The 2018 Super Bowl Champions are back for another season of sky high expectations as they chase ring number seven.
Last season they were about as well rounded of a team as you could put together from offense to defense to special teams to coaching. This season the Patriots have lost personnel from each of those groups, but also added personnel to each group.
Now, it’s a brand new team as we enter a brand new year. The championship is behind them as they eye another one.
Last year’s team was great. But how does this year’s team look?
The Patriots were nothing more than an average special team’s unit last season. Ryan Allen was extremely average punting the ball (45.1 yards per punt), and although Stephen Gostkowski was very good, he tended to be inconsistent.
This season the Patriots have decided to move on from Ryan Allen, and instead have appointed rookie Jake Bailey as the punter. Until Bailey proves he’s better than his 44 yards per punt average in college, I will be considering him a below average punter. I never thought Ryan Allen was great, but I would’ve rather keep him than a young rookie who never really impressed numbers-wise.
Stephen Gostkowski has been shaky this preseason, missing three total kicks. Some of that is the process of the kick with the new holder Bailey, but his inconsistencies have been very consistent through four preseason games. Gostkowski leaves more question marks than answers going into the season, making this special teams squad one of the weaker parts of the team. Matt Slater is still a stud, and he’ll chase down those kicks all season like he always has.
Special Teams Grade: C+
With the GOAT Head Coach running the ship, there’s not much to knit pick about this staff.
The only difference from this year to last is the loss of Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores to Miami. That really shouldn’t matter as Belichick is the mastermind to that defense anyway, and is grooming Jerod Mayo to be the next coordinator in line.
Josh McDaniels proved his worth last playoffs with his stellar play calling with the offense. His relationship with Brady is fantastic as well, which has led to great success.
Offensive Line coach Dante Scarnecchia is the best in the business, and can grab any larger man and scheme them into a well-organized front five. Coaching is a strong point of this team, and everybody knows it.
Coaching Grade: A+
Last season the Patriots defense had a huge resurgence, and single handily won the Super Bowl; holding the high-flying LA Rams to three points. The 2019 defense is arguably an upgrade from the team that allowed 20.3 points a game and 359 yards a game. Both impressive numbers in this day and age.
Defensive Grade: A
The 42-year old general is back for another season, and that means the New England Patriot offense will be one of the best in the league once again. The Patriots have lost some massive pieces, but also revamped in many different positions on the offensive side of the ball.
Gronk leaving left a gaping hole at tight end. David Andrews is out for the season with blood clots, and he was the vital cog to this very good offensive line. Big Trent Brown departed to Oakland on a record deal, leaving Brady’s blindside up in the air. All questions currently lay on the offensive line/tight ends. The Patriots will have to rely on a few younger and inexperienced guys this season at the tackle positions, as well as at center. That could lead to trouble, but I doubt Coach Scarnecchia will allow that to become an issue.
The TE position will probably be one of mediocrity all season long. Lance Kendricks doesn’t bring much to the table, neither does Matt Lacoste or Ryan Izzo. Ben Watson is 39 years old, so as a unit they’re not to be expected of much. Especially with the early season suspensions.
The receivers are much more well-rounded. They have fast guys like Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers. They have big, athletic guys like Josh Gordon and Demaryius Thomas. And of course they have the shifty, quick guys with Julian Edelman and Gunner Olszewski. Once week nine comes, first round pick N’Keal Harry will be back from injury as well, making this the most well rounded receiving corp in the league.
The backs go four deep, and they’re all legitimately very good players. Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, and Damien Harris make up an impressive backfield. Each back brings something a little different, some catch better, others are more finesse runners, and others will barrel between the tackles happily, making this an extremely strong unit.
The Offense as a whole is very solid, but there are some glaring issues going into week one that will hold their grade down, and possibly their points on the field too. I still expect 28 points a game from this unit.
Offensive Grade: B+
The New England Patriots are poised to make a run at their seventh Super Bowl in twenty seasons, and with this extremely well rounded team anything is possible. They have depth, toughness, and of course they’re coached well which are important attributes of successful teams.
The offense is solid opposed from some deficiencies on the line. The defense looks as though it’s going to be a juggernaut. The special teams unit is always strong, but they leave me questioning the kicking game personnel more than I’d hope. Of course the coaching is great, from Belichick to McDaniels to Scarnecchia you won’t find a better staff anywhere.
I fully expect this team to be the favorite to win the AFC East, then win the AFC Championship, then win the Super Bowl. There are few teams that boast a roster this strong, and none with a quarterback as great as Brady and a coach as genius as Belichick.
Overall Team Grade: A-
Expectation: Super Bowl or bust
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