The New England Patriots returned to the Super Bowl but couldn’t defend their NFL title. What are the biggest offseason concerns the team must address?
For the third time in four years and the eighth time in the past 17 seasons, the New England Patriots were still playing football on Super Sunday. They have captured five NFL championships since 2001. But Bill Belichick club has also come up short three times in the “Big Game.” Despite rolling up a record 613 total yards against the Philadelphia Eagles at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Pats fell to the Birds, 41-33, in Super Bowl LII at Minneapolis.
Of course, this is a franchise that has reached the postseason each of the past nine years. If they are to put themselves in position make it 10 straight playoff appearances, here are five things the franchise must focus on this offseason.
5. Sort out the backfield
Over these past two seasons, the New England Patriots have made a concerted effort to put a little balance back into the offense. Back in 2015, Bill Belichick’s club ranked sixth in the league in total offense. But only two teams in the NFL managed to gain fewer yards on the ground than the Pats. Since then, this is a club that has ranked seventh and 10th in the league, respectively, in rushing yards per contest.
Underrated Dion Lewis finished as the team’s leading rusher. The versatile back ran for 896 yards and six scores. He also added 32 catches for 214 yards and three scores and returned 23 kickoffs for 570 yards – including a 103-yard touchdown. But he, Rex Burkhead and Brandon Bolden are all slated to become unrestricted free agents next month.
That leaves the Patriots with Super Bowl LI hero James White, Mike Gillislee and running back/fullback James Develin. It’s anyone’s guess who the team will retain and Lewis is certain to attract a lot of attention if he hits the open market.