For the first time in 18 years the Patriots will have a new Week 1 starter at QB following the departure of Tom Brady in free agency. The Quarterback position had been one of stability for the last 20 years, but with Brady gone a void has been opened up.
Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer are the two QBs on the roster. Stidham will likely win the starting job, with Hoyer as his back-up. One thing to keep in mind is with Covid-19, training camp may end up looking different.
If training camp does not start on time, Belichick may not feel comfortable starting Stidham Week 1 due to the second year pro receiving limited reps. The 11-year veteran Brian Hoyer will get the start if that’s the case.
New England typically employs a running back by committee, and this season will be no different. Sony Michel will be the lead running back, but James White will come in to catch passes out of the backfield, while also getting an occasional carry to keep teams off-balanced.
As of right now the Patriots only have $650,989 in cap space, which means some players will be cut. One casualty of this could be Rex Burkhead. He has a cap hit of roughly $4 Million as the third-string RB.
New England still has 2019 3rd round pick Damien Harris on the roster, and he could fill Burkhead’s role for a lot cheaper. Do not be surprised if Burkhead ends up getting cut.
Right off the bat you will see a familiar face at WR1 in Julian Edelman. The 10-year pro will look to repeat his 1,117 receiving yard season from last year.
Mohamed Sanu will slot in as the number two receiver on the depth chart. He had a disappointing season in New England after arriving in a trade from Atlanta.
In eight games last year, Sanu only had 26 receptions for 207 yards. He did play through an ankle injury last season, which could be the reason for his struggles. After having surgery on that ankle this offseason, Sanu should be healthy and ready to contribute in a big way.
The third spot on the roster goes to N’Keal Harry. I detailed earlier this year why I think the second year receiver will break out in 2020. Harry spent most of 2019 on IR and never found a rhythm with Tom Brady when healthy. I expect big numbers from Harry in 2020.
Free agent acquisitions make up the rest of the receiving corps. Damiere Byrd and Marqise Lee are on one-year deals, and will be looking to prove their worth. Byrd brings speed to the table, while Lee showed flashes of being a 1,000 yard receiver in Jacksonville.
Former UDFA Jacobi Meyers could be a guy who receives less playing time. Meyers logged 36% of the total offensive snaps last season with a lack of depth at the position. With the signings of Byrd and Lee, Meyers could see the field less.
The Patriots got very little production from the Tight End position last season. Bill Belichick addressed this by spending two 3rd round picks on TEs.
Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene will look to boost a barren spot on New England’s depth chart. Both guys have the ability to block and haul in receptions. Asiasi and Keene have lots of potential and will be major improvements to the roster.
This is a position in flux right now. LG Joe Thuney is currently on the franchise tag. The Patriots would like to extend him, but trading him is also an option. Trading away Thuney would be a big loss, as there is no suitable replacement available.
One big boost to the line; however, is the return of David Andrews. He missed last season with a pulmonary embolism, but he should be ready to go in 2020.
The right side of the line consists of mainstays Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon. Both men should have productive seasons in 2020. On the left side Isaiah Wynn will hold down the LT position. The 2018 first round pick has had struggles staying healthy, but he will be a big contributor to the Patriots’ offense.
After the retirement of James Develin, newly signed Dan Vitale will step into the starting role. The FB plays a vital role in Belichick’s offense, so Vitale will receive lots of playing time. Last season’s offensive struggles can be attributed to the lack of a FB, but that should change in 2020.
This is a position where the Patriots have a lot of depth. Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr., John Simon, and Chase Winovich are the DEs on the roster. Guy and Simon are the veterans, but do not be surprised if Deatrich Wise and Winovich get more playing time.
I do expect Winovich to have an expanded role this season. He had 5.5 sacks last season while only playing 29% of defensive snaps, so he has the potential rack up 10 sacks with increased playing time. Deatrich Wise is another guy who has been promising, and he could break out in 2020 with more playing time as well.
The DT spot is rounded out by newly signed Beau Allen and three year Patriot Adam Butler. Allen will not be a 3-down DT, as he will only see the field when New England expects the run. Butler will slot in during likely passing situations.
Belichick addressed this position in the 2020 Draft after losing Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy in free agency. New England spent a second round pick on OLB Josh Uche, and a third on OLB Anfernee Jennings. Both guys will likely be used as edge rushers as well as occasionally dropping back into coverage.
Dont’a Hightower will return to captain NE’s defense, and Ja’Whaun Bentley could replace Kyle Van Noy. Free agent signing Brandon Copeland will also add depth to the position.
The Patriots have the most depth at the secondary position. They have one of the best CB duos in the game with 2019 DPOY Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson. Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones are no slouches either. The CB depth even goes five deep with second year player Joejuan Williams rounding out the list.
At the safety position, you will see familiar faces in Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung. Duron Harmon is no longer a Patriot, but they did go to great strides to replace him.
New England spent the 37th overall pick on Kyle Dugger, who is a fast and athletic safety. Free agent acquisition Adrian Phillips will work with Dugger to limit the mobile QBs on their schedule. With the addition of these two, NE is more adept at facing QBs like Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson.
There will not be many surprises with this part of the roster. Jake Bailey will be the punter, and as the only kicker on the roster, 5th round pick Justin Rohrwasser will handle field goals and extra points.
The punt and kick returner is likely the only position left undecided. Sanu handled punt returns when he arrived in New England last year, but that will likely change. Kyle Dugger has the potential to return punts, so he could land the job. WR Damiere Byrd and RB Brandon Bolden can also return kicks as well.
Featured image via Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Follow me on Twitter @CWilson_Writes