2018 NFL Season Preview- New England Patriots
It was a usual successful season for the Patriots that ended short of their ultimate goal.
Many expected New England of making another possible undefeated season, but that ended with a season opening loss to Kansas City. However the team bounced back to secure their ninth consecutive AFC East title and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Patriots cruised through Tennessee in the divisional round and mounted a fourth quarter comeback to beat Jacksonville to advance to their 10th Super Bowl. Ultimately, the team fell short in Super Bowl LII to the Philadelphia Eagles 41-33 in an offensive battle. The team also tied the Denver Broncos for most Super Bowl losses with five.
Quarterback Tom Brady was his usual productive and efficient self and set a Super Bowl record with 505 passing yards. The team traded backup Jimmy Garoppollo to San Francisco midseason and brought back Brian Hoyer to be the number two. The Patriots used a committee of running backs and finished in the top 10 of the league in rushing. Mike Gillislee had a disappointing season after being acquired from Buffalo, Dion Lewis emerged as the feature back midseason and stayed healthy, Rex Burkhead battled injuries but still managed eight total touchdowns, while James White remains one of the best receiving backs in the league. Tight end Dwayne Allen was a complete free agency bust with only 10 catches while Martellius Bennett landed on injured reserve with a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum. Wide receiver Julian Edelman tore his ACL in the preseason and was done for the year. Brandin Cooks topped 1,000 yards in his first year with the team and Danny Amendola had another productive season. The offensive line was solid despite having issues in pass protection.
The lack of talent on the defensive line was evident after practice squad defensive end Eric Lee became a starter. Trey Flowers developed into a force on the edge while Malcolm Brown had his best season. Alan Branch was injured and out of shape after re-signing with the team. Outside linebacker Don't'a Hightower tore his pectoral muscle in the fifth game and the defense and the defense lost it's leader in terms of production and communication. Kyle Van Noy took a bigger role and proved to be a versatile cog in the defense. The secondary had it's ups and downs on the year. Cornerback Malcolm Butler was benched before the Super Bowl for violating team rules while Stephon Gilmore emerged as the number one corner. Cyrus Jones, who tore his ACL, and Eric Rowe should compete for and increased role in 2018. Safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty play well together and are set in their roles.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski bounced back after a shaky 2016 and emerged as one of the best kickoff specialists. Punter Ryan Allen struggled early in the year but finished the season strong.
The team produced four Pro Bowlers and three All-Pros including quarterback Tom Brady, fullback James Develin, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and special teams star Matthew Slater. Brady defied father time to lead the NFL in attempts and yards, throwing 32 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, and won his third NFL MVP. Develin is one of the last of a dying breed and is a devastating lead blocker. Gronkowski made his fifth Pro Bowl and fourth All-Pro team after another consistent season. Slater made his seventh straight Pro Bowl and remains the best special teams player in the league.
The rookie class was injured and made little impact. Defensive end Derek Rivers tore his ACL in training camp and spent the whole year on injured reserve. Tackle Tony Garcia spent the year on the non-football injury list with a mysterious issue. Defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. Flashed in camp and finished third on the team with five sacks.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
Going 13-3 is nothing special for head coach Bill Belichick, but if people were honest there's more pressure on him than ever. He'll be entering his 19th season in New England and in a lot of ways, things haven't been this chaotic in the organization since he came in 2000. All things considered, depending on the way the season ends, he might be on his way out of Boston by choice.
After the season, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was announced as being hired as the new Indianapolis Colts' head coach. McDaniels abruptly rejected the offer citing personal reasons, deciding to stay a part of the Patriots' organization. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia then left to become the head coach of the Detroit Lions. The team then promoted linebackers coach Brian Flores to be the new defensive coordinator. Flores will continue to serve as the team's linebackers coach.
On June 7, it was announced that wide receiver Julian Edelman was to be suspended for the first four games due to violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs.
Notable Additions- RB Jeremy Hill, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, OT Trent Brown, DE Adrian Clayborn, DT Danny Shelton, CB Jason McCourty
Notable Departures- RB Dion Lewis, WR Danny Amendola, WR Brandin Cooks, WR Malcolm Mitchell, WR Jordan Matthews, WR Kenny Britt, TE Troy Niklas, OT Nate Solder, OT Cameron Fleming, OT Tony Garcia, DT Ricky Jean-Francois, OLB Shea McClellin, CB Johnson Bademosi
Patriots 2017 Highlights
2018 NFL Draft
Thanks to trading Brandin Cooks to the Rams, the Patriots held both the 23rd and 31st overall picks in the draft. With two first round picks, the team has the chance to get real value at quarterback, defensive end, and cornerback.
In the past two years, the team has traded away Jimmy Garoppollo and Jacoby Brissett. Finding a young quarterback to groom as Tom Brady's successor has to be considered.
Even after drafting two defensive ends last year, adding a top edge rusher to set the edge and rush the passer is needed.
Malcolm Butler is gone and Cyrus Jones coming off injury. Jason McCourty is a solid pickup but drafting developmental corner would be a nice investment.
On draft day, New England drafted Georgia guard Isaiah Wynn with the 23rd overall pick. Wynn was viewed as the top pass blocking guard in the draft, but is very top heavy with narrow hips in legs for a man his size. Unfortunately, Wynn tore his Achilles in the second preseason game and will be out for the year. With the 31st overall pick, the team selected Wynn's Georgia teammate in running back Sony Michel. Michel is naturally elusive and is a willing blocker, but lacks a second gear to break away on long runs.
The Patriots also notably drafted Florida State tight end Ryan Izzo in the seventh round. Izzo was seen as the best blocking tight end prospect this year but lacks speed as a receiver out of routes.
Sony Michel Highlights
What To Expect
Many people see the Patriots dynasty coming to an end. I think the end is coming, but it's not going to be an instant drop off.
Tom Brady has shown he can play at a high level in his latter years, but if you go back and watch some of his throws in the Super Bowl, his arm strength is starting to go. It will be key to keep consistent talent around him if they want him to play to 45. The running back position will likely utilize as many as five running backs and maybe Sony Michel's youth will make him the feature back. Losing five wide receivers from last season hurts and without Julian Edelman for the first four games, guys like Chris Hogan, Eric Decker, and Cordarrelle Patterson will have to step up. Rob Gronkowski should continue to be a matchup nightmare, but the key will be to keep him upright as he hasn't played a full season since 2011. The offensive line is a major concern as they lost three linemen to free agency and Isaiah Wynn lost for the season.
The defensive line should be improved with the additions of Danny Shelton and Adrian Clayborn and Derek Rivers returning from injury. The linebacker corps will be back to full strength with the return of Dont'a Hightower. Having the McCourty twins in the secondary along with Patrick Chung and Stephon Gilmore will make the starting secondary formidable while Cyrus Jones and Eric Rowe are nice nickel and dime corners.
With the remaining uncertainty of the rest of the AFC East, the Patriots should claim their 10th straight division title but I'm not sure the talent is there for a Super Bowl run.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 12-4