A Fan’s Thoughts: The New England Patriots 2020 Season


Photo by Alyssa DePasqua

Gillette Stadium Patriots vs. Chiefs

Alyssa DePasqua, Staff Writer


It’s no breaking news to any Patriots fan that their season was one big roller coaster ride. With the loss of Tom Brady back in March, along with other players from last year that the team lost in free agency and players that opted out due to COVID-19, the team’s roster really suffered. In fact, the New England Patriots had the most opt outs due to COVID-19, with 8 players choosing not to play amid the pandemic. Those opt outs included multiple key players: LB Dont’a Hightower, RB Brandon Bolden, S Patrick Chung, and OT Marcus Canon, among others. Some players on the roster had been diagnosed with the virus as well, including the team’s new QB, Cam Newton, and Patriot’s veteran WR, Julian Edelman. The 2020 Patriots team was very inconsistent, as well. They would win against the 6-2 Baltimore Ravens, and then go on to lose to the 2-7 Houston Texans. This happened a few times throughout the duration of their season. Overall, this season was different from any Patriots season that I had ever seen before. Following is my analysis of the Patriots 2020 team and regular season.


In March, Pats nation was alerted that Tom Brady was leaving New England, and had found a new home in Tampa Bay. A few months later in the beginning of July, fans were excited and partially confused to find out that Cam Newton had been signed to the Patriots roster. Due to some of the key players that opted out because of COVID-19 and the signing of mobile QB Cam Newton, the Patriots were forced to uproot their offense. They changed it from a solely passing offense, to an offense that is more reliant on rushing yardage and their running backs. To any Patriots fan out there, this was a huge change in what we have ever seen before. Brady was not mobile at all, but had a great arm and was exceptionally accurate. Newton, on the other hand, is not accurate and doesn’t throw a lot. However, he is very mobile and can rush to get a first down at times. These changes in multiple aspects of their offense has been a challenge to get used to. However, some offensive players thrived under these new circumstances.

Running Back

Because of their drastic change at quarterback, they relied on solely their rungame. This was different from any Patriots offense that I have ever seen. Players like James White and Damien Harris had a lot of carries this year due to their lack of a passing offense. When Sony Michel was placed on IR (injured reserve) after a week three quad injury, RB Damien Harris took over. The the 2019 third round draft pick more than fulfilled Michel’s role. He even stole Michel’s job when the Patriots still played Harris in a week 11 game against the Houston Texans. Harris is also an equally hard-hitting and fast running back, which may remind Patriots fans of RB Corey Dillon, a running back for the Patriots from 2004-2006. Both Harris and Dillon are a rare breed of running backs. Both are hard-hitting and fast. To say that this season’s RB core was used a lot more than fans are used to is an understatement.

Wide Receiver

The Patriots 2020 receiving core was very similar to last years. Returning players included Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and Jakobi Myers. Though the main receivers that the team had on their roster last year stayed, they also had some new and impressive players. Damiere Bird, who played with Newton on the Panthers, had a very impressive start to the season and made for a delightful add on to the team. They also saw improvements with some receivers that were swept under the rug last year. Gunner Olszewski, an undrafted free agent picked up by the Patriots in 2019 and put on the practice squad, showed some major improvements with not just receiving yards, but with punt returns as well. After veteran receiver Julian Edelman suffered from a knee injury in week seven, the Patriots receiving core took a hit. Newton’s tendency to run the ball, as the season progressed, contributed to this as well. 

Offensive Line

Though playing with mostly backups this year, the Patriots Offensive Line played really well. While they did suffer from Marcus Canon opting out due to the pandemic, a lot of players stepped up. Center David Andrews, returning off a pulmonary embolism, really played well. Andrews, along with Shaq Mason, Isaiah Wynn, and Joe Thuney, really kept the pocket clean for Newton and created nice paths for run plays. Mike Onwenu, a rookie out of Michigan, was the most productive addition to the Patriots Offensive Line. Onwenu switched from playing Guard in college to Right Tackle for the Patriots, a very difficult transition. However, he excelled greatly at this position, a surprise to many. Overall, the Patriots OL played very well, even better than in past seasons, and kept a very clean pocket and paved the way for 

Special Teams

Though overall a not great football team, the Patriots did have one part of their team that really stood out this year. This was their Special Teams unit. With really nice punts and kickoffs from second year punter Jake Bailey and some great returns from Olszewski, the Patriots Special Teams unit really stood out. In the week 12 game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Olszewski had a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown. The previous week, Olszewski had an 82-yard return for a touchdown. However, due to a bad illegal block call on LB Anfernee Jennings, the return was called back. Patriots veteran and the Captain of Special Teams, WR Matthew Slater, also had some very nice downed kickoffs and punts at the other end of the field. Overall, the Special Teams unit was very effective this year and scored some much needed points. 

