3 biggest concerns surrounding the Patriots defense

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The New England Patriots have a lot of question marks heading into training camp. Many of the concerns are centered on the defensive side of the football. With a revamped secondary and a new-look linebacker group, the Patriots have a lot to sort out.

For some of these players, they will have to take on roles that they have not encountered at this point in their career. For others, it will be about stepping up and making an impact in a bigger way. In some cases, it may seem risky. However this could be a year where we truly find out the impact of previous drafts.

Today we take a look at three concerns surrounding the defensive unit, as new pieces look to keep pace.

The secondary needs to find an identity

Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest causes of concern for the Patriots is the secondary. Following the departure of J. C. Jackson, this now leaves the organization without a top corner.

Jonathan Jones and Jalen Mills are returning for the organization. Jones appeared in only six games last season, before an injury in October sidelined him for the rest of the year. Mills was a valuable part of the Patriots secondary. He recorded 47 tackles last season, appearing in all 16 games.

The Pats did address the lack of secondary depth in the offseason. They were able to acquire Terrence Mitchell and Malcolm Butler during free agency.

Butler does have starting experience. He started for the Patriots for three seasons from 2015-2017. He also played in 16 games for Tennessee in 2020. Mitchell appeared in 16 games for the Cleveland Browns in 2020, starting all of them. He appeared in 14 games for the Texans last season.

The Patriots also drafted Jack and Marcus Jones. Jack hails from Arizona State, while Marcus was a standout at Houston.

The problem here is that the Patriots will be relying newcomers to really make an impact. The best case scenario is that Jonathan Jones heals from his injury. A healthy Jones makes a big difference and allows those mentioned above to grow into their roles. The combination of Mills and Jones will have to hold down the secondary, as the newcomers and rookies get mixed into the equation.

The linebacker position has a lot of question marks

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The Patriots underwent a bit of a makeover at the linebacker position. Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, and Chase Winovich are no longer with the team. This leaves other players the opportunity to step up and make an impact.

Mack Wilson is one of them. He was part of the Winovich trade. he recorded 42 combined tackles last season, in what was a bit of a down year for him. His career-high in tackles was 82, set back in the 2019 season. He comes to New England looking for a change of scenery. This could be exactly what he needs to revive his career.

There are also some redshirt players that look to make an impact after injuries last year. Ronnie Perkins is one of them. He was active for the first 13 games of the season, but did not see the field. He was placed on injured reserve in December. Cameron McGrone is another name. He did not play at all last season, as he was recovering from injury. He has been praised by coaching staff, and could be in line to make an impact in his first year.

The concerns with the linebackers are not that they lack talent. For that unit, it’s going to be about filling in those spots left by the departure of Van Noy and Hightower. How players like Perkins and McGrone develop will be crucial to the New England defense. Patriots fans were concerned about New England not drafting any linebackers in this year. Those two along with Matt Judon and Josh Uche will be tasked with leading the linebacker group. They have the pieces, now it’s time for production.

The Patriots need more production at the edge position

Bills quarterback Josh Allen fights off a sack by Patriots Deatrich Wise Jr.

The lack of depth at the defensive end position is something that is going to be worth monitoring, and could be a cause of concern.

Deatrich Wise Jr. is slated to be the starter at the position. He recorded 41 tackles and three sacks last year. Those are decent numbers, however a pass-rushing presence at the position would be ideal. Maty Judon took over the past-rushing duties last year with 12.5 sacks.

In addition to the lack of a pass rush at defensive and, the position does not have a ton of depth. Henry Anderson is next in line at the position after wise, and he only played in a total of four games last season. Bill Murray is next in line after Anderson, and he has spent the last two seasons on the practice squad.

The bottom line is, there is a ton of tangible depth at the position after Wise. The edge position is crucial in today’s game of football. Yes, the Patriots have managed to get pass-rushing production from the linebacker position. However, something tangible at edge would be ideal and it would allow for some of the pressure to be taken off of a player like Judon.

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