The New England Patriots’ 2020 offseason is marked by major turnover. Not only did the team lose veteran assistant coaches Dante Scarnecchia and Joe Judge to retirement and the New York Giants, respectively, and had to let director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort leave to join the Tennessee Titans, it also saw the departures of some core on-field talent from the 2019 season: gone are quarterback Tom Brady, center Ted Karras, linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, and special teamer Nate Ebner.
While the Patriots do have some viable replacement options in the pipeline, the sheer level of lost talent in combination with the cancelation of offseason workouts due to the Coronavirus pandemic could pose a major problem for the organization — one that is among the league leaders in personnel turnover from last year to this one.
In fact, only three NFL teams will return fewer total snaps from last year than the reigning AFC East champions (via ESPN’s Field Yates):
28. Cleveland Browns: 67.9%
29. New England Patriots: 67.1%
30. Dallas Cowboys: 66.5%
31. New York Giants: 66.1%
32. Carolina Panthers: 46.9%
What the other teams on this list all have in common is the fact that they missed the playoffs and also hired new head coaches this offseason.
The Patriots, on the other hand, are still led by Bill Belichick and are coming off their 11th consecutive division title and playoff berth. Expectations for them are therefore different, and living up to them will be a challenge for the team in Year One after Tom Brady — mainly because of the aforementioned Covid-19-based circumstances surrounding the process of replacing him and the fellow veterans who left the team.
That said, the Patriots do have continuity at some key positions that could help them carry the squad as Brady’s likely replacement, second-year man Jarrett Stidham, is growing into his new role. Their league-best secondary, for example, remains largely intact, while the offensive line is getting a major boost due to guard Joe Thuney being retained via the franchise tag and center David Andrews receiving clearance to return to work after missing all of last year after blood clots were discovered in his lungs.
The players at those positions will play critical roles during the transition period from the Brady era to the Stidham era, with others — veterans Julian Edelman, Dont’a Hightower and Matthew Slater come to mind — also having to take on increase responsibility in the leadership department. The Patriots are therefore somewhat well equipped to handle the personnel turnover they are facing at the moment, even though this year will present the biggest obstacle to date when it comes to keeping the dynasty alive.
This also is true because New England’s projected main division rival, the Buffalo Bills, are leading the league in the continuity department from 2019 to 2020:
1. Buffalo Bills: 88.0%
2. Kansas City Chiefs: 84.7%
3. Indianapolis Colts: 82.7%
4. San Francisco 49ers: 82.6%
5. Pittsburgh Steelers: 82.4%
Buffalo is expected to give the Patriots a run for their money this year, and the stability within the team’s roster — one that also added wide receiver Stefon Diggs via trade — is a big reason behind that line of thinking. Whether it will help the Bills get over the hump and dethrone New England remains to be seen, but Sean McDermott’s squad appears to be in a solid position both when it comes to its overall level of talent and keeping it together over the course of the offseason.