The 2020 offseason has been everything but normal for the New England Patriots. Aside from the fact that teams are going through OTAs and various other offseason activities virtually thanks to a global pandemic putting typical, everyday life on pause, Tom Brady is no longer a member of the Patriots (yeah, it's still hard to fathom). Not only did TB12 take his talents elsewhere this offseason, but a number of key figures on the defensive side of the ball, a unit that ranked atop the league in a number of categories in 2019, have walked out the door as well.
Given all that turnover, New England is poised to look extremely different when they get back on the field for training camp and when the 2020 season actually kicks off. In that spirit, we decided to take a way-too-early stab at what the opening 53-man roster will look like for Bill Belichick's squad as the legendary head coach enters his 21st season leading New England.
Rookies will be denoted with a (*).
|QB||Jarrett Stidham||Brian Hoyer|| |
|RB||Sony Michel||James White||Damien Harris||Brandon Bolden |
|FB||Dan Vitale|| || |
|WR||N'Keal Harry||Damiere Byrd||Matthew Slater|
|WR||Julian Edelman||Marqise Lee|| |
|WR||Mohamed Sanu||Jakobi Meyers|| |
|TE||Matt LaCosse||Devin Asiasi*||Dalton Keene*|
|LT||Isaiah Wynn||Yodny Cajuste||Justin Herron*|
|LG||Joe Thuney||Jermaine Eluemunor||Hjalte Froholdt|
|C||David Andrews|| Hjalte Froholdt|| |
|RG||Shaq Mason|| Hjalte Froholdt|| |
|RT||Marcus Cannon|| Yodny Cajuste|| |
The headliner here is Stidham winning the starting job under center. I believe the Patriots are going to give the young quarterback every opportunity to grab ahold of the job as QB1 and Stidham will show them over the course of training camp and the preseason that he's up for the tall task. Brian Hoyer is the ideal backup and mentor for a player like Stidham, given his experience in the league and experience in New England's system.
The offensive line has a couple of question marks, specifically with the starting unit. Joe Thuney's contract situation will be worth watching over the next few months, while center David Andrews missed all of last season due to blood clots in his lungs. He's on the path to return to form, but considering the seriousness of his ailment, it's certainly something to monitor. With backup center Ted Karras now in Miami, Hjalte Froholdt could potentially take over that role as Andrews' backup.
Rex Burkhead is a notable cut in the backfield, and that has more to do with second-year back Damien Harris than it does with the veteran. The Patriots selected Harris in the third round in 2019 and he barely saw the field during his rookie year. Now is the time to see what they have in him.
At receiver, it's the status quo with Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry and Mohamed Sanu serving as Stidham's top-three options. Offseason additions Marqise Lee and Damiere Byrd are high-upside depth pieces.
|LDE||Lawrence Guy||Nick Coe*|| |
|NT||Beau Allen||Adam Butler||Byron Cowart|
|RDE||Deatrich Wise Jr.||Chase Winovich|| |
|LB||Chase Winovich||Anfernee Jennings*||Brandon Copeland|
|LB||Ja'Whaun Bentley||Josh Uche*|| |
|LB||Dont'a Hightower||Shilique Calhoun|| |
|LB||John Simon||Josh Uche*|| |
|LCB||Jason McCourty||J.C. Jackson|| |
|SS||Patrick Chung||Adrian Phillips||Kyle Dugger*|
|FS||Devin McCourty||Joejuan Williams|| |
|RCB||Stephon Gilmore||Jonathan Jones||Justin Bethel|
The linebacker group is the unit that saw the most change on New England's defense with Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Jamie Collins signing elsewhere in free agency. Luckily for the Patriots, they do have a number of ascending players ready to grab ahold of those starting spots.
I expect Ja'Whaun Bentley to be firmly in the mix to take over Roberts' thumper role as a run-stuffing interior linebacker, while 2019 third-rounder Chase Winovich should see a lot more work coming off the edge similar to Van Noy. The Patriots also used two Day 2 draft selections at the linebacker position, bringing aboard Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings. Shilique Calhoun makes it onto the roster thanks to his prowess on special teams.
In the secondary, it's pretty straightforward with the starting spots. It wouldn't surprise me if J.C. Jackson starts to really rival Jason McCourty for that starting spot opposite of Stephon Gilmore, but that's the biggest battle we'll likely see. Second-round pick Kyle Dugger is a project, but I'm intrigued by the addition of Adrian Phillips. He's a Pro Bowl special teams talent, but did enjoy a breakout season in 2018 with the Chargers in the secondary. A broken wrist derailed his 2019 season, but this could be an interesting player to watch develop under Belichick.
Along the defensive line, the Patriots are looking to replace Danny Shelton, who turned into a really solid player for them in 2019. Beau Allen will immediately take that spot, while Adam Butler will continue to be one of the more underrated pieces to the front-seven as a rotational piece. Nick Coe, meanwhile, is the undrafted free agent that makes the roster. He had an underwhelming junior season at Auburn and is what led him to go undrafted in 2020. That said, he is a pretty impressive talent and was once a top-rated recruit, possibly destined for the first round. If he buys into the role that Bill Belichick lays out for him in this defense, it could be a solid find.
|K||Justin Rohrwasser*|| |
|P||Jake Bailey|| |
|LS||Joe Cardona|| |
|KR||Brandon Bolden|| |
|PR||Mohamed Sanu||Julian Edelman|
New England moved on from Stephen Gostkowski this offseason and selected Marshall kicker Justin Rohrwasser in the fifth round of the 2020 draft. Given how high the Patriots selected Rohrwasser, his roster spot and position as the club's kicker is pretty secure. As for the other specialists, it's pretty standard with Jake Bailey handing punts and Joe Cardona continuing as the long-snapper. The return duties for New England is always pretty fluid, but as we see it currently, Bolden will likely be the man on kickoffs and Mohamed Sanu will work punts.