Patriots

Tom Brady reacts to new challenge of competing in tough NFC South division

Tom Brady reacts to new challenge of competing in tough NFC South division

Tom Brady's decision to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers means he'll now compete against a new division: the NFC South.

Brady spent the first 20 years of his career with the New England Patriots, and he dominated the AFC East with an 86-22 regular-season record versus the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. The Patriots won the AFC East title in 18 of the 19 full seasons Brady played in New England. 

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The NFC South won't be a walk in the park for the Buccaneers, and one of the challenges for Brady the next few months will be learning the teams, players and coaches on his new division rivals.

“It’s a good division with good quarterbacks, very good offenses and very athletic defenses, too," Brady said on a media conference call Tuesday. "Winning the division is always the hard thing to do. These teams know each other so well and I didn’t play this division but once every four years, so I’ve got to learn the players, I’ve got to learn the schemes. There’s a lot of things I have to learn and get up to speed on. That’s where all my time and energy will be focused on and also learning my teammates, guys like Mike [Evans] and Chris [Godwin], O.J. [Howard], Cam [Brate]. A lot of skill players – Ronald Jones and obviously the offensive line, who is a very talented group.

"A lot of things for me to focus on and a lot of time and energy is going to be spent on getting up to speed with the tactical things of how I can do the best job for the team. Anything outside of that is really in essence not a high priority for me. Not to say things are unimportant, it’s just I’ve got to be able to prioritize my time and energy so I can learn what I need to learn and go out there and do a great job for this organization.”

The New Orleans Saints won the division at 13-3 last season, and they haven't stood pat in free agency. The Saints re-signed future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees and added veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The Atlanta Falcons had a tough 2019 season, but they bolstered their offense in free agency with the signing of former All-Pro running back Todd Gurley.

The Carolina Panthers are expected to finish last in the division next season, but they just signed free agent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who went 5-0 for the Saints in place of an injured Brees last season. With Brady, Brees, Bridgewater and Matt Ryan starting at quarterback, the NFC South could be the highest-scoring division in football next season.

Las Vegas currently gives the Buccaneers the second-best odds to win the NFC South in 2020, which makes sense. It's hard to bet against the Saints, who've won three consecutive division titles and a total of 37 regular-season games over that span.

Patriots' Stephon Gilmore hard at work in new offseason training video

Patriots' Stephon Gilmore hard at work in new offseason training video

NFL teams have not been able to conduct normal offseason workouts, rookie camps and other activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but players are still finding ways to stay in shape and prepare for the 2020 season.

That includes New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who recently worked out with former NFL defensive back Dre Bly, who's currently the cornerbacks coach for the University of North Carolina football team.

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Check out some footage of Gilmore's workout in the tweet below:

Gilmore arguably is the Patriots' best player following quarterback Tom Brady's departure in free agency. In Pro Football Focus' recent ranking of the top 50 players gonig into the 2020 season, Gilmore was the only Patriot to make the list.

The veteran cornerback is coming off back-to-back seasons of first team All-Pro selections, and in February he was named the AP Defensive Player of the Year Award winner for the 2019 campaign.

The Patriots saw a lot of veteran players from their defense leave as free agents this offseason. Luckily for New England, its secondary remains one of the best groups in the league, and Gilmore's presence as the sport's premier shutdown cornerback is the primary reason for that.

Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers reveals his goal entering 2020 NFL season

Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers reveals his goal entering 2020 NFL season

The New England Patriots need a young wide receiver to step and play at a higher level in 2020, and one of the best candidates is Jakobi Meyers.

Meyers went undrafted in 2019 out of North Carolina State and performed well enough in training camp and the preseason to earn a spot on the Patriots' 53-man roster. 

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What is Meyers hoping to accomplish in his second pro season?

"Mentally, I want to be levels ahead of where I was last year," Meyers told Patriots.com writer Paul Perillo. "Understanding not only what we're doing but also why we're doing it. Earning trust to make the right play. I want to build on last year. It was a nice stepping stone, but I want to keep building and growing."

Meyers knows his job is not guaranteed, and he's very motivated to prove to the Patriots that he again deserves a roster spot.

"I feel like I will be a lot further ahead," Meyers said. "I didn't know if I'd even make the team or what role I might have or where I'd be playing. I still have chip on my shoulder, like will I even be here? I'm staying ready for my name to be called. I need to make sure I give them a reason to keep me around."

For Meyers to take the next step he must be more consistent.

The 23-year-old wideout had consecutive games with multiple receptions only twice as a rookie, and he tallied only one catch in five of the 11 games he played. Overall, Meyers totaled 26 receptions for 359 yards and zero touchdowns in 2019.

One reason to be confident in Meyers' ability to make a stronger impact in the Patriots offense next season is Jarrett Stidham. The 2019 fourth-round draft pick likely will be the team's starting quarterback following Tom Brady's departure in free agency, and he and Meyers had a good chemistry during the preseason. Of course, it's important not to take too much away from preseason action, but these two players built a strong rapport last August

Injuries to veteran wide receivers Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu played a large part in the Patriots' offensive struggles over the second half of the 2019 season. If Edelman and Sanu come back healthy, and a young wideout such as Meyers or N'Keal Harry make a sophomore leap, New England's offense has a chance to be surprisingly good in 2020.