Patriots: 3 defensive rookies who will make huge impacts in 2020

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(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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1. Anfernee Jennings

Multidimensional linebacker Anfernee Jennings should fit like a glove in New England’s defense.

The Patriots knew going into the 2020 NFL Draft that they needed to retool their linebacking corps. Jennings will help do that in more ways than people may expect from a third-round pick, but it’s worth mentioning he’s arguably a first-round talent.

At 6-foot-2 and 256 pounds, Jennings is capable of playing each linebacker position and appears as if he can provide great depth and talent as a defensive end in Belichick’s defensive schemes. While always hawking the quarterback, he has great mid-play awareness, which allowed him to record 18 pass deflections and two interceptions, primarily from the defensive end position in his four years at Bama.

After playing under coach Nick Saban, Jennings already has an upper hand coming into the Patriots system. In addition to Belichick and Saban being good friends, the Crimson Tide defense studies the Patriots’ schemes, which explains why they’re among the elite units year in and year out.

Jennings has a firm understanding of the verbiage, alignments, stunts, and formations of the dynamic Patriots defense, as he mentioned recently when speaking to reporters. He’s a great tackler and it’s fair to say that not many running backs (if any) are going to get by him in the open field or around the edge.

The rookie is also a nightmare for opposing offensive linemen. He impressively finished his college career with 193 tackles, 33.5 tackles for loss, and 14.5 sacks. He led Alabama last year in tackles for loss (12.5) and sacks (8), which earned him First Team All-SEC honors.

It seems the best way to utilize Jennings to his full potential is to let him continue playing the style of football he’s accustomed to that allowed him to shine for the Crimson Tide. During a conference call after the draft, Jenning alluded to the Patriots’ planning on doing just that.

"“I talked to Coach Belichick last night. He plans on using me kind of the same way that I was used at Alabama — using my versatility, being able to stack it back off the ball and line up on the edge and move around, making the most of wherever he puts me,” Jennings told Doug Kyed of NESN."

Jennings and the Patriots are a perfect fit for each other and he should be expected to make a big impact during his rookie season. Get excited for these three guys to turn heads in 2020.