Bill Belichick reminds us often that roster turnover is a simple reality of NFL team building.
All 32 squads add and lose various players each offseason.
While much was made this winter and spring about the talented players that departed New England, the team also added plenty of guys who could end up having big roles with yet another Super Bowl contender in Foxborough.
As we count down the days to the July 26th opening of training camp on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, here are nine newcomers to keep an eye on in New England this summer and fall.
1. Trent Brown – The veteran tackle was the biggest – he is 6-8, 355 after all – addition of the Patriots offseason. He also will be vying to fill the key void at left tackle left by Nate Solder’s free agent departure. If Brown really is the high-end pass protector that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan once called him, it would be a huge first step toward solidifying another elite offense.
2. Danny Shelton – The former No. 12 overall pick is a tree stump of a man with rare athleticism for his size. He was a disappointment in Cleveland but could be in for a career rebirth in Foxborough. Shelton looked good this spring in his massive sweats and now has to build on that into training camp and the regular season with pads on.
3. Sony Michel – First-round running backs are a rarity with Belichick. Michel, though, has the ability to bring an instant impact to the backfield committee as both a runner and a receiver. He shared the load as a playmaker at Georgia and could do the same as a rookie in New England.
4. Adrian Clayborn – The former Buc and Falcon isn’t an elite pass rusher, but he should bring instant stability to a defensive end position that was severely lacking in talent and options a year ago. Clayborn is a professional edge player and should help take some of the load off Trey Flowers’ plate. Just a solid addition.
5. Jordan Matthews – Bringing an impressive resume of career production to his new home, Matthews probably would have had a chance to carve out a key role even without Julian Edelman’s suspension. Now, the veteran has even more pressure and opportunity to build a quick, productive rapport with Tom Brady.
6.Isaiah Wynn – This may be a little low on the list for New England’s top pick. Wynn will likely get the chance to battle for the left tackle spot or to win a job on the inside that has returning starters Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason. Wynn was an All-SEC offensive lineman and a high pick, so he clearly brings plenty to the table even if he’s a little undersized.
7. Jason McCourty – Devin’s twin is notable for plenty of reasons beyond just his name and face. He’s a veteran cornerback who should battle for the starting job opposite Stephon Gilmore. But, he barely took the field during spring practice. Was that a bad sign or just circumstantial? We’ll find out in the coming weeks.
8. Cordarrelle Patterson – Clearly a disappointment as a former first-round pick, one of the best kickoff returners in NFL history has a new home just as the league works to greatly restrict the play where he’s most dominant. Patterson could be an impact returner and gadget guy on Josh McDaniels’ offense or a mildly surprising cut.
9. JC Jackson – An undrafted rookie out of Maryland, Jackson got a ton of reps opposite Gilmore during OTA and mini-camp practice action. There will be an interesting competition to fill the hole left by former undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler and this rookie free agent – who PFW has come to call “Just Cover” Jackson -- might very much be in the mix.
What do you think of our list? Let us know with a comment below!