One poor season in New England has left the Patriots as unknowns entering 2021. With so depth, Vogel argues, there shouldn’t be so much uncertainty.

The New England Patriots have experienced two dominant decades under head coach Bill Belichick, winning six Super Bowl titles in that span. Many attribute that to quarterback Tom Brady, who left New England last year to win a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Last season, with a new quarterback and new uniforms, the Patriots struggled badly through most of the season. The Patriots finished 7-9, their worst mark since the 2000 season, Belichick’s first season with the team. They finished 5-11 that year.

I ran a poll on Twitter with the top four AFC teams in my raw power rankings. The results are quite interesting.

Some people mentioned the Tennessee Titans in the comments, a team I’m certain will be competitive too. However, they look like they will be a little bit short of what they need to be. Regardless, the team that is completely being overlooked by fans is the New England Patriots.

Why have people forgotten about the New England Patriots?

It seems as though the fanfare regarding Brady and his Super Bowl win in Tampa has left the Patriots in the dust. The attention is currently on the star quarterback, who is much more alive outside of the hand of Belichick. He has a Twitter account now and does many public appearances while usually talking shit to other players and celebrities. He’s probably the only one who can get away with it too.

The Patriots struggled last season after quarterback Cam Newton fell out of the lineup due to covid-19. When Newton returned to the field, he wasn’t the same player. Between Newton, veteran Brian Hoyer, and Jarrett Stidham, the Patriots’ offense struggled to move the ball all season long.

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People are quick to point to the abhorrent stats that Newton posted and blame him for the issues. Most of the focus lies on his 8-10 TD-INT passing ratio. Newton also ran for 12 touchdowns, all of those coming in the red zone. That tells me that his effectiveness was much better than his passing ratio gives him credit for. Newton was on target for 74.5% of his throws.

Now, the Patriots have added Mac Jones into the mix, who can develop into an excellent starter in the Patriots system. If things go wrong with Newton early on, they have a suitable option to turn to.

The Patriots roster was missing key pieces last season

Another point that people forget is that the New England Patriots suffered the most players opting out of the season due to covid-19. Those players were:

  • OT Marcus Cannon (starting right tackle)
  • LB Dont’a Hightower (starting linebacker)
  • S Patrick Chung (starting safety)
  • RB Brandon Bolden (depth running back)
  • WR Marquise Lee (potential starter at wide receiver)
  • TE Matt LaCosse (potential starter at tight end)
  • OL Najee Toran (backup blocker)
  • FB Dan Vitale (starting fullback)

Four of the players who opted out would have been day-one starters, while another two could have started several games after the slew of injuries limited this team. So far, Hightower, Bolden, and LaCosse have all reported back for the team in 2021.

Addressing main concerns in free agency

The Patriots attacked free agency this offseason, landing two top tight ends, a stud edge rusher, all while adding a slew of depth across the wide receiver position and their defense. Between Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, the Patriots have improved their receiving group tremendously. That’s not counting the additions of Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor.

PlayerCatch %YBC/RADOTDrops
Kendrick Bourne (SF)
Nelson Agholor (LV)58.513.915.55
Jakobi Meyers (NE)72.88.710.24
Jonnu Smith (TEN)
Hunter Henry (LAC)
YBC/R – Yards per catch before the reception… ADOT – Average Depth of Target.

Defensively, the Patriots are geared to be the deepest team in the league. It’s difficult to project the team’s 53 man roster because so many of their players can start on other teams across the league. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few trades as the Patriots move players for picks before final cuts. With defensive coordinator Steve Belichick leading the group, one of the finest young minds in football, it’s scary to think how good this defense will be.

PositionProjected StarterProjected Backup
DELawrence GuyChase Winovich
DEHenry AndersonRonnie Perkins*
DTByron CowartChristian Barmore*
NTDavon GodchauxMontravious Adams
SLBDont’a HightowerJosh Uche
MLBKyle Van NoyJa’Whaun Bentley/Raekwon McMillan
RUSHMatt JudonAnfernee Jennings
CBStephon GillmoreJonathan Jones
CBJC JacksonJoejaun Williams/Jalen Mills
SDevin McCourtyKyle Duggar
SAdrian PhillipsCody Davis/Joshuah Bledsoe*

Don’t sleep on the New England Patriots in 2021

The Patriots are built solidly in the trenches and across their defense. They can withstand injuries to key positions as well. With a full roster and no covid-19 opt-outs, the Patriots are geared to be one of the top teams in the AFC this season.

If the quarterback play even slightly improves from 2020, this offense can be dangerous. They’re deep at all positions – certainly not afraid to rotate personnel and play possession football. They have the personnel to sustain long drives and keep the ball to milk the clock. It’s a traditional Belichick team, and people are ignoring it.

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By John Vogel

NFL Draft Analyst. Dad.

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