The New England Patriots have been on a mission in the early days of the free agency period and have added several quality players to their roster in next-to-no time. Tight end duo Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry were the headline acquisitions by the Patriots. They further bolstered their offense by signing wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor.
They also revamped their defense, adding standout linebacker Matthew Judon to the pass rush. Lineman Henry Anderson, defensive back Jalen Mills and tackle Davon Godchaux will also join Judon on the new-look Patriots defense next season. Not a bad haul for coach Belichick so far!
With all this new talent on the roster and the return of Cam Newton for another season in New England, just how high can Patriots fans now begin to aim? How many wins will this New England team have in 2021, and what is the roster's ultimate ceiling?
Let's take a look:
How will the New England Patriots line up in the 2021 NFL season?
Most analysts agree that the New England Patriots are likely to line up with Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith on the field together.
A healthy Hunter Henry is a tier-one tight end in the NFL and, if he stays fit, even with Cam Newton under center, I'd expect to see him reach over 500 receiving yards receiving and five touchdowns. Add to that Jonnu Smith's versatility and ability to gain extra yards after catch and contact, and things start to look pretty exciting on the offensive side of the ball.
I'd expect to see Smith utilized much more than he was in Tennessee. The Florida International University graduate has proven himself a reliable target in the red zone but has never been targeted enough to post great numbers. That might change this year, and Smith could easily end up with over 500 yards and five touchdowns with his new franchise.
The Patriots had a lot of success running a two-tight end system back in the day with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The two-tight end system is excellent for countering the 3-4 defensive formation and could help the Patriots create more opportunities downfield for Newton.
Also Read: What is Rob Gronkowski’s Net Worth?
Running back Damien Harris showed enough ability to warrant Belichick's continued confidence. The Alabama alumni averaged five yards per carry in 2020 and Patriots fans were pleased with his full-throttle style of running with the ball.
The Patriots are still heavily linked with running backs Chris Carson and Leonard Fournette, who were released by the Seahawks and Buccaneers, respectively. A new running back will be a priority for the Patriots ahead of the new season and either one of the two will be a real coup for the team.
If one of Fournette or Carson were to join Harris, the running back unit could amass more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage in 2021.
Jakobi Myers is likely to continue as a slot receiver, but expect Nelson Agholor to slide straight into the Patriots' starting lineup as WR1.
Last year, Agoholor amassed 896 receiving yards and eight TDs through with the Las Vegas Raiders. If he can manage something similar with the Patriots, it would go a long way in helping the team eke out a few more wins next season.
The concern, however, is more with QB Cam Newton, who had significant issues throwing the ball last year. Personally, I think Agholor's stats come down a little without Derek Carr throwing him the ball, but that he still offers enough to improve the Pats receiving corps.
With that in mind, the new-look Patriots starting offense is probably going to line up something like this:
QB: Cam Newton
RB: Chris Carson/Leonard Fournette/Damien Harris
TE1: Hunter Henry
TE2: Jonnu Smith
WR1: Nelson Agholor
WR2: Jakobi Myers
The Patriots added some top-quality players to what was already a solid defensive unit. Ranked eighth in the NFL for average yards-against last season and featuring the likes of Stephen Gilmore, the Patriots' pass coverage is still one of the meanest in the league. The new additions, notably Judon, Mills and Anderson, should help improve the pass defense and also shore up a run defense that was below-par in 2020 (ranked 24th in the NFL).
In the Belichick era, the Patriots defense has traditionally been stingy. The addition of three quality players on defense plus the return of Dont'a Hightower and Patrick Chung will certainly improve the defense tremendously next season.
How many wins will the new-look New England Patriots have in 2021?
With everything considered, how many wins will New England have in 2021? The Patriots will be disappointed with anything fewer than 10 wins this season, however, they could potentially win up to 12 games and reclaim the AFC East throne from the Buffalo Bills.