Besides QB, what is biggest question facing Patriots in 2020?

WEEI
May 20, 2020 - 11:59 am
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Obviously, the biggest question facing the Patriots in 2020 is how will they do without Tom Brady at quarterback, but that isn't the only question.

The team underwent a number of changes this offseason and could potentially look different on both sides of the ball.

Andy Hart and Ryan Hannable debated this topic -- what is the biggest question facing the Patriots in 2020 besides quarterback -- in their latest Off Day debate.

You can vote at the end of the post.

Running game

Plenty of pundits and fans have proposed the idea of the post-Tom Brady Patriots focusing on running the ball and playing defense. It’s a sound theory and New England still has the core of a solid defense. But, is the Sony Michel-led rushing game really up to carrying the bulk of the load for the New England offense? There have to be major questions in that area. Last season, with the threat of Brady’s pass-first approach still in the mix, Michel averaged a mere 3.7 yards per attempt on nearly 250 carries. That led to the Patriots averaging 3.8 yards a carry as a team, the NFL’s 25th rushing attack based on average per attempt and 18th based on yards per game. Whether it was the line’s fault, poor running by Michel or a combination, the fact is that New England returns a below-average ground game. Maybe the line will be healthier and better, despite the retirement of legendary coach Dante Scarnecchia. Maybe Michel will return to his rookie postseason success, even without Pro Bowl fullback James Develin, who’s now retired. But the reality is that defenses will likely key on the Patriots rushing attack and tempt Jarrett Stidham (or Brian Hoyer) to beat them. It will be even tougher for Michel (or maybe second-year third-round pick Damien Harris) to get going. Like the offense as a whole, there are more questions than answers right now regarding the Patriots rushing attack heading into 2020.

-- Andy Hart

Defense taking step back

The defense went through a lot of changes this offseason by losing players such as Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Danny Shelton, etc. and really didn't do much to replace them, unless you count Kyle Dugger, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings via the draft. While these players will help the unit down the road, it's likely their impacts will be minimal in 2020. Given all that's happened, it's unlikely the unit will able to be first in overall defense and first in points allowed like it was last year. How big will the drop off be is the biggest question facing the team in 2020. And given what the offense will look like without Tom Brady, the defense is going to need to win a number of games for the team. This means not allowing more than 20 points on a week-to-week basis. It is also worth noting a number of the best players on the defense are getting up there in age, so it's no guarantee they won't take steps back, either. Given the importance of the defense, how much of a step back it takes is the biggest question going into 2020.

-- Ryan Hannable

Related: Patriots No. 1 defense striving for ‘perfection’