Thursday, June 21, 2018
The best just got better.

Off-Season Report Card: New England Patriots

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick may be the devil, but he’s not stupid. He knows his window with Tom Brady is closing and all it takes is one bad hit to completely change the future of his franchise. It’s why the Patriots, who usually toss pricey vets away without a second thought, re-signed plenty of talent this off-season and brought in some new, expensive toys as well.

Like it or not (and I do not), the Patriots have been the predominate dynasty of the last 16 years. No team has been so successful for so long and it has everything to do with Brady and Belichick (and, you know, cheating for the first three Super Bowls). But since they were busted for SpyGate they managed to go to four more Super Bowls and won two of them. You can blame their opponents’ late fourth quarter offensive playcalling for that (and I do), but you can’t argue with the rings. They won them. Fair ans square. I guess.

Let’s see if Belichick did enough to spark one final title run for the Pats.

Free Agents Kept

Alan Branch, Defensive End

Duron Harmon, Safety

Dont’a Hightower, Middle Linebacker

Justin Coleman, Cornerback

Brandon Bolden, Running Back

Malcolm Butler, Cornerback

Free Agents/Players Gained

Brandin Cooks, Wide Receiver, acquired in a trade with the New Orleans Saints

Kony Ealy, Defensive End, acquired in a trade with the Carolina Panthers

Rex Burkhead, Running Back, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals

Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, formerly of the Buffalo Bills

Lawrence Guy, Defensive End, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens

David Harris, Linebacker, formerly of the New York Jets

Andrew Hawkins, Wide Receiver, formerly of the Cleveland Browns

Mike Gillislee, Running Back, formerly of the Buffalo Bills

Free Agents/Players Lost

Martellus Bennett, Tight End, signed with the Green Bay Packers

LeGarrette Blount, Running Back, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles

Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, signed with the Minnesota Vikings

Chris Long, Defensive End, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles

Barkevious Mingo, Linebacker, signed with the Indianapolis Colts

Logan Ryan, Cornerback, signed with the Tennessee Titans

Jabaal Sheard, Defensive End, signed with the Indianapolis Colts

Sebastian Vollmer, Offensive Tackle, retired

2017 NFL Draft

Round 3: Derek Rivers, Defensive End, Youngstown State

Round 3: Antonio Garcia, Offensive Tackle, Troy

Round 4: Deatrich Wise, Defensive End, Arkansas

Round 6: Conor McDermott, Offensive Tackle, UCLA

Proposed Offensive Starters

QB: Tom Brady

RB: James White

WR: Chris Hogan

WR: Julian Edelman

WR: Brandin Cooks

TE: Rob Gronkowski

LT: Nate Solder

RT: Marcus Cannon

LG: Joe Thuney

RG: Shaquille Mason

C: David Andrews

Offensive Outlook

The Patriots’ offense begins and ends with Tom Brady, probably the best quarterback to ever play the game. By the time the season starts Brady will be 40 and that’s a big reason why Belichick is pushing all his chips to the center of the table this season. Yes, Brady says he might play another four seasons. I don’t buy it. I think it’s way more likely this is his final season.

Even with touchdown machine LeGarette Blount gone, the Patriots still have a formidable group of running backs. I’ve plugged Super Bowl 51 hero James White in as the starter, considering he can run and catch the ball out of the backfield. Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee will all get plenty of opportunities. New England has to find a red zone back to replace Blount, however, and  that could end up being rookie LeSean Daniels Jr. or Brandon Boldon.

The Pats will open with their best wide receiver group since 2007-08. While none of these guys is Randy Moss, the depth is just better with Julian Edelman, newly acquired Brandin Cooks, the underrated Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola, who took a pay cut to stay with the team.

Up front, the Patriots made no changes on the offensive line, but there’s no depth here past a couple of late round rookies. Any injury, especially at the interior positions, could really put a damper on their postseason plans.

Proposed Defensive Starters

DE: Kony Ealy

DE: Trey Flowers

DT: Alan Branch

DT: Malcolm Brown

OLB: Dont’a Hightower

OLB: Rob Ninkovich

MLB: David Harris

CB: Malcolm Butler

CB: Stephon Gilmore

FS: Devin McCourty

SS: Patrick Chung

Defensive Outlook

The Patriots lost two of their best defensive ends in free agency with Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long both flying the coop. They made up for it with a trade for Kony Ealy, who might turn out to be better than both the guys he’s replacing. Ealy would have been the MVP of Super Bowl 50 if the Carolina Panthers could have pulled off the victory over the Denver Broncos.

Adding Stephon Gilmore to the defensive backfield makes this as good a unit as any in the league. Malcolm Butler has already emerged as one of the NFL’s best corners. Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung are both underrated players on the back end. McCourty finished second on the team in tackles last season with 78 to go with one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, seven passes defended and a pick.

Bellichick brought in David Harris at middle linebacker, removing a recurring thorn in his side with the New York Jets. Dont’a Hightower was a player the Patriots wouldn’t let escape, paying the outside linebacker a big bag of cash to stay. Rob Ninkovich is playing out the clock on his career, but has been a solid player for New England for a long time.

Grade: A+

The Patriots got better on both sides of the ball, trading draft picks for established players they knew could fit their system. Brady has plenty of weapons to spread the ball around on offense and Gimore, along with Harris, are significant upgrades on defense.

O/U wins: 11.5

Preseason Schedule

Week 1: Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 2: at Houston Texans

Week 3: at Detroit Lions

Week 4: New York Giants

Regular Season Schedule

Week 1: Kansas City Chiefs

Week 2: at New Orleans Saints

Week 3: Houston Texans

Week 4: Carolina Panthers

Week 5: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 6: at New York Jets

Week 7: Atlanta Falcons

Key game: The Patriots get the Super Bowl 51 rematch at home. The Falcons nearly ran New England off the field in the championship game, only to sputter in the third and fourth quarters. The Patriots already made a statement with the greatest come back in Super Bowl history. Now they could shut down any debate on who was the better team.

Week 8: Los Angeles Chargers

Week 9: BYE

Week 10: at Denver Broncos

Week 11: at Oakland Raiders

Week 12: Miami Dolphins

Week 13: at Buffalo Bills

Week 14: at Miami Dolphins

Week 15: at Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 16: Buffalo Bills

Week 17: New York Jets

To make a wager on any sport, go to the world famous Diamond Sportsbook by clicking here.

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New England Patriots
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About Adam Greene

Adam Greene is a sportswriter, photographer and humorist. You can email him (and you should) at

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