# (/r/patriots)New England Patriots
**Division:** AFC East
**Record:** 11-5 (5-1 Division, 1st in AFC East)
**Final Result:** Won Super Bowl LIII 13-3
## Introduction by /u/arbrown83
## Statistics by /u/arbrown83
### Offensive Statistics
The fact that the offense performed as well as it did this year is a testament to both the coaching and the players. This year was an offense in flux, from the depleted receiving corps (Edelman suspended for the first 4 games, injured Gronk, the Josh Gordon experiment) to the rotation in the backfield (remember Jeremy Hill?). It's not that the offense was bad, it just seemed to underperform compared to the usual Brady-led offenses of recent years.
However, there was one spot where the offense improved: the run game. The team jumped from 20th in the league last year to 5th, thanks to the 2 (and eventually 3) headed monster that included first round pick [Sony Michel](https://gfycat.com/SandyBoldAmericangoldfinch) as well as [James White](https://gfycat.com/UntimelyCarefreeAndalusianhorse) and [Rex Burkhead](https://gfycat.com/CompassionateSleepyEquestrian).
| | Total | Per Game | Rank |
| -------- | -------- | -------- | -------- |
| Passing Yards | 4,258 | 266.13 | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 8 |
| Rushing Yards | 2,037 | 127.31 | !['up'](https://i.imgur.com/DcsVvNR.gif) 5 |
| Total Yards | 6,295 | 393.44 | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 5 |
| Interceptions | 11 | 0.69 | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 10 |
| Points Scored | 436 | 27.25 | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 4 |
| 3rd Down Conversion % | 40.8% | --- | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 13 |
| 4th Down Conversion % | 50.0% | --- | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 20 |
| Red Zone % | 59.6% | --- | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 15 |
### Brady's Statistics
When you talk about the Patriots offense, you have to talk about Tom Brady. The offense runs through him, and how he goes the offense goes.
This was not Tom Brady's best year. That's not to say it was bad, but he didn't finish in the top 5 in any category. His 2.2 TD-to-INT ratio was his lowest since the 2013 season in which he dragged an offense that featured Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Austin Collie to the AFC Championship game. Much of this had to do with how "in flux" the roster was to start the season; the [list of WRs](https://touchdownwire.usatoday.com/gallery/new-england-patriots-wide-receivers-josh-gordon-transactions-how-many/) that came and went included Eric Decker, Jordan Matthews, Kenny Britt, and Corey Coleman. Whew.
| | Total | Per Game | Rank |
| -------- | -------- | -------- | -------- |
| Completions | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 375 | 23.4 | 8 |
| Attempts | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 570 | 35.6 | 9 |
| Completion % | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 65.79% | --- | 18 |
| Yards | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 4,355 | 272.2 | 7 |
| TDs | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 29 | 1.8 | 8 |
| INTs | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 11 | 0.69 | 8 |
### Defensive Statistics
The defense, on the other hand, improved greatly. New defensive coordinator Brian Flores brought a more aggressive approach. This didn't necessarily show up on the stat sheet, but it made this [defense tough for opposing QBs](https://www.footballoutsiders.com/2018/rotopass-pressure-rate-defense). The team brought back the "Amorphous" defense that featured zero down linemen which, when done correctly, made it extremely difficult for quarterbacks to determine pass rushers and coverages.
Other moments of brilliance included their morphing into the Baltimore defense when playing the Chargers in the playoffs (the same defense that had given Philip Rivers fits the week before), as well as having 2 separate play calls for every play of the Super Bowl (thus rendering the Rams' late playcalling moot).
Whether this was due to Brian Flores or Bill Belichick, it can be said that this defense has been one of the better ones in the recent Patriots era.
| | Total | Per Game | Rank |
| -------- | -------- | -------- | -------- |
| Passing Yards | 3,943 | 246.44 | !['up'](https://i.imgur.com/DcsVvNR.gif) 22 |
| Rushing Yards | 1,803 | 112.69 | !['up'](https://i.imgur.com/DcsVvNR.gif) 11 |
| Total Yards | 5,746 | 359.13 | !['up'](https://i.imgur.com/DcsVvNR.gif) 12 |
| Interceptions | 18 | 1.13 | !['up'](https://i.imgur.com/DcsVvNR.gif) 3 |
| Points Allowed | 325 | 20.31 | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 7 |
### Special Teams Statistics
Bill Belichick has always stressed the importance of special teams, so it would be remiss to not include them here. From his own words:
> "Being a special teams coach is the best training I ever had to being a head coach. Certainly, being a coordinator is a great experience. Being a special teams coach, you work with every player on the team, with the exception of the quarterbacks. Those relationships, and understanding how to deal with different positions, different types of players, all the players at different levels - young players, developmental players, core players, players whose primary role was the kicking game, players whose secondary role was the kicking game. You put all that together, that was a tremendous experience."
[Chicago Tribune 1/30/19](https://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/ct-spt-bill-belichick-tom-brady-patriots-20190130-story.html)
The addition of Cordarrelle Patterson was the biggest difference maker on special teams. His kick returns often gave the Patriots great starting position, and it shows in the statistics. The defensive special teams (the punt and kickoff units) performed below their usual average when it came to covering kicks, as their opposition often started drives around their own 30 yard line (compared to inside their own 25 last year).
| | Average| Rank |
| -------- | -------- | -------- |
| Punt Return Yards | 7.7 | !['up'](https://i.imgur.com/DcsVvNR.gif) 18 |
| Kick Return Yards | 27.0 | !['up'](https://i.imgur.com/DcsVvNR.gif) 2 |
| PR Yards Allowed | 10.2 | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 26 |
| KR Yards Allowed | 24.6 | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 26 |
| Field Goal % | 84.4% | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 18 |
| Average Starting Field Position | Own 29.9 | !['up'](https://i.imgur.com/DcsVvNR.gif) 8 |
| Opp Average Starting Field Position | Own 29.1 | !['down'](https://i.imgur.com/8rC8cvA.gif) 28 |
## 2018 Key Additions & Departures by /u/arbrown83
### Key Additions
#### **Josh Gordon**
Reddit darling/memefodder Josh "Flash" Gordon finally made it back on the field after years of drug-related troubles in Cleveland, promptly to be traded to New England. The Pats gave up a 5th round pick, and got Gordon and a 7th in return. Fans all around New England were salivating at the thought of having an all star WR for Brady to throw to for the first time since the days of Randy Moss.
