New England Patriots 2018 team preview
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The New England Patriots went to the Super Bowl for the second straight year in 2017. Their 13-3 record was the best in the AFC. They won 11 of their last 12 games and cruised to the AFC Championship game. They defeated the Jaguars late to go to Super Bowl LII. As is the case with most Super Bowl participants, they lost some key components to last year’s team and made some significant changes for the 2018 season.

Here is a breakdown of the Patriots for the 2018 season.

Head Coach

Bill Belichick is entering his 19th season as head coach of the Patriots. He has amassed a 214-74 record. The Patriots have made the playoffs 15 times, including each of the last nine seasons, under Belichick. They have a 27-19 postseason record since Belichick was hired in 2000. They have won five Super Bowls and eight AFC titles in that span. Prior to being named head coach of the Patriots, Belichick was the head coach of the Browns from 1991-1995. He accumulated a 36-44 record in those five seasons. In between his head coaching stints, Belichick was an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator of the Jets for three seasons and assistant head coach and defensive backs coach of the Patriots for one season. Before getting his first head coaching job, Belichick was the defensive coordinator of the Giants (six seasons), linebackers and special teams coach of the Giants (five), defensive assistant and special teams coach of the Giants (one), defensive assistant and assistant special teams coach of the Broncos (one), receivers coach of the Lions (one), assistant special teams coach of the Lions (one) and special assistant of the Ravens (one).

Draft Picks

Round 1, Pick 23 – Isaiah Wynn, OL, Georgia. Wynn is an athletic offensive lineman. He is very athletic and can block in space. He is a long-time starter in the NFL.

Round 1, Pick 31 – Sony Michel, RB, Georgia. Michel is a decisive runner with good strength and athleticism. He is a physical runner that can grind out yards. He doesn’t have the size to be a consistent between-the-tackles runner.

Round 2, Pick 56 –Duke Dawson, CB, Florida. Dawson is a strong, physical corner. He has the ability to press receivers at the line of scrimmage and run with them in coverage.

Round 5, Pick 143 – Ja’whaun Bentley, LB, Purdue. Bentley is a big, strong, physical downhill tackler. He isn’t a great athlete or playmaker. He should be an early-down and situational role player.

Round 6, Pick 178 – Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State. Sam is a physical downhill tackler. He plays faster than his combine performance and he has character concerns.

Round 6, Pick 210 – Braxton Berrios, WR, Miami. Berrios is an undersized slot receiver that lacks elite athleticism. He has the ability to make contested catches and return kicks and punts.

Round 7, Pick 219 – Danny Etling, QB, LSU. Etling is a big quarterback with above average athleticism. However, he lacks accuracy and consistency throwing the ball.

Round 7, Pick 243 – Keion Crossen, DB, Western Carolina. Crossen is an undersized cornerback that wasn’t invited to the combine. He has tremendous speed with a sub-4.4 40-yard dash time at multiple Pro Day workouts.

Round 7, Pick 250 – Ryan Izzo, TE, Florida State. Izzo is a big and tough, inline blocker. He is not a flashy or athletic receiver type tight end, but he is going to open holes for running backs and create space for the quarterback.

Notable Additions

OT Trent Brown (49ers) – Brown is a massive offensive tackle that 26 games over the last two seasons. He can play either tackle spot. He has taken the first team reps at left tackle so far in preseason.

DE Adrian Clayborn (Falcons) – Clayborn is a big and accomplished pass rusher in the NFL. He is very quick around the edge and constantly gets into the backfield.

WR Eric Decker (Titans) – Decker is a sure-handed possession with a knack for finding the end zone. He has good size, ball skills and route running ability. He doesn’t have top-end speed and an injury-history.

RB Jeremy Hill (Bengals) – Hill is a big, powerful, between-the-tackles runner. He has the ability to grind out the tough yards. He could be a multi-dimensional, short-yardage back.

DB Jason McCourty (Browns) – McCourty is a versatile defensive back. He has good speed and a high football-IQ. He needs to improve his consistency as a tackler.

WR Cordarrelle Patterson (Patriots) – Patterson is an electrifying wide receiver and kick returner. He is a highlight waiting to happen every time he touches the ball. He is not a good route runner nor consistent receiver.

DT Danny Shelton (Browns) – Shelton is a huge interior defender. He has the ability to control the line of scrimmage and take up blockers. He is not a pass rusher nor consistent performer.

Projected Starters

Offense

Quarterback – 12 Tom Brady; Running Back – 29 Sony Michel; Wide Receiver – 15 Chris Hogan; Wide Receiver – 11 Julian Edelman; Wide Receiver – 81 Eric Decker; Tight End – 87 Rob Gronkowski; Left Tackle – 67 Trent Brown; Left Guard – 67 Isaiah Wynn; Center – 60 David Andrews; Right Guard – 69 Shaquille Mason; Right Tackle – 61 Marcus Cannon

Defense

Defensive End – 98 Trey Flowers; Defensive End – 94 Adrian Clayborn; Defensive Tackle – 71 Danny Shelton; Defensive Tackle – 90 Malcolm Brown; Linebacker – 54 Dont’a Hightower; Linebacker – 51 Ja’whaun Bentley; Linebacker – 53 Kyle Van Noy; Cornerback – 25 Eric Rowe; Cornerback – 24 Stephon Gilmore; Safety – 23 Patrick Chung; Safety – 32 Devin McCourty

Specialists

Kicker – 3 Stephen Gostkowski; Punter – 6 Ryan Allen; Long Snapper – 49 Joe Cardona

Biggest Question

Is the perceived issue between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick a detriment to the Patriots?

Most national headlines centered around Brady’s absence from offseason workouts. He was consistently shown talking about how important OTAs are and how they set the tone for the next phase of the offseason which sets the tone for the phase after that which sets the tone for the next phase and so on until the Super Bowl.

To Answer That Question

No.

They are the Patriots. Brady will still be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL no matter how much time he spent away from the team in May and June.

Outlook

On paper, the Patriots have one of the easier schedules in the league with the Dolphins, Bills and Jets on there twice. They are so far ahead of those three teams that the division is theirs to win for the foreseeable future. While winning the division seems like a formality, they will likely struggle in the postseason and fall short of a third straight trip to the Super Bowl.