FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Is the 2017 New England Patriots roster assembled by Bill Belichick & Co. more talented than the ’07 team that posted a 16-0 record in the regular season?
It was a question asked by host Wendi Nix on ESPN’s NFL Live program on Monday, as part of the energetic “Overreaction Monday” feature.
ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi, a linebacker on that ’07 team, didn’t hesitate.
“Overreaction! Are you kidding me?” Bruschi said on the show. “That 2007 team, I’ll go straight to the defensive line, having [Vince] Wilfork, [Ty] Warren and [Richard] Seymour in front of me -- three first-round picks. The talent we had along the front seven.
“Randy Moss, a lot of the guys they had on offense, especially. Tom [Brady] threw 50 touchdown passes. Wes Welker couldn’t be stopped in the slot. And you know what else is a talent? Mental toughness, and that’s what those guys had, because to go 16-0, to carry that burden.”
Yet while Bruschi made a compelling case, fellow analysts Jeff Saturday and Louis Riddick weren’t necessarily on board. They see a loaded team in 2017.
“They capped it off last year and now they’re adding to it this year -- [Brandin] Cooks is coming in, [Mike] Gillislee, [Rex] Burkhead, this team is stacked and loaded and ready to repeat,” Saturday countered.
Then Riddick said, “Scouting the Patriots is one of the most frustrating things to do in front-office work because you always knew the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. You knew the team was always better than the individual players. When you look at it from a player-to-player perspective, you’re right, they are stacked. I don’t think it’s an overreaction.
“I know the front four was better [in ’07], but the secondary on this team is legit. The wide receiver corps is legit. The tight ends, now with Dwayne Allen and if Gronk can stay healthy, is legit. They’re stacked at running back. The offensive line is developing depth. This team, on paper, oooh boy.”
Let’s line ’em up position by position and see who comes out the victor in the end:
Quarterback -- 2007
A younger Brady gets the nod, although the overall depth chart at the position is stronger in 2017.
Running back/fullback -- Draw
Tough call without seeing the new-look bunch in 2017, as Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk were tops in ’07. The current group looks deeper on paper. At fullback, Heath Evans versus James Develin is too close to call.
Wide receiver -- 2007
Randy Moss was on a mission and put up otherworldly stats, which elevates the ’07 group of Moss, Welker, Donte’ Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney barely over Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola.
Tight end -- 2017
Offensive line -- 2007
Left tackle Matt Light, left guard Logan Mankins, center Dan Koppen, right guard Stephen Neal and right tackle Nick Kaczur in a close call.
Defensive line -- 2007
Tough to top the three-man line of Seymour, Wilfork and Warren, with a capable No. 4 option in Jarvis Green.
Linebacker -- 2007
Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Adalius Thomas and Rosevelt Colvin worked well together, with Thomas having a solid year before things faded.
Cornerback -- 2017
Safety -- 2017
While Rodney Harrison (’07) might have been the best player of the bunch as he teamed up with James Sanders, the triple-layered group of Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon has more depth and strength across the board. Close call.
Specialists -- 2017
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski in Year 12 is more experienced and savvy than Year 2. Punter Ryan Allen has a stronger leg and is as competitive in the directional punting game. But long snapper Lonie Paxton’s experience helps give him the edge.
2007: 5 votes
2017: 4 votes
(with one draw)