2019 NFL Season Preview- New England Patriots
It wasn't always pretty, but the Patriots ended the season hoisting the Lombardi trophy.
After a slow 1-2 start, New England bounced back to win their 10th straight AFC East title, becoming just the second team ever in the four major sports to win their division 10 straight years. They also secured their 16th straight 10-win season, tying the San Francisco 49ers league record streak. In the playoffs, the Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Chargers in the divisional round, 41-28 to advance to the AFC Championship game for a record eighth straight season. The team defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 37-31 in overtime, to advance to the Super Bowl for a third straight year and became only the third team in NFL history to appear in three consecutive Super Bowls. In Super Bowl LIII, New England defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 to win their sixth Super Bowl, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for most Super Bowl championships in NFL history and became the second team in Super Bowl history to not allow a touchdown from the opposing team.
Running back Jeremy Hill tore his ACL in the season opener and was lost for the season. Rex Burkhead injured his neck early in the year and missed most of the season before returning for the playoffs. James White is an excellent pass catching back, but slowed down in the second half of the season. Injuries hampered tight end Rob Gronkowski as he often couldn't get open against single coverage, but remained an effective blocker. Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister offered very little production. The receiving corps was a revolving door from the start of training camp. The team traded for Josh Gordon early in the season and finished with 40 catches before the NFL suspended him again. Julian Edelman missed the first four games because of a suspension and showed his stripes in the playoffs with a Super Bowl MVP performance with 10 receptions for 141 yards. Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett had their moments, but neither showed enough consistency. Left tackle Trent Brown made a successful transition to the blindside after playing right tackle his entire career. The interior of the offensive line was solid. Left guard Joe Thuney didn't miss a snap all season while David Andrews and Shaq Mason were reliable but Marcus Cannon struggled in run blocking sets.
Defensive end Trey Flowers is the team's best defensive lineman with 7.5 sacks, but has to do a better job of converting quarterback pressures into sacks. John Simon was nice pickup and moved up the depth chart. Adrian Clayborn was a huge disappointment as he often was pushed past the quarterback. Adam Butler is a solid situational pass rusher on third down. Malcolm Brown's play has diminished each year since he was drafted and Danny Shelton was inconsistent. The depth in the linebacker corps was very thin. Dont'a Hightower has lost a step and didn't make enough plays. Kyle Van Noy is an instinctive linebacker but is limited by his lack of athleticism. Elandon Roberts got better as the season went on at hitting the right running lanes in pursuit. The secondary was the strength of the defense. Cornerback Jason McCourty is effective but struggles in space. The safeties need to make more big plays. Patrick Chung can cover tight ends and tackles fairly well, but Devin McCourty is not the elite player he was from a couple years ago. Duron Harmon is an effective centerfielder, but is not a great tackler.
Punter Ryan Allen is an elite player who always seems to pin teams deep in their own territory. Kicker Stephen Gostowski still has a strong leg, missing just for field goals and one extra point.
The team had just two Pro Bowlers in quarterback Tom Brady and cornerback Stephon Gilmore while Gilmore and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson were named All-Pro. Brady struggled with decision making and accuracy at times, but is still a great leader and can still make some nice throws. Gilmore is a true shutdown corner and established himself as one of the best in the league with 20 passes defended and two interceptions. Patterson had a kickoff return for a touchdown and was a fast gadget player on offense.
injuries decimated the rookie class, but the team still has hope. Tackle Isaiah Wynn was placed on injured reserve in training camp with a torn Achilles. Running back Sony Michel was looking like a bust early in the year, but rebounded to finish with 931 rushing yards and had a strong postseason. Cornerback Duke Dawson never played a snap after being activated from injured reserve midseason. Linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley played in just three games before tearing his biceps, but the team likes his potential. Linebacker Christian Sam, tight end Ryan Izzo, and wide receiver Braxton Berrios spent the whole year on injured reserve. Quarterback Danny Etling spent the whole year on the practice squad. Cornerback Keion Crossen played mostly special and rarely saw time on defense. Undrafted cornerback JC Jackson was a huge steal with great physicality and no fear.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
With the Super Bowl winning 11-5 season, head coach Bill Belichick has cemented himself as one of the greatest head coaches in league history, tying Vince Lombardi with most NFL Championships with six. As he enters his 20th season in New England, he has to get the team back to their most prominent self given some of their struggles on the year.
