Is It the End of an Era or New Dawn for Patriots?
The Tom Brady era in New England ended, as he moved to Tamp Bay and won his 7th Super Bowl. In Brady’s absence, the Patriots had their worst season since Bill Belichick took charge of the team in 2000. 17 division wins in 19 years, the 2 times they didn’t win the division they came 2nd. And of course, the 6 Super Bowl wins. Last year, the team that has dominated since the turn of the millennium, were never even in the race. Finishing 6 games behind division winners the Buffalo Bills.
Brady got his ring without Belichick, you can be sure Bill is determined to get his 7th Super Bowl win. Last season was a strange one. Covid-19 hit the Patriots especially hard, with opt-outs and in-season absences. It was the offense that struggled the most.
Last Seasons Offensive Woes
Cam Newton was one of 11 players who returned with new contracts. It wasn’t a good first season for the former Carolina Quarterback. In the 15 games he played he threw for 2657 yards, only managing 8 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Giving him an overall rating from PFF of 70.9, ranking 23rd in the league amongst fellow Quarterbacks.
Not all of the blame for New England’s misfiring offense can be put on Newton’s shoulders. The weapons around him just weren’t good, which lead to them scoring 326 points. Nearly 100 fewer than 2019 and 70 points below the 2020 league average. The Patriots defence was the best in the league in 2019, and though it did dip last year. They conceded the 7th fewest points, and still looked good.
Nobody has done more than New England bringing in 15 players in Free Agency. The defence has been bolstered with the return of Kyle Van Noy after a year away in Miami. Matt Judon arrives from Baltimore after back to back pro bowl seasons, and with D’onta Hightower expected back after opting out last season. The linebacker position looks strong with Harvey Langi, LaRay Reynolds and Raekwon MacMillan added for depth also. Henry Anderson and Davon Godchaux have been added to the D line, whilst former Philadelphia Cornerback Jalen Mills has been added to an already talented secondary. With over $15 million in cap space left, according to Over The Cap, there’s still room for more signings yet. Are Kirkpatrick was the latest player to have a tryout in Foxborough.
Those moves should have the Patriots right at the top of the defensive rankings again, but what about that offense? For starters, they brought back Tackle Trent Brown, who played every game at Left Tackle on the Super Bowl LIII winning team. In the one season, he previously played in New England.
What have they done to improve the skill positions? 2 Wide Receivers were brought in. Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne may not be wow factor signings, but they both improve on what the Patriots already have. The big signings came at Tight End, where they signed both Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Who must be the best Tight End duo in the league? This offense should be much better this year.
As expected the Patriots used their first-round pick in this year’s draft, to find their potential long term solution at Quarterback. They chose not to chase after Justin Fields by trading up, and stood firm at number 15 and got Mac Jones. The least fashionable of this year’s rookie Quarterbacks, I fully expect Jones to have a long and steady career in the NFL. Cam Newton will start the season, and depending on how things pan out he may finish it. But Jones will get his chance soon enough, and that’s when it will feel like a real new era.
The other notable picks were more bolstering of the defence. Christian Barmore was considered the best Defensive Tackle in the draft my most, and I also like the Perkins and McGrone selections. Running Back is one position that could still use some improvement, maybe Rhamondre Stevenson can do that.
Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick have gone all out this offseason, to make sure they compete with Buffalo. With the Dolphins improving and the Jets under new leadership, and Trevor Lawrence as Quarterback. The AFC East is looking a more difficult division than in recent years.
Belichick turns 70 next year. How long he plans to continue as Head Coach is unknown, but I expect he’s got a few more good year’s in him yet. Don’t be surprised to see a return to form from the Patriots this season. I will put my neck on the line and say I think they take back the division from Buffalo.