By: Jake Perda
With the beginning of Patriots season a mere 4 days away, now seems like the perfect time to start making some predictions. However, nobody wants to read something stating that “Brandin Cooks will catch more than 50 passes for over 600 yards” because, assuming he stays healthy, that’s a given. So I’m going to spice it up a little bit and make 5 bold predictions for the Patriots offense, followed by a separate article within the next couples of days in which I will do the same for the defense. Let me know either in the comments or on Twitter (@PerdaGuyBoston) if you agree/disagree.
1. Rob Gronkowski will score AT LEAST 10 TD’s.
The boldness in this prediction has little to do with the actual number that I chose and more to do with the fact that I believe Gronk will be on the field enough to rack up double-digit TD’s. When you take into consideration the addition of Brandin Cooks as well as the emergence of Malcolm Mitchell following Gronk’s injury last season, it would lead you to believe that, even in the absence of Julian Edelman, Tom Brady will not be forced to rely on his superstar tight end as much as he has in the past when it comes to getting the ball down the field. Not to mention, Gronk’s newfound “pliability” that he has hopefully achieved from working with Tom Brady’s trainer should help him stay on the field. Regardless, Gronk remains one of the most deadly red zone targets in all of football and will be utilized accordingly.
2. Tom Brady will throw for OVER 5000 yards.
This is a feat that Tom has achieved just once in his career; however, I truly believe that he has better weapons now than he’s had at any other point in time. Not only does he have Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett to torch opposing CB’s on deep throws down the field, he also has James White and Rex Burkhead, who can turn a simple screen pass into a 25+ yard gain in the blink of an eye. Lastly, a healthy Gronk must be double teamed on every single play. If he isn’t, that’s an easy completion for Number 12; if he is, then someone else is going to be open, and the Greatest QB of All-Time is going to find them.
3. Danny Amendola will lead the team in targets.
This prediction is bold in multiple ways. First of all, I’m predicting that he will be healthy enough to take the field in all 16 games this season. That’s a tall order for anyone in this league, and even more so for undersized receivers. Additionally, I believe that Amendola will essentially take over Julian Edelman’s role in this offense. Since the beginning of training camp, I’ve been talking about how the trust between Brady and Amendola is severely overlooked. Let’s look at the last two Super Bowl’s. In Super Bowl 49, with the Patriots down 10 points and in desperate need of a touchdown to keep their hopes alive, who did Brady find in the back of the end zone? Danny Amendola. What about in Super Bowl 51 when it was 4th and 3, and failing to pick up a first down would end the Patriots season? Who did Brady throw to then? Danny Amendola. Not to mention, Brady later found Danny in the end zone as well as on the game tying 2-point conversion. The Brady-’Dola connection is underrated and as strong as ever.
4. Dion Lewis’ role will be reduced to kick returning.
Following the additions of Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead, the Patriots find themselves with four running backs and one spot in the backfield on each play. It has been assumed from the beginning that Gillislee will be the team's primary running back while Burkhead and White will enter the game to catch passes and run the ball occasionally to keep defenses honest. So where does that leave Dion Lewis? Nowhere. That being said, I’m absolutely positive that none of us have forgotten about Lewis’ 99-yard return in the divisional round against Houston (mostly because the audio is replayed approximately 100000000 times per day on 98.5 the Sports Hub and continues to give me chills every single time). Therefore, he has shown us that he has value in the return game and should be given the opportunity to prove that he can help the team in that capacity.
5. Malcolm Mitchell’s yards per reception will decrease.
In 2016, Malcolm Mitchell hauled in 32 passes for 401 yards. If you do the math, that’s approximately 12.5 yards per reception. I do believe that Mitchell's role will increase after he and Brady seemed to click in the second half of 2016, but I don’t believe he'll be making a ton of catches down the field. With Cooks, Hogan, Gronk, and possibly Dorsett slated to serve as the Patriots vertical threats, I expect Mitchell, and his exceptional hands, to be running a ton of slants and out routes. Thus, his yards per reception will likely decrease after serving as more of a vertical threat in last years offense that was stacked with slot receivers (Edelman, Amendola, White/Lewis).
Photo: (Elite Sports NY)