another team by Week One? Kaczur. He’s got 6’8”, 316-pound beast-man Sebastian Vollmer hot on his heels. You do not want something 6’8” and 316 pounds hot on your heels. Just ask my wife! Heyoooooooo!
Welkahhhhh! Oh, and Randy Moss is good too. Jury’s still out on Joey Galloway, but he should be an improvement over last year’s number three – Jabar Gaffney – even if he dies in the preseason. Ben Watson is still the tight end du jour (not sure what that means), but Chris Baker and Alex Smith (not the one with tiny hands) are waiting in the wings; and David Thomas (not the dead guy from Wendy’s) is still a big, giant idiot. I liked the Sam Aiken and Greg Lewis signings; and rookie Brandon Tate could surprise some folks this year. Jeez, I gotta think up some more inappropriate jokes before this turns into a Peter King musings column. Did I tell ya about my fat wife?!
Laurence Maroney can drown in the Three Mile River for all I care. He’s had his three years to prove himself and he’s failed miserably. His fourth year might be his last; he might not even make it past the trading deadline. Sammy Morris is our starter. Fred Taylor is our backup. Kevin Faulk is his backup. And BenJarvus Green-Ellis (my other favorite Pat name) is his backup. Maybe Maroney can learn how to long-snap.
Tom Brady. But just in case, let’s get a little familiar with Andrew Walter. He was born in Arizona, went to high school in Colorado and then returned to Arizona for college. Solid decision-making skills: always something you want to see in your starting, er, backup quarterback. He broke John Elway’s Pac-10 touchdown record, which was again broken a year later by professional Jager-shot-pounder/fellow backup quarterback Matt Leinart. Walter was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2005, and yet he somehow survived his tenure there. Walter spent his time in the Bay Area backing up the likes of Kerry Collins, Marques Tuiasosososasosopo, Aaron Brooks, JaMarcus Russell, Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper. I’m working on a theory that if you combined the DNA of all those quarterbacks, they would form some sort of hellish black hole and Jimmy Clausen would emerge out of it.
Overall, I likes our chances this season. The Steelers are still the hands-down favorites, despite what some moron prognosticators are saying. It’s always nice to start the season as the underdog. It makes Bill Belichick scowl happily.