After taking the holiday week off, our divisional roundtable discussion, Around the AFC East, returns for another week of discussion. Dave from Pats Pulpit took a question from me about New England's offseason.
Which one offseason acquisition (either through the Draft, trade, or free agency) has you most excited? Why? (From John B)
RB Fred Taylor. New England has long been chastised for having a weak running game. 2007 was the year of the aerial assault and RB Laurence Maroney was only utilized towards the end of the season when the passing attack started slipping a bit. In addition, Maroney has had a tough couple of seasons, especially being IR'd in 2008 with a broken bone in his shoulder. Well, in comes Fred Taylor. Taylor's dealt with many of the issues Maroney is going through ("Fragile Freddy" was his nickname) and will be a great mentor for him. Aside from that, I believe Taylor still has some gas left in the tank. Watching recent highlights, he's explosive and has incredible afterburners; when I had a chance to interview him, his comment to me was, "I can still go." I believe him.
The other reason I like the Fred Taylor acquisition is that our running game will step up a notch. There will be fresh legs all around. This will become obvious when New England spreads the field with three and four wide receiver sets, forcing the defensive backs to play deep. This will open up lanes for our running backs, specifically Taylor who is known for downhill acceleration.
I personally am not as high on Taylor as a lot of people are. He has put together an excellent career, but his production fell off the cliff a year ago. When it goes for running backs older than 30, it usually does not come back. Some have blamed Jacksonville's offensive line for his decrease in production, but running back is still a young man's position. The Pats have plenty of veteran leadership. What they need is a guy who can produce between the tackles. The younger a back is, the better the odds he will do so.
For my money, the best move the Pats made was picking Boston College defensive tackle Ron Brace in the second round. Brace was overshadowed by B.J. Raji during the pair's senior year. However, when Raji had to sit out the 2007 season for academic reasons, BC still had one of the top five rushing defenses in the country with Brace taking up space. He is a natural two gap space eater who can spell any of the three players on the defensive line and make it easier for New England to show 4-3 looks.
With that said, Dave knows the Pats better than me so expect Taylor to lead the league in rushing. Go to Pats Pulpit for more AFC East talk.