The Patriots are coming off of the incredible Super Bowl LI victory against the Atlanta Falcons. However, the Patriots front office took a lot of looks at that comeback in the game and have addressed some needs. While the core of Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Dont’a Hightower, and Malcolm Butler all remain, the Patriots had some big losses, but also some huge gains this offseason.
On the offensive side, the major addition was of the speedy WR Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints. Cooks is now the fastest player on the Patriots roster and just adds another weapon for Tom Brady. Cooks deep pass threat will be huge for the Patriots, as defenses now have to adjust to cover both the short slants that Brady loves and also the deep routes for Cooks. If Gronkowski can stay healthy, it will be very, very hard for defenses to double team either Edelman or Gronk, as it will leave another receiver like Cooks open. And Cooks can burn a single man to man coverage. A wide receiver core of Edelman, Cooks, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, and Malcolm Mitchell is a pretty scary one with any quarterback. And if any of them get injured, the Patriots also brought in Andrew Hawkins, who essentially replaces the loss of Michael Floyd. A slight downgrade from Floyd talent wise, but Hawkins isn’t running into trouble with the law like Floyd.
Another receiver that was added was TE Dwayne Allen, replacing Martellus Bennett. While Bennett didn’t exactly live up to all of the hype, he was another big body that got defenses attention. While Allen isn’t as talented as Bennett, he stills poses a threat and can be used in red zone and goal line packages. It will be tough for opposing teams to cover both Gronk and Allen.
In the backfield, the loss of LeGarrette Blount is a big one. He was a great power back for the Pats who you could rely on in 3rd and short situations. But bringing in Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead help make up for the hole Blount left. Gillislee is a dynamic running back who will help in the running game, but also poses a threat in passing as well. Burkhead still has something to prove and may not see as much time, as long as Dion Lewis and James White stay healthy, but given both players’ histories, Burkhead might be called in to step up and play a role.
The retirement of Sebastian Vollmer hurts the Patriots a bit on the offensive line. But given his recent history of injuries, it doesn’t come as quite a surprise and all that big of a loss. Marcus Cannon was able to fill his role last year, so all five predicted starting O-linemen are returning starters for the Pats.
Oh, and TB12 will again head the QB role. No four game suspension this year either!
On defense, the huge acquisition was of CB Stephon Gilmore. Kraft and Co pulled out the big bucks to pay for the elite cornerback, to replace Logan Ryan. Losing Ryan hurts, but the Pats get an upgrade in Gilmore. Pairing him alongside Malcolm Butler makes for one of the best defensive pairs in the league.
At linebacker, David Harris was brought in, and out went Barkevious Mingo. The linebacker position was a must need for the Patriots, given Hightower’s injury worries. While they still have Rob Ninkovich, Jonathan Freeny, and young Elandon Roberts, Harris provides a veteran role both on and off the field. The Patriots know they're getting a solid reliable pass rusher in Harris.
On the line, the Patriots lost both defensive ends Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard. It will be expected that Trey Flowers must step up on one side, but the Patriots brought in Super Bowl 50 superstar Kony Ealy for the other. If Ealy can perform like he did in the Super Bowl against the Broncos, (I doubt it but still), he will be a thorn in the side of opposing QBs.
Nothing changes at the safety position, as the Patriots will bring back Pro Bowler Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, along with Duron Harmon. On special teams, it will continue to be Stephen Gostkowski with the kicking and Ryan Allen with the punting. Despite rumors that the Patriots may look for another kicker, they have yet to bring anyone in.
All in all, the Patriots upgraded this offseason to an already stacked roster. With no real losses at any position, a Super Bowl repeat is expected for Brady and Belichick. And I don’t think they will settle for less. An AFC East division win is practically guaranteed and they already are the favorites to win the AFC. I would love nothing more than to see Roger Goodell have to hand over the Lombardi to the Patriots yet again.