2. The Linebacker Situation
The Patriots, on paper, have a very strong linebacking corps, as they have a solid mix of veterans like Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy in addition to young players like Ja’Whuan Bentley and Josh Uche. However, there are some questions in this area that haven’t really be discussed.
Hightower was a Pro Bowl player the last time we saw him on the field, but he is coming off of a season in which he didn’t play a snap. At age 31, are his best days in the rearview mirror?
Likewise, will Uche be able to make good on his training camp hype and put together a more successful season on the field?
Are the Patriots set at linebacker?
Van Noy is still an effective player at this stage of his career, but he was released one year after signing a four-year, $51 million deal with $30 million guaranteed by former Patriots defensive coach Brian Flores in Miami. There has to be a reason behind that beyond incompetence, as that is a ton of money to eat in order to get rid of one player.
While Belichick has joined the nickel and dime revolution by loading up on defensive backs, he always asks his linebackers to perform a variety of different tasks as blitzers, run defenders, and coverage men. Issues with depth and performance could be a killer for Belichick and the Pats, especially if they’re relying on Hightower being his usual self immediately.