Patriots Season Recap

Alexander Bingham, Sports Editor

After the first losing season since 2000 in 2020, the Patriots rebounded with a strong mid-season push to reach the playoffs as a wild-card team. New England’s Super Bowl dreams  ended quickly though with a loss to the divisional rival Buffalo Bills, yet the 2021 campaign still provided hope for the future of the team in the Post-Brady era. 

With the 27th ranked offense in terms of points per game in 2020 it was clear that there were several problems plaguing the team, most notably the passing attack with the struggles of quarterback Cam Newton and the team’s receivers. With the 15th pick in the draft the Patriots selected Mac Jones from Alabama to take over as the team’s quarterback, which provided a large upgrade over Newton. The addition of Jones plus several receiving options in Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor, have improved the teams points per game from 20.4 to 27.2. While a strong running game led by bruising backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson plus a now serviceable passing game helped push the Patriots into playoff form, there is still an obvious lack of a number one receiver who can create plays for the team and open up the offense, such as the role Rob Gronkowki filled for many years. 

Having an explosive playmaker can certainly transform an entire team’s fate.

Having an explosive playmaker can certainly transform an entire team’s fate as seen with the Cincinnati Bengals, who before drafting Ja’Marr Chase were a 4-11-1 team. The Bengals are now playing in the Super Bowl with one of the deadliest offenses in the league that can go blow for blow with heavyweights such as the Kansas City Chiefs. Considering the past failures of Bill Belichick when it comes to drafting wide receivers, plus a lower draft slot this year, it is likely that New England will look to free agency or the trade market to find the number one option for Jones. 

Strong receivers such as Davante Adams, Chris Godwin, Calvin Ridley, and Mike Williams could all be available this offseason. Additionally, the Patriots are currently in the market for a new offensive coordinator as Josh McDaniels left to become the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. McDaniels has enjoyed plenty of head coaching consideration in the past, yet it is hard to tell his value to the Patriots considering he has coached  Brady with Belichick in New England. Several names such as Bill O’Brien and Adam Gase are linked as the top options to New England. Both have had laughable tenures in head coaching roles or as General managers, but should be good as offensive coordinators. Having the right offensive coordinator will be imperative to ensure the development of Jones.

Regardless of late season issues, the Patriots have still shown promise on both sides of the ball.

Despite an above average offense throughout the season, New England was really carried by their elite defense. Several new/returning players such as Matthew Judon, Kyle Van-Noy, Chritian Barmore, Dont’a Hightower and the emergence of younger players like safety Kyle Dugger were instrumental in their success. However, the defense that was surrendering 15.38 points per game through the week 14 bye regressed massively with a 27.2 point per game average to end the season which was capped off with the playoff loss to Buffalo that included zero punts by the Bills. Looking into next season, cornerback will be a major position group to address. After the surprising move to trade former defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore to the Panthers, The Patriots were left with weakened depth at the position. J.C Jackson, who was selected to a second team all-pro roster  stepped up as a lockdown corner to fill in the role vacated by Gilmore, but he is now a free-agent and looks to command a large contract in free-agency. Having a dominant corner has always been central to Belichick’s defense, and he has been great at finding value at the position. Jackson and Malcolm Butler, for example, were undrafted free agents. This may be enough reason for the Patriots to let Jackson walk, yet without any options currently on the roster, Belichick would be risking a massive blow to the makeup of his defense in doing so. 

Regardless of late season issues, the Patriots have still shown promise on both sides of the ball, with hopes of further improvement moving forwards, especially as Mac Jones continues to develop.