There have been a lot of changes made this offseason in New England, with several new players set to begin their first season with the team in 2022. Other than the rookies drafted this year, the Patriots have a handful of exciting additions that could make drastic impacts in both the offensive and defensive success this upcoming season.
Joining a new team and learning all that comes with it is never an easy task. And it has been said to be especially difficult when that new team is the Patriots. Given the intensity of the coaching staff and the complexity of the playbook, it shouldn’t be expected for new players to come out hot to start. But there is a list of guys who add a bit more excitement to watching their first year unfold.
The most popular concern regarding the Patriots over the last few seasons has been their offensive weapons or lack thereof. After the incredible spending spree by Bill Belichick during the 2021 offseason, a lot of that worry took a backseat. But because New England appears to need a true WR1 still, the conversation has once again returned just one year later.
It was clear once free agency began that Belichick would not be attempting to acquire any big-name talent. After most available receivers had already been signed, the Patriots finally made a move; trading a 2023 third-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for DeVante Parker and a 2022 fifth-round selection.
Trading for Parker was not necessarily the move most were hoping for, but he has the potential to be a truly productive addition to the Patriots. His injury history does make the trade a bit risky, missing games nearly every season but 2019. When healthy, however, Parker adds a deep threat with impressive contested catch-making abilities that the team currently does not have.
On top of that, in his most noteworthy season in 2019, he totaled more than 1,000 yards and nearly 17 yards-per-reception. As one of the weaker points among New England’s receivers in recent years, Parker’s production (when healthy) gives him an easy chance to become the WR1 during his first year with the team.YEARGGSTGTRECYDSY/RTD1DLNGR/GY/GCTCH%Y/TGT2019161412872120216.7958514.575.156.3%9.4202014111036379312.16445314.056.661.2%7.72021108734051512.9229424.051.554.8%7.1
DeVante Parker’s stats through the last three seasons with the Dolphins
A former New England possible draft target with connections to Joe Judge, Jabrill Peppers signed with the Patriots in early April of this year. His addition adds depth to a weaker area of the defense. And his familiarity with Judge will undoubtedly help him in his first year with the team.
Peppers fits the mold of a prototypical Patriot, with his versatility in the secondary as well as special teams. During his time with the Giants, he regularly lined up between box safety, free safety, and slot cornerback. Peppers has also been a part of multiple facets of special teams, particularly the kicking game and running returns for both punts and kickoffs.
Because he has shown to excel in many areas on the field, Peppers will likely serve many roles on the team. Belichick is known to love a player that can be moved around and used best to their skill set, not restraining them to just their given positional title.
With the need for younger defensive options becoming apparent while also losing both mostly used options for returns (Gunner Olszewski and Brandon Bolden), Peppers could an essential part of this Patriots team.
Although it won’t technically be his first year with the Patriots, Cameron McGrone will take the field for the first time this season after spending his rookie season rehabbing an injury.
Due to the departures of veterans Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Kyle Van Noy, there was speculation the team would add a top talent linebacker in this year’s draft. Because that inevitably did not occur, it appears the confidence regarding the current group of linebackers is high.
Prior to being drafted in 2021, McGrone suffered a torn ACL in November of his last season at the University of Michigan. This sidelined him for all offseason activities and the majority of the regular season. But Steve Belichick recently spoke about McGrone’s presence in the classroom and time spent on the practice field with his teammates, noting he was impressed with what he did see from the rookie;
“When he was practicing, it was really exciting to see him out there. One thing that I noticed is that all the other guys on the field had been playing football for months, and then he had been coming off of a year or whatever of not playing football, and he really didn’t look in any sort of way out of place on the field, which I thought was impressive.” Steve Belichick via media conference on May 17th 2022
As the team continues to rebuild and re-strategize the types of players they choose to bring in, McGrone fits the new mold in the NFL. He is smaller than the typical LB the Patriots have had over the years. And he is noticeably quicker as well, which has been a point of emphasis, particularly this offseason. He is a true sideline-to-sideline back with good tackling skills and football IQ. Regardless of missing out on physically participating last season, McGrone was able to become familiar with much of how things are done in New England, giving him an edge over most other first-year players.
The high praises from the Belichick’s to Jerod Mayo make McGrone a standout to watch this upcoming season. He will play a vital role in the linebacker rotation, with big shoes to fill in the absence of long-time Patriots. But he has the potential to be an exciting player for this team for years to come.
With the wide receiver discussion continuing this offseason, even after the addition of DeVante Parker, the Patriots chose to draft the fastest receiver in this year’s draft. The notion to create a faster team has been emphasized by several coaches within the team, making the drafting of Tyquan Thornton in the second round completely sensible.
Because N’Keal Harry is likely on his way out, Thornton could become part of the main roster sooner rather than later. His speed is clearly the most noticeable and discussed trait, but he also adds a viable deep threat option for Mac Jones with excellent yards-after-the-catch abilities.
His stature, although a bit thin at just 181 pounds and over 6’2″, and pure athleticism allow him to win in 1-on-1 situations and be a good blocker as well. He’s a twitchy mover who can create separation and make explosive plays as a downfield threat for his quarterback.
Thornton has the chance to become a big part of the Patriots’ offense early in his pro career. He contains some of the natural skills that have been lacking amongst the WR group currently rostered in New England. His quickness will play a major role this upcoming season, especially with the opposing team’s defenses becoming much more competitive.YEARGPGSRECYDSY/RTD20181322035417.73201914114578217.45202066161589.91202114146294815.310
Tyquan Thornton’s stats at Baylor University
Check out our other articles @ Gillette Gazette
Interested in covering New England with us? Or if you are a fan of another team we have plenty of opportunities at Stadium Rant spanning the whole NFL and more!