Despite not winning a single playoff game in 2010, the New England Patriot's season in most people's minds can be considered somewhat successful. Not simply because the team achieved a league best 14-2 record, but because they did so with one of the league's most youthful defenses, where numerous rookies and second year players were expected to perform to a high level. Furthermore, the team did it whilst shifting offensive philosophies mid-season and subsequently trading away their primary wide receiver. To me, this is a great foundation to build on in 2011.
Whilst the upcoming 2011 season will no doubt have its own team successes once more for the Patriots, for the team to truly progress to the next level, it will require a number of players to really step up, not just as leaders for this team, but key contributors in the clutch. Much has been made of Mike Vrabel's recent retirement and one sentiment which was common amongst analysts was Vrabel's ability to step up in the biggest of games. Here, I identify five players on the Patriot roster who I feel are key to the team's upcoming season - how they perform will not necessarily define the Patriot season but I feel it will certainly play a huge role. This is NOT a criticism of how these players have performed, but simply a selection of key players who I want to take their game to the next level because, in doing so, I think they could hugely effect the outcome of the 2011 season for the Patriots. I am hoping these players will step up, perform and lead this team to achieve all it is capable of achieving...
These are players who I think can be vital to any Patriots success in 2011.