This is by far the most important offseason for the Patriots since 2000. To talk about the holes they need to fill I asked Bob Socci who does Patriots play-by-play for 98.5 The Sports Hub. He also hosts the Sunday Football Show on 985. The Sports Hub with former Patriot and Super Bowl Champion Ted Johnson from 8am-10am. Thirdly, he hosts The Gridiron and Beyond with Bob Socci Podcast. Below Bob brings his insight on the Patriots offseason, the draft, the quarterback position, and more. I appreciate Bob taking the time to answer the questions regarding the future of the Patriots. I hope you enjoy reading my interview with Bob.
Patriots Insight With Bob Socci
1.What are your thoughts of the disappointing 2020 season?
Bob Socci: First, regardless of the outcome of a single game or results from an entire season, I love everything about broadcasting for the Patriots. Despite finishing with a 7-9 record and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008, I was both relieved and grateful that the NFL was able to complete the entire season during the pandemic. Certainly, there were times before and during the fall when I truly questioned if we could make it through the full 16 games in 17 weeks. That said, watching the Pats struggle as they did, particularly on offense, in the first season post-Tom Brady was both disappointing and, often, frustrating.
Of course, there are a lot of factors to consider, from some of the roster deficiencies that were apparent late in 2019 to opt-outs and missed practice time due to Covid-19. Personally, though, the most disappointing aspects of our experience included calling road games remotely and home games without fans.
2.The Patriots have a lot of holes to fill this offseason, which do you think is the biggest one?
Bob Socci: The most obvious is the most important. The Pats have to identify and acquire their quarterback for 2021, and beyond. I think at this point, that’s likely to include a combination of a veteran and draft pick. The former may be a player traded, signed in free agency or re-signed (Cam Newton) as a free agent.
But as poorly as Newton played in parts of the 2020 season, it’s important to understand that he took over amid a very difficult situation; signing in the summer before a shortened training camp, with no pre-season; trying to learn a brand new offense, and playing with a skill position group that featured multiple positions in need of improvement. Among them were the tight end and wide receiver. But also depth on the offensive line and running back, depending on the futures of free agents David Andrews, Joe Thuney, James White, and Rex Burkhead, is a necessity.
Defensively, the ‘front seven’ has to be addressed. The Pats are in danger of losing several defensive linemen off a unit that needs to add, not subtract. They have to be stouter against the run and generate more pressure on quarterbacks.
3. Do you think the Patriots go defense with their 15th overall pick, do they trade up, or do you think they’ll select a quarterback?
Bob Socci: Who knows. At this point, so much is uncertain for a lot of teams in front of them when it comes to quarterback. It’s unlikely the Pats can draft one of the top 4-5 QBs without trading up. But so many teams have needs at the position. We’ll have a better idea based on what happens on the pre-draft trade market and free agency. I think all options are open. Wide receiver/tight end or offensive tackle. Defensive linemen or linebacker. Trade up or trade down.
4. Do you think the Patriots bring back Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason?
Bob Socci: For that to happen, San Francisco has to make him available to the Pats. While reports suggest the 49ers are looking to upgrade their QB spot, there’s no guarantee that they can get Deshaun Watson or another player they like enough to part ways with Jimmy. And if it’s Watson, does that mean Jimmy G is part of a trade to Houston? There’s a possibility Jimmy will be released. If so, I would expect the Patriots to be very interested. Timing of all of the above is essential.
5. What do you think the Patriots chances are in bringing back Cam Newton for the 2021 season?
Bob Socci: I think it’s a possibility, as reported by others. That doesn’t make it a probability. Again, it’s related to your previous two questions. As I mentioned, they have to keep all options open. If Cam returns, I’d expect him to be a piece of the puzzle, in combination with a draft pick. I can see a scenario where the coaches feel he can be much better with a spring on the field, full training camp, more talent around him, and changes in the offense centered more on what he’s most comfortable with. Again, it’s worth stressing, being a possibility is just that, a possibility.
6. Do you think Tom Brady winning another Super Bowl will make Bill Belichick focus on winning a Super Bowl now? Or will Belichick just continue to try and build for the future?
Bob Socci: Regardless of Tom’s success, I think Bill will try to achieve both. It’s his nature to want to win, every game, every season. At the same time, after his statements this past season about the need for a reset and references to the Pats’ salary cap situation, I think he wants to ensure that the Pats are better positioned to be successful for the foreseeable future.
7. Do you think any of the opt outs from 2020 come back and play in 2021?
Bob Socci: Well, Devin McCourty recently said to Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston that he expects them back. Devin certainly knows better than I do. I’ll be surprised if we don’t see Brandon Bolden, Patrick Chung and, to a slightly lesser degree, Dont’a Hightower back on the field. I’m not sure about Marcus Cannon. I think both retirement and an outright release, given his salary situation, are strong possibilities.
8.What do you think Belichick does at the wide receiver position and at tight end? Do you think he’ll find a few good ones in free agency? Or go through the draft at those positions?
Bob Socci: This is a very deep draft class at wide receiver, but the Pats haven’t fared well picking that position. At tight end, Florida’s Kyle Pitts is clearly the best prospect. If he’s available when they pick, the Pats would have to be very tempted to take him. At the same time, I think there is a pretty deep class of free agent receivers and there should be a pretty good selection of tight ends available in free agency. Some are unrestricted. Others will soon become available, as team make cuts to clear salary cap space.
9. With Jarrett Stidham not starting a game last year do you think he’s playing for his job in training camp?
Bob Socci: You’re always playing for your job in the Pats’ training camp. Especially if the Pats acquire multiple QB’s — a vet and draft choice — as many expect they will try to do.
10. In your opinion what is your definition of the ‘Patriot Way’
Bob Socci: To me, informed by what I’ve heard from past and current players, it really boils down to the concept of putting the team first. Whatever your role entails, you must be willing to sacrifice individual stats and acclaim for the betterment of the team.