With Tom Brady’s four-game suspension a thing of the past – and with new cheating allegations against New England surfacing this week – there’s a growing consensus that the Patriots are going to play the 2015 season, well, pretty angry. That Tom Brady is going to play like a man possessed. That, while he won’t put up 2007 numbers, he’s going to make every game personal – an assault on Roger Goodell and the haters, if you will.
But is that a valid opinion? Will the Patriots really be that much better and win that many more games simply because of added motivation?
“I too have heard that and certainly they find a way to motivate themselves no matter the circumstance, and they may well have that extra motivation,” former NFL executive and current That Other Pregame Show analyst Amy Trask said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “But the fact is, Tom Brady doesn’t play corner, and all this discussion of Brady, Brady, Brady – that organization has lost its two starting corners from 2014.”
Indeed, Darrelle Revis is back with the Jets, and Brandon Browner has signed with the Saints. Heck, even defensive line stalwart Vince Wilfork signed a two-year deal with the Texans in the offseason.
That’s a lot of talent to replace on one side of the ball.
“So yes, Brady may well be even more motivated than Brady normally is,” Trask said, (but) I can’t wait to see what Bill Belichick concocts with that defense. If anyone is up to the task of coaching around those losses, it’s Bill. But I think we need to watch the defense.”
We also need to watch the defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who open against New England in Foxboro on Thursday. The Steelers have traditionally been known for their ability to stop opposing teams, but the defense was suspect last season, finishing 18th in both yards and points per game allowed. Pittsburgh will also have to replace Dick LeBeau, who had been with the organization since 2004.
The Steelers will implement coordinator Keith Butler’s new Cover 2 scheme, but losing LeBeau is a huge loss, right?
“I think Dick LeBeau is a tremendous loss to the Steelers,” Trask said. “Dick LeBeau, what can one say about Dick LeBeau other than, well, just the name? Dick LeBeau says it all with that defense. You’re right. That’s a defense to watch for all the reasons you articulated, and of course now they’ve got issues on the offensive line with the loss of Maurkice Pouncey.”
The four-time Pro Bowler will miss most of the season while recovering from ankle surgery. That’s on top of Le’Veon Bell being suspended for the first two games and Martavis Bryant being suspended for the first four.
“(Ben) Roethlisberger is a tough, tough quarterback to get to and to get down,” Trask said. “He finds a way even with people draped all over him to remain standing and throw the ball. That said, I think the loss of Pouncey for a period of time – that’s a big deal.”