Sunday 7: One Patriots player who absolutely needs to raise his game in 2020

Ryan Hannable
May 24, 2020 - 6:00 am
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1. Sony Michel’s first two years of his NFL career have been solid — over 900 yards rushing in both seasons, along with 13 touchdowns. And that doesn’t include his six touchdowns in the 2018 postseason. But, because he was selected in the first round, more was expected of him and thus he's been criticized at times for not doing enough. Now with Tom Brady out of the picture and the likelihood of Jarrett Stidham being the quarterback in 2020, Michel absolutely needs to have a big year given the running game will be depended on more than ever. Michel’s yards-per-carry went from 4.5 in 2018 to 3.7 last year, but some of that could be attributed to the down year from the offensive line and not having a fullback. This year, the Patriots went out and added fullback Dan Vitale following James Develin’s retirement and still have Jakob Johnson. The offensive line isn’t in bad shape either, especially if Joe Thuney stays through the year. The pieces seem to be in place for Michel and he needs to take advantage for the Patriots to be successful in 2020. Given the number of carries he should receive and pending he stays healthy, he should be able to rush for over 1,000 yards. It would also help if he could catch a few passes out of the backfield, as over his two years he’s totaled just 19. While there a few players on defense who will likely see their games take a step back this coming year, Michel is one who needs his to take a step forward.

2. A few people, including Rob Ninkovich, have come out and said Brian Hoyer, not Stidham, should start Week 1 for the Patriots. How does this make any sense? The Patriots need to see what they have in Stidham and by not throwing him out there to start the season they wouldn’t be accomplishing that. If Stidham looks good and shows promise, then the Patriots know they can stick with him moving forward. If he doesn’t, then it may be time to search for another QB for the future. Starting Hoyer doesn’t accomplish any of that, and in fact just potentially delays the future of the franchise another year.

3. While the Patriots have the best coach in the league, they are still at a major disadvantage this offseason by not being able to work in person at the Gillette Stadium facility. Teams that have the most continuity from 2019 will have the biggest advantage since they are already very familiar with one another. The Patriots offense is at the biggest disadvantage with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Stidham unable to spend time together in person, and Stidham not being able to get on the field with the rest of the offense.

4. While there was a lot of intrigue when it was first announced last week that ESPN will be airing a nine-part documentary in 2021 on Brady called, “Man in the Arena,” there likely won’t be much in it that we don’t already know. It is being produced by Gotham Chopra, who also produced Tom vs. Time, so it will be heavily slanted towards the quarterback's side. A much more intriguing doc would be produced by someone independent, such as NFL Films, and have interviews with Brady, Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft and more. Brady’s story has been told so many times, it feels like over-kill at this point. 

5. The Patriots could be doing themselves a disservice if they do not add a veteran interior offensive lineman before the start of the summer, especially one who has experience at center. While David Andrews has been cleared to return after missing last season with blood clots in his lungs, there is no real backup on the roster with Ted Karras now in Miami. It would make sense to bring someone in just as an insurance policy because right now it seems like Thuney is the only backup at the position and even he doesn't have much experience at it.

6. The same goes for wide receiver — another veteran addition seems necessary given the number of questions at the position. Julian Edelman is another year older, Mohamed Sanu is coming off of ankle surgery and then no one knows what N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers will be. While there aren’t many decent options still available, it would be wise of New England to try and find one to give the position more depth. While Marqise Lee and Damiere Byrd were added, they don’t feel like enough.

7. Sunday’s golf match between Phil Mickelson/Brady and Tiger Woods/Peyton Manning will be a must-watch. With really no sports, this will be the biggest sporting event in the month of May. The most intriguing thing will be the entertainment factor as Turner Sports is setting things up so the match can be as entertaining as possible. All four players will be mic’d up and also have IFBs in their ears, so they can hear what everyone is saying, including the commentators like Charles Barkley and Justin Thomas, while being able to respond in real-time.

Related: Prop bets for Brady/Mickelson vs. Manning/Woods showdown