Regardless of the opt outs, the Patriots still need help on defense.
Blame the offense all you want, Patriots fans. That’s not what’s really holding this team back. It’s the defense, and it’s time to come to terms with it. We know it’s hard because New England and Bill Belichick typically sport the best unit in the league year in and year out, but everything’s come crashing down in 2020.
The free agent exodus hurt, no doubt. The losses of Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts, Danny Shelton and others was a significant blow. The opt outs that followed — Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung — didn’t help either. But the Patriots, in short, have been exposed. Losing free agents is rarely an excuse for this kind of drop off.
Teams are supposed to prepare for such departures. You know, building depth through the draft? It’s pretty standard stuff. Though the last 20 years in Patriot Land have been nothing short of tremendous, Belichick has not been drafting particularly well since 2014, and the results have been quite obvious this season. The Pats just haven’t been able to hit with their first- or second-round picks, and it’s a serious problem.
But 2021 is a new year! New draft. New free agent class. Starting from scratch after this likely dud of the campaign will surely feel good. And the Patriots will have a ton of cap space to spend. Fixing the defense should take priority, so here are a few guys Belichick should look to open up Robert Kraft’s checkbook for.
3. Dalvin Tomlinson
The Patriots could use Dalvin Tomlinson stuffing up the middle.
How about another Alabama guy on the Pats? Dalvin Tomlinson has been with the New York Giants ever since being selected in the second-round back in 2017. The 6-foot-3, 318-pound behemoth hasn’t missed a game in his NFL career and has really hit his stride in the 3-4 scheme after being a 4-3 defensive lineman for his first two seasons.
Across 10 games in 2020, he’s got 35 tackles, 1.5 sacks, four passes defensed, five tackles for a loss, and seven QB hits. He’s on track to nab career-highs in all of those stats with the exception of sacks (and passes defensed, because that’s already a career high) with six games remaining.
His impact goes beyond the box score, too. The man’s a habitual run-stuffer, which is exactly what the Patriots have valued tremendously over the past 20 years. There’s always been someone up the middle clogging up holes or disrupting the quarterback, and there’s just been none of that this year.
The Patriots have been getting gashed left and right, whether it’s by the run or thanks to QBs getting a ton of time in the pocket to go through all of their reads. Tomlinson would be an immediate impact guy and Belichick would have a much easier time sleeping at night if he was starting at nose tackle every Sunday.