By: Jake Mackey
The New England Patriots will be without Tom Brady for the first four games of the 2016 regular season, and that has caused for concern among Patriots fans. With Jimmy Garoppolo expected to start for the first time in his career, there is expectation that he will struggle, and could very likely drop a game or two in the first four weeks that will come back to bite them in January. All Patriots fans saw how much one game meant at the end of last season, when one win would have been the difference between playing the AFC Championship in Foxborough or Denver.
However, the Patriots roster behind Tom Brady is going massively underrated in the eyes of the national and local media, and amongst the fans. They are good enough to tread water without Tom Brady for four games for sure, and they are good enough to even go 4-0.
Jimmy Garoppolo is a massive unknown. The likelihood is that he comes in and looks like a below average quarterback like most first timers do. However, with the receivers that he has been given to work with, there is no excuse for the Patriots going any less than 3-1. The Patriots with Tom Brady have easily a top three offense in the NFL, and even without him as the starter in September, the Patriots offense still has an abundance of talent. At tight end perennial Pro-Bowlers Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennent lead the way and will cause for many headaches for defensive coordinators in the red zone.That will happen when you have two 6-6, 275 pound monsters going up against your safeties and linebackers in coverage.
At wide receiver Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Keshawn Martin, and new comer Chris Hogan all should be extremely productive and will provide depth for the Patriots offense. In addition, the Patriots will have a passing option in the back field in Dion Lewis. He is coming back from a torn ACL, which has caused many to expect less from Lewis. Nevertheless, he only suffered a torn ACL and not MCL, which usually slows down the rehab process greatly. Therefore, expect him to be a resemblance of what he was in the beginning of 2015.
(GIF Credit: SBNation.com)
Of course none of this offensive fire power means a thing if the quarterback is getting put on the turf every other play. Although, the return of Dante Scarnecchia should turn what was a miserable offensive line in 2015, to a serviceable one in 2016. They stock piled depth at guard this offseason via the draft and through trades, and starting left tackle Nate Solder is returning from a torn bicep that he suffered in October last year that forced him to miss the remainder of the season.
In addition to Jimmy Garoppolo having a plethora of receivers, tight ends, and running backs to throw to, the defense on the other side of the ball is talented enough to the point where they can make up for the mistakes that are expected with a young quarterback. The front seven has a lot of beef with Terrance Knighton, Malcom Brown, and Alan Branch, along with newcomer Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard and Rob Ninkovich on the outside. Furthermore, the linebacking core is among the best in the NFL with Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower both playing for contracts this upcoming season. Expect the defensive front to transition to more of a 3-4 no that Chandler Jones is out of the picture.
The secondary still has some question marks, mostly the corner back position. Behind Malcolm Butler the depth chart is sporadic. You don’t know what you are going to get with the likes of Logan Ryan, Justin Coleman, and Daryl Roberts on a week-to-week basis, and Cyrus Jones is just a rookie second-rounder that could be hit or miss in his rookie season.
In the end, the Patriots roster 2-53 behind Tom Brady is nothing to snub your nose at. There is star power along with solid depth, and not to mention a hall of fame head coach. It won’t be the same product with out number 12 under center, but the end result should be close to the same.