While Brady didn't throw for 50 TDs this season, the addition of Gordon helped the offense stabilize at just the right time. In the 11 games he played in, Flash had 40 catches for 720 yards and 3 TDs (including Brady's 500th). At times it felt like Brady was forcing the ball to Gordon to the detriment of the offense as a whole, especially since it seemed that Josh was still recovering from an injury he suffered before coming to New England.
But that still didn't take the edge off when news broke that Gordon would be "stepping away from the game" after the loss in Pittsburgh. Shortly after, he was suspended indefinitely by the league, and not much has been heard from him since. Gordon is a restricted free agent this year, but it depends on what the league decides to mete out as a punishment before any contract talks can start.
#### Trent Brown
The Patriots traded for the **[gigantic](https://cdn.theathletic.com/app/uploads/2018/07/28143046/GettyImages-1005901310-1024x685.jpg)** offensive lineman Trent Brown on draft day; sending a 3rd round pick to San Fransisco (who had just drafted his replacement) for the man. Brown didn't play left tackle for the 49ers (and with the Patriots drafting a left tackle of their own in the first round) it didn't seem likely that it would be a landing spot for the behemoth. But when Isaiah Wynn went on IR after a preseason injury, TB77 stepped in and [solidified](https://twitter.com/DukeCoachLeo/status/1096922229475037190) the left side of the line.
Whether this was a product of OL whisperer Dante Scarnecchia, or if a change of scenery is all the big man needed is debatable. But down the stretch the Patriots were quite happy to run behind the duo of Brown (6' 8", 359 lbs) and Gronk (6' 6", 265 lbs) on the left hand side, which at times [looked almost unfair](https://gfycat.com/ThunderousHeftyAbyssiniangroundhornbill).
With Wynn's injury still a question mark I think many in New England would like to see Brown return, but we all saw what happened to the Patriot's *last* LT in free agency.
#### Cordarrelle Patterson
The last time the Patriots traded for an underperforming Raiders WR, [records were set](https://gfycat.com/heartygrimyassassinbug). Patterson didn't have quite that impact, but he definitely made his presence **known**. At 6'2" 220 lbs CPatt still ran a 4.42 40 coming out of college. That combination of size and speed made him a first round pick back in 2013, but he's since struggled due to sub-par hands and route running.
Josh McDaniels don't give a damn bout that, though. The Pats offensive coordinator found plenty of ways to get the ball in the hands of his newest playmaker. Patterson [returned kickoffs](https://gfycat.com/MenacingPossibleHornedtoad) in addition to making an impact in the [short](https://gfycat.com/PoisedWillingGreatwhiteshark) (and occasionally [long](https://gfycat.com/ImmaterialDiligentEgg)) passing game.
And that's not all! When rookie RB Sony Michel went down with an injury midway through the season, Patterson stepped into the backfield and ran it like a [GROWN ASS MAN](https://gfycat.com/AggressiveNippyJuliabutterfly).
With this sort of versatility it allows the McOffense to be flexible with their schemes, which is valued highly (see Burkhead, Rex). I can see Patterson coming back for another year as a solid contributor.
#### Jason McCourty
The Patriots acquired Devin McCourty's twin brother Jason from the Cleveland Browns. Jason had spent most of his NFL career on non-playoff teams (Browns and Titans) before coming to New England. And it didn't look like he'd actually _make_ the team heading into the beginning of the regular season; it was rumored that he was on the bubble.
But make the team he did, and he shored up the [CB2 spot](https://gfycat.com/ImpureFarawayKagu) across from All Pro Stephon Gilmore. The lasting image Pats fans have of JMac is his [breakup of a sure TD in the Super Bowl](https://gfycat.com/DampCalmAiredaleterrier).
#### Adrian Clayborn
Most Patriots fans will remember Clayborn as a member of the Falcons defense that Brady torched in Super Bowl LI. Which isn't truly fair to Clayborn, as he was on IR for the game.
His name wasn't mentioned much, finishing the season with [13 QB hits](https://gfycat.com/FelineSlimyAtlanticbluetang) and [2.5 sacks](https://gfycat.com/RightBoilingCreature). He provided some depth to the defensive line, and is still under contract for this coming year, but I wouldn't expect him to feature prominently.
#### Jeremy Hill
Hill was added to what was once a crowded RB corps, but suffered a season-ending ACL injury early in the season opener. Which was a disappointment considering he looked good in preseason [in the running game](https://gfycat.com/FlakyTidyGreathornedowl), [passing game](https://gfycat.com/JealousGrandEnglishpointer), and [blocking game](https://gfycat.com/UnrulyAlarmingCaiman). Hopefully he can return to his pre-injury self, but with the emergence of rookie Sony Michel as the primary back it wouldn't surprise me to see the Patriots move on from Hill.
#### Danny Shelton
Shelton was acquired for draft picks in a trade with the Browns (yes, _another_ trade with the Browns). My guess is that he was supposed to bolster the run defense, but he didn't see much time on the field. In fact, the only highlight I can find of his is [this one](https://gfycat.com/TallCompassionateHusky).
