The Patriots have maintained their perch atop the NFL for almost two decades by forming quality rosters out of no-name replacements and young, cheap contributors. While the names (aside from Tom Brady) have changed over the years, the result remains mostly the same. 2018 figures to be no different: Pro Football Focus ranked the Pats roster the best in the AFC heading into the summer, and fourth overall in the NFL. They also offered some points on New England's biggest strengths and weaknesses.
Biggest strength: It’s Tom Brady. Do we need to say anything else? Brady led all QBs last season with a 95.5 grade – his third straight season north of 93.0 – and his 96.6 passer rating under pressure was higher than the passer rating that 22 quarterbacks earned from a clean pocket.
Biggest weakness: The linebacking corps – specifically the middle, which is currently occupied by Elandon Roberts. Roberts ranked 69th among interior linebackers last season with a 41.6 grade, which was regression from the 61.1 he posted as a rookie in 2016. He ranked last in the position with just a 6.2 run-stop percentage while also surrendering a 144.3 passer rating in coverage.
"Biggest Strength" was pretty obvious. There's definitely no need to say anything else. Selecting the linebacker corps as the biggest weakness might be a bit more unexpected. While depth was an issue at times last season with Dont'a Hightower back, his return means Elandon Roberts won't have to see the field as much (per PatsPulpit, he played 52.9% of the defensive snaps last year). Beyond Roberts, Kyle Van Noy and Marquis Flowers have been solid contributors, and Derek Rivers might be able to chip in as an edge rushing 'backer to boot. Beyond that, the Pats did draft Purdue's Ja'Whuan Bentley and Arizona State's Christian Sam to shore up the back of the depth chart. While the linebacking corps is far from the best positional group, even now it still looks pretty solid.