Defensive Line

The Patriots Defensive Line played well against the pass this year. However, the Defensive Line this year played terribly against the run. After being claimed as having “the best defense in the NFL” after the 2019 season, we saw a bit of a decline on the defensive front. Though Defensive end Chase Winovich, Defensive Tackle Lawrence Guy, and Defensive End Detrich Wise Jr. were very productive this year, earning their fair share of sacks, some aspects of the Defensive Line really lacked this year. Mainly the run defense. To almost any Patriots fan, including me, it is infuriating to watch their Defensive Line get bombarded by the run. The DL also lacked on chasing and tackling QBs that escaped the pocket. This also made me enraged at the DL. I would’ve liked to see more effort out of the DL. I think that morale was lacking towards the end of the season and as a Patriot fan, I hate to see that.  


After losing Linebackers Kyle Van Noy to the Miami Dolphins and Jamie Collins to the Detroit Lions, as well as key LB Dont’a Hightower to the Covid-19 opt-out list, the Linebacker position really lacked this season. Though Linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley and Brandon Copeland’s abilities did impress me, they didn’t live up to the team’s great LB crew last season. The LBs this season didn’t really live up to expectations this year. The team really needed them to back the DL up as well and they didn’t really provide much assistance. With Hightower hopefully back next year, I have a feeling this crew will be a lot better. 


Though suffering from the loss of S Patrick Chung due to Covid-19 opt-out, parts of the Patriots secondary played very well. Star player CB Stephon Gilmore returned this year. However, he was out for a week after testing positive for Coronavirus in October. He returned shortly after his diagnosis, as he claimed to be asymptomatic. But, during a week 15 game against a division rival, the Miami Dolphins, Gilmore limped off the field, suffering from a quad injury. While Gilmore was in and out, CB J.C. Jackson really stepped up, having eight interceptions, the most in the NFL this season. Veteran S Devin McCourty really had his plate full this season with Chung being absent. Though rookie S Kyle Dugger and S Terrence Brooks played alongside him downfield, neither of them really excelled at Chung’s position. The only bone I have to pick with the Patriots Secondary is they really lacked covering big Wide Receivers and Tight Ends. The secondary had a very hard time tackling big receivers, as well as covering them. Though the secondary used to be “lights out”, I thought they played satisfactory. 

Coaching Staff

With all of the changes to the team itself, the Patriots’ coaching staff really needed to step up. Head Coach Bill Belichick got a wrench thrown into all of his plans for the season when his starting QB since 2001 decided to leave the team in March and go play for the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. In early July, Cam Newton signed with the team, this being a shock to many due to his drastically different playing style. Belichick and Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels immediately got to work, changing their dominant passing offense from the past 20 years into a more run-reliant offense. This was a huge task for them to take on and I think that they did well with opening their horizons and welcoming Newton and his playing style. The Patriots also used a lot more trick plays this season than fans were probably used to. On defense, there wasn’t as much change than there was to the offense, so the coaches had an easier time with coaching the defense. However, after losing LBs Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy in free agency and LB Dont’a Hightower to the Covid opt-out list, that position was hard to fill. Both Steve Belichick and Jerod Mayo act as co-defensive coordinators. I think they did pretty well with calling plays this season. The defense, overall, played really poorly against the run and didn’t have very good run protection at all. That comes from the LB position though, so I can understand how there were some hiccups with that. The special teams did great this year and really scored some points when they needed them. Cameron Achord did a really nice job with the special teams this season, especially after the departure of Joe Judge, the former special teams coach. I think the coaching staff did a really nice job adjusting to this new team and thinking outside of the box. It’s hard when they have had the same offense for the past 20 years and have won a lot of games that  then take a leap of faith, almost, and changing that to something totally different that will help the team win in a different way.    

Overall, this team was very different from any past Patriots team that I have ever seen. This team was hard to watch at times due to the constant inconsistency that was being portrayed on the field. Newton’s inaccuracy also made for some hair-pulling while watching the Patriot’s games throughout the duration of their season. It was a difficult season for all, with constant changes to both the offense and defense, as well as playing during a raging pandemic. Though this season was disappointing, ending with the Patriots not making the playoffs for the first time since 2009, I have a good outlook for next season. Hopefully, the Patriots draft a new QB or play the backup, Jarret Stidham, and get back on track for a more pass-relying offense, like they’re used to because they can definitely do better than this season’s 7-9 record. Whatever happens during the offseason into next, the one thing that is for sure is that I will be here for it all.