### Key Departures
#### Nate Solder
Long term left tackle Nate Solder left for New York, signing a massive four-year contract worth $62 million with $34.9 million guaranteed -- $15.5 million per season with the Giants; much more than the Patriots were willing to offer. Replacing your starting last tackle for the last 7 years should have been a worry, but the acquisition of Trent Brown from the 49ers (combined with the genius of OL coach Dante Scarnecchia) the offensive line barely missed a beat.
#### Danny Amendola
In another case of players no longer [willing to take the hometown discount](http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/23160553/wide-receiver-danny-amendola-details-why-left-new-england-patriots-miami-dolphins) to continue their career with the Patriots, playoff workhorse WR Danny Amendola took his talents to South Beach, signing with the Miami Dolphins on a two year contract worth $12 million with $8.25 million in guarantees. Amendola led the Dolphins in both catches (59) and yards (575) this past season, but there's already [talk of the Dolphins parting ways with him](https://www.miamiherald.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/barry-jackson/article224680400.html).
#### Brandon Bolden
Along with Amendola, Bolden also went to Miami when he signed a 1 year, $850,000 contract with the Dolphins. The longtime special teams player saved his best performance for his matchup against his old team where he ran for 60 yards and 2 TDs... on 2 carries.
#### Dion Lewis
New Titans head coach (and former Patriot [LB](https://gfycat.com/SorrowfulSkeletalFishingcat)/[TE](https://gfycat.com/clearlastleveret)) Mike Vrabel, and immediately set to work signing Patriots skill players. Starting RB Dion Lewis signed with Tennessee in the offseason with a four-year, $23 million deal that includes $11.5 million guaranteed. While the Patriots had a stable of RBs going into the offseason it was relatively surprising to see their leading rusher leave in free agency, but the Patriots don't have a history of spending big money on this position.
#### Malcolm Butler
On the same day as the Dion Lewis signing, Super Bowl XLIX star and starting CB Malcolm Butler also signed with the Titans on a five-year, $61 million deal that includes $30 million guaranteed. This was not a huge surprise, as the Patriots had signed Stephon Gilmore to a large contract the previous year. Also, there was that whole "benching in the Super Bowl" incident. Early in the season it looked like Belichick had made the right decision to move on from the young CB, but Butler [rebounded in the second half of the season](https://www.profootballfocus.com/news/pro-tennessee-cb-malcolm-butlers-2018-campaign-was-a-tale-of-two-halves).
#### Brandon Cooks
In what was a surprise to some, the Pats traded WR Brandin Cooks to the LA Rams in exchange for their first round (23rd overall) pick in the 2018 draft. This after trading _for_ Cooks with a first round pick of their own only a year before. Funnily enough, both teams involved in this trade would meet later in the season... [in the Super Bowl](https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/02/04/rams-brandin-cooks-will-have-nightmares-about-two-near-tds-super-bowl/?utm_term=.4beb559e0530).
## 2018 Draft & UDFA by /u/woahno
### 2018 Draft
In the 2017 draft, the Patriots selected only four players, opting to trade most of their picks for proven veterans. The 2018 draft went in a complete different direction. The Pats made nine selections and eight draft trades. [Here is a visual showing all of the trades.](https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/991685953726111744/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E991685953726111744&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.sbnation.com%2F2018%2F4%2F28%2F17296080%2Fnew-england-patriots-draft-trades-nfl-2018-bill-belichick)
Most notably, you will see the trade for Trent Brown here. Not to be overshadowed by the big man, three of these trades ended up with future picks. The Patriots accumulated a 2nd, 3rd, and 7th in the 2019 draft during their many trade downs. So while the team started the draft with five picks in the top 100 they ended up only making three selections in the first two days of the draft. Let's look at how those picks play out.
| Round | Selection | Player | Position | College |
| ----- | --------- | ----------------- | -------- | ---------------- |
| 1 | 23 | Isaiah Wynn | T | Georgia |
| 1 | 31 | Sony Michel | RB | Georgia |
| 2 | 56 | Duke Dawson | CB | Florida |
| 5 | 143 | Ja'Whaun Bentley | ILB | Purdue |
| 6 | 178 | Christian Sam | ILB | Arizona St |
| 6 | 210 | Braxton Berrios | WR | Miami (FL) |
| 7 | 219 | Danny Etling | QB | LSU |
| 7 | 243 | Keion Crossen | CB | Western Carolina |
| 7 | 250 | Ryan Izzo | TE | Florida St |
**Rd. 1, No. 23:** *Isaiah Wynn, T* - Wynn tore his Achilles in the second preseason game and was placed on injured reserve on September 1st. I consider him a big question mark right now. Achilles injuries are scary, especially so for linemen. Of course, his recovery is of great interest to all Patriots fans, as it seems likely that Trent Brown leaves in free agency.
**Rd. 1, No. 31:** *Sony Michel, RB* - Ah yes. I get to rant about Sony Michel now. I have to admit that I was in the camp that thought Sony was just a bit of a reach at 31. I thought a high 2nd would have been more appropriate for him. I was also looking at other positions like LB and CB as bigger needs and all the guys I liked that were still on the board when this pick was made. Once again, as the season progressed, I got to learn how wrong I was. You think I would know better by now but here we are.
Despite my misgivings on the value of the pick, I thought at the time that Michel was a good scheme fit. I still think that and believe he has already proven his worth. However, I also think he has a lot of room to grow and the opportunity to do more in the offense. Nevertheless, it is hard to get targets in the receiving game when you have the amazing James White ahead of you.
