# 2019 Patriots Season Recap
## Season Summary
Wait, we don't get to go to the Super Bowl *every* year? What is this bullshit?
* Gronk retirement
* Early season injuries (Wynn, Fullbacks, Harry, Gostkowski)
* Antonio Brown fiasco
* Boogeymen defense (seeing ghosts)
* Josh Gordon placed on IR then released
* Close losses to Ravens and Chiefs
* Taping the Bengals
* Lose to the Dolphins, miss the #2 seed
* Lose in the wildcard to the Titans
* Brady is now a free agent
### Offensive Stats
Offensive production was down across the board this year, to the surprise of nobody.
| | Total | Per Game | Rank | Vs. Last Year|
| -------- | -------- | -------- | -------- |-------- |
| Passing Yards | 3,961 | 247 | 8 | (8) ⇩ |
| Rushing Yards | 1,703 | 106 | 18 | (5) ⇩ |
| Total Yards | 5,664 | 354 | 15 | (5) ⇩ |
| Interceptions | 9 | 0.69 | 11 | (10) ⇩ |
| Points Scored | 420 | 26.25 | 7 | (4) ⇩ |
| 3rd Down Conversion % | 38.3% | --- | 17 | (13) ⇩ |
| 4th Down Conversion % | 40.0% | --- | 24 | (20) ⇩ |
| Red Zone % | 50.0% | --- | 26 | (15) ⇩ |
### Brady Stats
A lot of talk this season revolved around the decline of Tom Brady. Detractors attributed this to the QB "[falling off the cliff](https://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=17163258)," while Brady defenders pointed to his lack of playmakers in the offense this year. Either way, the numbers support this lack of production, as it was some of the lowest numbers Brady has put up in a while.
| | Total | Per Game | Rank | Vs. Last Year|
| -------- | -------- | -------- | -------- |-------- |
| Completions | 373 | 23 | 7 | (8) ⬆ |
| Attempts | 613 | 38 | 4 | (9) ⬆ |
| Completion % | 60% | --- | 27 | (18) ⇩ |
| Yards | 4,057 | 253 | 7 | (7) ⇩ |
| TDs | 24 | 1.5 | 13 | (8) ⇩ |
| INTs | 8 | 0.5 | 18 | (16) ⬆ |
### Defensive Stats
On the other hand, the Boogeymen on defense put up historical numbers, especially considering the Offensive Era the NFL is currently in. While they didn't finish the season as strongly as they started, the Patriots defense finished in the top 5 (ish) in pretty much every category. This was hands-down the strength of this team, harkening back to the days of the early-2000s Patriots teams.
| | Total | Per Game | Rank |Vs. Last Year|
| -------- | -------- | -------- | -------- |-------- |
| Passing Yards | 3,943 | 246.44 | 2 | (22) ⬆ |
| Rushing Yards | 1,803 | 112.69 | 6 | (11) ⬆ |
| Total Yards | 4,414 | 275 | 1 | (12) ⬆ |
| Interceptions | 25 | 1.56 | 1 | (3) ⬆ |
| Pass TDs Allowed | 13 | 0.8 | 1 | (12) ⬆ |
| Rush TDs Allowed | 7 | 0.4 | 1 | (2) ⬆ |
| Points Allowed | 225 | 14 | 1 | (7) ⬆ |
### Special Teams Stats
I've included special teams rankings in the past because of how important special teams are to Belichick. There's not a lot to talk about here other than the kicking. Long-time stalwart Stephen Gostkowski started the season looking uncharacteristically shaky, and was eventually put on IR a few weeks into the season. This led to a carousel of kickers, resulting in some of the lowest FG % numbers we've seen in quite some time.
| | Average| Rank |Vs. Last Year|
| -------- | -------- | -------- |-------- |
| Punt Return Yards | 8 | 10 | (18) ⬆ |
| Kick Return Yards | 22.1 | 17 | (2) ⇩ |
| Field Goal % | 79.4% | 19 | (18) ⇩|
## Key Additions
## Key Departures
## 2019 Draft & UDFA by /u/woahno
### 2019 Draft
After a 12-4 regular season and a first round playoff loss, Patriots nation has gone mad. Everyone and everything is under a microscope and the drafting of the team has been the subject of particular scrutiny.
If you are looking for hot takes you should stop reading now. Between the 2000 and 2017 drafts there have been 540 1st round picks and 212 of them have been invited to the Pro Bowl. That is roughly a 39% rate and it does not take into account how many of those Pro Bowlers were drafted before pick #20 each year. That same rate when applied to second round draft picks drops to under 17%.
| Round | Selection | Player | Position | College |
| ----- | --------- | ----------------- | -------- | ---------------- |
| 1 | 32 | N'Keal Harry | WR | Arizona St. |
| 2 | 45 | Joejuan Williams | CB | Vanderbilt |
| 3 | 77 | Chase Winovich | DE | Michigan |
| 3 | 87 | Damien Harris | RB | Alabama |
| 3 | 101 | Yodny Cajuste | T | West Virginia |
| 4 | 118 | Hjalte Froholdt | G | Arkansas |
| 4 | 133 | Jarrett Stidham | QB | Auburn |
| 5 | 159 | Byron Cowart | DT | Maryland |
| 5 | 163 | Jake Bailey | P | Stanford |
| 7 | 252 | Ken Webster | CB | Mississippi |
**Rd. 1, No. 32:** *N'Keal Harry, WR* - Going into the draft Harry was largely considered to be a second round pick that could sneak up into the late first round. And that is exactly what happened. Here is a quote from his draft profile on [nfl.com](https://www.nfl.com/prospects/n'keal-harry?id=32194841-5265-4593-d716-d972ec2d4468).
> Back-shoulder boss who thrives with contested catch opportunities outside the numbers but lacks explosive traits. Harry's ability to body-up opponents and win with ball skills is undeniable, but his inability to find a threatening top gear or shake loose from tight man coverage must be accounted for within his new employer's scheme. His experience playing inside should help and teams will love his impact as a run-blocker. His competitiveness and ability to come down with the ball could make him a productive member of wide receiver trio in short order.
