BOSTON (CBS) — You’ve probably heard this about a million times since late March, but we’ll say it again: The New England Patriots are going to be a very different team in 2020.
Gone is franchise quarterback Tom Brady, who left for sunny Florida in free agency, taking New England’s “Super Bowl contender” tag with him. Now, Bill Belichick has Jarrett Stidham and/or Brian Hoyer to lead the charge at quarterback, and the expectations for the team have dipped back into a more realistic realm. You can’t really pencil the Patriots in for an automatic trip to the AFC Championship anymore, as even their run atop the AFC East is in doubt.
But while the offense may not be what it was during the glory days of Brady’s run, the Patriots still have a pretty formidable defense. They did lose key players like Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Danny Shelton, but after focusing on defense with their early picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, it’s clear that Belichick is loading up on that side of the ball.
Former Patriots linebacker and team Hall of Famer Tedy Brushi, now a football analyst on ESPN, sees the writing on the wall for defense to lead the charge for the Patriots for years to come.
“The shift with Tom being gone now is trying to make this a defense-dominated team. They’ll tell you what they feel by what they do,” Bruschi told WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche. “So drafting those great young linebackers, I was excited to see that.”
After taking safety Kyle Dugger with their first pick of the draft, the Patriots added some depth at linebacker with Michigan’s Josh Uche and Alabama’s Anfernee Jennings. Bruschi gave ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss some guff earlier this offseason for comparing Uche to Bruschi, but he said that was just in good fun. Like many Patriots fans, he can’t wait to see what the hard-hitting Wolverine can do in the NFL.
“I can’t wait to watch Uche play, he’s a great young player. Defense is going to have the lead the way and I think Bill knows that,” said Bruschi. “I’m excited to watch them.”
As for the Patriots offense, Bruschi understands that the spotlight will be on Stidham as he attempts to fill Brady’s shoes. But it will be imperative for every other facet of the offense to step up while Stidham finds his footing in the NFL.
“Just take care of the football,” Bruschi advised Stidham. “Offensive line, put the gumption on yourselves. Stidham is going to be fine, he has a great mentality. Having a little experience with Tom will help him realize it’s not Tom Brady he’s following, just a buddy of his that he has to come in and do the job. I think he has the right mentality to do that.”
And as he learned in his nine seasons under Belichick, Bruschi said the coach’s view on the team will constantly evolve once he starts to see what they show him on the field.
“His view on the team is always going to be organic. From the first day they have training camp, he’ll look at it and have his expectations. Those expectations may change over the first few weeks based on what he sees,” said Bruschi. “That’s why it’s so great the way he coaches; ‘I thought they were going to be this type of group but I have to change my expectations and focus more on this area.’ He’ll figure that out after each day of watching this team — the new, young Patriots.”