After linebackers coach Brian Flores left to become the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, the team hired their former starting middle linebacker Jerod Mayo to coach the inside linebackers while Demarcus Covington would coach the outside linebackers.
In February, former Ohio State defensive coordinator and for Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano was hired to be the new defensive coordinator. However a month later, Schiano unexpectedly resigned from the Patriots due to his desire to spend more time with his family.
In March, tight end Benjamin Watson was suspended for four games at the start of the season for failing a drug test.
On August 16, wide receiver Josh Gordon was conditionally reinstated by the NFL.
On August 21, safety Patrick Chung was indicted on a charge of possession of cocaine in New Hampshire.
In August 22, tight end Lance Kendricks was suspended for the season opener for violating the league's policy on substances of abuse.
Notable Additions- RB Brandon Bolden, WR Dontrell Inman, WR Cameron Meredith, WR Demaryius Thomas, TE Lance Kendricks, TE Ben Watson, DE Michael Bennett, LB Jamie Collins
Notable Departures- RB Jeremy Hill, WR Chris Hogan, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, TE Rob Gronkowski, TE Dwayne Allen, T Jared Veldheer, T Trent Brown, DE Trey Flowers, DE Adrian Clayborn, CB Eric Rowe
Patriots 2018 Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
Holding the 32nd overall and final pick in the first round of the draft, the Patriots have a lot changes to make if the want to keep the streaks going. They needed added help at positions like tight end, defensive lineman, and linebacker.
Rob Gronkowski retired due to injuries and Dwayne Allen was a non factor. Lance Kendricks and Benjamin Watson were signed, but Kendricks has struggled with injuries in the past an Watson is 38.
Michael Bennett helps with the departure of Trey Flowers, but the defensive line needs more pass rushers along with another solid run stopper.
The team brought back Jamie Collins, but Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy are coming off rough years.
On draft day, New England ended up selecting Arizona State wide receiver N'Keal Harry with the 32nd overall pick. Harry has the best hands of any receiver in the draft class, but needs to sharpen up his route running.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt- Outstanding size, overly physical
Chase Winovich, DE, Michigan- Fast and powerful hands, slow changing direction
Damien Harris, RB, Alabama- Powerful running style, lacks long speed and athleticism
Yodny Cajuste, OT, West Virginia- Quickest tackle prospect, over anxious in pass protection
Hjalte Froholdt, G, Arkansas- Powerful with long arms, slow and awkward occasionally
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn- Best mechanics of the quarterback prospects, bad 2018 game tape
Byron Cowart, DE, Maryland- Versatile lineman, underachiever
Jake Bailey, P, Stanford- Smooth delivery, low net average
Ken Webster, CB, Ole Miss- Strong upper body, lacks patience
N'Keal Harry Highlights
What To Expect
The Patriots have been fly high for years, but I do think the decent is coming.
Tom Brady has enough skill to be a top five quarterback but if he does expect to play until he's 45, he has to play smart and improve his accuracy. Sony Michel showed he can gain a lot of yards of the last half of the season and into the playoffs, so he has to be seen as a main component of the offense moving forward. James White had to show he can still be a great receiving back and Damien Harris could be a solid short yardage runner. N'Keal Harry has the make up of a No. 1 receiver while Julian Edelman, Demaryius Thomas, and Cameron Meredith will help what was a weak receiving corps last year. Isaiah Wynn will be the likely starter at left tackle after missing his rookie season.
Michael Bennett is an upgrade over Trey Flowers and Chance Winovich can serve a Rob Ninkovich like role, but Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy, and Danny Shelton have to prove they can stop the run. Jamie Collins coming back helps the linebackers and the team hope Ja'Whaun Bentley blossoms into something special but Dont'a Hightower has to have a bounce back year. The secondary should remain the strength of the team with Stephon Gilmore and JC Jackson starting on the outside while Jason McCourty moves to the nickel spot. Devin McCourty is locked in at free safety, but Duron Harmon can push Patrick Chung for the strong safety role.
New England are still the front runner in the AFC East this season, but looking at teams like the Colts, Chargers, and Chiefs, they'll have a much tougher road ahead of them if they want to make it back to the Super Bowl.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 11-5