The Patriots aren’t poised to be an offensive juggernaut in the 2020 NFL season, but there are a handful of reasons to have a level of optimism for the unit.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell highlighted a few of said reasons in a power ranking of offensive arsenals published Monday. Barnwell listed New England at No. 21 and explained why the Patriots’ pass-catching corps could be improved from the 2019 season.
I’m quietly optimistic about the Patriots’ weapons, especially if you’re comparing them to what you saw at the end of 2019, when Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu were both compromised by injuries. Sanu tried to play through a high ankle sprain, while Edelman was battling knee and shoulder injuries, both of which required surgery after the season. They are each now on the wrong side of 30, so they might be past their peak, but they can be effective wideouts. If N’Keal Harry takes a step forward in Year 2, this could be a valuable three-wideout grouping.
The tight end room is also better, although that wouldn’t have been very difficult to accomplish. I’m skeptical of any rookie tight end making a difference, but Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene should be improvements on Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo. The Pats also will roll out their unusually deep group of running backs for another season, although expected lead back Sony Michel was a disappointment and lost Bill Belichick’s confidence as a receiver and goal-line back at times. Michel dropped three of his 20 targets; the only players in the league with more than 20 targets who had a higher drop rate were Chase Edmonds and Kalen Ballage.
New England potentially could be in store for dynamic quarterback play as well. Cam Newton is one of the league’s top dual-threat signal-callers when healthy, and the 2015 NFL MVP appears to be motivated as ever to prove his doubters wrong. The structure of Newton’s contract for the upcoming season also incentivizes the 31-year-old to put together a stellar campaign.
The backbone of Bill Belichick’s group in 2020, of course, will be the defense. But Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower and Co. might not have to pick up as much slack on the other side of the ball as folks are expecting.