The New England Patriots have one of the best offenses in the NFL on paper. This will lead to them having a lot of versatility.
Throughout his time with the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick has always wanted a team that can win in multiple ways. With the roster as it is currently assembled, one thing that really stands out is just how versatile this offensive unit can be.
This roster will change as the season goes along, injuries are inevitable and we may even see Belichick pull off one of his surprise trades but right now there are plenty of options on hand. Here is a sample of the different groups of players that can be deployed alongside Tom Brady and the five offensive linemen in a few situations they may encounter this season. The best part of this roster is that even in these groups, there are plenty of substitutions that can be deployed to take advantage of defensive mismatches.
Best 11 Players – 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB
Players: Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Mike Gillislee
If the team was going to simply put out their best group of players and not worry about substitution, this would be it. Rob Gronkowski is simply the biggest matchup weapon on the roster and can play in line next to the tackles, split out wide on his own or even in the backfield next to Brady in the shotgun.
Mike Gillislee is primarily going to be used as a ball carrier but his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is enough to get the nod over the other contenders. As for the receivers, the two best options on the team are joined by Chris Hogan who in this group will generally be facing the fourth defender and should be able to take advantage of mismatches.
Comeback Drives – 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB
Players: Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Malcolm Mitchell, Rob Gronkowski and James White
A grouping that was used quite a lot in the Super Bowl but with a much different outlook in 2017. In that game, the Patriots used an alignment which had the three receivers to one side and Martellus Bennett on the other side. Here you can easily play Malcolm Mitchell on the outside with Cooks and Edelman in the slots inside.
With Cooks’ speed and Edelman’s quickness, they will be able to create separation and keep the chains moving. Cooks can also move to the outside and have two receiving options each side of Brady. James White gets to play in the backfield not just because of his Super Bowl heroics but the fact they will be throwing a lot in this scenario.
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Run Heavy – 1 WR, 2 TE, 2 RB
Players: Mike Gillislee, James Develin, Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen and Julian Edelman
Also known as the “Run Over the Colts” package, this position group is not overly versatile and is simply in there to just out-muscle the opponent. James Develin makes his first appearance in this post as the lead blocker while Gronkowski and Allen are in to add muscle.
It is hard to see Gronkowski being taken off the field, however, if he is on a pitch count in the first half of the season you could easily see whoever makes the roster as the third tight end seeing some time in this group.
Split Backs – 2 WR, 1 TE, 2 RB
Players: Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Dion Lewis and James White
A group that has the potential for plenty of unique and out-there formations where Josh McDaniels can really show off his creativity. The base set here would be for Brady to be in a shotgun flanked by the two backs with Edelman and Cooks wide on each side and Gronkowski in tight.
From there, however, the team can easily split White out to one side and have Lewis in the background as a running option. Much like in the other times they are paired together, Cooks and Edelman will be able to run some interesting combinations to create space for one another. One creative option could be having Brady in a pistol set with the running backs on either side and Edelman starting off as the deep man before motioning off to one side depending on the defensive alignment.