Karen Guregians five Patriots who need to step up in 2020 – Boston Herald

The Super Bowl combatants will be heading to Miami this weekend. And for the first time in four years, the AFC representative wont be the Patriots, who were bounced out early by the Titans.

So while the Chiefs and 49ers battle it out for NFL supremacy, the former champs are on to 2020.

To get back to the promised land, the Patriots are going to have to settle their quarterback situation with Tom Brady, and make some improvements on both sides of the ball. Beyond that, several players are going to have to ratchet up their play and hit another level.

Heres 5 Patriots who need to improve and take that next step in 2020.

1. NKeal Harry Hes a big, physical presence with talent. The Patriots, however, were only able to use that talent in small helpings. After spending the first part of the year on IR, Harry finally emerged and never seemed to fully grasp the offense. He flashed at times with that raw ability. But ultimately, Josh McDaniels only utilized him for specific plays. He played in seven games, with 12 catches for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns. As the teams 2019 first round pick, he has to be better. He has to learn the playbook. While hes limited by not having breakaway speed, hes still gifted enough to make contested catches, find the soft spots in zones and make plays with the ball in his hands. The narrative of him being a bust cant continue, especially if the Patriots dont get other receiving help.

2. Mohamed Sanu Much was expected of Sanu after the Patriots acquired him from the Falcons in October. With Tom Bradys endorsement, he seemed to be a perfect fit in the offense. Only Sanu didnt give the Patriots wide receiving corps the type of complementary piece that was needed. After a good start, he proved a huge disappointment. Injuries may have played a role, but he had an issue with drops at key points, and wasnt on the same page with the quarterback. Sanu still has a year left on his deal. Its possible with more time in the offense, coming back healthy, Sanu will produce in a more desired fashion in 2020. There really isnt a choice. He has to perform more like the player they thought they were getting.

3. Tight end to be named later With the anticipated retirement of Rob Gronkowski last season, it might have been wise for the Patriots front office to be a little more proactive in terms of reloading the position. Instead, they ignored the position in the draft, and didnt do much better via trades or free agency. That left the position a virtual non-factor. After so many years where the offense operated through the position, whether Gronkowski was setting up the passing attack, or throwing monster blocks to ignite the run game, it was a vital piece of the puzzle. The collection of Benjamin Watson, Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo didnt come close to providing what Gronk did in either the pass or run game. At this point, its not about any of those three returning, its more about who the Patriots bring in. Whether its via draft, trade or free agency, they need a tight end who will put some life back into the position.

4. Chase Winovich The player with the always-changing hair color had a very good campaign as a situational pass rusher. He finished tied for fourth in sacks with Donta Hightower (5.5). Winovich also had 23 quarterback pressures and 11 run stops. He earned the second-best grade among rookie edge defenders behind only San Franciscos Nick Bosa, per Pro Football Focus. So as first impressions go, Winovich was one of the few hits from the 2019 draft class. That being said, with the Patriots possibly losing Van Noy and or Collins, or both, in free agency, the team is going to need more from Winovich. Hell have a greater role in the defense next season and has to be even better Year 2.

5. Damien Harris The third round pick seemed to be in witness protection, seeing just four snaps all season. What happened to the former Alabama star? Running backs coach Ivan Fears had nothing but praise for Harris during the year, saying there just wasnt a spot for the rookie on game day. Well, if Sony Michel continues to have issues getting downhill, and continues to get stuffed at the goal line, Harris should get a turn in his second year. Its worth it to see if he can hit the holes better, and get downhill faster than Michel. He might also provide more attention from defenses as a pass-catcher, and not be such a given to run the ball. Thats been a knock on Michel. If hes in, 95 percent of the time, its a running play. Bottom line, Harris needs to step up and challenge Michel for the early-down role. Or he becomes a complete waste of a pick.

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Karen Guregians five Patriots who need to step up in 2020 - Boston Herald

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