With mandatory minicamp in full swing, the New England Patriots are back in action. The stars are back at Gillette prepping for another drive to hoist the Lombardi trophy. You’ve got Brady screaming at wide receivers, people talking about big offensive lineman are, and Kenny Britt catching everything. Ok, so they’re not 100% back since these are some summer storylines, but it’s nice to have football back in any capacity.
With the new season upon us, and some roster change YoY (that’s what we in the biz use for year over year, folks) I thought we’d start the 2018 season with a quick recap of what you, my fellow Patriots fans, should be excited about this year.
And yes, I know there is an NBA finals on. But I don’t care about LeBron losing to the Warriors again and DC getting far too cocky. Football is king (for the moment). Ok, to the gridiron we go.
Despite what The Boston Globe may write, that man owes Patriots fans nothing. Personally, he has provided me with more joy than almost everyone else in my life and is still playing at a high level. Hot take: this year I think he’ll give us another stellar offensive performance due to the new additions that the Pats made to the offense (more on that later). Does he deserve a few extra weeks off before jumping back into football for 19th season? Yeah, I think so. God bless you, Tom. May you play forever like the football loving robot you are.
Rob Gronkowski is back
When theories of Gronkowski hanging ’em up were flying around Twitter this winter, I read a thread about the offense clicking better when Gronk is on the shelf, as it forces Brady spreads the ball around. Well, let me chime in on that take and say never speak of it again.
Are you kidding me, Pats fans? Yes, Brady loves feeding Gronk the ball because, well, he’s Gronk. The guy can drag NFL players for 15 yards and should be rewarded for all the work he does in the blocking game. Not only that, his presence on the field opens things up for his teammates.
It’s like how the Cavs could use Lebron if they had literally any other stars on their team. The Warriors, like NFL defenses, collapse on Lebron and leave Cleveland’s perimeter shooters (WRs/RBs/TE2) with more favorable matchups. So just let Chris Hogan take more 3-pointers and we’ll be all set thanks to Gronk. Wait – I think I messed that up. Whatever. You get it.The coaching staff is intact
Well, mostly. Matt Patricia left to become head coach for the Lions, but Belichick retained McDaniels for another season (sorry, Indy!), making him the presumed head coach in waiting. Additionally, Bill still has OL whisperer Dante Scarnecchia on the staff, as well as Brian Flores as the “linebackers coach” aka junior defensive coordinator.
The IR squad is back
The Patriots made it to the Super Bowl last year, but had a list of players on injured reserve that probably could’ve helped a bit in the big game. Don’t believe me? Check out this list:
- Donte Hightower (LB): An upgrade over Elandon Roberts to be sure
- Julian Edelman (WR): The man. The Myth. The Minitron.
- Nate Ebner (S): A key piece of the Patriots special teams
- Cyrus Jones (CB): Don’t laugh, I think he’ll add value this year. Really!
- Malcolm Mitchell (WR): People seem to forget how huge he was in Super Bowl LI
- Derek Rivers (DE): check out this pre-draft Twitter thread from Evan Lazar (recommended follow for any Pats fan out there), which he updated 6/5/18, to understand the impact Rivers could have in ’18
The offense looks loaded
Sure, there may be some work to be done on the defensive side of the ball – looking at you secondary (although getting another McCourty should help), but the offense looks exciting.
With the addition of players like Sony Michel (RB), Jordan Matthews (WR), Kenny Britt (WR), Jeremy Hill (RB) and Cordarrelle Patterson (WR), the Patriots are pretty well stocked at the skill positions. There are couple holes though.
The first looks to be TE, where the battle for TE2 will be fought throughout the preseason. Dwayne Allen is still listed in the role on the Patriots official depth chart, but that could change. Troy Niklas, Jacob Hollister and a cast of other characters could make things interesting in camp as they battle for the position of “guy-who-must-laugh-at-all-of-Gronk’s-69-jokes”.The other area of the offense that will be interesting to watch in camp is the offensive line. The Patriots invested heavily in the line this year, selecting Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn with the 23rd pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft.
Wynn will also be competing with noted giant human Trent Brown, who the Patriots acquired in a trade with the 49ers, for the starting LT spot. This will be interesting to watch since Brown is the prototypical Patriots LT (6’8 355 lbs) and Wynn (6’3, 313 lbs) is not. A lot of fans are already projecting that Wynn will slot into an interior guard position, but that might be hard to do since there is a lot of talent on the line. Just check out the potential starting line:
- LT: Trent Brown/Isaiah Wynn
- LG: Joe Thuney
- C: David Andrews
- RG: Shaq Mason
- RT: Marcus Cannon
- And you can’t forget utility lineman LaAdrian Waddle, who is the duct tape that holds the line together whenever a starter goes down
Final note before I let you get back to watching baseball and basketball: isn’t offensive line a really weird job? You just get paid to be a human wall.
And yes, I am sober while writing this.
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