Sound familiar? [Here is an article from PFF](https://www.pff.com/news/draft-nkeal-harry-may-be-the-2019-nfl-drafts-top-big-play-weapon) that highlights his ability to make plays in space, something we saw flashes of throughout the year.
Harry was placed on IR to begin the season with ankle and hamstring injuries. His first game ended up being in week 11 and he played all 7 remaining regular season games starting 5 of them. He also got the start in the playoff loss against the Titans. Let's look at his stats.
|Targets| Rec | Yards | Long | Y/R | TD | Y/G |
| ---- | ----- | ---- | --- | -- | --- | --- |
| 24 | 12 | 105 | 18 | 8.8 | 2 | 15 |
| Rush | Yards | Long | Y/A | TD |
| ---- | ----- | ---- | --- | -- |
| 5 | 49 | 18 | 9.8 | 0 |
I know I'm not alone in thinking there should be one more TD in the stats. [Here is the clip you animals.](https://twitter.com/BadSportsRefs/status/1203828430602752001) And then some highlights that I like: [back shoulder TD](https://gfycat.com/TightAssuredIndiancow), [diving catch downfield](https://gfycat.com/CornyVastBeaver), [jet sweep with a stiff arm](https://gfycat.com/OccasionalUglyAfricangroundhornbill), [good adjustment to the ball down the sideline](https://gfycat.com/SillyDazzlingDiscus), and [making plays in space featuring TB12](https://gfycat.com/WhirlwindRapidCopperbutterfly).
Obviously, the production was not what the team had hoped that it would be. It made it all the more difficult to watch other rookie WRs perform well with better numbers. However, this was only half a year of football and N'Keal had a major injury. Despite that, he showed impressive athleticism with the ball in his hands and made some contested catches that made him a stand out in college. If he can stay healthy and become a more consistent receiver, I think he has a good shot at being one of those 39% of first round picks to make a Pro Bowl. [Tom Brady made an IG post that seems to agree with that sentiment.](https://i.redd.it/uyhy47e71rj41.jpg) Choo, choo.
**Rd. 2, No. 45:** *Joejuan Williams, CB* - Joejuan, like N'Keal, was mostly seen as a second round guy that could sneak into the first. Daniel Jeremiah had him going 28th overall to the Chargers in his final mock. And if Rap is to be believed the Pats considered [picking him at 32](https://twitter.com/RapSheet/status/1121929573380136960). He seemed to be climbing up draft boards late in the process. For the first time in many years the Patriots took a DB in the second round that wasn't considered a reach by the community at large.
The team was stacked at corner this year so he was activated for just nine games and saw just 82 snaps this season. I think it says more about him that he did *not* get the Foxboro flu and still saw the field in a highly competitive position group. Here he is making a [play on 3rd down (top of the screen)](https://gfycat.com/WarmNearKentrosaurus).
Unfortunately, he was arrested January 17th and charged with drug possession after being stopped for speeding. The second round DB jinx looms over Williams, I think. It is hard to predict his future, espcially with the pending legal situation, but hopefully he will build on last season and continue to learn how to use his size. As it stands now, he is still behind proven veterans on the depth chart. It will take a couple of changes for him to see significant playing time.
**Rd. 3, No. 77:** *Chase Winovich, DE* - Alright, full disclosure, Chase Winovich was one of my biggest draft crushes this year. I thought the team might draft him when they traded up to 45. Luckily, he was still around in the third and the Pats actually drafted a player who I was crushing on.
Chase was active for all 16 games and while he didn't start any of them he saw snaps in every one averaging 29% of the defensive snaps per game and 56% of the special team snaps per game. [He even had a special teams TD!](https://gfycat.com/BelovedBrownDipper) Let's look at his stat line.
Games| Sacks | Comb | Solo | Ast | TFL | QB Hits |
| ---- | ----- | ---- | --- | -- | --- | --- |
| 16 | 5.5 | 26 | 17 | 9 | 4 | 10 |
Winovich has become somewhat of a fan favorite due to his luscious long hair and relentless motor on the field. It helps that he has a [solid social media game](https://twitter.com/Wino/status/1226477055832969217?s=19) as well. You know what, you should just watch this nearly [12 minute highlight video](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWPtloLyijs&feature=youtu.be) of his from the 2019 season. TL;DW - [How](https://gfycat.com/FalseScaredEasternnewt) about a few [sack](https://gfycat.com/RipeFamousArchaeocete) highlights [then](https://gfycat.com/SeparateElementaryAntlion). With some key players on defense as free agents I think there is a good chance that Winovich will look to start in 2020.
**Rd. 3, No. 87:** *Damien Harris, RB* - Before the draft Daniel Jeremiah had Harris as his 4th best RB in the class and his 66th best player overall. Tthe Patriots were also returning an excellent running back group in 2019 which makes this pick looks like a best player available move.
Harris had a similar season to Joejuan in the fact that he was kept on the roster in a stacked position group and did not get the Foxboro flu. He was active for only two games in 2019 and only saw touches in one of them. It seems like the team is stashing him for now. None of the RBs are free agents this year so I have to think that Harris stays low on the depth chart until something changes.
**Rd. 3, No. 101:** *Yodny Cajuste, T* - We didn't get to see anything from Cajuste this year. He was placed on the non-football injury (NFI) list on July 21st.The NFI list always scares me as we usually don't get any indication of what is going on. Shades of Antonio Garcia in 2017 anyone?
**Rd. 4, No. 118:** *Hjalte Froholdt, G* - Froholdt saw a lot of snaps in the preseason and seemed to play well. Unfortunately, he sustained a shoulder injury in week 4 of the preseason and was placed on IR shortly afterwards. I lean more towards a Foxboro flu situation on this one. We will really see what is going on next season as Joe Thuney and Ted Karras are free agents and the team looks for interior linemen to potentially replace them.
There is a documentary out on youtube about Hjalte's path from Denmark to the NFL. [Check it out.](https://https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=8&v=v56FH8iJKZo&feature=emb_logo) It is about 17 minutes long and worth the watch.
**Rd. 4, No. 133:** *Jarrett Stidham, QB* - Studham is the future. He beat out Brian Hoyer to become the backup QB this year. What more do you want? I say, either get on the hype train or don't say anything at all. Stidham saw 15 snaps all year and his most memorable play was a pick 6 in garbage time against the Jets. I look forward to seeing his connection with Meyers shine again next preseason.
