New England Patriots: Loading Up For Another Super Bowl Run

Oct 18, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (right) with owner Robert Kraft before the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 18, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (right) with owner Robert Kraft before the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports /

The New England Patriots are sending a message to the league and to their fans this offseason that they are all in on ring number 5.

The New England Patriots have arguably been the most active team in the NFL this offseason, making splashes in free agency, the trade market, and restructuring deals with current players. A signal to their fans and to the other 31 teams across the league that they will once again be a force to be reckoned with in 2016.

The Patriots entered this offseason with nearly all of their core intact and only a few glaring needs. One aspect of the team that certainly needed to be addressed this offseason was the offensive line.

While the team hasn’t signed a marquee player at an offensive line position, they did bring back well respected O-Line Coach Dante Scarnecchia. The Patriots also added some depth with former 1st round pick Jonathan Cooper, who was acquired from the Cardinals along with a second round pick in the Chandler Jones trade.

Although the team hasn’t made any flashy moves regarding the offensive line, it is almost certainly a position the Patriots will address in the draft. On top of that, well established left tackle Nate Solder, who was injured for the majority of last season with torn biceps, should be healthy and back to form entering the 2016 season.

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Last season, the New England Patriots’ offense struggled mightily after injuries to several key players such as Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and Dion Lewis. After starting the season 10-0, the Patriots dropped 4 of their last 6 games and handed home field advantage to the Denver Broncos. Many would argue that had the AFC Championship Game been played in New England, the Patriots may already have ring number 5 in their collection.

This offseason the Pats added some much needed depth on offense. If the team sees a player like Edelman or Gronkowski go down again in 2016, it seems as if Tom Brady and the offense will have enough weapons to sustain a dynamic offensive gameplan.

Perhaps the most significant signing on the offensive side of the ball was bringing in former Bears tight end Martellus Bennett. Bennett, who was originally drafted by the Cowboys in 2008, spent 4 years in Dallas and 1 year with the New York Giants before joining the Bears in 2013.

Martellus Bennett
Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

In 3 seasons with Chicago, 29 year old Bennett caught over 200 passes, tallying up 2,114 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl in 2014 after putting up career highs in receptions (90) yards (916) and touchdowns (6). Bennett, like Gronkowski is known for his freakish athleticism and his ability to run after the catch. While he certainly hasn’t put up Gronk like numbers in his career to this point, the two have a similar skill set that should prove valuable to a Patriots offense that strives with two tight ends sets.

In addition to signing Martellus Bennett, the New England Patriots also added Wide Receivers Chris Hogan and Nate Washington. While Hogan’s numbers have been less than stellar after coming into the league as an undrafted free agent with the Buffalo Bills in 2012, the 27 year old has seen a significant increase in production over the last two seasons.

While Hogan’s numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, he has been praised by coaches and players for his devoted work ethic and his determination to better himself in every facet of the game. Something that certainly stuck out to coach Bill Belichick while scouting the former Bills receiver.

"“Every year I’m in the league, I’m just soaking in every little bit of knowledge I can about the position … Every year I feel I’ve gotten better.” – Chris Hogan"

Here are some quotes from, and on Chris Hogan that can assure Pats fans he is a good fit in New England.

It is fair to say that Hogan is still a work in progress. Nate Washington however, has played 11 seasons in the league and has established himself as a solid 2nd or 3rd option in most offenses he’s been a part of. In each of the last 6 seasons Washington has had at least 600 yards receiving, including the 2011 season in which he caught 74 passes for 1,023 yards for the Tennessee Titans.

The veteran has put up decent numbers as a number 2 or 3 receiver and in New England he will almost certainly not be a second or third option.  Nate will provide a veteran presence and add some valuable depth at receiver incase of injuries. He and Tom should develop a decent chemistry fairly quick, being that they are both seasoned vets.

Staying on the offensive side of the ball, the New England Patriots also added a few players that will certainly see their fair share of snaps as role players. Running back Donald Brown (a first round pick in 2009) and tight end Clay Harbor were both added to the Patriots offense in free agency.

