2007 season recap
Almost perfect: The Patriots broke the all-time scoring record on their way to an unbeaten regular season. They won two more games in the playoffs against the Jaguars and Chargers to make it to their fourth Super Bowl this decade. But the burden of the first-ever 19-0 season was ultimately too much to bear as the Giants' defense out-muscled the Patriots to win Super Bowl XLII.
Key camp questions:
Will the running game emerge?
The Patriots recorded a whopping 6,580 yards of total offense last season, but only 1,849 of those yards (just over 28 percent) came on the ground. Then again, that's easy to dismiss when you have a passing attack anchored by Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker. With a fully healthy Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris (returning from a rare sternum clavicle separation) New England will spend more time working on the run in camp so as to better counter the teams that will look to overload their defensive backfields. Maroney came on strong at the end of last season, but the Patriots will try to establish more balance throughout the entire season and will use training camp to institute that philosophy.
Will Richard Seymour use camp to return to his dominant self?
Seymour never appeared to be himself after missing last season's training camp and spending the first half of the season on the PUP list with a knee injury. The eighth-year defensive end started the team's final eight regular season games and all three playoff matchups, but only managed 37 tackles and 1.5 sacks in that span. Jarvis Green is as good of a backup as you'll find in this league, but dominant defenses tend to rely on more of a rotation approach these days. Nevertheless, Seymour's effectiveness will be closely monitored during training camp.
How will new secondary coach Dom Capers incorporate all the new faces?
On paper, the Patriots' secondary would appear to have regressed some this offseason. The team lost Asante Samuel, Randall Gay and Eugene Wilson to free agency, Eliss Hobbs underwent offseason surgery to his groin and labrum and Rodney Harrison is a year older. But instead of finding a high priced free agent to replace the departed, injured and aged, the Patriots have done what they always have -- they've found serviceable veterans in Fernando Braynt, Jason Webster, Lewis Sanders and Tank Williams who can step in and play. But the Patriots' new-look secondary also has a new coach in former head coach and defensive coordinator Dom Capers. New England has proved in the past that it can win with a strong front seven that will compensate for a mediocre secondary, but Capers will need every minute of training camp to incorporate New England's new players in what should be an aggressive scheme.
Key position battle
Fernando Bryant vs. Jason Webster: With Samuel and Gay both having departed, the Patriots signed a couple of veteran cornerbacks in Bryant and Webster to fill in on the right side. Bryant started all 16 games for the Lions last season, his ninth in the league, while Webster missed all but one game for the Bills with a broken arm. Bryant is the favorite to win this battle, but with Hobbs still recovering from two surgeries both players will see plenty of first team reps during camp.
Player on the spot
WR Chad Jackson: Jackson was buried on a crowded receiving depth chart last season, but with the departure of Donte' Stallworth, Jackson will have every opportunity to prove himself worthy of increased responsibility during camp. Brady has been known to make ordinary receivers look great (see David Givens), so Jackson has no excuses heading into his third season.
RB Laurence Maroney: Maroney will look to turn his postseason success into the first 1,000-yard season of his NFL career. He could lose carries to Sammy Morris, but Maroney runs behind a solid offensive line and has a favorable schedule. These factors make him a viable No. 2 fantasy back.