With the official start of the season in less than a week, let’s look at this years squad. The Pats open up the season against the Steelers on the first Sunday night of the year. Coming off of a super bowl championship, and 3 straight trips to the big game, the goal remains the same, Win.
This offense has a chance to be one of the best the Patriots have ever had. They may not have the star power that the ’07 team had with Brady, Moss, and Welker, but the depth and versatility with this group could be better than that star power.
The one constant that the Patriots have had offensively over the years has been Tom Brady. And I think that surrounding him with all the talent he has right now will keep prolonging his career. He’s got such a deep group of receivers. His best friend on and off the field Julian Edelman will be there, he’s currently healing his thumb injury, but I don’t see that being an issue for him this year. Josh Gordon is back in uniform after being reinstated to the league. He was great last year when he was on the field. Demaryious Thomas was one of the best receivers in the league when he was in Denver, but coming off an achilles injury may have made teams skeptical of his remaining talent. He says that he feels better than ever now post injury, and even posted 2 touchdowns in the first half of the Patriots final preseason game. Rookie N’keal Harry rounds out the top four receivers who are sure to make the team. A group of 6’+ tall pass catchers could cause serious problems for opposing defenses. And Tom Brady knows how to take advantage of defenses.
Sony Michel is coming back for his second season, after being the second best rookie running back behind Saquon Barkley last year. A strong, smart back who benefits from a strong offensive line. That’s not to knock Michel’s talent, he’s obviously extremely talented. You pair him with James White in the backfield as well, one of the best pass catchers out of the backfield in the league. White has been Brady’s security blanket when he finds nothing downfield. White is super shifty and has very reliable hands. And behind those two who are easily the best two backs on the roster, they have Rex Burkhead and Damien Harris potentially making the final cut.
Tight end is easily the weakest area on the team. Obviously the Gronk retirement decision hurt the team. Ben Watson and Lance Kendricks we’re both signed to fill that hole. But they are thin suspended to start the season, Kendricks for 1 game, Watson for 4 games. The team will have to rely on younger, more inexperienced tight ends than they are used to. Ryan Izzo and Matt Lacosse could also be playing some tight end this year. It’s fair to say that these guys might be blocking more than they are pass catching. They aren’t big name players, and the Patriots have loaded up with other pass catchers.
The offensive line took a huge hit with the loss of center David Andrews for likely the whole season with blood clots. The Patriots have made some trades to add depth to the line. But the loss of Andrews is not something that ruins the chance for the line to be great. They have Isiah Wynn coming back from injury, Joe Thuney, Marcus Cannon, and Shaq Mason to name a few guys. But with Dante Scharnecchia coaching them, they should be successful.
On the defensive end, the Patriots were good last year, and added in their spots of need. Mostly on the defensive line, the team lacked a solid pass rush the past few years. This year, they signed free agent Michael Bennett to add some depth there, they also drafted edge rusher Chase Winovich who showed flashes of talent in the preseason. They have Lawerence Guy and Danny Shelton to clog up the middle, and young guys like Adam Butler begins them. Depth is going to be key for the Patriots all season.
Led by Dont’a Hightower, the Patriots have one of the best linebacker cores in the league. Hightower is a versatile linebacker who can rush the passer and cover tight ends and running backs pretty well. With Kyle van Noy, and Jamie Collins in the line backer mix as well, they are a very athletic group who have all thrived in the Bill Belichick defense before. Ja’Whuan Bentley didn’t play much last year due to injury, but he is a guy who has potential to be really good. Being able to sub these guys out for one another is great, you don’t lose talent when one of them needs a rest or gets banged up.
The secondary is going to be very good this year led by Stephon Gilmore whose name is now in the conversation for best corner in the league. Jason McCourty came to the team last year and played really well. J.C. Jackson was an undrafted free agent last year and burst onto the scene, earning himself consistent playing time. Devin McCourty is one of the best safety’s in the league, he’s not flashy or anything but he is always good. The potential loss of Patrick Chung could hurt the team, that could lead Duron Harmon playing more, which is not bad. But Chung has been one of the most consistent players on the Patriots for a while.
This team could shape up to be extremely good. I’m really excited to watch this group, a team of playmakers, young and old guys. With Belichick at the helm, there is a small chance the team doesn’t make a deep playoff run this year.