The New England Patriots are entering an unfathomable era in their franchise’s history following Tom Brady’s decision to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency. Upon Brady’s exit, the Patriots are going to look quite a bit different despite Bill Belichick still being at the helm.
Besides Brady, New England also lost Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton, Elandon Roberts, and Duron Harmon on the defensive side of the ball. Given that, there are going to be plenty of opportunities for some of the younger players to rise to the occasion next season.
Even with all of the losses they endured this offseason, New England still boasts an uberly talented roster, especially on defense. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at three potential breakout players for the Patriots in the 2020 season.
3. Chase Winovich
Seeing that Belichick still remains involved with the defense, the Patriots still figure to deploy a formidable defensive unit in 2020. That begins with a revamped pass-rushing unit with some new faces that are prepared to step into the spotlight.
Among the young players on defense that could see a larger role next season, Chase Winovich has a chance to become a remarkable edge rusher in New England. As a rookie third-round pick in 2019, Winovich tallied 5.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits for the Patriots.
Under Belichick, there are only two rookie pass rushers that have recorded 5+ sacks and 10+ quarterback hits in their first season in the NFL. That list includes Winovich and Chandler Jones. Taking that into consideration, Winovich is poised to make a name for himself in 2020.
2. N’Keal Harry
Throughout the entirety of the 2019 season, it was apparent that the Patriots desperately needed to get some aid for Brady in the passing attack. Thus, prompting New England to trade for Mohamed Sanu and activate rookie N’Keal Harry from injured reserve.
Despite coming off of injured reserve, Harry was behind in his development due to having to recover from an ankle ailment. As a result, the Patriots’ first-round pick out of Arizona State managed to notch only 12 receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns in seven games.
Following a dismal rookie campaign, Harry still has the talent to evolve into a reliable weapon for New England next season. Regardless of who is under center, if he can remain healthy, Harry should see a vast improvement in his production from a season ago.
1. Jarrett Stidham
Of course, everyone is going to have their eyes on whoever is the lucky contestant that gets the first crack at replacing Brady under center. As of this moment, it appears that Jarrett Stidham is the favorite to start in Week 1.
Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Stidham could be New England’s No. 1 breakout player in 2020. If he manages to succeed next season, then Stidham becomes the heir apparent to Brady.
On the other hand, if he sputters under center, then the Patriots could be looking to select a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft. Either way, Stidham is likely going to have his fair share of chances to shine in 2020.