The Patriots have consistently been one of the top teams in the league for the better part of the last two decades. With five straight appearances in the AFC title game and seven straight trips to the postseason, few teams can boast the type of sustained success that New England has enjoyed.
Despite all that winning, each year is different and Bill Belichick often talks about the need for each team to establish its own identity. Belichick will still have plenty of returning talent at his disposal with the likes of Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower in the fold, but often times it's the contributions of newcomers that helps put a team over the top.
Back in 2014 when the Patriots won their most recent title, Darrelle Revis and Brandon LaFell were instrumental to the team's success in their first seasons in Foxborough. Last season Jabaal Sheard and Malcom Brown both had solid seasons and helped the team enjoy another quality campaign.
With that in mind we got to thinking about the newcomers this season and which ones we felt needed to have an immediate impact in order for the team to maximize its success. Martellus Bennett has the potential to form a dynamic duo with Gronkowski that could elevate the offense to new heights. Chris Hogan provides another quality option at receiver and could pick up the slack left from LaFell's drop-off last season.
Chris Long and Terrance Knighton are talented veterans who could add quality depth to the defensive line while fellow free addition Shea McClellin has the ability to add some versatility to the edge. And rookie Cyrus Jones was an active participant in OTAs and mini-camp, looking the part of a contributing defensive back in his first season.
So, this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is: Which newcomer needs to make the biggest impact in 2016?
PFW's Andy Hart says …
The Patriots skated by with an alarming lack of depth at cornerback last season. The chances of neither starter being hit with an injury again aren't great, therefore Jones is going to need to perform right from the get-go.
Jones has a strong reputation as a cover guy and many project him as an option in the slot in the NFL. He certainly looked the part during the spring, albeit while wearing shorts and no pads. He showed the ability to cover and compete, which he will need to do in order to provide some quality depth to the secondary.
If Jones proves to be the real deal and can fight with Logan Ryan for the starting job, the Patriots secondary will improve immensely. At minimum he needs to be the third corner and provide an immediate contribution. Otherwise the secondary will be skating on thin ice once again.
PFW's Paul Perillo says …
From the moment the Patriots announced the trade for Bennett I immediately envisioned a two-headed monster at tight end that would be extremely difficult for opponents to deal with. Bennett is an athletic freak who can catch the ball and do damage with it in his hands. Pairing him with Gronk could make the offense all but unstoppable in 2016.
But despite the obvious talent Bennett brings, the most important element he provides to insurance. Last year the offense took some steps back when Gronk was at less than 100 percent. With Bennett that may not be the case this year should injuries once again create problems.
Bennett is in a contract year and should be motivated to produce. He has the best tight end and quarterback in the game working with him. In order for the offense to maintain high-end production the Patriots need Bennett to make an immediate impact.