Don't expect the goals of the New England Patriots to change in 2020, even though Tom Brady will not be the starting quarterback.
For the first time since 2002, the Patriots will go into a new season without knowing who will start at quarterback. The leading candidate to replace Brady is 2019 fourth-round draft pick Jarrett Stidham, but he's one of three QBs on the roster along with veterans Brian Hoyer and Cody Kessler.
Not only do the Patriots have to overcome the loss of the greatest quarterback in NFL history, they also must deal with the departures of several important defensive players. Linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts, as well as defensive tackle Danny Shelton and safety Duron Harmon all have left New England via free agency or trades this month.
Despite these setbacks, Patriots special teams ace Matthew Slater told reporters in a conference call Monday that he doesn't think the team's goals will change entering the new season.
Asked Slater how the goals change for the Patriots after they've setting high standard for themselves for years. "I don't think the goals change at all. I don't think the standards change at all...We're not the victims here. You don't have time to waste any season in the NFL."— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) March 30, 2020
The Patriots, even without Brady and the other players who left in free agency, still have a ton of talent on their roster.
The offensive line, if healthy, should be a very solid group. The wide receiver corps needs more depth and talent, but a healthy Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu (both struggled with injuries in 2019) and a promising talent in N'Keal Harry is a good start at that position. The defense also has plenty of skill, and still features arguably the best secondary in the league.
There are enough quality players remaining for the Patriots to win the AFC East or at least compete for a wild card playoff berth. ESPN's latest NFL Power Rankings have the Patriots ranked 13th overall and fifth-best in the AFC. And let's not forget Bill Belichick is still the head coach, and no one prepares his teams better than the eight-time Super Bowl champion.
It certainly won't be easy for the Patriots to remain among the top contenders in the AFC, and their tough schedule won't give them many breaks. But they absolutely should adopt Slater's mindset when it comes to the goals and the standard the team wants to achieve next season. Fans should expect see a very motivated Patriots team in 2020, and we know they thrive when playing the "nobody believes in us" card.