Days Until Football is a series in which I preview every NFL team, one a day at a time until the NFL season starts on September 6th. It will preview offense, defense, and give a prediction for the team’s record. Also, I will list a fantasy star and sleeper. Here is the New England Patriots preview.
Last year, the Patriots met expectations. For the 31 other teams, reaching the Super Bowl and losing is still a massive success. However, for New England, they are expected to be AFC Champions every year. Over the offseason, they lost a lot of players and acquired Trent Brown, Adrian Clayborn, and Jason McCourty.
Brandin Cooks was traded, Danny Amendola signed with Miami and Julian Edelman is suspended for the first four games. Also, Malcolm Mitchell and Kenny Britt were cut because of injuries, and Jordan Matthews was placed on IR. Now the Patriots will have to rely on Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Eric Decker and Cordarrelle Patterson. Hogan is a deep ball threat who does not rack up many receptions. Dorsett is a former first-round pick who struggled in his first year in New England, but has become a favorite in camp. Patterson is primarily a kick returner, but if anyone knows how to utilize someone with his skill set correctly, it’s Bill Belichick. Fifth-round pick Braxton Berrios has yet to shine like people predicted, but he is a short and quick slot receiver that Patriots fans know and love. Even though the Patriots are thin at the receiving position, they can make up for it with there running backs. First-round pick Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White are all versatile backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield. However, Michel and Burkhead are already a bit banged up. They also have Jeremy Hill, who is expected to win the short yardage role.
When healthy, Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in the league. He is a dominant red zone threat and has gotten at least ten touchdowns when he has played at least ten games all but once. He creates a matchup nightmare for the defenses. Last but not least, they have a pretty decent quarterback throwing the ball to them. Tom Brady has gotten deep in the playoffs with receivers such as Reche Caldwell, Austin Collie and Kenbrell Thompkins, so a depleted wide receiving corps will not be a problem for him.
The Patriots defense is known for the bend but not break mentality. They give up tons of yards, but hold teams to little points. When Matt Patricia was hired by the Lions, Patriots fans rejoiced because it meant that strategy is done. Brian Flores will call the plays, and he is a very blitz-happy coach. Trey Flowers has 13 sacks in his two full seasons, and Adrian Clayborn was brought in to help the pass rush. Lawrence Guy, Malcolm Brown and Danny Shelton will be the interior lineman to stop the run. Both Shelton and Brown are former first-round picks. Star linebacker and captain of the defense Donta Hightower can rush the passer, and is the best overall player in the front seven when healthy.
Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy and Marquis Flowers are all decent players that Bill Belichick has found a way to make starters. JaWhaun Bentley was selected in the fifth round of the draft and has shined in camp. Malcolm Butler left for the Titans in free agency, so the Patriots signed Jason McCourty and drafted Duke Dawson from Florida in the third round. Stephon Gilmore signed a big contract two offseasons ago and was the best corner for the Patriots after a tough start last year. He will definitely be the one corner, and alongside him will be McCourty, Eric Rowe or Dawson.
Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung have been a great safety duo for years, and that will not change this season. Chung is good in space and can stop the run when the Patriots load the box.
Predictions for Patriots
I think the Patriots will go 12-4, first in the AFC East. The wide receiving corps is obviously a big hole, but that will be okay. They made upgrades on defense, both schematically and personnel wise. The pass rush will be much better, the linebacking corps is young and improved. Also, the Malcolm Butler loss will be made up for. They also play in an easy division, which obviously is a plus. However, they always struggle in Miami and New York, and the Bills were a playoff team last year.
Fantasy Star – Rob Gronkowski
Fantasy Sleeper – Rex Burkhead