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Assessing how lockout affects Patriots

Every NFL team is affected by the lockout to some degree, some more than others.

Where do the Patriots fall in that NFL context?

It was a question to ponder after reading two pieces today. The first was on Pro Football Weekly, where Kevin Fishbain gives his take on the Patriots. Fishbain identifies three top storylines for the team and ultimately concludes the piece with this thought:

"On scale from 1 to 10 (with 10 being the most significantly impacted), the Patriots rate a 3. With most of the starters returning and only minor coaching changes, the Patriots are in prime position to repeat as AFC East champs. Bill O'Brien was named the offensive coordinator, but he has been calling plays for two years. Bill Belichick also did some rearranging among the defensive coaches. While Matt Light and Logan Mankins could be back, it's unknown until free agency opens whether one or both will return. The lockout also keeps the Patriots from working to improve the defense and get starters Leigh Bodden and Ty Warren back up to speed after they missed all of 2010."

That sounds about right.

Then came a piece from ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton on the 10 coaches hit hardest by the lockout. No Patriots are on the list.

This highlights how the Patriots are positioned almost as well as they could be. To have the same quarterback returning in the same system he's run for 11-plus years is a huge benefit. For sure, there are questions to be answered, but when compared to other clubs, they don't seem as pressing.