Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The New England Patriots will be entering the 2015 season with a lot of uncertainty around their starting quarterback, Tom Brady. As of today he is still suspended for the first four games of the season. The quarterback is still in a legal battle with the NFL as he tries to get the suspension wiped out. Without him, the team will need to go to second year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo has shown signs of being a good NFL quarterback, but he has not taken meaningful snaps in the NFL to this point.

Another area of the team that is a question mark is the cornerback position. In the offseason, New England did not pick up the options on starting corners, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, and they both signed with different teams. The team did not replace them with equal talent, but have brought in quality players to add depth to the position. Bradley Fletcher and Tarell Brown are two veterans who have starting experience in the league who should help solidify the position. The team also has young corners, Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, who should factor into the mix at cornerback. Based on everything that has been said about him in training camp, Butler seems to be a lock to start and will look to build off of last season. He was quite solid when called upon during the regular season before securing the Super Bowl for New England with an interception late in the fourth quarter. The other starting cornerback position is still very much up in the air with Fletcher, Brown, and Ryan vying for the spot. The team has even had starting safety, Devin McCourty, line up at corner during training camp and the preseason.

The other positions seem to be less of an area of concern with many players returning from last year. The running back position will still be led by LeGarette Blount with Jonas Gray backing him up. With pass catching back Shane Vereen no longer in New England, the team will try and replace his production with players such as James White, Dion Lewis, and Travaris Cadet. Rob Gronkowski is back and should have another great year at tight end. Also, with newcomer Scott Chandler, the team will have a more than capable backup in case Gronkowski goes down with an injury. The Patriots still have wideouts Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, and Danny Amendola on the roster and with the newly signed Reggie Wayne on board the team should continue to get great production from that position. Edelman and LaFell have yet to play this preseason so they both will need to be healthy for the offense to be able to operate the way it is capable. The offensive line is an area to watch as rookies Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason will be trying to secure a starting role in the interior of the offensive line. The rest of the offensive line should be secure with Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle, Nate Solder at left tackle, and Bryan Stork at center. The team is also returning both Ryan Allen at punter and Stephen Gostkowski at kicker.

The rest of the defense should be in good shape as regulars, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jamie Collins, and Dont’a Hightower return. Jerod Mayo is also back from another season ending injury which should help round out the linebacking core with Collins and Hightower. The loss of  defensive tackle,Vince Wilfork, will be one that the team will need to adjust to as they will try to replace his production. Players such as rookie Malcolm Brown, 2014 1st rounder Dominique Easley, and veteran Alan Branch will all have an opportunity to contribute in that spot.

Although there is uncertainty at two critical positions, I still expect the Patriots to win the AFC East with around 11 or 12 wins. The other teams in the division did get better this offseason, but I still believe that New England is the best of the group. Brady will be back by week 6 at the latest, which will give the team plenty of time to show what they can do as they try to defend their Super Bowl title.

Colby Gatz covers the New England Patriots for MFST, and you can follow him on Twitter @bostonfan_15

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