Donald Brown will add some depth at the RB position, and Clay Harbor can play both Tight End and Fullback, giving Bill Belichick some more versatility on offense.

If the Patriots key players on offense can stay healthy, this team will be even better on the offensive side of the ball in 2016. Martellus Bennett gives Brady another legitimate weapon, and the additions of Hogan, Washington, Brown, and Harbor give the Patriots the one thing they lacked on offense in 2015 …depth.

In the last 10 years the Patriots have understandably been identified as an offensive team. When you have the greatest Quarterback of all time that may not be a very hard task to accomplish. But in addition to having a dynamic offense, the 2015 Patriots also had a top 10 defense.

Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, and Malcolm Butler established themselves as some of the best young defensive players in the game. Jamie Collins and Malcolm Butler were both named pro bowlers for the first time in their young careers, and Dont’a Hightower played at a pro bowl level all season. Chandler Jones was also a productive pass rusher in 2015, but finds himself as the odd man out and the only key defensive player who will not be starting for the Patriots defense in 2016.

While Jones was undoubtedly a key part of the Patriots defense, finishing 5th in the NFL in sacks with 12.5, it was unrealistic that the Patriots would be able to resign Jones, Collins, Hightower, and Butler who all have expiring contracts in 2017. By trading Jones, the Patriots have allowed themselves the possibility of resigning two of the best young linebackers, and one of the best young cornerbacks in the league to long term contracts.

Despite trading Chandler Jones, the New England Patriots were still able to bolster their front seven this offseason. The team added former 2nd overall pick Chris Long along with Terrance Knighton, Frank Kearse, Shea McClellin, and special teamer Ramon Humber.

Long, who remained healthy for each of his first 6 seasons in the league, has found it difficult to stay on the field in the last two seasons. In 2014 the former Rams defensive end only played in 6 games, and while that number jumped to 12 this past season, Long’s production has been well below expectations. There is some optimism however, that Long will be able to resurge his career in New England due to the fact that he will get the chance to play for a contending team that may not have the highest expectations for him.

Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton will provide the team with stability up the middle. Knighton has the ability to clog the middle as well as disrupt the passing game with his size and strength. With the additions of both Knighton and Frank Kearse to go along with Malcolm Brown and Dominique Easley, the Patriots seem to be well equipped in the middle of the defensive line.

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McClellin, who was drafted 19th overall by the Bears in 2012, will provide some depth and versatility at the linebacker position. Something the Patriots needed to address after the retirement of Jerod Mayo.

With the NFL Draft around the corner I expect the Patriots to address a few more needs on the defensive side of the ball including the cornerback position. Malcolm Butler solidified himself as a legitimate number one corner this past season, and Logan Ryan proved that when he can stay consistent he is capable of being a solid number two, but I believe the team still needs to add some talented depth at the position and I expect them to do that through the draft.

While the Patriots didn’t sign a “big name” free agent like Olivier Vernon, Malik Jackson, or Alex Mack, the team has done exactly what it has needed to do by adding some very talented players that will provide depth on both sides of the ball.

New England Patriots
Jan 24, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) with tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) and wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The team already has marquee players in place to be a dominant team once again in 2016. Had the Patriots remained healthy or had the depth in 2015 that they will have in 2016, the team could have made a legitimate run at another undefeated season. However, injuries once again became a huge factor down the line and exposed the Patriots at positions in which they did not have much depth. It appears that will not be the case this season as the Patriots are equipping themselves with talent and depth at all of those positions. Belichick will not make the same mistake again.

It is still only April. The draft is still around the corner and that is usually where the New England Patriots acquire most of their talent. That being said, the Patriots are already early favorites to win the Super Bowl and top early NFL Power Rankings.

All signs point to New England once again being dominant, and making another run at yet another Lombardi Trophy. While legacies have already been established, the Patriots seem unwilling to stop adding to those legacies. 2016 should be another exciting season for Patriots fans everywhere.