The Patriots are primed for another deep Super Bowl run in 2017. With a roster heavily laden from a Super Bowl victory over the Falcons in February, the team had very few holes to fill but they did so with free agency signings, (Stephon Gilmore), trades (Kony Ealy, Dwayne Allen, Mike Gillislee and James O’Shaugnessy) as well as the draft. They added needed depth at both the DE and OL positions. So what do they need to do to ensure success in 2017?
We’ve highlighted three areas that need to occur if they want to make it three out of four Super Bowl titles again:
The health of Key Players:
The skill position players beginning with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Dont’a Hightower are the players most indispensable to their success. It is easy to add in Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, and Devin McCourty into the mix.
After the Patriots Super Bowl win of 2014, the biggest obstacle in their path and what ultimately proved their undoing was the rash of injuries that decimated the team a year later. The Patriots were much healthier last season, despite losing Gronkowski to IR and having some players dinged up for parts of the campaign.
If the core of the roster can remain healthy and on the field, this team will be a very difficult one to stop. This is a really deep team, with multiple different options that they can bring to bear on opponents.
Assimilation for New Faces:
No this isn’t the Borg from Star Trek the Next Generation, but it may well be the case. The one thing no one can predict with 100 percent certainty is how the new players added this offseason will gel within the Patriots system. And the players must assimilate or they’re soon gone. Bill Belichick doesn’t tolerate freelancing for very long…(see Collins, Jamie).
But joking aside, the new guys, Stephon Gilmore, Kony Ealy, Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen, Mike Gillislee, and James O’Shaughnessy will have to adapt to the Patriots (Belichick) way of doing things. And they may be tasked with playing in ways that they are unfamiliar with or haven’t been asked to do.
Not everyone who comes to New England works out, Belichick has had his share of swings and misses in free agency but overall his average for finding players that work well in his system is very good.
Gilmore was paid big money this spring to come to New England and Gillislee got a decent amount of cash in Year 1 of a two-year deal. But Ealy is a free agent in 2018, Cooks is locked up for two years. They’ll be looking to play themselves into big money contracts or extensions. They’ll put the pressure on themselves to produce.
Not much will be expected of the four players drafted in 2017 with the exception of possibly DE Derek Rivers who may be tasked early on to be a sub-package pass rusher. Deatrich Wise, Tony Garcia, and Connor McDermott were drafted with 2018 in mind.
Brady keeps Father Time at Bay:
Tom Brady’s season at age 39 was pretty remarkable. He looked better than he did at age 29. Many pundits predicted that the Patriots would struggle without him and that he may finally begin to show his age after sitting out the first month of the season with the Deflategate suspension.
Neither happened. The Patriots went 3-1 with Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Jacoby Brissett under center. Brady came back from suspension and was razor sharp. The Patriots cruised to a 14-2 record, the best in the NFL and beat the Texans, Steelers, and Falcons in the playoffs for the team’s fifth Super Bowl win in the Brady/Belichick era.
Now Brady will be 40 when the season starts and already the same nay-sayers are quick to point out/hope that THIS may be the year that Brady’s play begins to slip. Or as the one unintentionally funny guy says…falls off a cliff.
There is no reason to believe that his play would be any less stellar than it was a year ago. Brady takes meticulous care of his body and his work ethic and preparedness is legendary amongst his teammates. If he performs on a level with his 2016 season, the Patriots offense should be something to behold.
Cooks brings the element of speed to the WR position that they’ve lacked. Gillislee is a younger quicker version of LaGarrette Blount in the running game. Allen, O’Shaughnessy and Jacob Hollister should be able to match what they’ve lost in Martellus Bennett from 2016.
This 2017 Patriots team is deeper and a better one (on paper) than the one that just won the Super Bowl. If these three things listed above come to fruition, then there is no reason not to believe that this team should be primed for a deep playoff run. It is almost time for minicamp and then training camp is just two months down the road.