**Rd. 5, No. 159:** *Byron Cowart, DT* - Cowart had some hype in camp and then in the preseason. Here [he is shedding a block](https://gfycat.com/boringunpleasantgrayreefshark-new-england-patriots-carolina-panthers) and making the play in the first preseason game of the year.
Byron was active for five games and saw 41 snaps with most of his action coming in week 2 against Miami and week 9 against Baltimore. Both Dany Shelton and Adam Butler were ahead of him on the depth chart and are free agents.
**Rd. 5, No. 163:** *Jake Bailey, P* - Buckle up everyone, the hype train is about to reach top speeds. I was a big fan of Ryan Allen. I thought he rightly deserved to be in the discussion for Super Bowl MVP. Then the Pats draft a punter and let the two have it out in camp. Bailey emerged victorious, earning the spot and shocking people like me all over Patriots' nation. (Side note: How did it take half the season for another team to pick up Ryan Allen?)
Bailey [certainly showed](https://gfycat.com/EnragedBlankAustrianpinscher) his [ability](https://gfycat.com/ScaredSafeAmericanpainthorse) to [flip the field](https://gfycat.com/WelloffBarrenAzurevasesponge) over the course of the season. He did have some hiccups, as you would expect from any rookie. I think the future is bright for him and would love to see him improve his consistency. He [finished](https://gfycat.com/PettyLongDrake) the 2019 season [ranked](https://gfycat.com/WiltedDelightfulIrishwolfhound) 7th in the [league](https://gfycat.com/BossyTightAnchovy) for [inside](https://gfycat.com/JubilantAromaticAmericancreamdraft) the 20 [percentage](https://gfycat.com/HastyEvenBlueshark).
**Rd. 7, No. 252:** *Ken Webster, CB* - Webster was released during final roster cuts on August 31, 2019. The Dolphins picked him up shortly afterwards. He played in 8 games for them, starting 5, beforing landing on the injured reserve list.
### Notable UDFA
* **Jakobi Meyers, WR, North Carolina State:**
The hype train for JaGOATbi might have been the biggest one of this draft class. He showed up in preseason and in camp in a big way. In the first preseason game against the Lions he had 6 catches for 69 yards and 2 TDs. After that kind of performance the internet was going crazy. [Meyers](https://gfycat.com/AppropriateExcellentFalcon) suited [up for](https://gfycat.com/RemoteDevotedChipmunk) 15 regular season games [and started](https://gfycat.com/PitifulAfraidBushbaby) one [with 422](https://gfycat.com/IcyIllfatedIberianlynx) offensive snaps [throughout](https://gfycat.com/PortlyGeneralFlea) the year which was good enough for [third most](https://gfycat.com/EquatorialSpottedChital/) by a [WR on the](https://gfycat.com/WhimsicalNeedyHorseshoebat) team. Let's look at his stats.
|Targets| Rec | Yards | Long | Y/R | TD | Y/G |
| ---- | ----- | ---- | --- | -- | --- | --- |
| 41 | 26 | 359 | 35 | 13.8 | 0 | 23.9 |
Not great but not bad, especially for a UDFA. Meyers was generally the fourth or fifth receiving option in the games he played in. In that role he showed a knack for the contested catch and seemed to understand how to get open in the offense. I think he can improve a lot with a full off-season but I don't know if it will be enough. He will likely have an uphill battle in camp with whoever they draft or bring in through free agency. I just can't imagine the team being okay with Jules, Sanu, Harry, and Meyers. Jakobi saw his snap count drop in the last four weeks of the season and then didn't play at all in the playoff game. They will bring in plenty of camp bodies and some other WR will make things interesting. This hype train is currently not in the best shape but I'm ready to hop back on at the first signs of life.
* **Gunner Olszewski, WR, Bemidji State:**
Gunner had his own hype train in the preseason, albeit not nearly on the same level as Jakobi. Olszewski was largely seen as a punt returner and he was given a shot [to do just that](https://gfycat.com/GrimSmugBobwhite) after making the team and playing in eight games. He was placed on IR with ankle and hamstring injuries after missing two games in a row.
|Returns| Yards | Y/R |
| ---- | ----- | ---- |
| 20 | 179 | 8.95 |
Gunner ["Gun Show"](https://twitter.com/MikeReiss/status/1182513996722769920) Olszewski showed a great work ethic [and toughness](https://twitter.com/ZackCoxNESN/status/1171164785288736769) this year but he will likely have to beat out Sanu and Jakobi and whoever else they bring in. As things stand now, it will be a tough road for Gunner in training camp.
* **Jakob Johnson, FB, Tennessee:**
Alright, so Jakob was not part of the 2019 draft class technically, he was part of the 2018 class. But no one drafted him or put him through a camp in 2018 so I'm claiming him here. He deserves to be mentioned. The importance of the full back position in this offense became clear when the team lost not only James Develin but this guy right here. [Check out this block from the preseason](https://twitter.com/zackcoxnesn/status/1162875120597315585?lang=en).
Johnson was active for four games and started three. He also became the first player in the NFL to make an active roster via the International Pathway program.
In 2020, Jakob will likely return to the practice squad, backing up James Develin.
## Game Recaps
[Moved to its own document »](https://hackmd.io/yuLEE2nKQ4q05TW70dcDOw)
## Coaching Staff Review
**Head Coach: Bill Belichick**
Bill Belichick good upvote on left
**Offensive Coordinator: Josh McDaniels**
Let us talk for a moment of the boy who cried wolf.
* In 2008, that guy from underneath my bed (what the fahk he's theah?) tore Tom Brady's ACL. Coming off a record setting year in 2007, some people questioned whether Brady would ever recover to be half as good as he was before the injury. He was.
* In 2014, the Chiefs dominated the Patriots in a blowout. Overreacting pundits believed that this, surely this, marked the end of the dynasty. Is Brady too old? Meanwhile, the Patriots were on to Cincinatti.
* In 2014 playoffs, Deflategate occurred. An (admittedly very small) amount of people attributed the success of the Patriots offense to cheating, and now that the league would be keeping a very close eye on the Patriots, New England would not see nearly the same success. Malcolm Butler disagreed.
