New England Patriots: Leadership in locker room remains strong

Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images
Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images /

As the New England Patriots begin life without Tom Brady, team leaders Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater could boost their 2020 campaign.

The New England Patriots will be a different team without Tom Brady; mark that as an early candidate for understatement of the year. A leader in every sense of the imagination, the void Brady leaves understandably looms large.

As the falling offseason dominoes progress, Patriots fans could use some encouraging optimism about this upcoming season. While the main leader of the franchise is gone, New England still retains two of their most respected team captains, Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater.

While key components to recent championship teams move elsewhere, the Patriots made a point to sign McCourty and Slater to extensions in March. Devin’s twin brother, Jason McCourty, also signed an extension to remain in Foxborough.

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Still, familiar faces like Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Duron Harmon, Stephen Gostkowski and numerous others will be playing somewhere other than New England next season.

As young, potentially inexperienced talent joins the fold in training camp, who better to take them under their wing than McCourty and Slater? Of course, these two have been leaders from the start.

Slater, a fifth-round draft selection by the Patriots in 2008, has now been on the roster longer than any other current Patriot. A special teams ace, his precision and hustle have earned him eight Pro Bowl selections, along with two All-Pro selections.

He has a humbleness about him rarely seen in today’s game. Truly a consummate professional, Slater portrays the perfect player for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. After a win, Slater is the one who rounds up the group for a victory speech. After a loss, his reassuring words of wisdom resonate well with the New England faithful.

McCourty, a first-round draft selection by the Patriots in 2010, has panned out to be everything the Patriots have wanted and then some. Throughout his career, McCourty has been flexible playing both cornerback and free safety.

Overall, his talent and experience make him a critical asset even at the age of 32. While Slater energizes the team after the game, McCourty brings his emotions to the table pregame; his speeches even make me want to suit up and get out there myself.

No matter what, the Patriots are going to have to find a solid starting quarterback to get back into the title conversation. Maybe Jarrett Stidham will take the keys to the offense come September. Media coverage around Stidham would be absolute insanity. He will need teammates to rely on and those seasoned veterans have survived so long with New England for a reason.

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McCourty and Slater are two players who understand the Patriots model. The reality is playing without Tom Brady ultimately clouds the 2020 season with doubt. Yet if you know how the Patriots roll, as these two probably know better than anyone else, things will be business as usual.