The New England Patriots may be coming off of their sixth Super Bowl championship, but they are heading into training camp with a whole lot of uncertainty.
Still, regardless of their issues on paper, the Patriots are still the Patriots, and they should be treated as Super Bowl contenders until proven otherwise.
After all, New England had problems this past year, too, and we know how that turned out.
Either way, here are the three main priorities for the Pats going into training camp.
3. Establishing a Pass Rush
The Patriots ranked second-to-last in the NFL in sacks this past season, and to make matters worse, they lost their best pass rusher, defensive end Trey Flowers, to the Detroit Lions in free agency.
New England did replace Flowers with veteran Michael Bennett, who is coming off of a solid nine-sack campaign with the Philadelphia Eagles, but at 33 years old, we don’t really know how much Bennett has left in the tank.
It would really behoove the Pats to get some sort of reliable pass rush together going into the regular season, as it will certainly make life a heck of a lot easier for the rest of their defense, which was shaky throughout most of 2019.
The Patriots may not have needed a whole lot of sacks to win the Super Bowl this past year, but that doesn’t mean they should completely abandon the idea of getting after the quarterback.
2. Sorting Out the Receiving Corps
As far as New England’s wide receivers go, there is Julian Edelman and…who knows.
The Pats have a ton of question marks at receiver, as they will be depending on a rookie in N’Keal Harry, an aging veteran coming off of a torn Achilles in Demaryius Thomas, and a guy in Dontrelle Inman who caught just 28 passes with the Indianapolis Colts in 2018.
Now, of course, it’s entirely possible that Harry has a monster rookie year and Thomas finds the fountain of youth, but, chances are, there will be some holes in the Pats’ passing game, even with a good training camp.
Still, it is very important for Tom Brady to establish a rapport with the receiving corps, as it could make all the difference in the passing game this coming season.
1. Keeping Tom Brady in One Piece
Sure, training camp is mandatory, and all players must participate, but with Brady turning 42 years old in August, the Patriots should probably take it easy with him.
I’m sure no one has to tell Bill Belichick this, but it’s worth noting, as Brady did show some clear signs of a decline this past season when he simply did not look himself in the second half.
While he certainly may have been coasting, there is no doubt that Brady is not the same quarterback he was a few years ago, so everyone is wondering when the “cliff” will finally arrive.
We have no reason to doubt that Brady can still perform at a high level, as he did just lead his team to yet another Super Bowl, but Brady is a human being, and human beings are mortal.
The No. 1 priority for the Pats should be ensuring that Brady makes it through 2019 healthy.