Over the course of 13 games in the regular season, Sony received the 2nd most snaps on the team at the running back position with 320. Below are his stats from those 13 games.
| Rush | Yards | Long | Y/A | TD | Y/G | A/G |
| ---- | ----- | ---- | --- | -- | --- | --- |
| 209 | 931 | 35 | 4.5 | 6 | 71.6 | 16.1 |
And in the three playoff games:
| Rush | Yards | Long | Y/A | TD | Y/G | A/G |
| ---- | ----- | ---- | --- | -- | -- | -- |
| 71 | 336 | 40 | 4.7 | 6 | 112 | 23.7 |
Simply put, Sony got better as the year went on. Here are some highlights:
[Stiff arm.](https://giant.gfycat.com/IlliterateImpracticalIndigobunting.webm) [Yes.](https://giant.gfycat.com/EntireGlamorousAmericanbulldog.webm) [Push 'em back.](https://giant.gfycat.com/FrailMedicalGraywolf.webm) [Sony's longest run of the year.](https://giant.gfycat.com/UnfitOccasionalCockerspaniel.webm) [Run through 'em.](https://gfycat.com/boringdiscretekitten) [Super Bowl TD.](https://giant.gfycat.com/SparklingMeanChevrotain.webm) [Sony approves.](https://giphy.com/gifs/nfl-rookie-rookies-2018-9DnAUu4SRsBq302SaZ/fullscreen)
I would be remiss if I did not mention how well the offensive line played. Couple with that the fact that Gronk and Allen are amazing blockers as well. Oh, and James Develin is a boss.
**Rd. 2, No. 56:** *Duke Dawson, CB* - On September 6th Dawson was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. On November 13th, the team activated him. However, Duke played 0 snaps throughout the season. Many fans and sports writers are hopeful for his future with the team. Right now I think the 2nd round DB curse that the Patriots seem to have going on is winning this battle.
**Rd. 5, No. 143:** *Ja'Whaun Bentley, ILB* - After trading back a ton the Patriots finally took a linebacker here at the top of the 5th round. At 6'2" 255~ Bentley is just the big bruising type of linebacker the Patriots love. During the preseason, he earned some green dot responsibilities while playing with the first-team defense. At this time he was getting a fair amount of praise in the media. In one article former Patriot Willie McGinest was [quoted saying:](https://patriotswire.usatoday.com/2018/09/09/jawhaun-bentley-is-playing-like-a-veteran-so-hes-getting-treated-like-one/)
>“You’re like, ‘He’s one of those guys.’ I think he’s going to be a playmaker. He’s explosive. He’s strong. He hustles his ass off.""
Bentley played in three games this season, starting in two and garnering significant snaps on defense and special teams. In week three, he had the 2nd most snaps of any Patriot with 73. Unfortunately, he tore his bicep late in that game. Three days later, on September 26th he was placed on injured reserve. It was a sad day for Pats nation as not only was Ja'Whaun playing a lot of snaps but he was also one of the few bright spots during a two game losing streak.
[Despite only playing in three games, he was the sixth ranked LB by PFF through the first five weeks of the season.](https://twitter.com/ezlazar/status/1049740996307771393?s=19) Below are his stats on the year.
| Tackles | Solo | Ast | TFL | QBHits | INT | PD |
| ---- | ----- | ---- | --- | -- | -- | -- |
| 14 | 9 | 5 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 |
I am all aboard the hype train here. Bentley had a great performance week 1 against the Texans. [PFF had him as the top graded Patriot's defender that week.](https://twitter.com/PFF/status/1039525727866159105/photo/1) He didn't start week 2 against the Jags and only saw 42% of the snaps on defense. However, he did come back strong in the week 3 game against the Lions. He started and played in 78% of the defense snaps. His interception of Stafford was [a thing of beauty.](https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/1044043327077679104?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1044043327077679104&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpatriotswire.usatoday.com%2F2018%2F09%2F23%2Fnew-england-patriots-jawhaun-bentley-nabs-his-first-nfl-interception%2F) He has strength, size, speed, and football IQ. With his combination of that strength and size [inside](https://gfycat.com/spitefulindeliblecowbird) paired with his [potential in coverage](https://gfycat.com/unawareunselfishgrouper) it really beckons to a bright future.
**Rd. 6, No. 178:** *Christian Sam, ILB* - Placed on injured reserve on September 1st with an undisclosed injury. He was on the outside looking in throughout the preseason. I would say his future is uncertain at this point.
**Rd. 6, No. 210:** *Braxton Berrios, WR* - Also placed on injured reserve on September 1st with an undisclosed injury. One article I saw said Julian Edelman nicknamed him "Honey Nut Berrios". That is about the highlight of his season though. He is a 5'9" white WR so the internet loves his chances with the Pats.
**Rd. 7, No. 219:** *Danny Etling, QB* - On September 1st Etling was waived and then signed to the practice squad the next day. He holds the record for the [longest quarterback run in Patriots preseason history though.
](https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/1035344686251048961?s=19) Which is nice.
**Rd. 7, No. 243:** *Keion Crossen, CB* - Crossen is a bit undersized at 5'9" 175~ but he is also one of those small school prospects who posted [insane numbers at his pro day.](https://twitter.com/MBKSports/status/976148444959166464/photo/1) He played in 11 games this year starting zero. He had 39 snaps on defense and 113 on special teams. Those numbers do not include playoffs but he was used similarly in all three playoff games. That is to say, he saw most of his snaps throughout the year as a gunner. [Here he is right behind 5-time All-Pro Matthew Slater making a play in the Super Bowl.](https://gfycat.com/victoriousharshfirecrest)
**Rd. 7, No. 250:** *Ryan Izzo, TE* - Yet another player on the roster bubble come September that was placed on injured reserve. He played a bunch snaps in the preseason though. I guess we will see if he sticks around next year.
### Notable UDFA
* **JC Jackson, CB, Maryland:**
Choo Choo! All Aboard!
