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Patriots season preview: Return to Super Bowl?

*Around The NFL's season preview continues in the AFC East. *

Change we can believe in

The upgraded secondary could be the best since Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy were in the prime of their careers over a decade ago.

It didn't take Tom Brady long to start avoidingDarrelle Revis' side of the field in offseason practices. Former SeahawksPro Bowl cornerback Brandon Browner will bring size, physicality and playmaking ability to the other side of the field once his suspension is over in Week 5. Devin McCourty offers Pro Bowl talent of his own at safety. The Pats also have plenty of depth and young legs with Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon.

If Revis returns to 2009-to-2011 form, the conference's best defensive backfield will likely reside in New England.

Biggest concern

Rob Gronkowski, the lynchpin of the Patriots' offense, was still favoring his surgically repaired knee a week ago. He's aiming for a Week 1 return, but he might have to be eased back into game action in September.

A bigger concern is defensive tackle with Vince Wilfork (Achilles) and first-round draft pick Dominique Easley (ACL surgery) coming off major injuries. Wilfork, 32, was starting to show signs of his age early last season before his Achilles tear. The Pats will need heavy contribution from both players to turn around their run defense.

Training camp surprise

Notable Madden ratings


The most pleasant camp surprise has been fourth-round rookie running back James White. Unfortunately, that stellar practice work has yet to translate in preseason games.

The surprise with the best chance to stick is Kenbrell Thompkins, who appears to be the favorite to start opposite Julian Edelman in two wide-receiver sets. Brady and coach Bill Belichick have gone out of their way to praise Thompkins for his effort and reliability this summer.

What we'll be saying in February

Tom Brady made a lot of people look foolish for suggesting he was no longer elite in 2013. He was one Peyton Manning two-minute drill away from standing alone as the only quarterback with six Super Bowl starts.

Around The NFL's predicted finish: First place in AFC East, No. 5 in Around The NFL's Power Index.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" recaps all of the action from the second week of the preseason.

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