It’s safe to say that we’ve got something better to talk about this time around.
Tom Brady is making his return to Foxborough on Sunday night, setting the stage for one of the most hyped up regular season sporting events in history. Along his side will be another former Patriots great in Rob Gronkowski, as well as a supporting cast of superstars, all looking to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
On the other side will be a slow starting Patriots team that is looking to avoid their first 1-3 start since 2001, Brady’s first year under center. They’ll be lead by rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who was handpicked by Bill Belichick to replace the 44-year old MVP candidate, and lead his franchise into the future.
Emotions are sure to be running high on Sunday. But before we get there, let us delve into the roster changes a bit more, and show just how truly different these teams will look from their last meeting on Oct. 5, 2017.
The following 13 players from the last meeting with Tampa Bay are still on the Patriots’ active roster:
C David Andrews, G Shaq Mason, LB Dont’a Hightower, LB Kyle Van Noy, S Devin McCourty, DT Lawrence Guy, ST Matthew Slater, CB Jonathan Jones, ST Brandon King, RB Brandon Bolden, LS Joe Cardona, OL Ted Karras, DL Deatrich Wise Jr.
Offense: The entire offense has undergone a major overhaul since 2017. As we all know, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Other starters from that game like Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, Marcus Cannon, and Chris Hogan are dispersed around the league, while guys like Dwayne Allen, Mike Gillislee, and James Develin are all out of the league.
Defense: The Patriots have four starters that carry over from that 2017 squad in Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, and Lawrence Guy. Deatrich Wise Jr., was a rookie reserve player on that team who has turned into a consistent starter as well. Other players like Adam Butler, Trey Flowers, Elandon Roberts, and Malcom Brown have long since moved on. Stephon Gilmore was on that team but will not play this week as he is on the PUP list.
Special teams: Long snapper Joe Cardona is the lone holdover specialist from the Patriots’ last meeting with Tampa Bay. Nick Folk was kicking for the Buccaneers in that 2017 game (missing all three of his field goal attempts), while Jake Bailey was in college punting for the Stanford Cardinal. They’ve since replaced Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen who handled kicking and punting duties throughout 2017. Matthew Slater and Brandon King both made their contributions on special teams as well.
Coaching staff: Despite Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, and Matt Patricia — the head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator from the 2017 season — still being around, the Patriots’ staff looks vastly different than it did in 2017.
Steve Belichick is the defacto defensive coordinator, taking over for new special assistant Matt Patricia following his departure for the Detroit Lions. Carmen Bricillo has taken over for legendary offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. Demarcus Covington has replaced Brendan Daly as defensive line coach. Mick Lombardi took over for Chad O’Shea as wide receivers coach. Mike Pellegrino replaced Josh Boyer as cornerbacks coach. Jerod Mayo is now the inside linebackers coach, replacing current Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, while current New York Giants head coach Joe Judge was replaced by Cameron Achord as special teams coach.
The following 7 players from the last meeting are still on the Buccaneers’ active roster:
WR Chris Godwin, TE O.J. Howard, TE Cameron Brate, OL Ali Marpet, OL Donovan Smith, WR Mike Evans, DL William Gholston
Offense: Despite only having retained seven players from the 2017 matchup, Tampa Bay’s pass catchers won’t look all that different. Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, O.J. Howard, and Cameron Brate will be joined by former Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown to receive the chunk of Brady’s targets. The running game, however; will look a bit different, with every single lineman and running back save for Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith being added to their roster since that game.
Defense: William Gholston is the only player remaining on Tampa’s defense since 2017. Lavonte David —a longtime Buccaneer— was inactive in that last matchup, meaning New England will see a lot of new faces. Some of the players they have matched up with in the past include Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, and Shaquil Barrett.
Special teams: Kicker Ryan Succop, punter Bradley Pinion, and long snapper Carson Tinker are all new additions to the Tampa Bay specialist group since 2017. Patriots’ kicker Nick Folk was with the Buccaneers in that matchup, working alongside new Cowboys’ punter Bryan Anger, and current free agent Garrison Sanborn.
Coaching staff: There isn’t a single coach remaining from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2017 coaching staff. Bruce Arians replaced Dirk Koetter following the 2018 season and Brough along his old staff. The highlights are, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong.