Last season, the New England Patriots lost some several key players that affected their march toward a sixth Super Bowl ring. Now, the Patriots are expected to become a stronger and more interesting team with the return of some important players who are expected to make a difference in the coming season. Among these players is wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who missed all of 2017 season due to a knee injury after an impressive 2016 season. According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, Mitchell is expected to join the Patriots’ OTA, which will start in a couple of weeks.

Edelman, Mitchell to give Patriots offense a boost

Mitchell’s knee injury forced him to miss all offseason activities and training camp. The Patriots mulled bringing back Mitchell late in the season, but they decided to shut him down to allow him to fully recover for the 2018 season. In his rookie year, Mitchell caught 32 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns. Mitchell must prove to the Patriots coaching staff that he deserves a roster spot and he must do it against veteran receivers like Kenny Britt and Jordan Matthews. As of now, Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan are locked in as starting receivers while Mitchell, Britt, Matthews, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarelle Patterson will battle it out for the remaining spots.

Edelman is also set to return this season after missing all off 2017 with a torn ACL that he suffered in the Patriots’ third preseason game. In 2016, Edelman caught 98 passes for 1,106 yards and three touchdowns. With Edelman returning, Brady is set to get his favorite target back for 2018. Speaking of offense, offensive tackles Andrew Jelks and Marcus Cannon will also make their return in 2018.

Jelks missed all of last season with a torn ACL while Cannon went down with a season-ending ankle injury in Week 8.

Hightower to beef up Patriots’ defense

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower played just five games last season, leaving the Patriots’ defensive unit vulnerable. Hightower suffered a knee injury in Week 1 and went down with a season-ending torn pectoral muscle in Week 7, leaving the Patriots without one of their best defensive players.

Hightower’s return will give the Patriots’ defensive unit stability and a veteran presence. Aside from Hightower, defensive ends Derek Rivers and Keionta Davis, defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, safety Nate Ebner and cornerback Cyrus Jones will also make their return in the coming season.