Patriots desperately need to upgrade their speed, especially on offense

Patriots desperately need to upgrade their speed, especially on offense

The New England Patriots have a need ... for speed.


On offense, their two most productive players — James White and Julian Edelman — are more quick than fast. And at 28 and 34 respectively, they aren’t getting any faster.

The other wideouts? Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers are — compared to the rest of the league — plodding. Harry ran a 4.53 at the Combine. Meyers ran a 4.63. I don’t know how fast their tight ends are. I do know they aren’t that good. 

As a whole, the group is pretty easy to defend. Double Edelman. Put a corner or safety on White. Press the other guys. And feel free to creep the safeties up because nobody can run past them.

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Slow on offense is not something you want to be in 2020. 

Meanwhile, take a look at the two teams at the top of the conference — a place New England called home until last year. 

The best regular-season team in the AFC last year was the Ravens. They became that because of the rare speed of Lamar Jackson. His speed didn’t just change games. It changed the balance of power in the conference. The Ravens were the best team in football for much of the season because they embraced Jackson’s speed and exploited defenses with it.

And the AFC team that went to the Super Bowl? The Kansas City Chiefs wouldn't have been there without the fastest in-game player in the NFL, Tyreek Hill. Last April, the Chiefs got even faster, drafting receiver Mecole Hardman who ran a 4.33. 

Hardman was on the board when the Patriots drafted last season at No. 32 and took N’Keal Harry.

Also on the board? Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, Parris Campbell, D.K. Metcalf, Myles Boykin and Terry McLaurin. Campbell, Metcalf, Hardman and McLaurin all ran in the 4.3s. Boykin, Brown and Samuel were in the 4.4s. 

Basically, the Patriots overlooked Harry’s relative lack of speed and put their chips on his size, strength and ability to attack the ball in the air. 

As it turned out, every single player I mentioned was more productive than Harry, who battled injuries as a rookie. 

Could the Patriots have come back in the second round and doubled up at wideout getting a faster target for Tom Brady with more varied skills? Sure. When the Patriots selected again at 45, all those players were still on the board except Deebo. 

But the Patriots took cornerback Joejuan Williams. He barely played. 

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On defense, where the players charged with stopping the Jacksons and Hills of the AFC reside, the Patriots aren’t lacking for wheels in the secondary. Devin and Jason McCourty are two of the fastest secondary players in the league. Patrick Chung and newly-added Adrian Phillips can fly. Their corner depth — Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson — have elite speed. 

But the McCourtys and Chung have been in the NFL for a decade or more. 

At the second level? Jamie Collins was their fastest linebacker and he’s gone to Detroit. Kyle Van Noy was their best pass-rusher. He’s in Miami. John Simon is probably the fastest guy now. As a group their speed is average. Which would be fine if they were trading that lack of speed for a crushing front-seven that choked out rushing attacks. 

The way they closed their season — with Derrick Henry’s cleatmarks all over their sternums — showed that they aren’t at that level right now. 

If they want to compete in an ever-quickening AFC, the Patriots need to get faster. In a hurry. 

NFL Rumors: Patriots re-sign undrafted rookie WR Isaiah Zuber

NFL Rumors: Patriots re-sign undrafted rookie WR Isaiah Zuber

The New England Patriots brought one of their undrafted rookies back into the fold on Wednesday.

Isaiah Zuber, a wide receiver out of Mississippi State, reportedly has been re-signed after being cut by the team a week ago.

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Zuber played three seasons at Kansas State before transferring to Mississippi State for his senior season, in which he tallied 14 receptions for 211 yards and two touchdowns. The 23-year-old's best college season came during his junior year, when he had 52 catches for 619 yards and five touchdowns.

The Patriots have had eight players opt out of the 2020 NFL season so far -- including WR Marqise Lee -- thus opening up roster spots for the undrafted free agents who initially were cut. Fellow UDFA receiver Will Hastings also was re-signed by the team shortly after being released.

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps officially began Tuesday, but there were some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Eight New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Arizona Cardinals

OT Marcus Gilbert (August 4)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)
S Jordan Lucas (August 3)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

DT Andrew Billings (August 4)
OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)
OL Colby Gossett (August 4)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (August 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (August 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (August 2)
C Russell Bodine (August 5)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Indianapolis Colts

DB Rolan Milligan (August 5) 
LB Skai Moore (August 4)
DB Marvell Tell (August 5)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Las Vegas Raiders

LB Ukeme Eligwe (August 4)
CB D.J. Killings (August 3)
DE Jeremiah Valoaga (August 3)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Miami Dolphins

WR Allen Hurns (August 4)
WR Albert Wilson (August 5)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

CB Sam Beal (August 5)
WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB C.J. Mosley (August 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

San Francisco 49ers

WR Travis Benjamin (August 4)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (August 3)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)