Know Your Foe: New England Patriots

The New England Patriots won the AFC East in 2015...again.

They got to the AFC Championship Game...again.

They beat the Texans...again.

It was a lot of the same for the Patriots in 2015 and there isn't going to be much change heading into the 2016 season.

With one major exception.

Tom Brady's suspension for the first four games of the year may not only change the fortunes of the Patriots but the entire AFC playoff race. 2014 second round selection Jimmy Garoppolo will take the reins behind center and attempt to keep the Patriots on track for that first quarter of the season.

Once Brady returns, the Patriots will look similar to the way they have for the past 15 years. The addition of tight end Martellus Bennett was an interesting one and if he finds his footing early, a Gronk-Martellus combination will be tough to stop.

However, for the Texans, all that matters, at this point, is September 22nd and Brady won't play. Now, we can't forget that Matt Cassel led the Patriots to an 11-5 record in that season when Brady missed the whole year with an ACL injury. For Patriots fans' sakes, he'll at least be back for week five, but Garoppolo will be The Man on Thursday night in Foxboro in week three.

My Know Your Foe series continues with a team that has been a thorn in the Texans side and one the Texans have never beaten on the road in Foxboro - the New England Patriots.

OFFENSE
2015 Unit Profile
Rush Offense - 87.8 ypg (30th in the NFL)
Pass Offense - 286.7 ypg (5th)
Total Offense - 374.4 ypg (6th)
Scoring Offense - 29.1 ppg (3rd)

Here's what the Patriots offense looked like in the AFC Championship Game versus Denver.

WR - Danny Amendola
LT - Sebastian Vollmer
LG - Josh Kline
C - Bryan Stork
RG - Shaq Mason
RT - Marcus Cannon
TE - Rob Gronkowski
QB - Tom Brady
RB - James White
TE - Michael Williams
WR** - Julian Edelman

Here's what the Patriots offense COULD look like in late September 2016 when the Texans visit.

WR - Danny Amendola
WR - Julian Edelman
LT - NATE SOLDER
LG - Shaq Mason
C - Bryan Stork
RG - TRE JACKSON
RT - Sebastian Vollmer
TE - Rob Gronkowski
QB - JIMMY GAROPPOLO
RB - DION LEWIS
TE*- MARTELLUS BENNETT *ALL CAPS INDICATE POTENTIALLY DIFFERENT STARTER

Most significant improvement on the offense - Bennett. The Patriots offense in 2010 and 2011 was as dynamic as never before in its history when Gronkowski and former Patriot TE/H/F Aaron Hernandez provided Brady plenty of outlets in the passing game.

Most impactful players that the Texans didn't face in 2015? - Edelman, Bennett and Lewis. Edelman and Lewis were both injured for the matchup last December, while Bennett was traded to New England in the offseason.

What will worry Texans fans the most? - It's still the Patriots. They're not void of special talent. Gronk. Edelman. Lewis. Bennett. That's as good an overall perimeter quartet as the Texans will face all season long.

What will worry Patriots fans the most? - Simple...if Garoppolo blinks in the glare of the white hot spotlight that'll shine down on him in the first four games. That, and the offensive line suffers injuries and more shuffling must take place. A Brady-led offense could handle that upheaval. A Garoppolo-led one? Not so much.

DEFENSE
2015 Unit Profile
Rush Defense - 98.8 ypg (9th in the NFL)
Pass Defense - 240.7 ypg (17th)
Total Defense - 339.4 ypg (9th)
Scoring Defense - 19.7 ppg (10th)

Here's what the Pats defense looked like in the AFC Championship Game versus Denver.

DE - Rob Ninkovich
DT - Alan Branch
DT - Malcom Brown
DE - Chandler Jones

LB - Jamie Collins
LB - Dont'a Hightower
CB - Logan Ryan
S - Patrick Chung
S - Devin McCourty
CB - Malcolm Butler
NB - Duron Harmon

Here's what the Pats defense COULD look like in late September 2016 when the Texans visit.

DE - Rob Ninkovich
DT - TERRANCE KNIGHTON
DT - Malcom Brown
DE - JABAAL SHEARD
LB - Jamie Collins
LB - Dont'a Hightower
LB- SHEA McCLELLIN *CB- Logan Ryan S- Patrick Chung S- Devin McCourty CB- Malcolm Butler
NB* - CYRUS JONES

ALL CAPS INDICATE POTENTIALLY DIFFERENT STARTER
*
Situational starters based on opposing offensive scheme

Most significant improvement on the defense - Not much has changed but the addition of some true size, a true nose tackle in Knighton could truly be a boost to an already strong run defense.

Most impactful players that the Texans didn't see in 2015? Knighton and McClellin. The rest of the defense made a statement in December against the Texans on Sunday night.

What will worry Texans fans the most? - The overall athleticism of this group, especially at linebacker and safety. Sheard was all but unblockable in that game last year and he'll get a ton more reps with Jones off to Arizona.

What will worry Patriots fans the most? - If the Patriots don't generate much of a pass rush. Quite honestly, though, this defense doesn't get the credit that it deserves. The Chiefs were the best defense the Texans faced in 2015, but the Patriots were not that far behind. As such, most of that group returns in 2016.

The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 9/7/2020)

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