Patriots

This NFL analyst's 2020 Patriots prediction might be boldest one yet

This NFL analyst's 2020 Patriots prediction might be boldest one yet

Finding a consensus opinion on the 2020 New England Patriots has proven to be difficult over the last few months.

One reason for that is, for the first time in two decades, we will soon see the Patriots without legendary quarterback Tom Brady, who left the franchise as a free agent in March.

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Brady was the team's starting quarterback since 2001, and he won six Super Bowl titles in his 20 years with the franchise. Brady didn't miss many games in his career. Although, when he missed almost all of the 2008 season with a knee injury, New England went 11-5 and nearly made the playoffs. In 2016, when Brady served a four-game suspension stemming from Deflategate, the Patriots went 3-1 with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett leading the offense at quarterback.

Even though the Patriots have enjoyed some success without Brady in a small sample size, most experts aren't expecting another great season from New England in 2020. 

NFL.com columnist Adam Schein is included in that. He recently broke down his nine bold predictions for the upcoming season, and the first one was titled, "Patriots will collapse to a top-five pick in the 2021 NFL Draft." Here's a portion of his explanation:

The problems that ultimately led to New England's undoing down the stretch last season still exist -- in fact, they're probably even more problematic. And the Patriots no longer have the G.O.A.T. to serve as the ultimate deodorant for what stinks. The receiving corps remains underwhelming. I like the long-term upside of the two tight ends New England drafted in the third round -- Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene -- but the roster lacks a proven NFL commodity at the position. The offensive line is average at best. Same with the backfield. Defensively, the Pats went from historic during the team's 8-0 start last season to leaky in the second half of the year. And the unit lost a number of key players, including Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.

What record does Schein see the Patriots earning in 2020?

This season in Foxborough has 5-11 written all over it. If everything breaks right. I think the Jaguars, Patriots and Giants are the three worst teams in the NFL right now.

Even for a bold predictions piece, this is quite bold.

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The Patriots simply have too much talent to finish 5-11.

The defense did struggle at times against better competition last season, but this unit is still loaded with talented veteran players, including the league's best secondary and the reigning AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award winner in cornerback Stephon Gilmore. 

The offensive line was among the league's best in 2018, and it took a step back last season mostly because of injuries. Starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn missed a good chunk of the year with a foot injury, and starting center David Andrews missed the entire campaign due to blood clots. If healthy, this o-line should be among the 10 best in the league, especially if right guard Shaq Mason returns to his elite form after a down 2019 season.

The offense as a whole lacks a dominant playmaker, but few teams have more depth at running back than the Patriots. The receiving corps is a bit underrated, too, and this group should be plenty productive if Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu and N'Keal Harry are healthy in 2020.

Quarterback is the biggest question mark. Jarrett Stidham impressed as a rookie last year during training camp, the preseason and regular season practices. His teammates and former coaches have been singing his praises throughout the offseason, too. That said, he's only thrown four career regular season passes, so the 2019 fourth-round draft pick very much is still an unknown. Stidham has never started an NFL game, and the pressure that comes with being the guy to replace a legend like Brady is going to be challenging.

Will the Patriots extend their streak of winning 10-plus games in 2020? You could make a strong case for why that run will end. You also could argue New England's 11-year postseason appearance streak will end. But to predict the Patriots will finish 5-11 and/or be one of the league's worst teams is just a little too bold (even for bold predictions) when you look at the talent on the roster and the quality of the coaching staff.

Jason, Devin McCourty put pressure on NFL over uncertain 2020 season

Jason, Devin McCourty put pressure on NFL over uncertain 2020 season

Like many players, Devin and Jason McCourty have lots of questions. And the NFL hasn't given them sufficient answers.

The twin brothers and New England Patriots defensive backs wrote a guest column for Sports Illustrated's "The MMQB" in which they voiced their concerns about the 2020 NFL season amid the coronavirus pandemic and urged the league to address these concerns before training camps begin later this month.

"So many questions with virtually no answers, all three weeks removed from a potential start to training camp," the McCourtys wrote.

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While other professional sports leagues hashed out detailed return-to-play plans prior to restarting their seasons, the NFL has yet to share details of what the 2020 season may look like, all while keeping the same timeline, save for reportedly eliminating two preseason games.

The start of the regular season still is almost two months away, but with players returning to their cities to prepare for training camp, the McCourtys want answers from the league.

"Will we have an option to opt out of the season? Will we be making our full salary? What if there is a COVID outbreak within the league?" the McCourtys wrote. "It's so hard to make a decision of whether we will play or not without knowing what the exact plan is."

The twin brothers, who both have families with young children, also expressed hesitation about signing on to play a season with so many unknowns.

"Will we be able to have meetings in the building? Or will the meetings still be done virtually? Will testing be a few times a week or will it be every day?" they wrote. "As players, how do we decide what is best for us and our families when we don’t know what we’re walking into?"

The NFL and NFL Players Association has formed a joint committee of doctors and trainers to develop protocols that can help players safely prepare for the season. Based on the McCourtys' column, though, it sounds like the league and that joint committee still have plenty of work to do.

"We face a whole lot of unknowns, a whole lot of question marks, and overall are dealing with unsettling feelings about how to handle the two major topics that have hit our entire country hard this year," the McCourtys wrote, referencing COVID-19 and the racial justice movement reinvigorated by the death of George Floyd. 

"The year is only halfway done, so the verdict is still out on whether we can get some answers moving forward."

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NFL Rumors: How Cam Newton, N'Keal Harry's first Patriots workout came together

NFL Rumors: How Cam Newton, N'Keal Harry's first Patriots workout came together

A bit of good luck allowed Cam Newton to throw passes to Mohamed Sanu just days after joining the New England Patriots last month.

But the new Patriots quarterback apparently has been taking matters into his own hands since then.

Newton "initiated" contact with second-year wide receiver N'Keal Harry to set up last week's workouts in Los Angeles, ESPN's Mike Reiss reported Sunday.

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Newton and Harry spent "a couple of days together" working out, per Reiss, the first of which was a two-hour session that included fellow Patriots tight end Devin Asiasi and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

It's a good sign for Harry and the Patriots that Newton is eager to work with the 22-year-old wide receiver, who has mostly been training in Houston and Arizona but gladly traveled out to Southern California to link up with his new QB.

Newton also gave Harry some love on Instagram over the weekend, commenting, "DØĒ•ßØ¥‼️😂 -1ØVĒ🤟🏾" on the wideout's post from a workout in Beverly Hills.

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Relentless‼️

A post shared by N'Keal Harry (@nkealharry) on

Julian Edelman and Sanu are projected to be Newton's top two wide receivers in 2020 -- assuming the QB beats out second-year Jarrett Stidham for the starting job -- but Harry has plenty of upside.

While New England's 2019 first-round draft pick appeared in only seven games during an injury-riddled campaign, Reiss pointed out Harry could develop a similar rapport with Newton as Kelvin Benjamin did in Carolina.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Harry and the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Benjamin have similar frames, although Harry is working to get more agile and run sharper routes this offseason.

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