* In 2018, the Patriots lost five times on the road. They looked genuinely bad in four of those losses. The offense struggled for many of them. Please, continue to bet against us.
When you have the greatest quarterback of all time, offensive challenges are temporary setbacks, not systematic problems. Something happens, people cry wolf, and everyone comes running only to see the Patriots in another Super Bowl. If there is one thing you can count on, it is that the Patriots will figure it out.
Come 2019, the wolf finally arrived. A series of injuries at every facet of the offense crippled this team. Neither Brady nor McDaniels figured it out. Through it all, many Patriots and Non-Patriots fans alike thought the wolf was fake. After all, the boy cried wolf many times in the past. Why is this time different?
After the Tennessee Titans defeated the Patriots in the playoffs, Cleveland, New York, and Carolina considered McDaniels for their Head Coaching positions. They went to Kevin Stefanski, Patriots Special Teams Coach Joe Judge, and Matt Rhule respectively.
McDaniels will be the Offensive Coordinator for another year in New England. I personally am confident that the Patriots will see an offensive rebound next year. Even if Brady shows his age, it is simply unlikely that so many injuries occur again. Furthermore, Josh even acknowledged that he put together poor gameplans with the personnel available. I predict an offensive improvement even if Brady declines, or even if Brady chooses another team in free agency.
**Special Teams Coordinator and Wide Receivers Coach: Joe Judge**
The New York Giants hired Joe Judge to be their Head Coach this offseason.
I wrote the coaching section last year and did not give proper acknowledgement to Joe Judge. In fact, I barely mentioned him. Part of this is due to Bill Belichick's well-known love of good special teams. As such, I subconsciously attributed the perennial quality of the Patriots special teams to Belichick rather than acknowledging Judge's contributions. For the same logic I praised Ivan Fears last year, I must doubly do so with Judge. Bill Belichick does not tolerate bad special teams play and he certainly would not tolerate bad special teams coaches. Ergo, Joe Judge is an excellent special teams coach.
Indeed, the Patriots special teams continued to be excellent this year apart from FG and XP kicking. Jake Bailey proved to be great at both punting and kickoffs and earned multiple Special Teams player of the week awards. Matthew Slater proves on and off the field why he is a team captain.
Last year, I gave a ringing endorsement of Brian Flores as Head Coach for Miami. Although public opinion of coaches can change drastically from year to year and Flores might struggle next year, I feel vindicated in my assessment. I am hesitant to give such praise to Judge.
Joe Judge took over duties for the Wide Receivers due to the departure of Chad O'Shea. His first opportunity to develop players came with first-round pick N'Keal Harry and preseason darling UDFA Jakobi Meyers. Neither developed into a reliable offensive option and this reflects poorly on Judge.
If one is even more pessimistic, they could say that Judge had too many responsibilities to adequately handle both special teams and wide receivers. That might be a delusional take, but if it is remotely true, then it bodes ill for the Giants as Judge would be responsible for the entire team.
As much as some Patriots fans (or many, or most) wish to see the Giants be terrible forever, there are many reasons to be optimistic about this hire. Joe Judge is an excellent special teams coordinator. Joe Judge has hired an array of very experienced and capable coordinators and assistant coaches. This means he can delegate responsibility and not be overloaded in work. The very good coach John Harbaugh was a special teams coach too before being a head coach. Pat McAfee was optimistic about the hire in [this video](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-P-3lXg5YDo). Does this mean that Joe Judge is the same as John Harbaugh? Apparently, yes. Yes it does.
I cannot give the same level of endorsement to Judge as head coach as I gave Flores last year. However, I do believe that he will be a capable and reasonably successful coach.
**Not With the Patriots: Chad O'Shea**
Chad O'Shea was the Wide Receivers coach for the Patriots in 2018. He left with Brian Flores to Miami last year. Like Joe Judge, I did not give a proper review last year.
The most important loss from O'Shea to Judge was that Chad O'Shea was responsible for putting together the red zone report for the Patriots offensive game planning. This showed more than anything else in the coaching departures. The Patriots red zone offense was bottom-5 in 2019. As the offensive coaching staff adapts to the changes and (hopefully) fewer players get injured, this should improve for next year.
Some fans hoped that O'Shea would return to the Patriots after being dismissed by the Dolphins, but he instead chose a job with Cleveland.
**Offensive Line Coach: Dante Scarnecchia**
Dante the Hog Whisperer is arguably the best Offensive Line Coach in the game. This year tested that assessment more so than any other year. Dante had his hands full with seven injuries (One of which was Foxborough Flu), four of them to starters. The Patriots desperately searched the streets for whomever they could get their hands on to play the Tackle position.
The offensive line gave up 21 sacks last year. This year, the Patriots offense surrendered 28 sacks. That is fifth-best in the League for 2019. Certainly, some of that is a result of Tom Brady being very good at avoinding sacks. The sack numbers exclude pressures, hurries, and throwaways. Brady did have the most throwaways of any quarterback in 2019, which one could translate as a dozen or so sacks added to the total. 40 sacks was league average.
The offensive play design also challenged the line to make holes for the RBs. Last year, the FB and TE group (read: Develin and Gronk) dominated defenses. With neither around, the line was unable to pick up the slack and lead to a 25th ranked rushing by Y/A.
The problems the Patriots had with their offensive line is as much about perception and timeliness as it is reality. To say that the offensive line was terrible in 2019 is an overstatement. Rather; as a testament to Scarnecchia's coaching ability, it was merely inconsistent and unreliable.
After the season, Dante announced his (second) retirement. Belichick will certainly have his hands full putting together a full coaching staff after the past two years of coaching exodus. This also raises concerns about the development of rookie linesmen Froholdt and Cajuste. Assuming Thuney departs in Free Agency, one of them (most likely Froholdt) will need to step up to that gap. Interestingly, Scarnecchia has joined the Patriots coaching staff at the Combine.
**Running Backs Coach: Ivan Fears**
Last year, Sony Michel had a breakout performance as a rookie. That was behind the blocking assistance of Gronk, Allen, Develin, and a much healthier offensive line. Sony suffered from a sophomore slump when he had LaCosse, an old Watson, and linebacker Elandon "Run Through a Motherf***'s Face" Roberts as blockers. He struggled to break tackles, juke defenders, and develop as a pass-catcher. All three need to improve for Michel to be a legitimate RB threat and it falls to Fears to ensure it happens.
