By Eric Schmidt

Every great NFL quarterback sees his career come to an eventual end, one has to wonder if the window is closing on New England Patriots QB Tom Brady. Brady had another stellar season in 2012 throwing 34 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions and nearly 5,000 yards but the 2013 version of the Patriots is going to look much different and Brady isn’t getting any younger.

Brady, who turns 36 in August, will be without his favorite receiver of the past several seasons, Wes Welker. The Patriots tried to fill the void of Welker’s departure with the oft-injured Danny Amendola, but there are larger issues looming for the Patriots this offseason.

The lack of a deep threat at the receiver position doomed the Patriots last year. New England has done precious little to improve that deficiency this offseason. The Patriots failed in their bid to acquire restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders from the Pittsburgh Steelers and will now have to look ahead to the upcoming draft in order to fill that need with a rookie receiver.

Two seasons ago, the Patriots looked to have an unstoppable force on offense with their implementation of their two tight end set with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. This duo is talented beyond belief but injury issues have to be of concern. Can Gronkowski overcome the arm injury issues. It’s now been revealed that Hernandez, that missed six games in 2012, has undergone offseason shoulder surgery. Can he return and remain healthy for an entire season?

Flying under the radar at the tight end position for the Patriots is Jake Ballard. Last offseason while recovering from ACL surgery, the New York Giants placed Ballard on the injured reserve list, but that move in the offseason exposed him to the waiver wire. Once on the wire, the Patriots pounced.

Head coach Bill Belichick has done a remarkable job for so many seasons in New England, but you have to wonder if this might be the season that New England takes a step back. Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd are gone, as well as fan favorite Danny Woodhead. Combined, this trio accounted for 232 of Brady’s 401 completions. They also amassed 2,711 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.

It’s possible that the Patriots could bring back Lloyd, they have set the precedent for bringing back former players in the past. New England will likely take a shot at a receiver in the draft, but as a general rule of thumb, rookie receivers take a year in order to adjust to the NFL game.

New England will likely walk away with the AFC East title once again this season, but the 2013 version of the Patriots are going to look very different. Brady, though as superhuman as he’s been through his career, is another year older and it’s about the age of 36 or 37 when quarterbacks really hit the wall. This might be the last year for Brady and the boys to make their Super Bowl push. A year where the Patriots are handcuffed with a lack of draft selections as well. Bill Belichick will have to try to work his magic once again in 2013.






Filed under: AFC, AFC East, New England Patriots, NFL

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