There were 10 undrafted free agents signed by the New England Patriots in 2018. Only one of them made the 53-man roster and saw any playtime. And JC Jackson did more than just make the team. He played in 13 games, starting 5 of them in the regular season. During the playoffs, Jackson played in all but four defensive snaps against the Charges for a 94% rate. Then against the Chiefs he missed just one defensive snap. He played a more limited role in the Super Bowl though with just 45% of the defensive snaps.
Below are Jackson's stats from the 16 games he played in this year, including playoffs.
| Tackles | Solo | Ast | TFL | INT | PD |
| ---- | ----- | ---- | --- | -- | -- |
| 31 | 27 | 4 | 1 | 3 | 8 |
PFF ranked him at number 46 for CBs in the regular season. They also had him with [a 42 passer rating allowed which is the 2nd lowest passer rating allowed by a rookie corner since PFF starting recording it in 2006.](https://twitter.com/DougKyed/status/1086256800586960896)
All right, time for some highlights. [INT against the Dolphins.](https://gfycat.com/greedykindheartedkangaroo) [Interception against the Bears.](https://gfycat.com/quickfriendlyjohndory) [Alternate Angle.](https://gfycat.com/wellgroomedhauntingjaeger) [Pass breakup while covering Juju.](https://gfycat.com/rewardingaptjaguar) [Comes off his route to pick off Josh Allen.](https://gfycat.com/unsungtediousharpyeagle)
This hype train has left the station. Not to worry, there will be plenty of chances to get on board between now and September.
## Preseason by /u/Bluethingamajig
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single team in possession of good fortunes, must be in want of their starters sit out most of the preseason and instead use the games to determine who will fill out the back end of the 53-man roster.
In contrast, struggling teams often use preseason games as a starter competition. This tends to result in a peculiar reversal; good teams lose in the preseason and bad teams win. I suspect, however, that Belichick does not accept that. He expects everyone to do their jobs and do them correctly, regardless as to whether you're TB12 or the first roster cut. The Patriots went 3-1 in the preseason and scored [more than 44 points](https://en.reddit.com/r/nfl/comments/940aue/oc_why_44_points_scored_is_the_magic_number_for/).
There were two points of interest this preseason. First was a seemingly large number of injuries to potential starters. Leaving the game for Washington were 2nd-round pick Derrius Guice and two others, Nick Foles and six others for Philly, and almost Cam Newton (he was okay) but also their fourth injured O-lineman Jeremiah Serles from Carolina.
The second point of interest was that SUPER BOWL MVP BIG DICK NICK finally got his well-deserved handshake from Tom Brady.
Those are the relevant parts of the preseason.
## [Game Recaps](/hX134XPvTEa0L5Wf1n9isw)
## Coaching Staff Review by /u/Bluethingamajig
**Head Coach: Bill Belichick**
Welcome young ~~Skywal~~ Rivers. I have been expecting you. Your friends are entering a trap. Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!
Like Lebron James not winning the Most Valuable Player for Basketball or Patrice Bergeron not winning the [Patrice Bergeron Trophy](https://www.hockey-reference.com/awards/selke.html) for hockey, Bill Belichick is continuously the best coach in the NFL but regularly gets passed over for COTY. Not that he cares. He'll always pass the praise on to the players for executing on the game plan. The only football trophy Belichick really wants to hold is called Lombardi.
You know who Bill Belichick is. You know what he's accomplished.
We're on to Indianapolis.
**Offensnake Coordinator: Josh McDaniels**
McDaniels was the hot young offensive genius (i.e. Sean McVay) coaching hire before Sean McVay. They even share that Mc. Unlike McVay, McDaniels screwed it up in Denver. Returning to New England as OC, McDaniels spent another half-decade gaining experience and maturity. This resulted in teams like Indianapolis willing to give him another shot; they wanted their own Sean McVay type to help develop Andrew Luck and move on from [Pagano](https://gfycat.com/GoodSleepyGenet).
McDaniels gave a verbal agreement to be head coach for the Colts but after the Super Bowl against Philly, he reneged. It is believed that Robert Kraft convinced him to stay, and speculated that Kraft promised he would be the Patriots coach after BB retired. *Speculation*, not a statement of fact. The Colts were left scrambling, McDaniels turned into Kevin Durant overnight, and "The rivalry was back on".
Back for another year, we saw yet another shift in the Patriots offensive identity. Once again, the Patriots were ahead of the defensive curve. Many teams, both in college and NFL, were increasing their quarterback usage due to increased QB protections in the rules and stats analysis. Teams adjusted by fielding smaller, more agile linebackers who could drop back into coverage against RBs, TEs, and WRs. The Patriots saw these tiny little linebackers and said, "Develin? Clear a path. Run them over".
It'll probably be another few years before another team takes a chance on hiring McDaniels, but you never know. You could certainly do a whole lot worse than McDaniels as your head coach.
**Linebackers Coach and Not-Defensive Coordinator but basically the Defensive Coordinator: Brian Flores**
A major debate of the Brady-Belichick era is how much credit the defensive coordinator should get, especially considering the "defensive mastermind" Bill Belichick running the team. For many years, the Patriots defense was hampered by lost draft picks and salary cap (you know, the things that are supposed to force a team to regress to medoicre). The departure of Patricia to coach Detroit led to the promotion of Flores to defensive play-caller. With a new not-coordinator, we saw a substantial change in identity. It might be Belichick's team (and I think Belichick did a great job putting the defensive roster together), but it was Flores' defense, and Flores designed an aggressive scheme to challenge any QB.
Flores had a top tier secondary to work with in the likes of Gilmore and the McCourty twins. Flores had strong pass-rushers in the likes of Kyle van Noy and Trey Flowers. These combined to allow Flores to regularly call for pressure on the QB with confidence the secondary could keep their assignments.