Burkhead, White, and Bolden were far more effective in their limited running opportunities (combined for 100 fewer rushing attempts than Michel) and vastly more effective as receivers. Teams never had to worry about Michel as a passing threat while they regularly prepared for White as a receiver. Despite this, White was a far more effective receiver.
Fears is likely to prioritize the development Michel and 3rd-round pick Damien Harris this offseason.
**Not With the Patriots: Greg Schiano**
Schiano was hired to be the Defensive Coordinator for the Patriots. He resigned before training camp. This led to speculation about who would take charge of defensive playcalling duties. The options were Bill Belichick, Steve Belichick, and Jerod Mayo.
**Safeties and Secondary Coach: Steve Belichick**
Always two there are, the master and apprentice. Which is only if you ignore Patriots coaching assistant Brian Belichick; he makes three.
Steve Belichick is the most senior member of the defensive coaching staff. As such, he was the second-most likely candidate for playcalling duties after Bill. The Patriots spent several weeks in 2019 hiding who was actually making defensive playcalls before several players admitted in interviews that it was indeed Steve in charge of the defense. It is possible that Bill promotes Steve to defensive coordinator this offseason. Alternatively, Bill may leave the situation as-is and have the Patriots go three straight years without an official defensive coordinator.
Under the guidance of Bill and Steve, the Patriots secondary proved to be the best in the league. These were the ghosts, the boogeymen. They led the league in interceptions, forced the lowest opponent passer rating, and allowed the fewest touchdowns and second-fewest yards/game. Even if you wish to argue that the Patriots benefitted from a soft schedule (which it admittedly was) to inflate their stats, the Patriots were still a top tier passing defense.
The greatest concern for the Patriots secondary is their age. Chung, Harmon, and both McCourty's are 32. The Patriots second-round defensive backs are a meme at this point for their inability to make it to the field. Right now, Jonathon Jones and JC Jackson are the best young options. The secondary is unlikely to be quite as dominant (regression, cuts, and potential retirements) next year, but should still be a strength of the Patriots defense.
**Inside Linebackers Coach: Jerod Mayo**
Jerod Mayo was the first round pick of the Patriots in 2008 and spent his entire playing career with New England. His playing accolades include Team Captain 7x, Defensive ROY, First Team All-Pro 1x, Super Bowl Champion 1x, and Pro Bowl 2x. According to the Pro-Football-Reference Approximate Value statistic, he is the 22nd most valuable player of the entire Brady-Belichick dynasty. You can see some of his highlights compiled by u/_amnesiac in [this post](https://www.reddit.com/r/Patriots/comments/crq7p8/22days_until_kickoff_jerod_mayo_stuffs_adrian/)
With a wealth of playing and leadership experience, many fans loved the decision to hire Mayo. He is someone who spent his career in the Belichick system and led the defense from the field for years. This is why some fans speculated that Jerod would be the defensive playcaller despite being in his first year as a coach. For several weeks, the Patriots played into this uncertainty by having Jerod appear to give playcalls during games.
It is probable that Jerod contributed to playcalls. As a player, Mayo was known for his incredible work ethic and constant film study even during offseasons. If Mayo saw something the defense could take advantage of, he almost certainly would have conveyed that to the players on the field.
Jerod is a rising star in the New England coaching staff and likely to see quick promotion in the system. Depending on the situation with Steve Belichick, Jerod could be a defensive coordinator within a few years.
**Outside Linebackers Coach: DeMarcus Covington**
Mayo was responsible for inside linebackers and evidently playcalling while Covington had the outside linebackers. That might change for next year. Brendan Daly was the Patriots D-line coach in 2018 and joined Kansas City for the 2019 season. New England had no official defensive line coach in 2019 and their run defense was clearly a step below. Before coming to the Patriots, Covington was a defensive line coach and co-DC at Eastern Illinois. Something that could happen this offseason is Covington moving to a D-Line role while Jerod drops the "inside" tag as a linebackers coach.
**Tight Ends Coach: Nick Caley**
For his first two years as a TE coach, Caley had Gronk. Gronk was already great before Caley joined the Patriots, and now having completed a single year without Gronk, it is still unclear how good of a TE coach he is. If the Patriots draft a quality TE this year or if Lacosse and Izzo improve, then Caley will prove himself at developing talent and raising player's skill levels.
**Director of Player Personnel: Nick Caserio**
Caserio holds a very unusual position in the Patriots hierarchy. He started as a scout, spent a season as an offensive assistant coach, went back into personnel, spent 2007 as the Wide Receivers coach, then became Director of Player Personnel in 2008, the position he still holds. He is effectively ranked just behind Belichick in the front office. Despite his front office role, he is a constant presence at Patriots practices too. He regularly takes part in drills as quarterback (the position he played in college) or other roles. He also takes part in film study and joins Ernie Adams in the booth for games.
After a snafu with the Houston Texans allegedly trying to poach Caserio for their GM role, Caserio surprised the football world when he signed a contract extension to remain in New England. I have no source for the following statement, but I would guess that he was promised the GM role if Belichick retired akin to how McDaniels was *allegedly* promised the head coach position in the same condition. Let me reiterate that it is pure speculation and not based on any known facts at this time.
As of this writing, the Patriots website lists several other coaches:
* Assistant RB Coach Cole Popovich (2 years)
* Assistant QB Coach Mick Lombardi (9 years)
* Cornerback Coach Mike Pellegrino (5 years)
* Assistant Special Teams Coach Cameron Achord (2 years)
* Strenght and Conditioning Coaches Moses Cabrera (9 years) and Deron Mayo (2 years)
* Director of Skill Development Joe Kim (27 years)
* Coaching Assistants Brian Belichick (4 years) and Carmen Bricillo (1 year)
**Coaching in 2020**
The fact that the Patriots are missing so many positional coaches is a major concern going forwards. The Patriots currently do not have a Wide Receivers coach, Defensive Line coach, ~~Special Teams Coordinator~~, and Offensive Line Coach. Two of those (WR, O-Line) were the greatest weaknesses of the Patriots in 2019. The defensive line, while capable, was a distant third relative to the incredible LBs and DBs.
