Sunday 7: Bold Patriots predictions for 2019

Ryan Hannable
July 14, 2019 - 6:00 am
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1. Damien Harris will contribute most at running back

The running back position has quite a bit of depth, including Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead, but ultimately it will be Harris, the rookie out of Alabama, that makes the biggest impact. Harris seems to be in a position to take some carries away from Michel as the team looks to preserve his durability, but he also has the ability to catch passes out of the backfield. This isn’t saying he will be more valuable than White, because he won't, but he will likely rack up more total yards as he will get a number of carries as well as a few opportunities to catch the ball out of the backfield.

2. Jerod Mayo ends up calling defensive plays at some point

The former Patriots linebacker was very active and vocal this spring as the new inside linebackers coach, which led some to believe he may call the plays given his playing experience and Greg Schiano, who was rumored to be the defensive coordinator, suddenly departing in March. It was reported the plan isn’t for Mayo to call the plays, at least for this year, but don’t discount the chance that Bill Belichick hands over the keys to Mayo at some point during the season. Mayo has drawn a ton of praise in his first few months as a coach and he seems ready as any first-year coach could be to handle the play-calling duties.

3. Kyle Van Noy will be a Pro Bowler

Van Noy continues to get better and better each year, and this may be the one where he breaks out on a national scale. The Patriots will likely ask him to do a number of different things and that can be where he stands out, whether it is rushing the passer as an edge rusher or playing more of a traditional linebacker spot. Some of his numbers when it comes to all the different things he can do are up there with some of the NFL’s best defenders and this could be the year it finally gets noticed.

4. Undrafted rookie Andrew Beck makes impact

The tight end position certainly is the one that lacks the most depth on the team right now, especially with Ben Watson suspended the first four games, and it could be Beck that reaps the benefits most. The undrafted rookie out of Texas got the most money from the team following the draft, so clearly it views him highly, and the Patriots have a tremendous track record of UDFAs making the 53-man roster and even contributing in games. Do not be surprised to see Beck have a couple hundred yards receiving and multiple touchdown receptions.

5. Derek Rivers will have breakout season

It’s been a tough start to Rivers’ career as he missed his rookie season following tearing his ACL during training camp and then only recorded one sack in eight games last year. But, despite all this Belichick always seems to have positive things to say about the Youngstown State product and this just feels like the year he takes his game to another level. This isn’t to say he will have double-digit sacks, but we could definitely see him in the 4-7 range.

6. Isaiah Wynn starts Week 1 at left tackle and has no issues

The second-year player missed the majority of the spring as he continues to work his way back from an Achilles injury that forced him to miss all of last season. Joe Thuney took the majority of the snaps he missed, but it’s been reported Wynn will be ready to go come training camp. There’s some concern without any NFL experience he won’t be able to handle sliding in and immediately protecting Tom Brady’s blindside, but he showed enough last summer and will get tremendous coaching from Dante Scarnecchia that it shouldn’t be an issue at all.

7. Rob Gronkowski does not make comeback

The vast majority of people seem to believe Gronkowski will return at some point during the season and that gained even more steam this past week when he caught passes from Brady at UCLA. But, it just seems hard to really see Gronkowski returning. What else does he have to accomplish? What hasn’t he proven already? Also, it would be asking a lot to get his body back into football shape considering how much weight he’s lost since last season ended. It just feels like the tight end is enjoying retirement and that won’t change even when the games begin.

Related: Patriots TE Camp Competition: Life after Gronk