By William Bendetson
- Settle on a left tackle. Nate Solder’s departure leaves a hole protecting Tom Brady’s blind side. Whether it’s trade addition Trent Brown, top pick Isaiah Wynn or another option, legendary line coach Dante Scarnecchia has to find a new option on the left side, a spot that’s previously been held down by only Solder and team Hall of Famer Matt Light for the entirety of Brady’s career in New England.
- Clarify the No. 2 cornerback job. With one season under his belt in Foxborough, Stephon Gilmore is entrenched as New England’s No. 1 corner. But with Malcolm Butler having moved on to Tennessee, there will be an open competition between veteran Eric Rowe, trade addition Jason McCourty and a list of youngsters for the cornerback roles behind Gilmore.
- Figure out roles at receiver. With Brandin Cooks’ trade to the Rams and Julian Edelman set to serve a four-game suspension to open the season while also returning from a torn ACL, the Patriots depth at receiver is going to be tested. Chris Hogan has been solid in his two seasons working with Brady, beyond that there is a list of question marks led by oft-injured third year player Malcolm Mitchell, free agent addition Jordan Matthews and others.
–Left tackle. It’s the most important position on any offensive line. Failure to find a solid blind-side protector has derailed many a passing attack across the NFL in recent years when Tom Brady has cruised along over his career with continuity at the position. There will also be an interesting dynamic in terms of size difference between massive trade addition Trent Brown (6-foot-8, 355) and undersized first-round pick Isaiah Wynn, who lacks both the height and length that has become the norm at the position. Brady and the Patriots offensive production could hinge on this competition and quality of play at the position this fall.