The New England Patriots enter the 2020 season with a few holes to fill in its lineup from the prior season.
Obviously, there will be a new quarterback under center after the departure of veteran signal-caller Tom Brady. There also could be a new starting tight end, a position where the Patriots used a pair of Day 2 draft picks.
And on the defensive side of the ball, the Patriots lost a handful of impactful players in free agency like linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts. So, their positions will need to be filled as well.
Pro Football Focus recently predicted the teams’ starting lineup for the season. And while fans may not be surprised with some names, others could prove different.
Quarterback: Jarrett Stidham
Running back: Sony Michel
Wide receivers: Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry, Julian Edelman (slot)
Tight end: Devin Asiasi
Offensive linemen (from left to right): LT Isaiah Wynn, LG Joe Thuney, C David Andrews, RG Shaq Mason, RT Marcus Cannon
Defensive line (interior): Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler
Edge rushers: Chase Winovich, John Simon
Linebackers: Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley
Cornerbacks: Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones
Safeties: Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips
Here’s what they had to say:
For years, Chung has been the player the Patriots have let loose in the box to take on opposing tight ends in the passing game. He has played at least 500 defensive snaps every season since 2010, and all but one of those seasons came with the Patriots. Last season, Chung saw his role and performance take a hit, though, earning an overall grade of just 55.6 after bringing in 70-plus grades in four of the five previous seasons. At 33 years old, his days as the Patriots’ starting strong safety may be numbered.
Phillips missed much of the 2019 season with the Chargers due to a fractured forearm, but he played well in limited action with an 87.5 overall grade on just shy of 300 defensive snaps. He earned grades of 65.0 or higher in each of 2017 and 2018, as well. There’s a good chance that Phillips could push Chung for the starting job despite Chung’s longtime standing with the team.
It could certainly be among a handful of preseason battles to keep an eye one.