NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (15-4) OPEN CAMP: July 26, Foxborough, Massachusetts
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (15-4)
OPEN CAMP: July 26, Foxborough, Massachusetts
LAST YEAR: New England lost twice in its first four games but recovered to win 11 of its final 12 behind MVP season of quarterback Tom Brady. He impressed at age 40, throwing for 4,577 yards, 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He did so despite reported issues between himself, coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft following midseason trade of backup Jimmy Garoppolo to 49ers. Defensive inconsistency was ongoing issue and it caught up with Patriots in Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia. It included surprise benching of cornerback Malcolm Butler, one of several players to sign with new teams during free agency.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: RB Jeremy Hill, RB Sony Michel, QB Danny Etling, DE Adrian Clayborn, WR Jordan Matthews, OT Trent Brown, OL Isaiah Wynn, CB Jason McCourty, DT Danny Shelton,
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, WR Danny Amendola, WR Brandin Cooks, CB Malcolm Butler, CB Johnson Bademosi, RB Dion Lewis, OT Nate Solder, OT Cam Fleming.
CAMP NEEDS: Wide receiver will be hot topic. After sitting out 2017 with torn right ACL, Julian Edelman is suspended for first four games of regular season for violating NFL policy on performance enhancers. Combined with losses of Amendola and Cooks in trades to Dolphins and Rams, respectively, it leaves Chris Hogan (34 catches, 439 yards, five TDs) as top returning wide receiver. Something also must be done to solidify defense that needs more edge rushing and someone to start alongside Stephon Gilmore at cornerback.
EXPECTATIONS: Even with offseason roster changes, Patriots enter camp as team to beat in AFC East. All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski considered retirement in offseason; he and Brady skipped voluntary offseason workouts. But both returned for mandatory minicamps and say they are focused on helping New England reach what would be its fourth Super Bowl in five seasons. One of biggest question marks will be how linebackers coach Brian Flores does in new role as defensive play caller.