The New England Patriots’ replenished roster has all the necessary ingredients to make a deep playoff run next season. Given their improved legion of pass catchers and revamped defense, fans would be hard-pressed to picture a scenario in which they don’t make the playoffs.
Like any team, however, New England would be misguided to bank on all of their plans being carried out without any potential stumbling blocks.
After all, from their questions at quarterback, to wondering who will help Matt Judon get their pass rush back on track, and what’s going to happen with Stephon Gilmore amid his contract-induced holdout, this roster has plenty of potential pitfalls.
In fact, if one of these four plans blow up in the Patriots’ faces, their hopes of returning to the playoffs might go up in flames as well. After all, they’re in a loaded conference and a division that had two teams (Buffalo and Miami) post double-digit wins last year.
These four Patriots plans could turn topsy-turvy very quickly.
4. “The Patriots’ Pass-Rushing Issue Has Been Resolved”
The Patriots’ pass rush was virtually non-existent last campaign, which is understandable considering how many impact players they lost last offseason. Their string of high-profile departures included Dont’a Hightower (opt out), Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.
With the former two returning to New England this offseason alongside fantastic free agent signing Matt Judon, folks are expecting the Patriots’ defense to terrorize opposing QBs after the group ranked 27th in the league with just 1.5 sacks per game last year.
While the Pats’ pass rush should be expected to improve (that isn’t saying much), saying they’ll become one of the league’s best in that regard is entirely misguided. After all, outside of Judon, who’s tallied 34.5 sacks over his first five seasons, they don’t have an elite rusher.
The Patriots’ pass rush could struggle again in 2021.
You might say the Patriots’ defensive scheme will open up creases for other players to wreak havoc, but that wasn’t the case in 2020. Sure, Hightower and Van Noy weren’t in the fold, but rushing opposing QBs isn’t their main objective on defense, either.
We’re not here to say New England’s pass rush will be a dud. Just don’t expect players like Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise, Henry Anderson, Josh Uche and Chase Winovich to carry the load if teams focus on thwarting Judon, Van Noy and Hightower.