The New England Patriots’ defense didn’t live up to expectations last season, which prompted the front office to make significant investments through the draft and free agency.
Those guys will join a core of exciting young players that includes cornerback JC Jackson, safety Kyle Dugger, edge rushers Chase Winovich and Josh Uche, as well as second- and third-round selections Christian Barmore and Ronnie Perkins.
Speaking strictly in terms of Uche, his name has popped up everywhere this offseason as a potential breakout candidate in 2021. And it’s easy to see why after he flashed serious potential down the stretch after returning from a nagging foot injury.
Well, it would appear Uche has already caught the eye of Matt Judon, one of the major investments the Patriots made in free agency. After reading up on Judon’s praise for Uche, we can’t help but wonder if the veteran was brought in to help mentor New England’s young LBs.
Matt Judon’s presence will help develop the Patriots’ young linebackers.
If you think about it, the likes of Uche, Winovich and Terez Hall didn’t have a veteran around to coach them up last season. Not only did Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins leave in free agency, but defensive captain Dont’a Hightower opted out amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The only true vets on the Patriots’ defense in 2020 were the McCourty twins, Stephon Gilmore and Lawrence Guy. Given they all play different positions, they probably had little to offer from a teaching standpoint to the young linebacking room.
This season will be an entirely different story, though. Judon is a five-year pro with 34.5 sacks, 103 quarterback hits and 54 tackles for loss on his resume. Hightower, meanwhile, is a three-time champion who’s compiled 504 tackles over his eight years in Foxborough. And finally, Van Noy, a two-time champ, is as driven as any defensive player in the league. But Judon will likely be here the longest.
In other words, don’t be surprised if the likes of Uche and Winovich, second and third-round selections in 2019, make significant strides in their development this season and beyond … as long as they’re given enough playing time to make an impact, obviously.
Though we can’t speak for Winovich, who’s starting camp on the PUP list with an undisclosed injury, Uche has clearly taken Judon’s pointers in stride, because the 22-year-old was a standout performer during OTAs and minicamp and has taken that momentum into training camp.
To nobody’s surprise, Judon is at the center of it all.