The New England Patriots and the Arizona Cardinals are relative strangers to each other, given that they are only facing off every four years. Naturally, a lot changes between every game the two teams play, with the last meeting in 2016 — a 23-21 New England victory on opening weekend — no exception on both sides of the field. That is even more so the case in Arizona than with the Patriots, despite the latter’s recent personnel turnover.
Before getting ahead of ourselves, however, let’s take a look back at that game to find out how the two clubs have since changed.
The following seven players from the teams’ last meeting on September 11, 206 are still with the team:
C David Andrews, LS Joe Cardona, G Shaq Mason, S Devin McCourty, WR Matthew Slater, G Joe Thuney, RB James White
Offense: When the Patriots last played the Cardinals, Jimmy Garoppolo was starting in place of a suspended Tom Brady. Garoppolo had a very good game, but the team’s offense has changed drastically since then: he and Brady are both gone, as are all skill position players except James White and three out of four starting offensive linemen (David Andrews and Joe Thuney started at center and left guard, respectively, with Shaq Mason initially on the bench).
Defense: After the Patriots’ offseason exodus that saw the departures of Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Patrick Chung, only one member of the team’s defense remains from four years ago: Devin McCourty, who led the unit with nine tackles that day. McCourty is still a cornerstone of New England’s secondary and serving as its on-field signal caller this year with Hightower on the Coronavirus opt-out list.
Special teams: Long-time Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who made three field goals against the Cardinals in 2016 including the eventual game-winner, was released by the team this offseason and has been replaced by Nick Folk. Another noticeable change is the departure of punter Ryan Allen, who was let go last year in favor of Jake Bailey. Core coverage players Brandon Bolden, Nate Ebner and Brandon King are also no longer available.
Coaching staff: While the likes of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels are still running the show in New England, the rest of the coaching staff did see some turnover. The most prominent departees are long-time offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who retired this offseason and was replaced by Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo, as well as defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Since Patricia’s departure in early 2018, the Patriots are operating with an official coordinator on that side of the ball.
The following four players from the teams’ last meeting on September 11, 2016 are still with the team:
LB Markus Golden, OT D.J. Humphries, DT Josh Mauro, CB Patrick Peterson
Offense: While the Patriots have only one defender on their active roster from September 2016, the Cardinals have only one player left standing on offense: offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, who started that contest at right tackle. He now lines up on the left side, being joined by an all-new supporting cast. Gone are core players such as quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, with Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins replacing them leading the unit now.
Defense: Arizona does have some more continuity on defense, but still only three players remaining from four years ago in Markus Golden, Josh Mauro and cornerback Patrick Peterson — three men expected to play a starting role come Sunday’s game versus the Patriots. This also means that former pillars of the unit such as Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones and Tyrann Mathieu are no longer available.
Special teams: The Cardinals will field a new group of specialists come Sunday — including place kicker Zane Gonzalez as the their to Chandler Catanzaro, who missed the eventual game-winner when New England visited in 2016. Also no longer part of the unit is coverage cornerback Justin Bethel, who is now a key member of the Patriots’ special teams group.
Coaching staff: Bruce Arians coached the Cardinals in 2016 but has since retired, joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and eventually been succeeded in his position by Kliff Kingsbury. Also gone are the coordinators on both sides of the ball as well as the vast majority of assistant coaches. In fact, only defensive line coach Brentson Buckner is still with the club to this day.