In Bill We Trust
The New England Patriots were just a few plays away from representing the AFC in Super Bowl 50 and competing for their fifth Lombardi Trophy. There’s no reason why the 2016 New England Patriots won’t have the same opportunity when their season kicks off on Sunday night.
I’m sure by now you’ve heard that a certain Tom Brady won’t be available for the first four games of the season. If you haven’t, get out from the rock under which you live. The All-Pro quarterback was suspended by NFL Commissioner for his role in Deflategate.
Enter Jimmy Garoppolo. Haven’t heard of him? Not surprised. The third-year quarterback has studied behind Brady and will captain the ship through Tom Terrific’s four-game suspension. This will be the first time since 2008 that Brady will not play all 16 games in the regular season. Garoppolo has been inconsistent in the preseason, but has also shown promising flashes.
However, there is someone that walks the New England sideline in a sweatshirt with half sleeves that will keep this team on the right track in Brady’s absence, masterfully maintaining the calm among the Patriot faithful. Bill Belichick. No man has done more with less, made household names out of no-names more often, or been more consistent over the years.
Belichick knows exactly what he has, he knows exactly how to use it and he know how to make the most of it.
The offseason was particularly active for the Patriots.
In March, New England traded DE-LB Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals for G Jonathan Cooper and a 2016 second-round pick. Belichick got some help to keep his quarterbacks standing upright – Brady was sacked 38 times last year. Jones was a productive force for the Patriots, but returning defensive linemen Jabaal Sheard and Rob Ninkovich along with newly acquired former Rams defensive end Chris Long can make up his lost production. Don’t forget about linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower, quite possibly one of the best linebacker duos in the entire league.
Belichick got some help to accompany the best tight end in football, Rob Gronkowski, when he acquired Bears TE Martellus Bennett in a trade for a 2016 fourth-round pick. Gronk isn’t at 100 percent yet, but even an 85 percent Gronk is still better than most tight ends in the league. Regardless, the addition of Bennett gives the Patriots another reliable weapon that will be hard to match up against. Bennett is listed as 6’ 6”, 275 pounds.
In addition to the tight ends, the Patriots will be looking to free agent Chris Hogan, signed in the offseason, and draft picks Malcom Mitchell and Devin Lucien to catch the ball. Starter Julian Edelman’s injury scare turned out to not be serious after all giving New England a reliable target at wide receiver and Danny Amendola continues to be one of most crafty slot receivers throughout the NFL.
It’s not particularly sage to point out that the first four game without Brady will be key. The Patriots open up on Sunday Night Football in the desert against the Arizona Cardinals. Garoppolo will have a true test against a legitimate defense in his first game. A poor performance there doesn’t spell the end for the Patriots, as it’s a tough matchup for any team. The next three games are home against the Miami Dolphins, home against the Houston Texans and home against the Buffalo Bills. The division opponents always play the Patriots tough, but those three games being in Foxboro give the Patriots a huge advantage.
It’s not unrealistic to think that the Patriots can go 3-1 in that stretch. Going 2-2 would even be considered a win in the eyes of some if Garoppolo can keep the ship afloat until Brady returns.
Nevertheless, the 2016 season is surely going to be another thrilling ride for Patriot fans, and remember, have faith and BELIEVE IN BILL.