(Boston, MA- Tuesday, December 6th)
It’s safe to say the New England Liberty fell far short of their fan base’s expectations during their inaugural season. Any new franchise is going to experience growing pains regardless of the sport, but the Liberty took more than their fair share. They took their bumps and bruises early and often in the 2016 campaign. Bumps and bruises may be an understatement, as more than half of the roster ended up on injured reserve after their third game. This forced the Liberty to forfeit their final game against the offensive powerhouse, Atlanta Steam. Many factors led to the failed season by the Liberty, but that is water under the bridge as they look forward to 2017.

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In a recent conference call with some of the Liberty roster members, spirits remained high as many of the athletes have completed their rehab from off-season surgeries and are already back to work. Quarterback Alex Drake was named the LFL’s Off-season Player of the Year, while some of her offensive weapons from 2016 such as Kristen Beckman and Jolie Efizokhae are putting in work with her as well. On the defensive side of the ball Tessa Alexandra, Kenia McKeon, and Jessica Johnson plan on trying out again and making that second year jump most players tend to make. New England’s success is going to rely on three core principles in 2017.

  • Commitment – This is from both players and coaches. Expectations need to be set from day one and followed with complete buy in from all involved.
  • Local Talent – Asking players to travel halfway across the country or halfway up the eastern seaboard for practice twice a week is a lot. New England is going to have to tap into their regional resources and find local committed talent.
  • Durability and Depth – The Liberty will need to find athletes that can stay on the field. Injuries are a part of the game, but season ending ones can be devastating to building momentum and chemistry. A practice squad is going to be vital to the team’s success, as well as having depth at every position.

Off-season Needs: The Liberty are going to have to get back to basics. This starts with being taught fundamental football from the ground up. Finding a coaching staff is priority number one, as they moved on from Donnie Williams and his staff in mid-November. New England also needs to find some players with a bit of “nasty” in them. They relied a bit too much on finesse last season, and were pushed around by players not much bigger than they were. Alex Drake is the front-runner to start at quarterback again, but will need someone to back her up and push her as well. Both sides of the line need to be addressed as Samantha Puckett may or may not be returning and Misty Gonzalez is coming off of knee reconstruction. With Astrid Cruz and Danielle Green most likely not coming back, the running back position needs to be filled as well. There are more holes than not on the Liberty roster, so hopefully the tryout in January brings out some of the talent located here in the New England region.

Off-season Questions: Alex Drake will work on taking the next step to be a franchise player, but will need the tools around her to help elevate the team. She will need to work on protecting the football and limiting turnovers which plagued New England in their first year. The league will be addressing the coaching situation in the coming weeks, which will help paint a clearer picture for the direction of the team. Can these coaches get through to the athletes? How will the new wave of talent from tryouts integrate with the current athletes? The Liberty have more questions than answers that will sort themselves out over the next couple of months.