New England suffers big blow with player opt-outs

July 29, 2020 - 1:09 am

Players across the National Football League are returning to team facilities this week as training camp gets set to begin this week.

However, not eveyone is electing to show up this year.

To prevent further risk of being infected with the coronavirus, many players across the league are opting out of playing in the 2020 season.

The Buffalo Bills saw that firsthand with the opt-out of defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, but another team in the AFC East has taken the biggest hit to their starting lineup because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The New England Patriots saw six different players in the last couple of days decide they would not be reporting to camp or to the team this season. The six players includes two key starters on defense in linebacker Dont'a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung.

On offense, Cam Newton lost one of his top offensive lineman as tackle Marcus Cannon opted out of the season. Running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale, and offensive lineman Najee Toran also decided against playing.

Losing starters, the importance of roster depth, and stars elevating their teams are going to be consistent themes of the 2020 season across the NFL. But is this too much for the Patriots to take on and still produce a winning season?

Even for Bill Belichick, perhaps the greatest head coach of all time and the coach that does more with less better than anyone, this is trouble.

Hightower opting out means Belichick lost the best player he had on the front-seven on defense. A front-seven that already took heavy losses, specifically at linebacker this offseason with the departures of Kyle Van Noy to the Miami Dolphins and Jamie Collins to the Detroit Lions.

That is 208 tackles and 18.5 sacks to make up for.

Losing a veteran offensive lineman who can help protect a quarterback coming off multiple, serious injuries is no small loss either.

The Patriots should still have a top secondary in the league, and Newton at quarterback has always been able to elevate an underwhelming supporting cast in the past, as has Belichick. They should still be the biggest threat to the Bills winning the AFC East in 2020, but these losses are just another element that adds on to the high expectations Buffalo has.

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