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The Patriots made a big splash this past offseason when they addressed a variety of position groups via free agency and the draft.
After veterans report for training camp by Tuesday, July 27, and with the first practice scheduled for July 28, the Patriots’ coaching staff will begin to analyze all of their players.
As always, there will be roster battles, position battles, and rookies trying to make a name for themselves. There are also new veterans who signed here who will have to learn the playbook and adapt to how New England operates.
With that being said, let’s take a look at three units that should see the most improvement in comparison to last season.
Pro Football Focus ranked the Patriots defensive line at No. 25 heading into the 2020 season, but fast forward to July 2021, and PFF ranked the Patriots defensive line at No. 15.
The Patriots’ defensive line and linebackers were problem areas last season. The team had few players who could create consistent true pressure while fielding one of the worst defenses in the league against the run.
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New England invested heavily in improving that group this offseason, adding Matthew Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Montravius Adams, Christian Barmore and Ronnie Perkins across free agency and the 2021 NFL draft. It should be a much-improved unit heading into next season.
It first started with former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia returning to the Patriots coaching staff. Patricia joined the Patriots in 2004. He was named defensive coordinator in 2012 and would help lead the Patriots to two more Super Bowl titles before his departure in 2018. Although he is not expected to lead the defense in 2021, surely his presence and knowledge will be an asset for the organization.
In free agency, Judon was the biggest splash signing as he is one of the best pass rushers in the league. Defensive linemen Davon Godchaux and Henry Anderson proved themselves with their previous teams. Both of those players should improve the run defense.
In the draft, second-round pick Christian Barmore was one of the event’s biggest steals. NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah shared his thoughts on Barmore.
“He could sneak into the back end of one (the first round). I think more than likely he goes in Round 2,” Jeremiah told reporters during a national conference call ahead of the NFL draft. “To me, he’s a 3-technique who has got some real athleticism to jump in gaps, get upfield, and go. That puts him, for me, in the second-round mix. I think he’s my 42nd player. So, that’s kind of where I have him. Would I be shocked if he were to go [late in the first round]? I don’t think that’s a big reach.”
Third-round pick Ronnie Perkins, who recently took to social media to post himself signing his rookie contract, is an enticing depth piece who will likely start off his career contributing on special teams in order to earn playing time as a pass rusher.
The Patriots’ tight ends have high expectations entering the 2021 season. With essentially zero production from the tight ends for two straight years. Bill Belichick revamped his tight ends in the offseason by signing the top two free agents available.
Hunter Henry signed a three-year, $37.5 million contract, including $25 million in guarantees. Jonnu Smith signed a four-year, $50 million contract, including $39.25 million guaranteed.