The 2016 New England Patriots have incredible depth

New England Patriots left tackle Cameron Fleming (71) filled in nicely for Nate Solder in Week 1. Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots left tackle Cameron Fleming (71) filled in nicely for Nate Solder in Week 1. Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

One thing is clear after Week 1. The New England Patriots boast incredible depth across the roster.

The New England Patriots managed to defeat the Arizona Cardinals in their 2016 regular season opener despite not having their two best players on the field. The absences of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, as well as starting left tackle Nate Solder and starting right guard Jonathan Cooper, led many to believe that the Patriots would be gasping for breath against one of the strongest, fastest and most dangerous teams in the NFL.

But that ended up not being the case whatsoever. From the opening kickoff, the Patriots were in control and held their own against the Cardinals in every facet of the game. For the purposes of this article, we are going to break down the Patriots’ depth at the four positions vacated by Brady, Gronk, Solder and Cooper in Week 1.

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We might as well start at quarterback when talking about the Patriots’ depth. Jimmy Garoppolo passed expectations and then some, tossing for over 260 yards, connecting on two touchdown throws and avoiding any interceptions. He reassured Patriots fans that they are in capable hands. After Garoppolo, the Pats have promising rookie Jacoby Brissett at their disposal; while we don’t want Brissett to be forced into action just yet, he is another post-Brady era possibility.

Let’s move on to tight end. Interestingly, the Patriots made Clay Harbor a healthy scratch despite being without Gronk. The only reasonable explanation is that the Patriots felt so confident in their immediate depth after Gronk that they didn’t need a No. 3 tight end. Sure enough, Martellus Bennett got the job done, catching three passes and making a difference in run blocking. Despite a holding penalty, A.J. Derby did his part, too.

At right guard, Ted Karras overcame an early holding penalty as well and filled-in nicely for Cooper. The 2016 sixth round pick looks like a good backup option as the season progresses.

Last but certainly not least, Cameron Fleming was everything the Patriots could have asked for matching up against former teammate Chandler Jones. No, he wasn’t perfect, but Fleming was impressive for the most part, certainly protecting Garoppolo’s blindside as well as Solder would have against such a good pass rusher.

Next: AFC Power Rankings: Week 2

The overarching point here is that the Patriots are as loaded as can be across the board this season. Hopefully, this depth will help them navigate through the seemingly inevitable midseason injury bug, just like it did against the Cardinals on Sunday night.