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Unnamed Patriots Player Not Confident Offense Will Improve Without Tom Brady

BOSTON (CBS) -- 'Tis the season to be optimistic in the NFL. With months to go before real football games are played, there's plenty of time for analysts and pundits to weigh in with all sorts of flowery language about the potential greatness of a given team.

As for the players themselves? Well, apparently the enthusiasm is a bit more measured.

ESPN's Dianna Russini said she spoke to a member of the Patriots offense. Inspired by Mike Reiss' article that explored the possibility of the Patriots' offense actually improving in 2020 without Tom Brady, Russini asked the player if that's possible.

His answer was rather honest.

"I did reach out to someone on the Patriots, on the offensive side of the ball, after I read Mike Reiss' article about [how] maybe this team actually could take a step forward," Russini said. "And he said, Look, [Jarrett] Stidham is really good, he's mobile, and you heard Rob [Ninkovich] talk about this run game. Yes, that is bolstered up. But the best response to it was when he said, 'You expect us to have an offense that is going to be improved without the greatest player of all time? It's a little far-fetched. We can be successful but we're not going to be as good as we were when Tom Brady was here.' So pretty honest stuff, coming from a Patriot."

Indeed, whether the Patriots can make improvements offensively remains the million dollar question in Foxboro. On the one hand, the presumed health of David Andrews and Isaiah Wynn should go a long way toward bolstering the offensive line, which became a point of weakness last year. The addition of a younger, healthy fullback should likewise improve the running game, while a healthy N'Keal Harry entering year two (plus the impressive preseason connection between Stidham and Jakobi Meyers) does lend itself to the possibility for some improvements.

The Patriots ranked 15th in yards gained last year, with the eigth-ranked passing offense and 18th-ranked rushing offense. They did rank seventh in scoring offense, but that was aided by seven touchdowns scored on defense or special teams.

While that cautious approach may be the word out of Foxboro, it's not necessarily what Patriots opponents are expecting.

"Going back a few weeks ago I had one head coach in that division say to me, 'Yeah, New England lost their prince, but guess who's still there? The emperor.' That being Bill Belichick of course," Russini said. "So no one's doubting that the New England Patriots are going to be able to do what they always do, which is figure out a way to be successful."

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