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Hot Takes for the 2024 New England Patriots

With a little under a month before the Patriots officially kick off the Jerod Mayo era with full team activities, and with the recent heatwave in New England, what's a better time than now to fire off some hot takes for the 2024 Pats?

Now, we're not going to make things super obvious. We all already know that Bryce Barringer will unanimously win MVP, New England will storm into Levi's Stadium and beat the 49ers 56-0, and Christian Barmore will hit 25 sacks; we get all of that. But with that said, here are six hot takes for this year's team that will surely age well.


The Patriots Will Enter the Regular Season Without a Set Deep Safety Option

It's not that I'd view this as a bad thing, given the Patriots' outright safety talent, but they never did find someone to fill the void left by Devin McCourty, and there were occasions when that hurt them in '23. Kyle Dugger and Jabrill Peppers could give you snaps deep if you needed them to (even Christian Gonzalez got some centerfield snaps against the Jets), but those two are better served near the LOS; ditto for Marte Mapu, who also had some two-deep snaps to his name.

Not that this would be a guarantee, but would Jerod Mayo give chances for guys like Isaiah Bolden or Marcellas Dial to carve themselves out a role? I liked most of what Bolden did at corner last summer, but Deion Sanders used him at free safety occasionally at Jackson State. That would be something I'd like to see this coaching staff try out, simply to give Bolden the best shot to make this roster, and if it doesn't work, you know he can give you competitive snaps at corner.

The First Time We See Drake Maye Take a Meaningful Snap Will Be No Earlier Than Week 15

Given that this is in the first tier of three, I feel pretty confident in this one. If Drake Maye isn't ready to go in the opening half of this season, that's perfectly fine for where this team is at, especially if the offensive line isn't up to snuff. Even if Jacoby Brissett struggles, I think Jerod Mayo and Alex Van Pelt will stick with him all the way up until the Patriots' very late Week 14 bye. Afterward, I wouldn't be stunned to see Maye get at least one start. Potentially getting in two starts against the Bills in a three-week span would be very interesting, especially if the Bills aren't a lock to win the AFC East.

Tyquan Thornton and Juju Smith-Schuster Will Not Make the 53-Man Roster

Something will ultimately have to give in this year's receiver room. New England has spent four picks on wideouts these last two years and also brought in K.J. Osborn, bringing them up to 13 on the roster at the time of writing. It'd be fair to call Osborne, Pop Douglas, Ja'Lynn Polk, Javon Baker, and Kendrick Bourne five locks right away, making that sixth spot a bit of a mystery.

Realistically, I'd say that will come down to Tyquan Thornton, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Jalen Reagor. The former pair gave the Patriots a combined one (1) special teams snap last season. Especially given the new kickoff rules, where I think you see some teams do some freaky stuff in the return game now, I have a hard time seeing Thornton or Juju making this roster when Reagor gives them a clear option on kickoffs. Not to mention, as well, they have more reliable receiving talent ahead of them on the depth chart as it is already.


Pop Douglas Becomes the First Patriot Receiver to Hit the 100 Reception Mark Since 2019

Since Julian Edelman's final fully healthy season, no Patriots player has even hit the 90 reception mark, let alone 100. That pendulum is going to swing the other way sooner or later, and seeing as he's the guy with the most juice in the receiver room at the moment, Douglas feels like a natural target to join both Edelman and Wes Welker as Patriot receivers with 100+ catch seasons since 2012.

Even with only seven starts, 14 games played, and a visit to the doghouse in Week 2, Pop still picked up 49 grabs on 79 targets. To put that in perspective, his 62% catch rate was better than 9 of the NFL's 28 1000-yard receivers, notably including Garrett Wilson, Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, and Davante Adams. Reliability was a big reason Bailey Zappe made it a point to find Douglas down the stretch last season. The yardage totals don't pop (pun intended), but Douglas had at least five targets per outing, which includes the final three Mac Jones starts. 100 grabs may be steep, but I believe Jacoby Brissett, or even Drake Maye, should he get in, will find him early and often.

Caedan Wallace Wins the Starting Left Tackle Job and Starts Week 1

As of the end of minicamp, the Patriots' top OL unit was Chuks Okorafor-Sidy Sow-David Andrews-Mike Onwenu-Caedan Wallace from left to right, and I don't think that will or should be the case once training camp begins. The problem is that Cole Strange isn't a lock to play a single snap this year. That undisclosed injury he suffered against Kansas City last December? We now know that it was a torn patellar tendon thanks to ESPN's Mike Reiss, and on the high end, his recovery could be close to a full year.

The philosophy of getting your five best guys upfront all out at once is strong, but the lack of a solidified left tackle makes this entire unit a question mark. I ultimately think Mayo and new OL coach Scott Peters try to flip Caedan Wallace to the left side of the line, where he was in rookie minicamp, to put some pressure on Okorafor, and ultimately, he wins the left tackle job. From there, I think you may see a lineup of Wallace-Layden Robinson/Nick Leverett-Andrews-Sow-Onwenu. After how last season ended, I would at least start the year with the right side of the line how it was; Sow was exceptional far more often than not once he got kicked inside.

On Fire

Christian Gonzalez Makes First-Team All-Pro and Receives First-Place DPOY Votes

Even with just a 3.25 game sample last year, you could tell Christian Gonzalez was a different cat. Bill Belichick and the NFL schedule makers threw him into the deep end right away, having faceoffs with A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Garrett Wilson, and CeeDee Lamb, all in succession, to kick off his career. Saying he looked the part of a top-20 pick would be quite an understatement. In fact, the advanced metrics (let alone the film/eye test) would tell you he was one of the best corners in the game over those first three weeks.

There's no shortage of elite, shutdown man-to-man corners in the NFL, and Gonzalez proved he's among the league's best in short order. Even with some elite names like Sauce Gardner, AJ Terrell, Pat Surtain, Jaylon Johnson, etc., all vying for First-Team All-Pro bids, don't be surprised if No. 0 officially cements himself as the premier cornerback in football with his first selection in just his second year.

Ultimately, I wouldn't bet on Gonzo winning DPOY, given how much things skew better for guys up on the line of scrimmage, but expectations for him in year two are high and deservingly so.

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