Following Nick Folk’s final second game-winning field goal, the New England Patriots have limped their way to a 3-5 record at the midway point of the season. When talking about the Patriots’ lack of overall roster talent, we have grown accustomed to focusing on New England’s lack of offensive weapons. While this team still very much lacks dynamic offensive weapons, the 2020 Patriots season has featured several defensive hiccups which we have not seen in some time. The Patriots’ front seven has been entirely atrocious and to say they have struggled to stop their opponents’ rushing attack would be putting it nicely. New England currently ranks 25th in rushing defense, giving up an average of 131 rushing yards per game.
For an offense that largely relies on the success of their rushing attack in order to control the time of possession, having a defense who allows opponents to do the same is not a recipe for winning football. Unfortunately, New England’s inability to stop the run has little to do with player effort or defensive scheme and everything to do with this roster simply not having the talent which it so desperately needs. As the trade deadline has passed, there is not much hope for talent acquisition this season. Although, with just over $64 million in projected 2021 cap space, the Patriots should be focused on rebuilding their team with balance on all levels.
New England Patriots Roster: Biggest 2021 Needs
Interior Defensive Line
Make no mistake, New England’s linebacking corps is a liability right now, but their interior defensive line is worse. Moreover, the Patriots future at linebacker does not look nearly as bleak as Dont’a Hightower should return next season and rookies Anfernee Jennings and Josh Uche will have a full off-season to improve. However, the defensive line is an entirely different story as both starting defensive tackles, Adam Butler and Lawrence Guy, are set to be free agents this spring. As it stands now, the only defensive tackles under contract past this season are Byron Cowart, Beau Allen, Isaiah Mack, and Michael Barnett. It is perfectly fine if you are struggling to recognize these names as they are average players at best. Historically, New England has not loved the idea of playing rookies at any defensive position and I would not expect them to break from that philosophy in 2021. There are multiple quality interior defenders set to be on the market this spring such as Sheldon Rankins, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Larry Ogunjobi.
The tight end position has been an absolute nightmare for the Patriots since the departure of Rob Gronkowski. While New England attempted to address the position this off-season by drafting both Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in the third round, both players are now on injured reserve. The two may still develop and work out down the road, but getting meaningful production out of them in 2021 feels like a long shot. The Patriots desperately need a solid veteran presence at the position and they will have options with players such as Hunter Henry, Gerald Everett, and Jonnu Smith set to be free agents this spring.
Perhaps the most widely known fact throughout the league is how poor New England’s receiving corps has been. Julian Edelman recently underwent yet another knee surgery and will be 35 next season. Furthermore, N’Keal Harry has missed the past two games with a concussion and looks as though he is yet another Belichick receiver bust. It is time for the Patriots to heavily invest financial resources at wide receiver as they have proven they are completely untrustworthy when it comes to drafting and developing receivers. Fortunately, there will be some big names on the open market such as Allen Robinson, Will Fuller, Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, and JuJu Smith-Schuster.