The New England Patriots struggled in 2020. There’s really no other way to put it besides they just weren’t the same team that NFL fans are used to them being. They had glaring issues on the offensive side of the ball over the course of the season. Some of that was absolutely on Cam Newton, but most of it was on New England as a team. The Patriots offensive line struggled in big moments on multiple occasions, their receiving core’s lack of ability to create separation was a glaring problem on a weekly basis, having absolutely no serviceable tight end, lack of depth in the secondary, the need for a pass rusher that can get to the QB down the stretches of games, just to name a few. While the defense still managed to keep this team afloat with who they had, the offense just never showed the ability to consistently play well. It was obvious the Pats needed an upgrade, and today Bill Belichick confirmed he is indeed in the market to upgrade his football team.
First things first, I have to address the signing of Jonnu Smith because New England just got one of the most under rated TE’s in football. Smith is only 25 years old and durable, he’s only missed 4 games in his first 4 NFL seasons. He has continued to grow as a player year to year and the stats back that up. He’s increased in receptions, yards, and touchdowns every year since being drafted. The former Titan had a career high 8 touchdown last year and averages and incredible 11.4 yards per catch in his career including 6.8 yards after the catch. He’s not known for his blocking, but that’s where I think this becomes a perfect marriage between he and the Patriots. Their system is going to force him to grow that area of his game all while utilizing his strengths as a pass catcher. Cam Newton has thrived the most in his career with a TE that he could use in the passing game, we saw how incredible he and Greg Olsen were together in Carolina. I love this signing for both sides and think it is a perfect fit, I expect Smith to become on of Newton’s favorite targets.
Belichick and his front office also went out and got pieces for their defense as well, which were beyond savvy moves. They signed Matt Judon and Davon Godchaux up front, an area that the team really could have used depth at down the stretches of games last season. Not only did they get depth, they got starters who will make a real impact. Godchaux only played 5 games last season but played all 16 games in both 2018 & 2019. He had a career high in tackling numbers in 2019 before his injury in 2020. Now for Matt Judon, he’s the man the Patriots dropped a lot of jaws with. He is 28 years old and has the ability to be on of the most talented players on this roster. Judon had 6 sacks last season and has got an incredible ability to get to the opposing quarterback as he’s had over 20 QB hits over the last 3 seasons. He has played for really good defenses in Baltimore over his time in the NFL so I’m sure he will have no problem thriving in another solid defensive scheme. This is a move that should not go under the radar because it could potentially have the most impact for New England out of all the signings today. The organization also added Jalen Mills to their secondary in a move that helps to add depth to an aging position. Patrick Chung, who opted out of the 2020 season and Devin McCourty are both 33 years old. While it’s not clear if Mills will play a major role in the Patriots’ secondary yet, it adds depth to a position that will most likely really need it throughout the year.
Finally, Belichick & Co finished off the day with adding Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to their receiving core. Agholor had the bounce back season for the ages last year with the Las Vegas Raiders as he had a career high in total yards, touchdowns, and yards per catch. The stat that pops off the page is his yards per catch, because last season he beat any previous season in his career by 6 yards or more yards. He was a consistent threat down the field for the Raiders and that is something the Patriots and Cam Newtons could really use. I don’t mean over top of the defense, but being able to get enough separation for 10-20 yard passes that move the chains is something New England just didn’t have last season. Bourne also had a decent season with the 49ers far from consistency at the QB position.
Don’t Sleep On The Patriots
The New England Patriots went out today and addressed nearly every need they had and per multiple reports, it doesn’t seem like they’re done. Belichick went out and resigned Cam Newton but did not make the same mistake he made last offseason by signing him towards the end of free agency. He made sure to make his decision before the free agency period started so that potential free agents knew who would be throwing them the ball. He had a ton os cap space and used it early so that he could sign the best players available. There were reports flying around all season about how the Patriots’ general manager was going to be ‘uncharacteristically aggressive’ in free agency and boy were they right. Bill has shown a sense of urgency with his moves made today and also the desire to compete right now. New England had an off year last season and the organization seems committed to bouncing back in 2021.
All I have to say is that the Pats feel like a playoff team again as long as these upgrades prove to be just that. Cam Newton should improve his passing with better weapons around him, and a better defense always helps no matter what. All signs are pointing up in New England, a feeling not many had before today. The Patriots will be better next season, and there’s now one question we all await the answer to. How much better?
Bradley Shatraw, CruelFan.com