The New England Patriots start yet another season with a lot of optimism as they come into it as defending champs after coming back down 28-3 late in the 3rd quarter of the Super Bowl. After an eventful off-season filled with huge acquisitions and even an uncomfortable situation regarding one of their star players, the Pats seemed primed for another title run.
The first move that got people’s attention was on March 9th when they traded for veteran Tight End Dwayne Allen from the Indianapolis Colts for a draft pick. This provided protection for the often injured Rob Gronkowski, who hasn’t played all 16 regular season games in more than 5 years, and also another person to help open up the field. Though there might be some concern for Allen, who has had his fair share of injuries, although not really any major ones.
The next week was filled with a plethora of moves that really shook things up. They started the first day of free agency by signing cornerback Stephon Gilmore for 5 years and $65 million. Gilmore is coming off his best season where he was top 10 in the NFL in interceptions and was selected to his first Pro Bowl.
They followed that with a monster trade with the Saints, receiving Brandin Cooks and a 4th round pick for the 32nd pick in the draft and a 3rd round pick. Cooks has had back to back 1,000 yard receiving seasons and will be a deadly deep threat for Tom Brady to utilize to his convenience.
They also signed running backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee. Bulkhead will most likely sharing the early down and pass-catching duties with James White and Dion Lewis. Gillislee will most likely take over the 3rd down and redzone duties that was once held by LeGarrette Blount over the past few seasons. Gillislee might not put up the same numbers that Blount did a season ago, but he will definitely be a force in their offense.
They have also experienced a few losses during this off-season that has hurt them a bit. On the defensive side they lost Logan Ryan, who played alongside Malcolm Butler as their #2 cornerback. They also lost defensive ends Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long and linebacker Barkevious Mingo.
The biggest losses came from the offensive side of the football. They lost tight end Martellus Bennett who not only was a great receiving option in Gronkowski’s absence, but was also an impressive blocker that really helped out the run game. Along with him they lost LeGarrette Blount, their primary running back for the last few years who has had impressive numbers for them in the redzone, something they might not see for quite a while. Lastly they lost offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer who was a crucial part of their front-line, but due to injuries, limited his abilities throughout the years.
This leads to their biggest weaknesses and strengths, starting with weaknesses. They seem a little thin on defense, especially at the linebacker position. I wish they would have maybe invested in another pass rusher. At times last season, I felt so frustrated that they couldn’t pressure the quarterback efficiently and that lead to some big games.
Their strengths obviously rest on the offense and the immense amount of weapons they have. Opposing defenses will have to really step up their game, especially with the fact that Brady loves to use all the options he has.
The schedule seems pretty tough as they play the Saints, Buccaneers, Broncos, Raiders, and Steelers on to road. They also face off against the Chiefs, Texans, and Panthers at home. I think with this team they could go a perfect 16-0 in the regular season, but I think there’s a better chance that they won’t. I see their floor at 13-3, losses coming on the road against the Raiders, Steelers, and potentially a loss within the division, which seems to happen every year. They begin the season facing the Chiefs, who won the AFC West last year and lost a close battle against the Pats two years ago in the playoffs. They will have their work cut out for them but I believe they’ll leave with a win in the season opener. This year provides a lot of things that Pats fans should be excited about and they should look forward to what will be another great season for the New England Patriots.
Photo Credits: SF Gate