Much has been made of the players the New England Patriots have lost this offseason. That’s to be expected when one of those players is Tom Brady.
We’d be lying if we said the Patriots’ roster doesn’t have some question marks. However, there are at least four players who are in a great position to have a breakout season in 2020.
Bill Belichick loves versatile defensive players, and that’s likely what drew the Patriots to Phillips. The safety is known as an excellent tackler and physical safety who can play a linebacker-like hybrid role, which is something the Patriots likely covet.
He hadn’t been given an opportunity to play on defense for an extended period, but when given the chance, Phillips has proven capable.
Patriots.com’s Mike Dussault was answering a mailbag question concerning the Patriots possibly using their No. 23 overall selection to nab top defensive prospects Isaiah Simmons or Xavier McKinney. Clearly, Dussault is also very high on Phillips’ ability to contribute for the Patriots on defense in 2020.
[Isaiah] Simmons is a fantastic player and like you said, a swiss army knife who could fit in perfectly on a modern NFL defense where he could use his athleticism to play multiple roles. That said, Alabama’s Xavier McKinney isn’t too far off from Simmons, though he’s a bit more in the safety mold than the linebacker mold. He played both spots in college though. After McKinney there are some similar types of hybrid players, but really, one might already be on the Patriots roster. Free agency signee Adrian Phillips does all those things as well, playing a safety/linebacker/slot hybrid role. He was one of the Chargers’ most versatile players and should be a great matchup piece.
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After injuries held N’Keal Harry, the Patriots’ 2019 first-round selection to just seven games, expectations are high for his second season.
No one has ever doubted Harry’s abilities to be a playmaker. At 6’4,” 225 pounds, Harry has the physical measurables to be elite. When you combine that with his mental approach and work ethic, he seems like a receiver destined to shine if he can stay healthy.
In the Athletic, Harry’s teammate and All-Pro cornerback Stephen Gilmore said this about the young receiver:
He’s a big guy. I pressed him one time and tried to get my hands on him, and he threw them down. He’s really strong. He’s just got to keep working. He’s got great coaches and great players around him. It’s not easy for any of us. But if he keeps working, he’ll be in the right place when it’s time.
In 2020, it will be time for Harry to be in the right place. He’ll likely be catching passes from another young player, either Jarrett Stidham or a rookie QB, who is also trying to make an impression.
It’s a good sign for arguably the best corner in the league to have such high praise and hopes for Harry. That should give Patriots fans and the coaching staff something to look forward to in 2020.
When you watch him in action, at his best, Harry reminds me of a taller Hines Ward. He creates separation with what looks like incidental contact, but it’s just enough to but himself in a position to make hands catches.
In many ways, Chase Winovich has already won over Patriots fans. His personality, look and motor make for a fan-friendly combination. As he enters his second year, Winovich is seemingly poised to see his sack total and overall impact on the game rise.
He recorded 5.5 sacks playing more as a situational pass-rusher in 2019, but he should have a bigger role in 2020.
Teams did seem to somewhat limit his effectiveness in the second half of the season as he had only one sack after Week 8, but based on his fast start and the expected development from his rookie year to 2020, Winovich could be a double-digit sack guy for the Patriots in a transitional season.
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