On Wednesday morning, the Get Up crew kicked off ESPN programming by discussing whether the New England Patriots could actually be better offensively without Tom Brady under center. Patriots reporter Mike Reiss made an appearance and said some around the organization believe the offense could be more efficient if they get solid quarterback play and improve in several other areas.
At first glance, this seems preposterous. Going from Brady to Jarrett Stidham is a downgrade in every way imaginable other than the cap situation, and New England made precisely zero upgrades on that side of the ball outside of drafting a pair of tight ends. They struggled on offense last year despite playing some of the worst defenses in the league. How could they possibly get better?
Upon further consideration, though, it's not quite as ridiculous. The offensive line battled injuries all year and, as Reiss notes, that unit will be getting their leader back in David Andrews after he missed all of 2019 with a blood clot issue. All the other starters will be returning there. The run game will go hand-in-hand with the health of the offensive line, too. Sony Michel wasn't awful last season, but his decreased production from 2018 shows he needs a good line in front of him to carry the load.
It stands to reason that first-round pick N'Keal Harry will improve on a 12-catch rookie campaign, and Julian Edelman is still in town as everybody's favorite security blanket. New England got almost impossibly little production from their tight ends in 2019; that position group combined for all of 37 catches for 416 yards and two touchdowns. Rookies famously have a hard time learning the Patriots offense, but it is not crazy to think newcomers Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene could top those numbers.
There is also the obvious caveat that Stidham needs to be at least average for any of this to work. Nobody knows who he is as a quarterback. Josh McDaniels can make it as easy as possible on his first-time starter, but only the Patriots know what they have. Brady wasn't exactly himself last year, but Stidham's production needs to be at least two-thirds of what Brady's was in his final season as a Patriot for the offense to even hope to improve. Brady tossed for 4,057 yards and 24 TDs last season to go along with eight picks. If Stidham can get to 2,500 yards and 15 TDs without hitting the double-digit interception mark, that would be a successful season and could boost New England to overall better offensive numbers.
But literally every one of those things needs to happen for this to be a better unit in 2020. No team in the NFL can count on a clean bill of health for the year in general, and especially the offensive line. If even one lineman goes down, there is little to suggest it won't fall apart again like it did last season. Even if Harry becomes a reliable option, that makes exactly three of those in the entire offense alongside Edelman and James White. Keene is more of a blocking tight end than a receiver and it's unfair to expect Asiasi to put up big numbers in year one. And, again, Stidham is the biggest wildcard of them all.
Could it happen? Sure. Will it happen? That seems unlikely. Things do tend to go right for the Patriots, as the last two decades have proven, but the stars will have to align perfectly if their offense is to be better in 2020.