The Bounce Back Patriots

There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the 2024 NFL season for the New England Patriots. The rookies will get their first taste of action at the professional level and a new coaching staff is going to bring a lot more swagger and energy, so this football team is going to be viewed very differently than ever before. However, for the veterans who missed an extended period of time last year, it is a chance for them to come back to the field and pick up where they left off.

When it comes to the New England Patriots, there were certainly more than a couple of players who were greatly missed after such a pathetic 4-13 campaign. Let’s look at the five Pats players who are expected to come back for the 2024 season and how impactful they truly are to this football team, both on the field and in the locker room.

How the Patriots are Bouncing Back in 2024

#1: Matthew Judon

Sep 24, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) is sacked for a safety by New England Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon (9) in the 4th quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

After linebacker Matt Judon tore his biceps in their Week 4 loss against the Dallas Cowboys, it already felt like it was going to be a lost season for the New England Patriots. Their offense was the definition of disastrous, and to make matters worse, the heart and soul of the defense was going to miss the rest of the season.

Words cannot describe how much of a changer that Judon has become since he signed with New England in 2021. The fact that he has not made an All-Pro team is ridiculous because he has easily been one of the top ten pass rushers in all of football. When he was with the Baltimore Ravens, he never had double-digit sacks in a season. In his first two years with the Patriots, he totaled twenty-eight.

Any time that Judon is on the field, he can completely wreck the game and open up plenty of opportunities for other guys to make tremendous plays. Look at how Josh Uche did in 2022. Nobody expected him to have any sort of impact on that New England defense, but sure enough, he finished that season with a career-high 11.5 sacks. It will absolutely be hard for Judon to return to full strength since he will turn 32 years old in August coming off of that biceps injury, but his absence alone completely sank every single Patriots fan the moment that he was ruled out for the season.

#2: Rhamondre Stevenson

Dec 3, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) makes a catch against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

It can easily be said that Rhamondre Stevenson had a “down year”, but so did everybody else on that Patriots offense. He played the first twelve games of the 2023 season and totaled over 600 rushing yards and four touchdowns, but when he suffered that high-grade sprain on his right foot against the Chargers, it felt like the best player on the team was out for the rest of the year.

Now that Stevenson is healed up to play in a contract year, he is expected to be that reliable piece in the backfield that he has been since he was drafted in the fourth round. Whether it is Jacoby Brissett or Drake Maye under center, Stevenson will always be that versatile back who can do almost anything on the field, so his return is going to be just as impactful as Matthew Judon, to be completely honest.

Whenever Stevenson is healthy, he can be that 1,000-yard running back who can not only find the open running lanes but can run defenders over to pick up extra yardage. As long as he can stay on the field and pick up where he left off, then there is no doubt that he will have a strong bounce-back season. Otherwise, he is going to be an unrestricted free agent after the year and he will most likely be on another team.

#3: Christian Gonzalez

Sep 10, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Christian Gonzalez (6) prepares for a game against the Philadelphia Eagles during the warm-up period at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

That Week 4 loss against the Dallas Cowboys might have been the worst one of the season for the New England Patriots, given everything that happened. New England got destroyed 38-3 and Mac Jones got benched for Bailey Zappe, those two things alone were pathetic. But for both Matt Judon and Christian Gonzalez to suffer season-ending injuries in the same game? That was really soul-crushing.

In the first three games of the season, the first-round rookie out of Oregon showed incredible flashes of what he could become in this league. When he leaped over Tyreek Hill and was able to hold on for the interception, it let Pats fans know that he was going to be the next top graduate out of the New England Patriots DB Academy. Gonzalez was asked to hold their ground against some of the top receivers in the game such as Hill, AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Garrett Wilson. Not one time did Christian give up a touchdown.

Coming off of a torn labrum is not an easy challenge for any NFL player, let alone a cornerback, but Gonzalez is going to need to really step it up in his sophomore year. He might have a new uniform number, but the task is still the same. Good luck.

#4: Kendrick Bourne

Oct 22, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) scores a touchdown past Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson (7) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Even though this is not saying much, Kendrick Bourne was the best wide receiver that the Patriots had last year before he tore his ACL against the Miami Dolphins in Week 8. For one thing, he was the only one who consistently got open and picked up a lot of yards after the catch once the ball was in his hands. Ever since his breakout season in 2021, it has been nothing but extremely difficult for Bourne to return to his full form. This is going to be extremely difficult in 2024 since he is coming off of a torn ACL, one of the most serious injuries that any athlete can go through. Some can return to strength and return to have promising careers, while others are never the same again.

Hopefully, the latter can be avoided because Bourne is too awesome of a player and person not to be on the football field. The great news is that he signed a three-year extension football with the team, and now that he has the full confidence of the coaching staff and players, Bourne is going to be more hungry than ever to finish what he started in Gillette Stadium.

#5: Marcus Jones

Aug 10, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Marcus Jones (25) warms up before a game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Another Patriots cornerback who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury was Marcus Jones, which was unfortunate because last year was a chance for him to prove what type of player he was in the league. Although the 2022 season was frustrating to watch, Marcus Jones was one of the few positives with that football team. He had a lot to work on as a cornerback and still does to this day because of his size, but Jones proved that he can be a huge contributor to their special teams as a punt returner. When he ended up winning the starting job for that position, he did not look back.

Jones is one of the only few players in NFL history that has scored a touchdown on offense, defense, and on special teams! His playmaking abilities and capabilities are not to be denied whatsoever because he has a good amount of speed. However, this is going to be a make-or-break year for Marcus Jones because nobody has gotten a chance to see what he can do as a cornerback. When he was fully healthy in 2022, he showed a lot of flashes both on the outside and in the slot but now is the time for him to really put it to the test. There is no doubt that he can be an outstanding special teams player, yet if he cannot show his worth on the defensive side, his time with the Patriots is not going to last long.

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