Now that Tom Brady’s four-game suspension has been nullified and he’ll be available in Week 1, you might assume that the Patriots are going to steamroll through the AFC and play in their seventh Super Bowl in 15 years.
“There are a lot of other questions the Patriots have to answer,” Sports Hub analyst Jon Wallach said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “There is a very inexperienced defensive line. There is a perception of a lack of talent at defensive back. Malcolm Butler wowed a lot of us one year ago as an undrafted free agent and stuck with the team and really wasn’t heard from again until the playoffs. Now he’s this team’s No. 1 cornerback, and the bullets really haven’t started flying yet. The offenses that he’s going to be facing are very, very good, starting in his own division. As all three teams have improved across the board, we’ll see if he can handle the other team’s best receiver day-in and day-out. It starts with Antonio Brown – maybe the best of all of them – beginning in a week.”
Butler had 15 tackles in 11 games last season. His interception off Russell Wilson, which gave the Patriots the Super Bowl, was the first of his career.
The 25-year-old hopes for a few more in 2015.
“He has said all the right things, as you would expect from a Bill Belichick team,” Wallach said. “He’s not about me-first. He’s trying to be very, very humble and approach the job as if he knew nothing and had a lot to learn – and in reality, that’s probably close to the truth. So Malcolm Butler, I think as much as he thinks he’s prepared for this job, really isn’t quite sure what’s coming at him. I think he is really the key to a lot of what the Patriots can do defensively. The linebacker corps is very, very good. Jerod Mayo has missed a lot of the last two seasons with injuries, but Jamie Collins is very good. Dont’a Hightower is very, very good, but upfront, no one’s really quite sure what they have. Malcolm Brown is their No. 1 draft pick. Dominique Easley is their No. 1 draft pick from a couple years ago, and they’re hoping for a lot out of both of those guys. But defensively, that’s where the problems will lie for the Patriots, and how far they go depends upon how much Bill Belichick can scheme or squeeze out of that unit.”
If the defense needs a little time to gel, well, that’s okay – mainly because Brady will be under center in Week 1. Heck, Judge Richard Berman’s announcement made Thursday an unofficial holiday in New England.
“Yeah, that’s what it was,” Wallach said. “This has dominated the headlines – not only nationally but especially locally – for seven months. Everyone just wanted it to be over. No one was quite sure what Brady’s status was, but yeah, that’s exactly what it was. It was as big a story as you can possibly get. Patriots fans have their quarterback back. He’s going to play and it’s huge for this team. This team did not play well at the beginning of last season, and now they have a chance to do that. You need your best weapons at your disposal, and now the Patriots and their fans have that.”