NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-5)
CAMP SITE: Foxborough, Massachussetts
LAST YEAR: Following an 8-0 start, the Patriots lost three of their final five games to end the regular season, followed by a home wild-card playoff loss to Tennessee. It was the first time in four seasons Patriots didn’t reach the Super Bowl after at least making it to the AFC championship in each of the previous eight years. Injuries on offensive line contributed, as did the lack of playmakers for Tom Brady following Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. It led to several offseason departures, including Brady ending his 20-year run in New England and departing in free agency for Tampa Bay.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Tom Brady, LB Kyle Van Noy, LB Jamie Collins, LB Elandon Roberts, S Duron Harmon, DT Danny Shelton, K Stephen Gostkowski, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
PANDEMIC CHALLENGES: Lack of minicamps and OTAs because of COVID-19 deprived second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham of valuable time working with a complete receiver group in his hopes of replacing Brady. He did have informal workouts with several teammates, but it may not be enough to beat out Newton for the starting job — if the 2015 MVP is healthy coming off a foot injury.
CAMP NEEDS: Along with figuring out starter at quarterback, Patriots also need to see a jump from their young receivers, who collectively struggled to get comfortable in offense last year. Solidifying the offensive line will also be important. Center David Andrews missed last season with blood clots and left tackle Isaiah Wynn has had his first two seasons disrupted by injuries.
EXPECTATIONS: The prospects for this season got a potential jolt with the addition of Newton. If Newton wins the starting role, his dual running and throwing abilities give offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels plenty of options. But New England’s ultimate success may rest on its defense’s ability to remain one of AFC’s best units despite having to replace several key contributors.