Updated as of February 21st: The Patriots hired Joe Houston and Vinnie Sunseri as special teams assistants. Both previously worked with Nick Saban at Alabama; doubtlessly Saban recommended both to Belichick before they were hired. It is yet unclear if any of Houston, Sunseri, or Achord will be promoted to special teams coordinator.
If receivers like Harry and Meyers cannot make a sophomore surge, if Sanu cannot get a mastery of the system, and if Edelman loses a step coming back from injury, then the Patriots offense might be in trouble next year. Without a dedicated WR Coach, any of the list may happen.
The offensive line, defensive line, and special teams are less concerning. As mentioned earlier, the Patriots do have a coach with defensive line experience on the roster. Bill Belichick can always get involved in any defense or special teams aspect. The O-line is most concerning of the three; the starting five should be good, but a lack of Scar implies a lack of depth.
Even accounting for the holes, the Patriots will go into 2020 with the best head coach in the NFL, a top tier offensive coordinator, and two of the best up-and-coming defensive coaches whom could plausibly reach the defensive coordinators in a couple years. Although the coaching holes are troubling, the Patriots still have one of the best collective coaching staffs in the NFL.
## Roster Review
Quarterback. The face of a franchise. Head of a team's image, likeness, and someone who all criticism or praise is laid upon. Tom Brady has been the face of New England, along with Bill Belichick, since essentially 2000. There will be books written, statues made, and a gaping hole in sports after Bill and Tom hang things up. Our quarterback situation, other than 2008, has been tops in the league. Next year, if things fall to Jaret or Cody, sound the alarms fellas/gals.
Do we all remember when Jaret went in, in garbage time against the Jets, and immediately threw a touchdown? It was wonderful - for the Jets fans - because Jamal Adams was on the receiving end. Cody Kessler is what he is at this point, and Jaret i’m sure has some upside. We, unfortunately, made have blown through our “Montana/Young” or “Farve/Rodgers” magic-dust when we lost Jimmy G. If timing could have worked out, we’d all be celebrating having Jimmy in the wait.
I digress - Back to the review of 2019. Tom had a “down year.” By down year, I mean putting a traffic cone at left tackle would have done just as much as Newhouse for the first half of the year. New receivers, running the wrong routes, no tight ends, horrible blocking, lack of a running game. If you put every other quarterback in the league in this situation, I don’t think the outcome would be much different. I’d rate our quarterback play in 2019 as “Yeah, well, it was as good as it could have been. What else did you want?”
Running Backs/Full Backs
I’ll split this up into two sections of running backs and fullbacks.
Let’s get the easy one out of the way - fullbacks.
James Develin was SORELY missed. Look at the years he has been on injured reserve. We have suffered tremendously. His 2018 campaign was outstanding, and led to our power running game being as dominant as it was. Now, losing Gronk/Andrew/Trent Brown/Wynn/etc, were all massive losses. But James Develin was a key loss as well.
Until Jakob Johnson came around. An international player who was assigned to our team, then became a key starter. Jakob has a bright future as an NFL fullback, and had great flashes. Until he, as well, ended up on IR. What did that lead to? That’s right - just as expected - Captain, core special teamer, and starting linebacker, Elandon Roberts as fullback. It was a mess of a position this year, but looks bright moving forward.
Now, the more complicated one, the running backs. James White had a down year. Sony had a down year. Bolden was back on the team and was a shining spot on special teams and also in the offensive scheme. I fully believe our running game issues stem from an offensive line and blocking problem. Simply put, 2019 as a whole suffered from an issue with dominating at the line of scrimmage and with blocking. Look what the 49’ers were able to do with a zone-blocking scheme, tight ends, etc., Even the Ravens, albeit with all-world talent, had great blocking at all positions.
2019 was the year of Julian Edelman and…...yep. Now, let's start off with the bright spots. N’Keal should have a promising future. Jakobi is absolutely clutch, with flashes of Danny Amendola/Chris Hogan in big spots. Mohamed Sanu had little impact but had a high ankle sprain requiring surgery since like 4 minutes after he arrived. Josh Gordon was an adventure, and I wish him the best. AB….man what a wild ride that i’m glad to be off of. Our wide receiver situation was awful. There were games where if the ball didnt get to Julian, it got nowhere. 2019 was one of our worst wide receiver years, and it was also a bad year to have blocking/running issues.
Not really much to say here. Ben Watson had a few huge catches, Ryan Izzo and LaCosse were pedestrian, to be polite. 2019 was our worst year of tight end play, but also that's to be expected when you lose a first-ballot hall of famer. Losing Gronk makes you realize how incredible he was on the field. 2018 may have been his worst year, and he was a top blocker on a power running superbowl team.
Looking at this list a few names will probably surprise you. As everyone is probably wondering, no - a Yodny Cajuste is not a contagious disease. A Hjalte Forholdt is not a Norweigen insult. I joke, but this is a very diverse list of individuals.
2019 was the year our offensive line fell apart, and was barely above serviceable. We struggled to dominate the line, to set protections, to allow long-developing routes to work their way open. We could not open lanes for running. Towards the end of the year, Wynn was able to stabilize the left side of the line. Losing David Andrews was a huge blow as well. 2019 also showed the value in Thuney and Karras. If we had any other offensive line coach, we would have been screwed. Dante worked his magic, and got the best he could out of this team.
Overall, as you can tell, 2019 was a very bad, no good, offensive year. STILL, with all of the issues, we made the playoffs. We got decimated by injuries, retirements, couldn’t establish the run, couldn’t establish the pass, and still accomplished as much as we did. As you’ll see in the upcoming review of the defense and special teams, the offense was the reason we faltered this year. 2020 has a ton of promise, however, and we should be excited moving forward.
Deatrich Wise Jr
Our defensive line and linebackers had a ton of overlap in 2019 as in previous years. The depth on our defense allowed Bill Belichick, Jerod Mayo, and Lil’Belichick to get creative with what they called and schemed up. So you’ll see players like Chase Winovich or John Simon listed as DL, but also both played linebacker this year.