We saw these changes starting in the first game against Houston. It took some time for the defense to get it together, but they did in the second half of the year and, with few exceptions, dominated. Following the Bears game (Week 7), the Patriots held opponents to an average of 16.2 points per game. The defensive success continued all the way through the Super Bowl, allowing a COMBINED TOTAL of 7 points in the first halves of the playoff games and completely stonewalling the Rams.
Flores regularly called for man coverage in the secondary (the highest rate in the league) and constantly made use of an amoeba defense on third downs starting in Week 13. This defensive style, while not unique to the Patriots, uses constant pre-snap motion to disguise who is involved in the pass rush. It runs the risk of defenders being a step behind their assignments, miscommunications, or even entirely blown coverages. When executed correctly (and New England is a team that executes at a high level), it left opposing offenses [baffled](https://nesn.com/2019/01/patriots-notes-amoeba-defense-has-been-new-englands-no-so-secret-weapon/) and scrambling to keep up.
Even when not using an amoeba defense, Flores liked to bring the pressure. Consider, for example, this modified cover-0 [forcing an interception in the Super Bowl](https://gfycat.com/PepperyGraciousBluewhale). It's a simple improvement to the standard cover-0; The Patriots rushed 7 against 6 blockers. In the video, the left guard shows he will block KVN. Van Noy then drops back into shallow coverage to prevent crossing routes, the left guard blocks nobody, and the pressure from an unblocked Duron Harmon panicks Goff into throwing a 50/50 ball that Cooks was not ready for.
Brian Flores is the story of the New England coaches this year. He was interviewed for the Arizona job that Steve Wilks got last year, and this year has been hired as head coach for the Miami Dolphins. Miami wants to improve their locker room culture. I'm confident that Flores is a great choice on this front. He's not going to take stupid bullshit from anyone, and will not give bullshit either. He basically grew up [dodging gang violence](https://www.miamidolphins.com/news/andy-cohen-brian-flores-an-inspiring-story); there's very little in the NFL that will phase him. I have no doubt that he will earn the respect of every player in the Miami locker room.
Flores will join 3 other hired Patriots coaches in Miami: CB Coach Josh Boyer, QB Coach Jerry Schuplinski, and WR Coach Chad O'Shea. O'Shea will be the offensive coordinator for Miami, while the other two will retain their roles.
**O-Line: Dante Scarnecchia**
This guy as been with the Patriots for all but a couple years since 1982. Belichick even dragged him out of retirement because he's that good. This year was another masterclass in offensive line work.
In a time when quality Offensive Linesmen are in high demand and coming at a premium price, Scarnecchia had a line bottom quarter in terms of player salary. He started the year with the departure of Nate Solder as a free agent, then first-round pick Isaiah Wynn went down with an injury.
In spite of that, the Patriots line was top quarter in performance. Helped by a great run game, great blocking by TEs and FB, and the legendarily quick release and pocket presence of Tom Brady, most teams couldn't get pressure on Brady. In the three playoff games, Brady took only a single sack and was infrequently pressured. Only the Rams managed to get any real pressure, and even they couldn't finish the job. To paraphrase Aaron Donald in the Super Bowl, "I need to win these 1-on-1s, and I'm not doing so".
**RB Coach: Ivan Fears**
Fears has also been with the Patriots for longer than Belichick has been head coach. It's hard to assess his impact separate from that of Brady, Dante, and the wide roster of anti-Le'Veon Bells. His role is less public and I don't follow closely enough to have knowledge of his style. I must assume, however, that he is doing a fantastic job as a coach. New England constantly has a wide array of running backs changing every year, yet are usually very effective. The common thread through all of them are BB, Dante, and Ivan Fears.
**D-Line: Brendan Daly**
The Defensive line got to do some work in Flores' scheme. Both run defense and pass rush were strong this year. For next year, Daly will be taking his talents to Kansas City as the new Chiefs defensive line coach. He has personal ties to the KC area (or so I've heard), making it a fairly easy decision for him.
**Incoming to NE: Greg Schiano**
Schiano is near-certain to be the next defensive coordinator for New England. He was the Rutgers head coach for a decade and coached Devin and Jason McCourty, Duron Harmon, and Belichick's son, Steven. His NFL experience is less impressive, spending 3 years as a defensive assistant for Chicago and 2 years as head coach of Tampa Bay, and not being particularly successful in any of those 5 seasons. Regardless, Belichick calls Schiano a brilliant football mind. I think that, after 2 decades, we can trust his assessment. Schiano is also credited with the idea to replace kickoffs with a 4th-and-15 that teams can go for it (better odds than an onside kick) or punt it (approximately the same as a kickoff).
With no further analysis, I'll instead leave you with some [Piano Man](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNCT6pA5I9A). Well, almost.
The Patriots website officially lists (as of this writing) 6 other coaches. TE coach Nick Caley, Safeties coach Steve Belichick, Special Teams coaches Joe Judge and Cameron Achord, and Strength & Conditioning coaches Moses Cabrera and Deron Mayo. Of note, Mayo is the younger brother of former Patriots' first-round pick Jerod Mayo.
This is in addition to the 3 coaches mentioned previously heading to Miami with Flores.
## [Roster Review](https://hackmd.io/8dMQGP-bQxeMCmr_nZKR8Q)
## 2019 Free Agency & Draft Needs by TBD
### 2019 Draft Picks
Here are the Patriots upcoming draft picks (barring any punishment from above thanks to Mr. Kraft's visits to Florida). The fact that Belichick has just won the Super Bowl and still manages to have [6 picks in the first 101](http://www.footballperspective.com/draft-value-held-by-defending-super-bowl-champions/) feels a bit like [cheating](http://www.footballperspective.com/the-patriots-are-smarter-than-everyone/). Put an asterisk next to it, we don't care. We're [used to em](https://www.cbssports.com/g00/nfl/news/nfl-fan-pushing-to-get-asterisk-added-to-patriots-titles-in-record-book).
| Round | Pick | Source |
| -------- | -------- | -------- |
| 1 | 32 | *own* |
| 2 | 56 | from Chicago |
| 2 | 64 | *own* |
| 3 | 73 | from Detroit |
| 3 | 97 | compensatory (Solder) |
| 3 | 101 | compensatory (Butler) |
| 4 | 134 | *own* |
| 6 | 205 | compensatory (Amendola) |
| 7 | 239 | from Philadelphia |
| 7 | 243 | from Cleveland |
| 7 | 246 | *own* |
| 7 | 252 | compensatory (Fleming) |
### 2019 Free Agents
#### Unrestricted Free Agents
Loosely in order of importance/size of the hole they'd leave. This was also written before Free Agency started. I've updated things where they've changed.
