Why James White thinks 2024 Patriots could surprise people

The New England Patriots are coming off their worst season since 1992, but one former player thinks the team could perform better than expected during the upcoming NFL season.

The Patriots finished 4-13 at the bottom of the AFC standings in 2023. The offense was atrocious, highlighted by poor quarterback play, an abundance of turnovers and a lack of high-end talent at the skill positions. New England’s 13.8 points scored per game tied for the lowest in the league.

Are better times ahead for the franchise?

“I think the Patriots will surprise some people,” ex-Patriots running back James White recently said on MassLive’s Eye on Foxborough podcast. “The defense has been very good over the last several years. So if the defense continues to play at the same level, or even at a higher level, they’re going to be in every single football game, if the offense, obviously, picks up the slack some.”

White added: “They don’t have to go out there and score 35 points a game or anything like that, but they consistently move the ball, control the line of scrimmage and score 25 points a game, this team could be right there in the mix. They’re going to surprise some people.”

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The defense gave the Patriots a chance to win a bunch of games last season. This unit allowed 21 or fewer points in eight of 17 games, but the team won just two of those matchups.

When you consider the defense didn’t lose any major contributors over the offseason, plus the fact that cornerback Christian Gonzalez and pass rusher Matthew Judon are both returning from injury, it wouldn’t be shocking at all if this group was a top 10 or top 15 unit next season.

The real question is whether the Patriots offense can make meaningful strides.

Jacoby Brissett and/or Drake Maye should be upgrades over what the Patriots got from Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe at quarterback last season. The wide receiver depth chart still lacks a true No. 1 option, but the additions of veteran K.J. Osborn, plus rookies Ja’Lynn Polk and Javon Baker, should make the passing attack more dangerous. Rhamondre Stevenson, if healthy, is a top 15 running back.

The schedule makers didn’t do the Patriots any favors, though. The team’s first eight games are against, in order, the Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Jets again. That’s a brutal opening stretch against six different opponents that could all make the playoffs.

But the goal for the Patriots in 2024 shouldn’t be reaching the playoffs. It should be showing major improvement at key positions, especially at quarterback, where New England used the No. 3 overall pick in last month’s draft to acquire Maye.

If Maye has a successful rookie campaign, then the Patriots’ season as a whole will be a success.