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Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels needs to heed his own advice in 2020

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Related: Running backs project to be a focal point of the Patriots’ offense in 2020

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Entering the 2019 offseason coming off a Super Bowl win, the New England Patriots decided to add size to their offensive skill position group. Alongside returning veterans Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett, the team therefore invested a first-round draft pick in N’Keal Harry and also added Demaryius Thomas, Dontrelle Inman, Maurice Harris and Matt LaCosse in free agency — all while waiting for Josh Gordon to return from suspension.

Looking back on the roster construction process from today, we can say that the plan did not bring the desired results. Inman and Harris failed to make the team, Thomas was traded before appearing in a single game, Gordon was released a few weeks into the season, and LaCosse’s impact was minimal. The Patriots were attempting to build a big-bodied team on the offensive side of the ball, but eventually ended up as one without a clear identity.

In order to prevent something like this from happening again, the team will need to self-scout and figure out why the offseason acquisitions and initial idea for the offense did not work out last year. On top of this, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels needs to go back to a statement he made one year ago and heed his own advice:

“Whatever style you want to be, it should reflect the talents of your team.”

The veteran signal caller said this when asked about the team’s investments in tall pass catchers over the previous two months, but the message also rings true heading into 2020. After losing quarterback Tom Brady during the offseason, McDaniels and his offensive coaching staff — let alone head coach Bill Belichick — will have to find a way to do what they could not last year: create an offensive identity clearly built around the team’s talents.

What does this mean for the post-Brady Patriots, especially on the offensive side of the ball? Considering that the running back group is one of the deepest in football, the pass catching corps outside of Julian Edelman and James White still relatively green within the team’s system, and the offensive line a strength with David Andrews cleared to return, the natural instinct is to say that New England should build from the ground game up.

The NFL is a passing league, and projected starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham will need to show that he can carry the team if asked to, but the talent — in particular the proven one — suggests that McDaniels needs to form a unit similar to the one that helped the club win the Super Bowl back in February 2019: a smash mouth attack that effectively ran the football and forced teams into investing additional defensive resources to slow it down.

“You gotta look at who you have and what they do well, and then you gotta look at who are we playing and what are the best advantages we can gain this week,” McDaniels said back in 2019 when discussing the construction of his offense. “You try to, as many times as you can in the game, gain an advantage. Sometimes that’s with skill, sometimes that’s with size, sometimes that’s with tempo, sometimes that’s with play style or personnel groupings.”

Heading into 2020, it appears as if a focus on running the football is the easiest way to gain such an advantage considering New England’s current personnel and how it feeds off each other and in relation to the quarterback position. This does obviously not mean that the Patriots will suddenly turn into the Lamar Jackson-led Baltimore Ravens, though — Stidham is an adequate athlete but not that kind of an athlete.

If McDaniels wants to follow the guideline he talked about last year, however, he needs to recognize that creating an offensive style around the established talent is the easiest way to help his young passer grow into the starting position (especially in light of the current Coronavirus situation) while also lifting some pressure off a comparatively inexperienced group of wide receivers and tight ends. They all will need to make plays either way, such is the nature of the game these days, but their coordinator said it himself:

“Whatever style you want to be, it should reflect the talents of your team.”

Right now, and with obvious room for improvement elsewhere over the next few months, those talents are more easily found in the backfield and in the blocking up front than in the elements associated with the passing game.