The defending Super Bowl Champions are going to need to do a whole lot of work over the next few months if they want to win a second consecutive championship next season. They have a number of holes on their roster and their coaching staff that may cause some serious issues in 2019.
Some of the Patriots roster deficiencies are obvious. Their receiver corps is lacking both depth and talent. Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett are currently the only two receivers on their roster with significant NFL experience.
Their defensive line is also barren, with Lawrence Guy one of the few standouts left. They need immense help at defensive tackle, with a serious lack of depth after the departures of Malcolm Brown and Danny Shelton. The team's defensive end situation is nearly as frightening. Deatrich Wise and Derek Rivers are currently the top two starters, which is not a good sign for the team's pass rush in 2019.
On top of those issues, tight end has officially become a serious area of need as well. Rob Gronkowski's retirement has left an un-fillable hole on the team in both the run and pass games. This has also made Dwayne Allen's departure for Miami hurt a lot more than it did before. The team is left with Jacob Hollister filling the starting tight end role. This is not even close to an ideal scenario for the team.
The other area nearly as barren for New England is their defensive coaching staff. Many of their defensive coaches have departed throughout this offseason, including Defensive Coordinator/linebackers coach Brian Flores and defensive line coach Brendan Daly. Safeties coach Steve Belichick is now the longest-tenured defensive coach on the Patriots staff (not including his father).
Things got even worse this past week. Former Rutgers and Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano had been set to become the Patriots defensive coordinator for 2019. However, last week he announced that he was stepping down from this position because he needed to spend more time with his family. While Pro Football Talk reported that this decision did not come as a surprise to Bill Belichick, it makes things more complicated for the team moving forward.
One of the most important factors in New England's two decades of success has been coaching stability. Even beyond Belichick, the Patriots have had an extremely stable coaching tree compared to most other NFL franchises. For example, they have had less than a dozen different offensive and defensive coordinators during Belichick's tenure. Some teams have had more head coaching changes than that.
Heading into 2019 with a completely new defensive coaching staff is going to have an impact on the team's performance. Even if Belichick takes more of a direct role in calling the defense, it still won't be the same. Depending on who the Patriots bring in to run the defense, there could be some bumps in the road early on.
Belichick did make a great move by bringing in former Patriot linebacker Jerod Mayo as the team's linebackers coach. Mayo will be able to connect with New England's defenders because of his experience and high football IQ. However, the team still needs a schematic direction and a defensive coordinator to fill that need.
It will be interesting to see what the Patriots do over the next few weeks. The NFL Draft and voluntary workouts are both right around the corner. It would be best for New England to have their defensive coaches set before these happen. This would allow a new coordinator to begin building relationships with the Patriots numerous defensive veterans.
For the first time in a long time, the Patriots offseason may actually contain more questions than answers. Much of their success or failure next season could come from the team's decisions over the next few weeks.