Overview of this year’s Patriots

New players try to replace roles of departed veterans

After being knocked out in the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons, the Patriots hope to return to their championship-winning mode that fans have become familiar with over the last several years. Although many of the former Patriot stars who were a vital part of their championship teams are now either retired or on other teams — defensive backs Ty Law and Asante Samuel, safety Rodney Harrison, linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel, running back Corey Dillon, and wide receiver Troy Brown — the Patriots still show promise for this upcoming season.

Randy Moss may be gone, but Chad Ochocinco is here. This year the Patriots should have a spectacular receiving corps with the addition of wide receiver Ochocinco, who accepted a three-year contract during the offseason. With a combined 29 years of NFL experience among talented receivers Deion Branch, Wes Welker, and Chad Ochocinco, Tom Brady should not have too much trouble finding someone to pass to. As long as Brady stays free of injuries and the offensive line offers decent pass protection, the Patriots’ passing game will be extremely lethal. This promise — combined with a respectable running game centered on the improving running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead — is a recipe for offensive success.

On the defensive side, the Patriots are going to have to step it up — especially after the loss of 2010 Pro Bowl defensive back Brandon Meriweather. The acquisition of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth from the Washington Redskins should improve the pass rush remarkably. Lining up next to Haynesworth will be Vince Wilfork, who averaged close to two sacks per game in 2010. This dynamic duo will hurry opposing quarterbacks and put the Patriots’ secondary in a better position to make some game-changing interceptions.

The Patriots finished with a strong 14-2 record last season but ended their playoff run immediately when they fell to the Jets at Gillette Stadium in the divisional playoffs. With a new season comes new hope and excitement. Patriots fans across the nation are ecstatic, and they have reason to be — not only because there is an NFL season despite the threat of lockout, but also because of the winning potential of their team.