The Patriots look strong through OTAs and it’s hard to find areas of weakness on this loaded roster.
With that being said, no team is perfect and there is always room for improvement. This was highlighted by head coach Bill Belichick who stated to the media, “It’s a new year it’s a new team so, we have a lot of new things and everybody’s starting all over again… I’m starting all over again the coaching staff is starting all over again the players are starting all over again… it’s a new year so we’ve all got a lot of work to do”.
While the team will be looking to improve in every facet of the game it’s important to focus on key areas that need improvement the most. I will focus on certain statistics that stood out to me as areas the Patriots need to focus on improving this season. These statistics include average yard per rush, recorded sacks, interceptions, and the all-important time of possession.
“It’s a new year it’s a new team so, we have a lot of new things and everybody’s starting all over again…” – Bill Belichick
Time of possession is a key statistic as most of the time the team with the highest time of possession wins the game. The Patriots actually possessed the ball longer than their opponents did last year, averaging a time of possession of 31:13 compared to opponents 28:47. The reason I still have it as an area in need of improvement is that I would like to see those numbers grow. A better time of possession differential will mean the Patriots are more in control of games and kept the opposing offense off the field. This will in-turn allow Tom Brady and the rest of the offense more opportunities to put points on the board.
Another area I feel is in need of improvement would be the average yards per rush by our running backs. As a whole last season, the Patriots backfield averaged 3.9 yards per rush which was around the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the league. Our rush defense was a strength last season and if we can compliment our rush defense with a stronger rushing attack that will wear out opposing teams and also help us win the time of possession. Newly acquired running back Mike Gillislee should help the team improve in this area.
The Patriots defense recorded 13 interceptions last season which ranked 15th last season and would like to see that number increase. Winning the turnover battle is crucial and while the Patriots did “win” last season with a +12 turnover differential, that number could’ve been a lot higher especially when considering the Patriots only threw 2 interceptions all season. That is why the Patriots snagged Stephon Gilmore as he is a ball-hawk in the secondary and recorded a career-high 5 interceptions last season and will look to build on that.
Lastly, the Patriots should look to increase their sack total from last season.
The defense recorded just 34 sacks after recording 49 the previous season. A drop-off of that nature is never good and should be a focus of attention heading into the season. Improvement in this area may be more difficult due to the departure of Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard who recorded 9 sacks combined. However, the addition of Kony Ealy should aid the team’s leading pass-rusher Trey Flowers, who has inside/outside flexibility, get more favorable matchups along the line. The Patriots will also try to utilize talented rookies Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise Jr. who are known for their natural pass-rushing skills.
The Patriots will be working vigorously to improve in these areas as the season is under 100 days away.
Thank you, now we are on to more sports talk.