Simply put, going into 2019, we had just lost Trey Flowers. A massive presence as a leader and tone setter, there were worries about how to replace him and his production. Well, the 2019 Patriots DL exceeded all expectations. The depth was incredible and the production was outstanding. Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton were absolute studs that anchored the front of the line. Winovich has an amazingly bright future ahead as well. This DL group exceeded all expectations and only had a slight weakness at stopping the run, which was more of a systemic problem of us not being able to play with a lead after the first few games.
Jamie Collins Sr
Kyle Van Noy
Linebackers. One of our deepest spots on the team in 2019. Getting back Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun from injury, and having everyone else grow was huge. Kyle van Noy took ANOTHER step forward, Hightower was in prime form this year, and Elandon Roberts is our first three-way player in awhile. This group produced pressure, fumbles, interceptions, and three-and-outs at a historic pace.Our second most important group, behind the group i’ll get to next, and almost all of these players contributed in numerous ways.
Our defensive back groups was not only our best group in 2019, but one of the highest rated groups in the NFL this past year. The statistics alone paint a picture as one of the best groups, Gilmore won DPOY, J.C. Jackson was a top ranked corner in the entire NFL, and the year started with talk of “will we allow a touchdown?”
This group was our anchor. The genius of this team was depth and skill. Gilmore took away opposing #1’s consistently, and had 2 touchdowns of his own. J.C. is our typical UDFA steal, but is exceeding every single expectation set forth. DMac anchored our safety position, along with Brooks playing significant snaps along with Harmon. Chung and JMac had injuries but still were great players.
Our defensive backs were the reason we were so good in 2019. They took away the run, the pass, and pressured at an incredible rate. It was an all time defensive performance from these guys.
Our notable kickers since 2000. Adam Vinateri, and Gost….and like one other guy? We had 167 kickers in for tryouts this year, and Folk was serviceable. Simply put, our kicking situation got murky due to injuries but Folk stepped up and did what he needed to do.
Jake was an amazing draft pick. He has a cannon for a leg and consistently helped us win the field positioning battle. Punter was not an area of concern for us this year and shouldnt be moving forward.
Bethel and Slater. PB and J. They are incredible together. 2019 saw us acquire one of the top special team players in the NFL from the Ravens and he IMMEDIATELY impacted our unit. Ebner had a great year as well, and there was a difference when he was not out there.
Cardona, our long snapper, was solid as well.
## 2020 Offseason Preview
### Upcoming Draft Picks
### 2020 Free Agents
* **Tom Brady**
* The biggest offseason question for the upcoming 2020 season, NFL wide, is “where will Tom Brady Play?” He is, by far, the best option for quarterback in New England. His stats bear no need of repetition. The biggest question mark here, is if he does indeed come back, will be cost. With so many key free agents, listed below, paying Brady $30+ million will have significant downside.
* Wide Receivers
* **Phillip Dorsett**
* Trading Brisett for Dorsett was, at the time, viewed as mutually beneficial trade. To date, I think the Colts may have made out slightly better (due to Luck retiring, unexpectedly), however Dorsett has been an asset for the Patriots. Last year, he had; 14 games, 54 targets, 29 receptions, 397 yards, 5 touchdowns. His ability to come up clutch in certain spots has been a shining spot, however he does not consistently show up in each game. If the Patriots can bring him back, it will have to be at a very team friendly deal – Especially with Jakobi Meyers as a significantly cheaper/higher upside player on the team.
* **Matthew Slater (ST)**
* Almost taboo to label him a wide receiver, I wanted to list this true-to-positions. Matthew Slater has been a dominant force in the Special Team game since his debut in the NFL. If he does not retire this year, He will be in New England almost assuredly. His leadership, voice, dedication, and commitment has made our unit top-notch. Losing Joe Judge and Slater would be a meteoric decline for our ST units. Cost for him also, again, must be favorable to the team due to much of our defensive key free agents.
* Tight Ends
* **Ben Watson**
* One of the positions that most critically needs help on the Patriots, will not find that in Ben Watson. More likely than not, he retires and ends his career for real this offseason.
* Offensive Line
* **Marshall Newhouse**
* Marshall Newhouse was a last-ditch option of a left tackle for the New England Patriots in 2019. As such, he played up to (or down to?) expectations. After Wynn got hurt, Marshall had tall shoes to fill for NE. The past left tackles were Matthew Light, Nate Solder, Trent Brown. Trent was the only one who was not here for the long-term, as he was a one-year deal and helped us win a Super Bowl. However, Left Tackle for the Patriots has had lofty expectations since 2001. Marshall DID have some positives, when he was asked to fill in for injuries on the line in non-left-tackle positions. If he, by some chance, does come back, it will be on a very team friendly deal and most assuredly not at the LT spot.
* **Joe Thuney**
* Joe Thuney has been one of the most important players on the New England Patriots since 2016. 74 career games, including playoffs, 74 career starts. As a third-round draft choice, he was the second-best offensive guard in the NFL this past year. 97% pass block win-rate, only behind Marshall Yanda. Second-team all-pro, 1,000 snaps, zero penalties, one sack allowed. Top-10 left guard in the NFL the past three years, top-5 the past two. The concern here is, obviously, cost. New England can and should do all they can to retain him. He has been a key part of our offensive line success and has shown growth year over year. Other teams will more than likely offer him massive contracts that can’t be match. The likely outcome is he is gone, and this would be a very big issue for the OL group. He is not flying under the radar and if he leaves, he will get a bank-breaking, well deserve, contract.
* **James Ferentz**
* Brought in originally in 2017, James has been with the team for 2 Super Bowl wins. He played in 15 games last year, with 2 starts. He has been great for the depth on the team, and I don’t see another team offering a massive pay-day for him. With David Andrews potentially returning, James would likely be a depth-player at best.
* **Jermaine Eluemunor**
* Strictly a depth/practice/reserve piece, he has made no significant contributions to the team. Stay, go, this will not be the player that makes or breaks the team.
* **Ted Karras**
* Ted, behind Thuney as a free agent, is one of our more important pieces on the line. He fills in great for the center/guard positions and has been able to fill in for Shaq Mason when he has been injured. After Andrews was diagnosed with blood clots, Ted was able to fill in and become the starting center. Our pass protection as whole struggled last year, but keeping Ted (and returning Andrews, dream scenario of both and keeping Thuney) will be a net-positive for the Patriots. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots value Ted at a time where there are many key-free agents.
