The excitement in New England understandably is high following the addition of Cam Newton, but Patriots fans might want to temper their expectations.
There still are a handful of question marks surrounding the Patriots as the 2020 NFL season approaches. For starters, we don’t even know who the Week 1 quarterback will be, and whoever winds up winning the job will have a fairly mediocre supporting cast to work with.
But despite all of the uncertainty hovering over New England’s offense, NFL writer Jeremy Bergman would argue the Patriots’ biggest weakness entering the season is on the other side of the ball. In wake of some noteworthy offseason departures, Bergman has concerns about the Pats’ linebacker group.
“Yes, New England’s tight ends are anonymous youths, and its rookie kicker once boasted more controversial tattoos (reportedly since removed) than pre-draft profiles. But the Pats’ most troubled position is linebacker, where they lost Jamie Collins to, again, Pats Midwest and Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts to Patriots South,” Bergman wrote for NFL.com. “New England is left with stalwart Dont’a Hightower and a slew of unprovens, including second-round pick Josh Uche, third-round pick Anfernee Jennings, second-year pro (and Uche’s former Michigan teammate) Chase Winovich and third-year pro Ja’Whaun Bentley. So while continuity will work for New England’s secondary in this unparalleled offseason, the lack of the same works against its LB corps. Behind a thin defensive line, the Pats’ ‘backers are greener than the Belichicks have been used to in recent years.”
Bergman might be right. All of the chatter about the Patriots’ underwhelming pass-catching corps seemingly has masked the team’s precarious situation at linebacker. Hightower is among football’s best, but it’s tough to bank on the two-time Pro Bowl selection making it through a full season healthy. Young ‘backers Winovich and Bentley also have their work cut out of them as their roles are expected to expand in 2020.
There’s no shortage of upside and talent among New England’s linebackers, but it remains to be seen if the group will live up to its potential.