New England Patriots Preview Capsule
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13-5)
New faces: TE Martellus Bennett, WR Chris Hogan, OL Jonathan Cooper, LB Barkevious Mingo, CB Cyrus Jones, OL Joe Thuney, QB Jacoby Brissett.
Key losses: DE Chandler Jones, DT Akiem Hicks, DT Dominique Easley, WR Brandon LaFell.
Strengths: Defense remains mostly untouched from last season and has veteran secondary group led by CBs Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler, and safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty. Offense with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman can be powerful.
Weaknesses: RB Dion Lewis was revelation in 2015 before he tore left ACL in November. He’s still recovering and was placed on physically unable to perform list Aug. 30. LeGarrette Blount will be primary option in his absence, but someone will be needed to fill Lewis’ pass-catching abilities. Offensive line is question mark with T Sebastian Vollmer on PUP list and G Shaq Mason on mend from hand injury.
Fantasy Players To Watch: Brady, Gronkowski, Edelman, Bennett, RB James White, K Stephen Gostkowski,
Expectations: Brady’s four-game “Deflategate” suspension opens door in AFC East, but Patriots have reloaded after coming up just short in AFC title game last year. They have three home games after opener at Arizona, then Brady returns. How they fare with Jimmy Garoppolo standing in for Brady could be key.
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