Potential X-Factors for the Patriots This Season

When Tom Brady left New England for Tampa Bay, many were quick to write off the Patriots for the 2020 NFL season. If you know anything about the culture Bill Belichick has built in New England, you know that was a mistake. The Patriots may not boast the same array of talent as other elite teams in the AFC, but their roster is constructed solidly enough to make a serious playoff push. Here are three potential Patriots X-Factors for the upcoming season:

N’Keal Harry

Harry — New England’s 2019 first-round pick — failed to reach expectations last season. The Arizona State product struggled with injuries and only played in seven games, catching just 12 balls for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Harry seems to be determined to put that rough start behind him, working diligently to improve his craft this offseason. He’s been training with the self-proclaimed “Footwork King”, Rischad Whitfield to work on his explosiveness and creating separation off the line. Harry has always been a dominant receiver in the air, relying on his physicality to win 1v1’s. Assuming he’s made real progress with his footwork and explosiveness, watch out. Believe it or not, Harry also benefits from the departure of Tom Brady, who notoriously does not trust young receivers. He’ll get a fresh start — whether it’s catching passes from Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham — and could become a legitimate factor in New England’s offense.

James White

After a stellar 2018 campaign, White took a step back last year. Assuming he wins the starting job for the Patriots, White could be primed for the best season of his career. Newton grew accustomed to working with elite receiving backs (Christian McCaffrey) in his final years with Carolina. While White is no McCaffrey, their playing styles are similar. McCaffrey caught 107 passes from Newton in 2018, proving to be his most trusted target. White could easily develop a similar relationship with Newton in New England. It’s no secret that the Patriots’ receiving core is not the deepest in the league, and White could really help pick up the slack. 

Cam Newton

Last, but certainly not least, you knew this was coming. Newton is undoubtedly one of the biggest potential Patriots X-Factors this season. The former MVP hasn’t played at a truly elite level in two years, and the extent of his health is shrouded in mystery. If you ask Newton, however, he’d tell you that he’s 100% healthy and hungrier then ever to prove the critics wrong. He’s currently on a tour of the country, working out with his new teammates, as shown on his Instagram. It’s hard to judge Newton from the workout videos he posts, but it appears he could be as healthy as he proclaims. If that’s the case, the rest of the league could be in for a rude awakening. 

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