The initial wave of NFL free agency is over so it’s time for the first Patriots roster breakdown of the season as we look at the offense.
We are about two weeks into the 2022 NFL League Year, and the Patriots are busy down in Foxborough finding players they believe will fit their current roster. The Patriots have lost key players through free agency and trade, and they’ve also added a few from outside the organization while retaining key leaders. It’s time to break down the current Patriots roster to get an idea where the biggest holes still lie. With the draft and the second wave of free agents coming available after inevitable cuts, there IS time for the Patriots to clean up some of the areas that really hurt them in ’21.
Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
The Patriots return the same three quarterbacks from the 2021 roster. Hoyer actually signed a decent deal to stick around, so he’s almost a player/coach due to his knowledge of the offense and the Patriot’s lack of experience on the offensive coaching staff. Joe Judge will be in charge of Mac Jones’s continued development, and although some are fearful that Judge may hurt Jones’s development, don’t expect that to be the case. First off- Judge is an NFL coach. The rush to judge him (HA) is wrong; just because he was a special team coordinator does not mean that is the only job he had in football. He was a head coach. Granted, not successful, but he can be trusted as a position coach. Expect to see a strong jump from Jones, and also don’t be surprised if New England drafts a quarterback in the late rounds. It is good business to draft a quarterback every year, regardless of having your future starter. If any additions were made in free agency. it would likely only occur due to an injury.
Mac Jones had a solid rookie season for the #Patriots in 2021.
— Full Press NFL (@FullPressNFL) March 26, 2022
Damien Harris, James White, Rhamondre Stevenson, JJ Taylor, Ty Montgomery, Devine Ozigbo
In past years I would put the fullbacks and halfbacks together in one group. Well, the word is the Patriots are done with fullbacks, at least for 2022, so this section will be devoted just to the halfbacks on the roster.
This is a strong group, assuming they remain healthy. Harris proved to be one of the best backs in the league last season when healthy, and Rhamondre Stevenson exploded onto the scene in ’21 as the rookie at times looked like the best back on the team. James White returns from his hip injury to assume his role as a receiving back, although at his age that is not a guarantee. JJ Taylor is also still on the roster and could get his shot as a 3rd down back in ’22 if anything was to go wrong with White. Ty Montgomery will be a swiss army knife for the Patriots, so expect to see him carry the ball at least 30 times in ’22. Ozigbo will be lucky if he makes the practice squad. Brandon Bolden is no longer with the club; he is now a Las Vegas Raider, as is former fullback Jakob Johnson.
The Patriots did bring in free agent Leonard Fournette for a visit, but he immediately signed back with Tampa Bay after the meeting. That makes one think that New England is in the market for a veteran back so they can trade Damien Harris and load up on draft picks. With Stevenson and whatever vet they bring in, that would have allowed them to not have a dropoff from the rushing production of ’21. With Fournette choosing Tampa, it may not be in the cards for the Patriots to go that route now, but it is certainly something to keep an eye on. It does seem clear that they view Stevenson as a special back and are not afraid to move him into the lead role at some point.
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Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers, Christian Wilkerson, N’Keal Harry, Matthew Slater, Tre Nixon, Ty Montgomery, Malcolm Perry
This is the group that has received the most attention over the offseason, and mainly because they don’t have a pure number one receiver on the roster. Most people expected New England to get involved in either the trade market or free agency, with players like Amari Cooper available, but the Patriots just weren’t interested. Allen Robinson, who we wrote about here as a potential target, signed with the World Champion Rams. There are still free agents available that fit, especially in the slot (Cole Beasley?) and there are always cuts leading up to and after the draft, so the depth chart is far from set in stone. It’s also important to remember that Bourne and Agholor were both in their first year within the system and playing with a rookie quarterback. There IS going to be growth there, as there will be with Meyers and Jones.
New England will almost assuredly address this position in the draft. There are multiple talented receivers coming from Alabama alone that the Patriots have been linked to, and there are other prospects throughout the college football landscape that would come in and immediately give the Patriots that extra boost of speed and athleticism they so desperately need.
One last thing to keep in mind-with the Chiefs trade of Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins, expect Andy Reid to be a potential thorn in the side of Belichick when it comes to drafting the wide receivers he wants. That trade changed the draft today. If New England really likes Jameson Williams at 21, there is a chance they now may have to get aggressive to select him. Trading back to obtain more picks might not be the best plan for New England this year. Quantity is nice, but quality wins games.
Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, Troy Fumagalli
If the Patriots come out of the free agency period and the draft without adding a single tight end to the roster, everyone in the New England area should be happy. With the ample amount of resources poured into this position, they SHOULD be all set for 2022. Hunter Henry was easily their best tight end in ’21, finishing the year with nine touchdowns and clearly defining himself as Mac Jones’s go-to guy in the red zone. Henry needs to continue to be that threat and also start to make more noise outside of the red zone too.
Jonnu Smith was a major disappointment in ’21, but it also had something to do with the Patriots not using him the right way. Smith needs to get into space and do his work. Last year they weren’t using him the way Tennessee had in the past, using him as an H-back, running him in motion often to create mismatches that will allow him to catch the ball easier and do what he does best- run after the catch. Devin Asiasi is likely on his last chance to prove he can play in the NFL. It took Asiasi a couple of years at UCLA to get acclimated to the speed on Division One, so hopefully, he is just dealing with the learning curve of jumping from D-1 to the NFL. He has soft hands and runs well for a big man; I’m sure the coaching staff would love to get some production out of him.
Dalton Keene is in the same boat as Asiasi- produce or get cut. Keene has one thing going for him- the apparent shift in offensive philosophy from using a fullback to using an H-back. The Patriots likely will carry all four of these tight ends on the roster because they’re going to be used in multiple roles. Keene has an actual shot to carve out a spot here in New England, something that didn’t seem possible after last year. Troy Fumagalli is likely to get cut, but the 6’6, 250 pound beast out of Wisconsin does have talent, but he, unfortunately, has the injury bug. If he has a strong camp, he could potentially steal Asiasi or Keene’s position.
T: Isaiah Wynn, Trent Brown, Justin Herron, Yodny Cajuste, Yasir Durant
G: Michael Owenwu, James Ferentz, William Sherman, Drew Desjarlais, Arlington Hambright
C: David Andrews
This is an area that needs some help. After losing Ted Karras in free agency to the AFC Champion Bengals, the Patriots turned around and traded starting right guard Shaq Mason to the Bucs. Although some may look at the interior of the line and freak out, it is important to note that the Patriots have an excellent track record of replacing starters on the offensive line, and the same should be expected in this situation. They could address it in free agency, but the most likely place New England finds their new starting right guard is the draft.
Tackle is solid as far as starters and Herron will help as far as depth, but this is another area that could use a depth body or two from free agency, and they’ll likely invest in a tackle during the draft. It would make sense to see the Patriots target a free agent that can play guard and tackle, which typically means the player will bring depth but don’t expect an All-Pro. David Andrews holds down the center position, and his backup is James Ferentz, who provides depth on the interior, although he would be a starting guard if the season started tomorrow. Thankfully, it does not.
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