**Trey Flowers (DE)**
Flowers is probably the highest profile player on this list. He blossomed (pun intended, fight me) in the Patriots scheme and had his best season this year under new DC Brian Flores. He's expected to command top dollar on the open market, so I wouldn't expect to see Flowers in a Patriots uniform next season. Especially since both of his previous defensive coordinators are now head coaches and could be potential suitors (Lions & Dolphins).
*Update: signed with the Lions.*
**Trent Brown (LT)**
Left tackles are a precious commodity in the NFL, and Trent Brown played the best season of his career this past year. Will a team in dire need of a solid cornerstone put their trust in [this behemoth](https://i.imgur.com/J4okPGZ.jpg) after one good season? Or will the Pats be able to re-sign him to a more team-friendly deal due to Brown's success being a product of OL guru Dante Scarnecchia?
*Update: signed with the Raiders.*
**Stephen Gostkowski (K)**
Gostkowski gets a lot of hate from Pats fans for some reason, even though he's one of the most reliable kickers late in games (see chart below). Granted, he's usually due for a missed field goal at random times in the year, but he's reliable with the game on the line. The thing many fans often forget is how well Gostkowski is at kickoffs; able to put the ball out of the back of the end zone when called to, while also being able to kick towering kickoffs that land right around the goal line if the coaches have decided to allow returns. While my knowledge of available kickers in this upcoming draft is limited (I'm a nerd, but not that much of a nerd), the only way I see Ghost being replaced is if the Pats draft a kicker to replace him. But after watching the Bears playoff exit, I have a hard time seeing Belichick part ways with a quality kicker.
**Ryan Allen (P)**
I get a feeling that recent Pats fans forget the days before Ryan Allen became the quality punter on this team. Here's a list of punters under the Belichick Patriots: Zoltan Mesko, Chris Hanson, Josh Miller, Ken Walter, Todd Sauerbrun, Brooks Barnard. My point: those were dark times. It *feels* like the punter position had solidified under Allen, but apparently my eyes decieved me. Allen finished in the bottom half of the league in net average (24th) and percent of punts inside the 20 (22nd). However, some of that may have been due to the injuries of superstar gunner Matthew Slater, as the punting game definitely got better at the end of the season and into the playoffs. Personally, I say re-sign the lefty and let him (and Matthew Slater) keep pinning teams deep.
**Cordarrelle Patterson (WR)**
Almost the entire WR corps are free agents this year. I don't see the team bringing back all of them, but my guess is that Patterson is most likely to return. Especially with his production on kick returns, and his flexibility to play both WR and RB over the course of this past season. CPatt seems like the prototypical player for the offensive system.
*Update: signed with the Bears.*
**Phillip Dorsett (WR)**
Dorsett seemed to have gained more trust from Brady this season, but he still felt like a budget version of Brandin Cooks. I could see Belichick bringing Dorsett back on short money, but it also wouldn't surprise me to find out that he's considered replaceable by [insert veteran receiver here].
*Update: re-signed with the Patriots.*
**Chris Hogan (WR)**
I think the same could be said for Hogan as was said for Dorsett. He provided value to this offense this year, but it wouldn't surprise me if he was replaced by another veteran that costs slightly less money.
**Jason McCourty (CB)**
McCourty has already stated that he wants to [come back to New England to play with his brother](https://247sports.com/nfl/new-england-patriots/Article/Jason-McCourty-Patriots-return-free-agency--129464523/) this year, which is probably a good sign for him returning on a team-friendly deal. Hopefully he does return, as he definitely found his place on this defense towards the end of the year.
*Update: re-signed with the Patriots.*
**Danny Shelton/Malcom Brown (DT)**
I would expect the Patriots to keep at least one of these interior linemen on a cheap money deal. Unless of course Belichick drafts nothing but defensive linemen with all of his draft picks.
*Update: Brown signed with the Saints.*
**Eric Rowe (CB)**
Wait, he's still on the team? I don't see Rowe coming back, unless it's as a depth signing for small money.
*Update: signed with the Dolphins.*
#### Restricted Free Agents
**Josh Gordon (WR)**
With his indefinite suspension still in effect it's anybody's guess what happens with Gordon. New England seems to be a good spot for him, and he's been saying all the right things. Of course, having said that he still did whatever it was that got him suspended, so at this point he may just be beyond help.
**Jonathan Jones (CB)**
The third-year CB seems to be trending in the right direction in this defense, and made a decent amount of [plays](https://gfycat.com/BiodegradableDependableConch) this year. It sounds like the Patriots might value the young player enough to place a [2nd round tender](https://www.profootballrumors.com/2019/02/patriots-notes-gordon-gronk-slater-jones) on him.
### 2019 Needs by /u/MrFace1
Despite winning Super Bowl LIII, the New England Patriots of 2018 were not without flaws. These flaws manifested most notably in away games throughout the regular season. The receiving corps struggled with consistency and, aside from Edelman, appeared to struggle to be on the same page with Tom Brady. Rob Gronkowski looked less like a superstar and more like a slightly above average tight end. The defense was porous, especially in the linebacking corps.
