This off-season has been an unusual one to say the least.
Drama, retirement threats, trade talks, star players skipping optional team activities and ‘experts’ dissecting Tom Brady’s Instagram comments to see what they mean. All in all, it has been a long and exhausting off-season which is something us Patriots fans have been allergic to throughout this dominant 18 year run with Brady, Belichick and Kraft. So, it’s safe to say, everyone from inside and outside the organization is ready to strap up and finally play some football.
Coming into camp, which starts on Thursday, we know a few things are for certain and that’s Tom Brady will play quarterback, Rob Gronkowski will show up on time and play, Julian Edelman will serve his four game suspension and that Bill Belichick is fully committed to coaching the 2018 New England Patriots.
As far as some things that we can expect heading into the season, Chris Hogan’s game should take an even bigger step with his role becoming more important with Amendola and Cooks departures. Rob Gronkowski will still be a dominant piece for this offense-barring he stays healthy and driven despite an unusual off-season and also that New England’s running backs all have different styles of game that can help the run and passing game out of the backfield improve mightily with guys like James White, Rex Burkhead, Jeremy Hill and first round pick Sony Michel.
However, unlike other years, their are some questions regarding many parts of this roster. Who is going to line up next to Stephon Gilmore as cornerback # 2? Will the Patriots struggle offensively with Amendola and Brandin Cooks gone amidst Julian Edelman’s four game suspension? Who is going to protect Tom Brady’s 41 year old blind side?
Jonathan Jones, when healthy, has shown signs of greatness, especially while playing in the slot. Cyrus Jones could come back and finally live up to they hype and Jason McCourty and Eric Rowe could slide in to some spots and lock down some teams # 2 receivers.
Newly added guys like Jordan Matthews showed in Philadelphia early on in his career that he is a reliable receiver and can add some depth to the slot receiver position. Kenny Britt will surprise people with his height and strength by winning jump balls in the Red Zone and see more of a role in the offense than he did at the end of last year. Lastly, 27 year old Cordarelle Patterson is everything Bill Belichick looks for in a football player as he’s shown flashes both receiving and returning the football.
Speedster Phillip Dorsett could fill the hole the Patriots will miss in Brandin Cooks as far as vertical route runners go. Lastly, speedy, undersized guys in Braxton Berrios and Riley McCarron could be on the outside looking in but have shown signs of Edelman/Amendola-esque throughout their college careers.
This years team seems to have more questions than answers which is something unusual for the New England Patriots but if we know one thing it is that Bill Belichick can turn his team of ‘nobodies’ into ‘somebodies’.
We’re onto 2018, folks.