The New England Patriots are coming off of their sixth Super Bowl title, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, they will be in contention for their seventh heading into 2019.
Of course, the Patriots have the usual suspects leading the way in Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and at this point, you can probably throw Julian Edelman in there, too.
But there are some players on this New England squad who are under pressure to perform going into this season in order for the Pats to make another Super Bowl run.
So, here are the three Pats players facing the most pressure entering 2019:
3. Michael Bennett
The Patriots lost their best pass rusher this offseason, as Trey Flowers walked to the Detroit Lions via free agency.
The thing is, New England was not a great pass-rushing team to begin with in 2018, as it ranked second-to-last in the NFL with just 30 sacks.
The Pats went out and signed veteran Michael Bennett to replace Flowers, who appeared to be emerging as one of the top up and coming defensive ends in the league.
Unlike Flowers, Bennett isn’t young, as he is 33 years old. He does have Super Bowl experience from his Seattle Seahawks days, so he has that going for him, but it’s a fair question to wonder just how much he has left in the tank.
The Patriots are expecting Bennett to be their leading pass rusher in 2019, so the pressure is on him to live up to that billing.
2. Sony Michel
Sony Michel had a terrific rookie campaign, rushing for 931 yards and six touchdowns during 13 regular-season games and then exploding for six scores during the playoffs.
However, Michel has had some trouble staying healthy thus far, as he missed three contests in 2018 and also had some knee trouble coming into training camp.
With the Pats really seeming to like incoming rookie back Damien Harris, Michel should enter 2019 with a chip on his shoulder in trying to prove to the Patriots that he is, in fact, the running back of the present and future.
We know how Belichick works by now. If you are being outperformed by someone else on the roster or he feels you aren’t doing your job up to par, he will let you go.
Michel may have had a great rookie year, but he doesn’t have as much breathing room as you would think.
1. Josh Gordon
The Patriots are giving Josh Gordon a second chance, and the NFL is giving him the umpteenth opportunity to straighten himself out and stay on the right path.
You have to sympathize with Gordon, who has obviously been battling some demons, but this may truly be his last chance.
The league surprisingly reinstated Gordon from his indefinite suspension, which is absolutely huge for the Pats given how rocky their receiving situation looked heading into this season.
When he is right, Gordon is an elite talent and can completely change the complexion of a game. We know that. This isn’t about production. This is about Gordon actually making it through a full season without any problems.
This is likely it for Gordon.