These visible flaws last year, along with the advancing age of Patriot stalwarts such as free safety Devin McCourty and strong safety Pat Chung, and a number of players reaching free agency, creates a number of obvious positions of need as we come up to the 2019 draft. Fortunately, the Patriots are flush with draft picks and this appears to be a relatively deep draft at tight end, wide receiver, and on the defensive side of the ball in general. I fully expect the team to target these positions in the upcoming draft.
#### Defensive Linemen
Whether or not the Patriots will be able to re-sign defensive end Trey Flowers is up in the air. Patriots beat reporter [Mike Reiss has predicted](http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/26136035/predictions-all-32-nfl-teams-top-2019-free-agents) that the team will re-sign Trey, but that is simply a prediction. If we fail to re-sign him and don’t find a suitable replacement in free agency, players such as Anfernee Jennings out of Alabama and Joe Jackson out of Miami could be targets. They’re both significantly smaller than Flowers, though, and would thus need to fill a different role as more pure EDGE players.
#### Tight End
It’s no secret that Rob Gronkowski is getting older. The Patriots would do well to target a tight end that can both catch well and block to fill that spot. This is obviously significantly easier said than done. T.J. Hockensen, Noah Fant, and Irv Smith Jr. are the consensus top three tight ends. You can practically scratch Hockensen out of the running now, he’ll likely be drafted very early. Noah Fant might lack the blocking ability the Patriots need due to his size and relative lack of aggression. That leaves Irv Smith Jr., who has shown to be a good lead blocker at Alabama and has good in-line blocking ability. His downsides are his lack of size (he stands 6’2” and weighed in at 242 pounds) and that he isn’t a natural hands catcher, which could lead to drops.
#### Wide Receiver
There are only two options I really like for New England at wide receiver. I’ll start with my less-favorite. Kelvin Harmon put up 81 catches, 1,186 yards, and seven TDs in 12 starts last season at NC State. He’s shown impressive physicality and football intelligence which makes up for his relative lack of speed and agility at the wide receiver position. Everyone knows the Patriots generally draft more for intelligence and “football players” than raw athleticism so Harmon is a good fit in my opinion. Ohio State’s Parris Campbell is far and away my favorite first round prospect for the Patriots. He’s an elite combination of quick and fast and showed remarkable hands catching improvement last season. He can play well in short, intermediate, and deep situations and he’s exhibited excellent RAC ability as he can both run through initial tacklers and run around them. I would be very excited to see the Patriots draft him.
I’ll get the obligatory “Brady’s potential successor” talk out of the way now. The Patriots could draft a guy like Jarrett Stidham but I see Duke QB Daniel Jones as a much more plausible fit for the organization. Jones doesn’t have elite arm talent, so he has to make up for this deficiency in other ways. He’s a very accurate quarterback, able to fit balls into small areas and drop passes into the bucket on sideline fades. Jones is quick through his progressions and has shown to be intelligent at the quarterback position. The Duke QB lacked very good talent in the receiving corps which largely lends to his 59.9% career completion percentage but I think he’s shown enough to be a good NFL quarterback.
#### Prediction Time
It’s very difficult to predict Bill Belichick, but there is one prospect above all that I think most fits with his draft style. Miami safety Jaquan Johnson. He wasn’t exactly exciting in the combine but his tape shows excellent open field tackling ability and good pop. He’s also a known leader in the Miami locker room and is a very quick learner. The buzzword for Jaquan is “intangibles”. He’s all about intangibles.
Of course, what I think the Patriots could do and what they will do are likely completely and totally separate things. The Patriots, above all others, are extraordinarily unpredictable in the draft.
## Final Thoughts by /u/arbrown83
We've seen that this game can turn on single moments: both conference championships had them this year. And for the past 18 years the Patriots have managed to make the most of these moments.
This write up could have had a completely different tone if their moment had gone differently. If Dee Ford isn't lined up offsides, we're talking about the Patriots losing again against the new up-and-comers of the league. About how Gronk and Brady look too old.
But instead the story is of Brady winning again on the road in the playoffs. And the Patriots defense coming up huge when it counted the most. Another Super Bowl victory. And [~~twins~~](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVqoYvlEZis) [twins](https://i.ytimg.com/vi/x6xdFd5F5s8/maxresdefault.jpg).
### Why the Patriots will win the Super Bowl again next February
* Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still in the league. These two have been to 8 straight AFC Championship games. Until they're gone, it's hard to see that changing.
* A young RB and solid offensive line (read: Dante Scarnecchia-led OL) takes the pressure off of Brady having to play at such a high level during the regular season as the offense transforms into a run-first, ground and pound team. The Patriots save Brady for the playoffs when he's at his best.
The Patriots draft nothing but WRs/TEs in the upcoming draft and we have a repeat of 2007 or 2011.
* The defensive performance wasn't due to since-departed DC Brian Flores, and they pick up where they left off. Pressure on the QB is huge in this league, and the Patriots defense is massively better when they get pressure.
### Why the Patriots won't win the Super Bowl again next February
* The exodus that takes place every year finally catches up to this team. New coaches and new players are always a risk, even if the system is strong.
* Injuries to key players. The difference in this offense without Edelman was blindingly obvious at the begining of this season. The depth doesn't seem to be as good as it used to now that Belichick disciples (Flores, Vrabel, Patricia, etc) are competing for the same pool of players.
* Brady decides that he's finally [too old](https://bleacherreport.com/articles/605993-5-reasons-why-ben-roethlisberger-will-win-more-titles-than-tom-brady) and retires. Or he actually becomes too old and starts to show signs of his decline, ie. Peyton Manning.
* Roger Goodell prevents the Patriots from playing any postseason games in 2019 as retribution for Robert Kraft's "conduct detrimental to the league".