The success of the Patriots always seems to ride on the shoulders on Tom Brady and inside the mind of Bill Belichick. But while those two things alone can typically prompt a playoff run for the team, accomplishing every team's ultimate goal takes a lot more than an elite quarterback and a wily head coach.
This season there are a number of moving parts for New England and with new additions all over the Patriots roster, it could get awful interesting as to who will step up and produce.
One of the primary areas of focus remains with Brady's weapons on the offensive side of things. Old reliable, Wes Welker, would seem primed for yet another season of stellar performances, but some contract hiccups could deter the four-time Pro Bowler from achieving the same sort of success he's displayed in the past.
After a breakout 2011 season, Rob Gronkowski is another player who could be due for even more balls this year. Gronk broke the single-season records for both receiving yards and touchdowns by a tight end, and the 23-year-old also offered Brady a new sort of target inside the red zone.
Gronkowski's partner at the tight end position, Aaron Hernandez, had another standout campaign in 2011 and with a likely expanding role could see his impact rise in 2012.
New addition Brandon Lloyd also seems like a candidate prime for a breakout, especially given his successful past within Josh McDaniels' offensive system. Lloyd was brought in this offseason with the hopes of providing the Patriots with a receiver who can spread the field and take some of the pressure off Welker and the tight ends. So far in camp Lloyd has appeared to fill that role, but it's to be seen whether he is a boom or bust once the regular season starts.
Aside from the receiving corps, though, there is a major concern in the Patriots backfield this season. The popular answer to the riddle seems to be none other than second-year back Stevan Ridley. He showed flashes of brilliance at times in 2011 and looked solid in the team's first preseason game. If he can resolve the fumbling issues from his rookie campaign and establish a legitimate presence out of the backfield, this Patriots offense could be the best we've seen since 2007.
So who do you think is the most vital player to the Patriots this season?