Bill Belichick is going to be a great coach in 2020 as he has been throughout his tenure with the New England Patriots. Stephon Gilmore will continue to be elite at CB, and the team has other proven strengths that will shine. However, the following 10 players will determine how far the team goes in what figures to be a strange 2020 season.
- Follow the Heavy on Patriots Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors, and content!
After a rookie season that was impeded by injury and what some might have considered slow development, the athletic and driven 2019 first-round pick is in a position in 2020 where he must show exponential growth.
For the Patriots offense to be as potent as it needs to be, Harry needs to turn himself into a weapon down the field, and the team’s primary target on offense. It’s a big ask, but one that is fair for a player drafted in the first round.
No one aside from Gilmore and perhaps Dont’a Hightower is as consistent as Julian Edelman on the roster. Edelman’s placement here is not on the same grounds as Harry. We all know what Edelman can do.
However, there are two major points of focus for him heading into 2020, and that’s health and chemistry with a new QB. Edelman has been banged up, though not missing games. And considering he’s into his mid-30s, he must be especially aware of his recovery. Also, the 2020 season will be the first time he’s had to catch passes regularly from someone not named Tom Brady.
There will be an adjustment period. How quickly he’s able to get on the same page with his new QB is vital.
While Devin Asiasi wasn’t a first-round pick, it almost seems like he was because of the hype and the maneuvering the Patriots did to get him and Dalton Keene on draft day. Asiasi has unquestionable physical gifts and the Patriots desperately need him to become a dependable option as a pass-catcher.
Pickings are slim at tight end behind him, and the position has been so important to the Patriots over the years. It would be a huge help to the passing and running game if Asiasi can find his footing quickly.
This is all about health. David Andrews has already proven to be one of the best centers in the NFL, but after missing all of 2019 with blood clots, it’s impossible not to think about him possibly missing more time.
Andrews is arguably the most important piece of the Patriots’ offensive line, which is always important, but even more vital in front of a young quarterback. If Andrews is on the field for every game in 2020, that will be an automatic plus.
It seems as though Chase Winovich is poised for a breakout year. He showed flashes of being the second coming of Clay Matthews Jr. in his rookie season but seemed to slow down a bit in the final eight games.
If Winovich can take the next step and make himself a double-digit sack guy. He had 5.5 in 2019.
The nose tackle on a Patriots defensive line is often among the most unsung of the unit’s heroes, but there is no questioning their importance. Danny Shelton wasn’t exactly Vince Wilfork in the middle in 2019, but he was still rock solid. Shelton was so good in his role, former Patriots assistant and current Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia inspired his new team to pluck the hefty lineman in free agency.
Beau Allen was signed to fill Shelton’s role. To be honest, Allen doesn’t look to be quite as natural fit for the role, but we’ll have to see how it pans out. Like Shelton, Allen doesn’t have to be as potent as Wilfork, but he does need to be consistent to ensure the team is stout up the middle on defense.
With the departure of Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts in free agency, Ja’Whaun Bentley will be in a position to make a significant impact on defense. The 23-year-old is entering his third year in the NFL, and he’s had his first two seasons to play behind Hightower, Van Noy, and Collins.
With rookies like Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings coming to the squad, Bentley must prove he’s the next man up while also setting the foundation for the “young” players, who in actuality are very close in age, but not in pro experience.
The Patriots traded out of the first round and made their prize pick of the draft Lenoire Rhyne’s Kyle Dugger. He’s a freakish athlete who could potentially impact the team as a safety, nickel corner, and even as a return man.
The Patriots’ secondary is arguably its deepest unit, though you’ll get some arguments from the running backs on that front. In any case, Dugger needs to add potency and versatility to that secondary which will only make the already strong defense even better and thereby lightening the load on the less-proven offense.
Jeff Thomas/Isaiah Zuber/Damiere Byrd
I cheated here a bit. The headline says 10 players, so technically this is 12, but only one of these players really needs to perform at a high level to help the Patriots on offense and special teams.
Nothing is more helpful to an offense and defense than a deadly return man. Undrafted free agents Jeff Thomas and Isaiah Zuber both have that ability, as does free agent burner Damiere Byrd. If one of them establishes themselves as a deadly specialist in this area, they will instantly make the team better.
Also, all three players have the propensity to become deep threats because of their ability to stretch the field. It’s not out of the question one of the three could play the role the team hoped Phillip Dorsett would fill the last three years.
This is the most obvious one on the list, which is why I saved him for last. Forget about Brian Hoyer, and that’s no disrespect to the veteran in his third stint with the Patriots, but that’s exactly the point.
If Hoyer was good enough to carry the Patriots anywhere close to where they’re accustomed to being, he wouldn’t be in his third run with the team. Point blank, if Hoyer is starting for the Patriots in 2020, it’s safe to immediately lower your expectations for the season.
Jarrett Stidham has first-round talent and exciting youth on his side. That combination equals hope for something special. Will he be an All-Pro performer in Week 1? Probably not. There will be growing pains, but Stidham must be a little more than a game manager by making teams pay with the occasional high-difficulty throw to keep teams honest, and on the other hand, he must protect the ball.
Anything more than 10 or 11 interceptions on the season is probably going to be a disaster for him and the Patriots.