New England is coming off one of their worst seasons in over 20 years. You can bet that Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft didn’t enjoy not being in the playoffs for the first time since 2008 (Big Al). The Patriots should improve on last season’s uncharacteristic 7-9 record but will it be enough to get back to the postseason?
With divisional teams like the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins on the upswing, is this finally the end of the Patriots dynasty? Belichick spent money like a drunken congressman the entire offseason by bringing in a ton of new free agents. Will these new additions pay immediate dividends?
You have to feel a bit sorry for Cam Newton. After all, the 32-year old was in a tough spot last year of having to replace the GOAT, Tom Brady. Unfortunately, the three-time Pro Bowler had the worst season of his entire career in 2020.
Newton threw 8 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and many folks are wondering how much juice he has left in his arm. The Patriots drafted an insurance policy in former Alabama star QB Mac Jones. Newton will probably start the first few weeks of the season but expect Jones to see some playing time around the halfway point of the year.
Whoever plays QB will have a whole host of new faces to throw the football to. Desperate to get some speed on the roster, Belichick signed receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor during the offseason. The Pats also spent big money to bring in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry at the tight end position.
Expect New England to lean heavily on the run game this season as Belichick looks to get back to his basic roots. Running backs like Damien Harris, James White, and Sony Michel could be poised for big seasons in 2021.
After two decades of almost complete dominance, it was a bit weird to see the Patriots defense struggle last season. New England was awful against the run and allowed 131.4 yards per game on the ground. Surprisingly, the Pats secondary had a fine season in 2020 as they only gave up 222.3 passing yards per game (8th in the NFL).
The Pats stole Davon Godchaux away from the Dolphins and he will be a great addition at nose tackle in stopping the run. Belichick drafted Christian Barmore in the second round out of Alabama. Barmore, an adept pass rusher, should see a great deal of playing time in 2021 especially on third down. The Pats’ secondary should once again be solid with guys like Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, and Jonathan Jones.
2021 Special Teams
Nick Folk returns at kicker and he had a fantastic 2020 campaign. The 36-year old journeyman made 26 out of his 28 field goal attempts and will look to build on that success in 2021. Jake Bailey returns at punter after a solid 2020 season that saw him average 48.7 yards per punt.