By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Things are going to look awfully different for the New England Patriots in 2020.
After 20 years in Foxborough, Tom Brady is no longer under center as New England's driving force. He's instead taken his talents to Tampa Bay, where he'll try to quarterback the worst franchise in league history back to relevancy and reportedly pay rent to Derek Jeter to live in his seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom mansion. Under most circumstances, this feels like a Twilight Zone episode, but then you step outside and notice that the entire world is shut down and/or on fire. The Patriots also lost their share of Boogeyman (Jamie Collins cashed in with the Lions while Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts signed with the Dolphins), cut ties with Stephen Gostkowski, and are currently operating with minimal cap space.
But despite these losses and uncertainties up and down the depth chart, the forever-high expectations for a Patriots squad that's won 11 straight AFC East titles remains, according to James White.
"Expectations don’t change," White, who is quarantining back in Florida with his family, offered in a conference call with the media. "As soon as you step into that building, you’re expected to compete at a high level, be dependable, be a great teammate.
"For us, as leaders, as captains, it’s to string the new guys along, the younger guys along, make sure they’re competing, learning. Each year this is a, 'What have you done for me lately?' league, so you have to come back in and restart over, refresh and show your teammates that you’re reliable and that you can compete for 60 minutes, on the practice field, whatever it is, so we can build those relationships and build that reliability each and every time you go out there."
And there's no doubt that there will be their share of new and younger guys all over the board.
Currently projected to enter the 2020 NFL Draft with 12 picks, and with 15 players on their roster set to enter their second NFL season (including projected starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham), the Patriots will look to work to get this next wave of talent up to speed with their program. And on a potentially shortened scheduled, with the league's OTAs up in the air and a potentially rushed training camp a very possibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think it’s going to be a challenge for everybody across the league," White acknowledged. "It’s less practicing, less time of everybody being on the same page. Whenever we can get back out there, it’s going to be going out there and making sure we can get on the same page very quickly as an offense, defense special teams, just making sure – getting the offense, getting those extra repetitions, maybe staying after practice a little bit more, doing stuff before practice, competing with each other. Whatever it takes so you can go out there and have your best performances when you go out there."
But White will take comfort in who he views as the great equalizer for the Patriots: Bill Belichick.
"Whenever we can get back out there with things, we’re going to work on building, being on the same page as an offense, defense, special teams," said White, "Coach Belichick will have us prepared. Those practices are always tough, we’re going to compete, get better and find ways to win football games."