The New England Patriots are essentially through with their team-building for 2023 absent any additions between now and the first game on September 10. Recently adding former star, Trey Flowers Jr. is a nice complementary move further strengthening the defensive end/edge position, arguably (and ironically) the strongest on the team.
Bill Belichick added some nice pieces. Yet, one glaring hole remains to be significantly addressed and will be the team's Achilles heel if not. Two other positions have a strong starting contingent but lack the depth to withstand injuries. This lack of depth is the second weakest point.
Interestingly, all of the questionables lie on the team's weakest unit, the offense. Under Tom Brady, these weaknesses were also seldom remedied though the sheer brilliance of Brady papered over those gaps in talent. Unfortunately, Belichick and company never realized that, leaving a handful of Lombardi trophies on the table due to personnel mismanagement.
In 2023, lack of attention to paramount needs again threatens to derail the season. Let's look at two gaps in talent and assess how important each could be to the team's success or failure in 2023.
New England Patriots lack of depth at two offensive skill positions
Two New England Patriots' offensive skill positions lack depth. Together, they're one of the team's greatest weaknesses. They are running back and tight end. Citing these deficiencies is nothing new here. Yet, as the preseason team-building determining the future of the upcoming season nears its end, they remain burrs in the saddle of the offense.
One position that has had lots of media attention is running back. The team has a top rusher and receiver in third-year back, Rhamondre Stevenson. No argument there. He's terrific. Yet, the position is prone to injury every time a back carries or receives a ball. It's not a question of if, but when someone will get dinged up.
Behind Stevenson lies the issue. There are only question marks. The team can roll out 2022 fourth-round pick, Pierre Strong Jr. a scatback type, and 2022 sixth-rounder, big back Kevin Harris. Neither showed much in 2022. Absent the vaunted second-year Bechickian breakout occurring, any injury to Stevenson will be disastrous.
The New England Patriots have ostensibly looked at several interesting possibilities such as Leonard Fournette (the choice here), Dalvin Cook, and Ezekiel Elliot. They have yet to make a move. If they do, it will mitigate the situation. Next on the depth issue list is the tight end.
The team is well-stocked at the top two positions with NFL TEs, Hunter Henry, a third-year player on the squad, and recent free agent signee, Mike Gesicki. This is a strength, but the issue again is depth. Henry tends toward injury. Any injury to either him or Gesicki will again stall the potential of the tight ends being a major factor in Bill O'Brien's offense.
Behind those two solid NFL TEs is a gaggle of waiver-wire-level players. The team eschewed using any of their 12 draft picks this year on a legitimate third tight end. It's a mistake that could prove highly detrimental if the injury bug bites, as it usually does at the position.
The New England Patriots offensive tackle position
The top New England Patriots' weakness on either side of the ball is at offensive tackle. The issue has been harped on here and can't be ignored. Belichick sought to penny-pinch at OT by signing 34-year-old Riley Reiff, who has underwhelmed and journeyman Calvin Anderson. Neither was at the necessary talent level.
Behind them are waiver-wire types like Conor McDermott and Andrew Steuber, last season's seventh-round pick. Trent Brown is the only legitimate starter and an injury to him would be catastrophic. Having failed to draft an adequate backup or to sign a legitimate, NFL-level starter or better, the team's offensive fortunes now hang on a thread. The following strategy should have been implemented.
First, the team should have spent wisely on a young free-agent veteran offensive tackle like left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. or Mike McGlinchey. McGlinchey immediately would have slotted in at right tackle, while Brown would have managed the left with Brown moving over. They did neither, nor as noted, did they even draft a tackle with any of their draft picks.
The tackle position's weakness is season-threatening. Belichick's lack of attention could wreck things before it begins. There is still time to add to any of the three positions noted. Yet, it will be surprising if any but running back is addressed. If not, hope for the best, but expect the worst.