Sunday, October 25, 2020

A dying dynasty: How do New England recover?

After a disappointing season end, and an ageing franchise QB at the end of his contract, how do the New England Patriots come back in 2020 as the franchise we love to hate?

New England QB Tom Brady takes a sack against the Miami Dolphins in Week 17.
Tom Brady takes a sack against Miami in Week 17.

The story of New England’s 2019 season was one of a stalling offence that relied on its dominant defence and special teams to win them games. The team started the season 8-0, but after a surprising Week 17 loss to the Miami Dolphins, followed by a swift playoff exit in the Wildcard Round, pundits around the league were quick to call the end of the Patriots Dynasty

So how do the Patriots recover? One word: Offence. 

For a start, the giant Gronk-sized hole at Tight End was never consistently filled. Ben Watson struggled to put up the kind of numbers that New England needed, and Ryan Izzo spent most of his season injured.

With some promising TE talent coming up in the 2020 Draft, it would be smart for New England to bring in a fresh face. One such option could be Thaddeus Moss out of National Champions LSU – who’s father Randy broke the league single season TD record with the Patriots.

New England Tight End Benjamin Watson waves goodbye to Patriots fans after being knocked out of the playoffs.
Benjamin Watson waves goodbye to Patriots fans.

New England need also to look at their current mix and match of Wide Receivers. After losing Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas and Josh Gordon early in the season, veteran Julian Edelman went from being a slot receiver to WR1, and had a career highlight season as a result.

Others around him were not quite as productive. First round draft pick N’Keal Harry spent the first part of his rookie season injured; late trade acquisition Mohamed Sanu Sr. failed to really connect with Brady; and Gunner Olszewski, who looked promising in pre-season, was put on IR. UDFA Jakobi Meyers was a surprising highlight of the Patriots offence, and showed a lot of potential, but still made some costly mistakes.

With such a revolving door of WR personnel throughout the season, it was easy to see that Brady was not being given the time to develop and practice the precision needed in the Patriots offensive scheme. By trading early for veteran talent, like AJ Green of the Cincinnati Bengals (or maybe giving Dez Bryant a call?), and giving the youngsters time to develop, the Patriots could quickly build a formidable WR corp heading into the new season.

Of course the TEs and WRs are not solely to blame for the Patriots stalling offence this season – questionable play calling and a banged up O-line certainly did not help – but the receiving positions would be the quickest fix, and could very well yield the greatest results. Given that the dominant defence won them SB LIII and carried some ridiculous numbers throughout the 2019 season, it’s easy to see that all New England need is consistency on offence to bring them back for Lombardi number 7. 

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