It’s been quite the off-season for the New England Patriots. They have been the busiest team in terms of off-season acquisitions. Let’s start with some of their earlier moves.
The Patriots made the biggest splash early on acquiring Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints for the number 32 overall pick and a 3rd rounder as well. Cooks is a young stud receiver and with the devastating injury to Julian Edelman, this move now seems even more important. They followed up that move by signing Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore. This move is somewhat controversial in that they are seemingly saying goodbye to a Pro Bowler of their own in Malcolm Butler after this season. That being said, at this point any moves that Belichick make, where it makes you go “HUH”, later turn out to be the correct ones. He is a master at pinpointing the exact moment a player’s value is at its highest and let’s them go for a cheaper, equal alternative.
One of the best moves this off-season was retaining linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Hightower was crucial in winning the Super Bowl last year for the Patriots. He came up with a huge timely sack and fumble, which may have been the turning point in last year’s big game. Next, they nabbed Kony Ealy from the Carolina Panthers. This moved looked like it would be another classic Patriot steal because Ealy has a high ceiling. However, the move didn’t pan out and he would be released from the 53 man roster.
Belichick then addressed the running back situation by signing Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee, making LeGarette Blount expendable. The Patriots now bolster one of the leagues deepest set of backs with the inclusion of Dion Lewis and James White. With Martellus Bennett signing with the Green Bay Packers, the Patriots swapped a 4th round pick for tight end Dwayne Allen and a 6th. Overall, the Patriots get an A for their off-season work.
Preseason is like getting a sweater for Christmas as a kid. You’re glad you have it, but it can be real ugly. Preseason this year was no different for the Pats. Excitement that actual football is back, but it can rear its ugly head. It did so in the form of the Julian Edelman and Cyrus Jones . Both suffered season ending ACL injuries. The loss of Edelman, is particularly crushing because he’s been known as Brady’s safety blanket. The receiver has averaged over 10 yards per catch in each of the last 5 seasons and has amassed over 950 yards in 3 of the last 4. The Patriots are going to likely need a committee to replace Edelman’s production in the forms of Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola, with Hogan likely taking the majority of that role. Hogan, who was primarily an outside receiver last year for Brady, will likely figure to take more snaps from the slot. The Pats took a dart throw on former 1st round pick Phillip Dorsett in exchange for 3rd string QB Jacoby Brissett . This likely adds some burner ability on the outside and a guy who is a capable punt and kickoff returner. My expectations of Dorsett are definitely tempered as he hasn’t shown much to this point in his career.
The Patriots open the season as Super Bowl favourites at 13-4 odds according to Bodog. Even with the loss of both Edelman and Jones, the Pats bolster one of the best offenses in the NFL. You can never really count this team out with Brady and Belichick and the added depth Belichick has acquired only helps this team for another long playoff run. I predict they will finish the season with a record of 14-2 and will repeat as Super Bowl champions claiming their 6th title. It all gets started tonight as the Patriots take on Andy Reid’s Chiefs in what could be a possible AFC Championship preview. You know that big gift your parents always saved for last, well Week 1 is finally here and it’s time to throw that sweater to the side and unwrap the real deal!