We are just a little over a month away from Patriots camp officially opening, and with some time between now and then, how do some bold takes sound for the time being? Now these won't be anything like "Mac Jones will win MVP" or "The Patriots will win the Super Bowl" or anything of the sort, more reasonable takes all things considered. Do I expect every single one of these to hit? No, but with that said, I think all of these have some level of a chance to happen, even if they're bold scenarios.
No. 1: The Patriots' Red Zone Offense Will Go from 32nd to Top Three
Of the five takes here, this is the one I feel most confident that can come to pass. I don't think I need to remind people just how bad things were inside the 20 on offense, but no team was worse in the red zone than the Patriots in 2022. Now that they have some stability and game-calling sense at offensive coordinator for the first time since 2011 and could potentially deploy a red zone look of DeAndre Hopkins, Tyquan Thornton/DeVante Parker/Kendrick Bourne, Mike Gesicki, Hunter Henry, and Rhamondre Stevenson, they should have plenty of quality opportunities to pound it in for six this season.
If you're wanting to know a benchmark number, the average touchdown scoring percentage of the last three sets of top three red zone offenses is 70.21%. The high end of those nine teams was the 2020 Green Bay Packers (76.81%), and the low end is the 2021 Seattle Seahawks (64.58%). There's also some merit for this for the fact the New York Giants and Detroit Lions, after finishing 31st and 32nd in 2021 respectively, each pole-vaulted into the top five last year.
No. 2: The Patriots' Defense will lead the NFL in Sacks and Takeaways
Some teams, the Patriots just last year included, have been close to leading the league in both sacks and takeaways over the last decade in the same season, but only the 2019 Steelers have been able ly accomplish that feat. I think the 2023 Patriots join them, even with some likely stiff competition from the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles in that race. Last year this group was third in sacks, and first in takeaways. I will confidently say I expect the Patriots to lead the league in takeaways once again, but now with the Eagles losing Javon Hargrave, who was a big part of their pass rush attack up the middle, that should open things up at the top of the food chain, and the Patriots will capitalize.
No. 3: Rhamondre Stevenson Becomes the First Patriot to hit 1700 Scrimmage Yards since Corey Dillon in 2004
With no more Damien Harris and some question marks behind him on the depth chart, there might not be a better time than now to round up some 'Mondre stock for yourself. Coming off the heels of a 1040 rushing yard and 421 receiving yardage campaign, the Oklahoma product should be expected to continue his upward trend in production in year three. I don't think he'll be as much of a receiving back with Ty Montgomery likely to start the year as the designated pass-catching back again. However, Stevenson hitting anywhere from 1200-1450 rushing yards and having enough receiving yards to get over the hump isn't a stretch. Also, Corey Dillon was awesome, just felt like that needed to be said.
No. 4: Josh Uche Ties or Comes up Just Shy of Tying the Patriots' Single-Season Sacks Record
Once Josh Uche broke out at the midway point of last season, there were only a handful of better pass rushers in the NFL. Don't believe me? Look at these numbers.
Notable Pass Rushers from Weeks 9-18
Tackles For Loss
Uche isn't an every-down player, but they didn't get things rolling with him until after he was inactive in Weeks 6 and 7. After that, he took around 4 out of every 10 snaps for the Patriots and did all that damage. For that reason alone, if he hits the ground running this year, I can't rule out the possibility of him reaching Andre Tippett territory. Keep in mind as well, there are some top-tier offensive lines, specifically tackle pairs, the Patriots will face this year (Eagles, Chiefs, and Cowboys most notably), but also some units that are on the opposite end of the spectrum/have question marks for the time being (namely the Commanders, Raiders, Saints, and Jets).
No. 5: Kyle Dugger Will Make First-Team All-Pro
Of the 50 people who decided on last season's All-Pro Team, just one gave a first-team nod to now fourth-year safety Kyle Dugger. I think this year, that number gets exponentially bigger and the probability of him ending up First-Team All-Pro is higher than you might think. Not many safeties in the league have Dugger's blend of raw talent, versatility, football IQ, and play strength, to begin with, and the production from a numbers standpoint has been optimal these last two years. Enough to where he should get heavy consideration anyway. This may also be considered a hot take, I think Dugger is the best player on this team.
Main Image Via: