The New England Patriots have lost plenty of key players this offseason.
The defense has been hit particularly hard, with No. 1 cornerback J.C. Jackson leaving to join the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy was released, while linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower remain unsigned as free agents.
The offensive line lost both of its starting guards in Ted Karras (free agency) and Shaq Mason (trade).
The only notable additions made this offseason are wide receiver DeVante Parker (trade), running back/wide receiver Ty Montgomery and cornerback Malcolm Butler (free agency).
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How does the new-look Patriots roster stack up against the rest of the NFL? Pro Football Focus recently unveiled its roster rankings for all 32 teams. The Patriots came in at No. 18.
What's the biggest weakness still facing the Patriots roster? PFF's Ben Linsey took aim at the cornerbacks.
"The Patriots' starting outside cornerbacks are Jalen Mills and either Terrance Mitchell or the recently unretired Malcolm Butler, as things stand right now," Linsey wrote. "That talent doesn't line up with what New England has done on defense in recent years, including last season, when it ranked second in Cover 1 rate. It doesn't require much imagination to see that cornerback group getting exposed in a man-heavy scheme. That could force the Patriots into more zone coverage in 2022."
It's not hard to imagine the Patriots offense being better in 2022. Starting quarterback Mac Jones had a strong rookie season and should continue to improve in Year 2. The addition of Parker gives the passing attack a much-needed outside threat. James White is returning from injury, and the running back group as a whole ranks among the league's best. Hunter Henry was a productive tight end last season, and Jonnu Smith should be much better in his second year with the team.
The real question marks are on the defensive side of the ball. We saw the Patriots give up seven touchdowns in a 47-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills in the 2021 AFC Wild Card Round. And that was before this defense lost a couple veteran starters, including its best cornerback, during the ongoing offseason.
Unless we see a surprisingly impressive performance from the defense next season, it's tough to envision the Patriots returning to the AFC playoffs.