* Defensive Line
* **Danny Shelton**
* We have come a long way from Danny Shelton’s first year with the Patriots, when he was a healthy scratch for multiple games for the first time in his career. A former Cleveland 12th overall pick, he exceeded all expectations in 2019. Pair with Lawrence Guy as a core, they were able to lock down the front of our defense. He had resigned on a roughly $1.0 million deal and started 14 games last year after only starting 1 his first year. If we can get Danny on a longer deal, he would be worth keeping paired with Guy for the future. If he commands more money, letting him walk and keeping Adam Butler will suffice.
* **Adam Butler**
* Undrafted free agent, Adam has been with the team since 2017. He has been on the active roster ever since. He has played in all 48 regular season games. He has shown flashes of talent and has been reliable at the line of scrimmage. It would benefit the Patriots to keep his as a rotational piece and it is safe to assume Adam is not in line for a major payday from another team. If he does leave, it may open the door for Wise Jr. to play more. This group also benefits from having Chase Winovich playing in a hybrid linebacker/DL position, so any loses would be minimized by this.
* **Keionta Davis**
* An undrafted free agent who spent the first year on injured reserve, Adam earned a spot on the roster in 2018. He then, again, was on injured reserve this past year again. Typically, we see the greatest jump for players from year 1-2, but so far there has been nothing from Davis to suggest he is a part of the Patriots moving forward.
* **Kyle Van Noy**
* Kyle Van Noy went from a “bust” on the Lions, a team that didn’t know how to use him, to a key leading figure on the New England Patriots second dynasty of Super Bowls. Since joining in 2016, he has done nothing but improve as a leader, linebacker, and versatile player. He has played in 51 regular season games since his arrival, along with 11 playoff games. This year he contributed with 3 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and a touchdown. He locked down our linebacking unit with a mix of rushing, coverage, and blitz abilities. Simply put, KVN will not be replaced with one individual. His lose, much like Thuney, will be a critical potential downgrade. At his level, he has only earned $9 million in the NFL. He will absolutely be getting his big money deal this year. More likely than not? He walks, and the Patriots lose a key player. If he was retained, it would be a multi-year deal with good-not-great money.
* **Jamie Collins**
* Jamies Collins. A familiar face to the Patriots, especially since he was drafted by….the Patriots! After being shipped off mid-season to Cleveland, Jamie got his big money deal. $26.40 guaranteed on that 4-year deal. Joining with the Patriots again in 2019, he signed a one-year deal. He was arguably in the DPOY conversation the first 4-5 games of 2019. 16 games played, 15 starts, 81 tackles, 7.0 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions, 1 touchdown. He was a force. Collins, Van Noy, and Hightower (along with John Simon, ERob, and Bentley) anchored this unit to be one of our deepest and most talented. If Jamie stays, it will be a multi-year deal. If not, it would be a loss that could be replaced. Van Noy is the key linebacker to keep, Jamie can be 90% replaced.
* **Shilique Calhoun**
* Signed back in 2019, Calhoun has not been a force in the NFL. He played in 15 games last year, and made 9 total tackles. He did, however, anchor our special teams unit with 52% special teams snaps played. He will more than likely be back, as he does not have a market, as a key special teams player.
* **Elandon Roberts**
* I’ll start Elandon Roberts with this statement; He will be signed to a multi-year deal to start 2020. A 6th round pick in 2016, Elandon Roberts has risen to become a three-way player, a captain, and a force on the football field. Everyone remembers his 38-yard touchdown this year against the Dolphins, but he was a serviceable fullback, linebacker, and special teams player this year. 60 regular season games, here, 10 playoff games, Elandon is not a household name but embodies everything the Patriots look for in a player. Bill Belichick ranks him “among the most unselfish players” which is very high praise. My sense is he will earn a decent, but fair, contract and be a key member of the Patriots next few years.
* Defensive Backs
* **Nate Ebner (ST)**
* Again, like Slater, this really isn’t a “defensive back” analysis. Ebner is even more of a Rugby player than a football player (I kid, somewhat). But, as a core special teamer, seeing Ebner retained would be a good move. Side note – Watch the documentary on Nate Ebner. He is an incredible person, who has gone through horrific trauma at a young age. His dad, his best friend and idol, was murdered in his youth. They were great members of the community and Nate is a great guy. Back to football – It doesn’t seem like it but Nate has been with the Patriots since 2012! He provides stability to the special teams unit, and a level of leadership and guidance. If the Patriots bring him back, a one-year deal is likely. Because of the addition of Justin Bethel to a two-year deal, the loss of Nate would be minimal. If his play is there, the cost to keep him would be worth the payoff.
* **Devin McCourty**
* Argued to have had his best year yet, looking past the interception total it was clear the DMac still had it. Not that anyone doesn’t see it, but his resume is impressive. First round pick, 3x Superbowl champion, 2x prowl, 3x all-pro (second team), captain since his second year. He has been a leader of this second half of the dynasty. He has missed 5, FIVE, games since 2011. 155 games, 155 starts, 23 playoff games. He is a rock. Last year? 5 interceptions, 7 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, 1 recovery, along with 58 tackles. Devin was a key player in our air-tight secondary. That being said, Devin will have to choose between retirement or the Patriots. Like what Slater and Hightower, and even McCourty himself previous did, I think he’ll shop around for deals and the Patriots will match.
* Special Teams
* **Nick Folk (K)**
* 35-year-old Nick Folk was serviceable last year. It looks like Younghhoe Koo was the kicker-to-keep from our tryouts this year, as he is flourishing with the Falcons (Along with Ryan Allen, former Patriot Punter). He was paid just about $1.0 million last year and COULD come back depending on what is going on with Gostkowski. Remember, Gostkowski has been with the Patriots since 2006. Reports (As of February 21st) say Gostkowski could be released to clear up $3.5 million in cap space. I find this doubtful, but the Patriots historically will not overpay at a position when they can get 90% of the production for a fraction of the cost. More likely than not – He accepts a paycut to stay, or another kicker needy team overpays.
### 2020 Needs
## Final Thoughts