If a supporter of the New England football team would only follow with headlines and shouts through their radio, it would be conceivable they've heard the names of just five patriots in the past five months: Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski, Malcolm Butler and Julian Edelman. Maybe Robert Kraft too.
It was certainly an offseason drenched with drama and endless speculation, but starting this week it's back to Foxborough, where the training camp starts on Friday. Rookies have already arrived, veterans are due on Wednesday, and among those who report to the Gillette Stadium will be some who have ever gone through that and who were not an important part of the conversation during the spring and summer, but whose performance could they make a major focus on a point in this case.
Here are five potentially crucial patriots who were after this off-season, but back to the field with something to prove:
Dont & a Hightower
There was a block toss to drop Marshawn Lynch just shy of the goal, a game in front of Malcolm Butler, who made his legendary interception. Then there was the strip bag of Matt Ryan, which fueled the biggest comeback in football history. In each of the Patriots' last two Super Bowl victories, Hightower has delivered a mind-altering game in the heart of New England defense.
Even apart from how much they remember such a game in February against the Eagles, those missing moments remind of what kind of player Hightower is and what playmaker he can be. However, the question of how 201
In June, he admitted he was turning to a rehab designed to prevent future injuries, and the team is expected to put him in full swing when the training camp starts. His workload was limited during the minicamp. After the Patriots fought the league's second worst run defense a year ago, the football outsiders need Hightower not only on the field side for continuity and communication on the central linebacker level, but also as a unit that would sometimes be pushed around him also as a strong attacker and powerful defender he has proven when he is healthy. If he can get off the rack as a Pass-Rauscher, he got even better in a role he used more regularly a year ago.
There is a chance that the biggest addition the Patriots defense has made in the postseason could easily be achieved by Hightower. But there is not much buzz about it – maybe because people have got used to adapting to life without it.
Most of the gossip about the Pats' offensive line has been due to Nigel Solder's departure or the decision to opt out in the first round for Isaiah Wynn, who has a chance to join the year to open the left guard. Accordingly, little attention has been given to the fact that the Patriots on the other side of the line are returning a player who was named All-Pro's second-team in 2016.
Cannon injured his ankle last October After only seven games injured reserve. It has spoiled the first year of the $ 32.5 million five-year extension in the midst of its outbreak campaign and raises some questions about what kind of impact Cannon can make. The 2016 season was the only time he started more than eight contests, and it also showed a much better and more consistent performance than during his first five Pro Slates. If he's really an all-pro, and if Wynn's first choice and Sony Michel's replay are signs that the Pats intend to use the groundplay more this season, Cannon has the ability to play a big role as a paver to play . However, if a remnant of the ankle injury remains, or if 2016 was a peak, New England could weaken further in advance, where there are already two critical spots.
Since he brought him back to the Patriots in 2014, Belichick has taken better advantage of Chung's abilities, and at the same time the former second round pick has played an important role with his ability of tight endings and the occasional slot receiver to cover and also helps against the run. He's still listed as safety, but Chung spends so much time near the scrimmage that he's more of a mixture of defensive back and linebacker – and given the way the pats are being built this season, they will He succeeds again in succeeding in this role. Unofficially, the depth chart projects the base defense of the Patriots on a nickel look, with only two linebackers and Chung, who starts as one of three hedges on the field. He got a salary increase in the off-season, with the team more than doubling its salary in 2018 in the process of expanding its engagement by 2020.
Chung earned this contract through career heights with nine pass divisions and 67 tackles a seasons ago an effort led football outsiders to classify the Patriots as the eight best defenders of the narrow-end NFLs. But there were points in the postseason he seemed to struggle in – he was too late to stop the Jaguar 's Marces Lewis from a touchdown in the AFC title game, then gave up 56 yards to cover the faster Nelson Agholor He has played 75 of 76 possible games since his return to Foxborough, and all of them with a robust welcome of corporeality.
The Patriots are already urged with the task of replacing Cornerback Malcolm Butler, who has left for Tennessee. But they had time to plan. Should Chung wear out, or should these playoff failures predict a slip, it is difficult to see a replacement plan anywhere else on this roster.
One could argue that Flowers was the Patriots' best defensive player of the season. Not bad, considering that he received a base salary of $ 615,000 for his efforts and will be playing under the rookie contract this season, which promised him just over $ 2.8 million for four years of work. His tax code, of course, will change until next spring, and by then it will be up to New England's people to decide if he is worth the enormous money that lies at the edge in football – or if flowers are another quality defender the Pats let go when the price goes up.
Flowers is 24 and ranked league-wide after the Graders at Pro Football Focus. They gave him a "high quality", they gave him 59 pressures in the last season, ranked 19 among the marginal strikers and ranked him 75th best player of the NFL in 2017. That was four points ahead of Chandler Jones, who led the League in sacks two years after trading by the Pats. And it was way ahead of Danielle Hunter the Vikings, who did not make PFF Top 101, but still guaranteed a $ 72 million expansion ($ 40 million) from Minnesota this summer, having made seven sacks last season.
Flowers, meanwhile, he had 6.5 sacks in 2016. He has 13.5 in the last two regular seasons, which is nice, but that could also put him something of a fence in terms of his future in Foxborough. The patriots had little hesitation to part with more productive players. If Flowers & # 39; numbers stay in this area this season, or if he receives no special attention from opponents, New England could be content to let someone else pay for it. If the additions of Adrian Clayborn and Danny Shelton help make flowers a marginal presence that produces two-digit sacks, it will be much harder for the Pats to treat him like another gear in a rotating cast, especially with his (19659005 ) Brian Flores
Officially, he is still the lineback coach for the team, but with Matt Patricia taking over as coach in Detroit, Flores will lead the defensive on Matchday. He has been part of Belichick's staff long enough to have the institutional knowledge he needs, and by not giving Flores the official title of defensive coordinator, there is a reasonable assumption that Belichick is watching for preparations and moves on that side of the ball There does not seem to be much fear of transition. But it is worth noting that these circumstances were not very good for the Pats in the Belichick era.
In the days when trainers raised under Belichick took over his defense with or without the title of Coordinator, the game of unity began initially slipped. When Patricia and Pepper Johnson (both Belichick disciples) took the reins in 2010, the defense's ranking dropped from fifth to eighth, allowing them to finish in 11th-25th place. The duo also shared the tasks in 2011 when the Decline continued – to 15th place in the points and 31st place in the yards. The other example came in 2005, when Eric Mangini took over for Romeo Crennel. The Pats slipped from second to 17th in points and ninth to 26th in yards. The only transition that went well was the move from Mangini to Dean Pees, who was promoted internally by the linebackers coach, but previously had been on the college level as a defensive coordinator and head coach.
The others did not, nor did Flores, who worked for the Pats since his time at Boston College. He had apparently been prepared for this opportunity in recent seasons, and his appointment was no surprise. His players talk a lot about him and expect him to succeed, especially considering the wisdom of Belichick. However, as with a number of things surrounding this New England team, the reality remains to be seen.