The New England Patriots‘ defense lost a ton of leadership this offseason. Between JC Jackson, Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower, who admittedly could still return on a team-friendly deal, you’re talking about three of the unit’s biggest stars.
That leaves Devin McCourty and Matt Judon as the remaining de facto leaders of Bill Belichick’s (Steve Belichick’s/Jerod Mayo’s ?) defense. With McCourty entering his age-35 season and likely to take a backseat in terms of his snap share, it’ll be up to Judon to take the bull by the horns and lead by example.
The Patriots prized free-agent acquisition last offseason did just that in 2021, producing 12.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 25 quarterback hits, 63 pressures, 37 hurries and a 73.2 pass-rush grade from Pro Football Focus.
We all know Judon fell off down the stretch of the regular season when offenses fixated on neutralizing his impact. He didn’t record a sack over the final four games, but still produced enough to make his third consecutive Pro Bowl.
The season seemed to solidify Judon’s standing amongst the NFL’s elite edge rushers, right? Well, not according to PFF’s Sam Monson.
PFF’s 2022 edge rusher rankings completely disrespected Patriots star Matt Judon
Brace yourselves, Patriots fans, because you have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the article to locate Judon, who fell into Monson’s SIXTH tier of edge rushers. The title of the group? “Need to Live Up to Potential.”
Even worse is the fact Judon ranked last in the bottom tier and No. 32 overall, so Monson is basically telling us that there’s 31 edge rushers better than the Patriots star, who was widely viewed as one of the best signings of last offseason.
All told, we wouldn’t look too much into Judon’s placement, because Monson’s tiers are completely discombobulated.
The second tier, “Young Rushers With Huge Potential” (Brian Burns, Rashan Gary and Chase Young) somehow comes before “Underrated Veterans,” which is where Judon should’ve been ranked given it featured Cameron Jordan, DeMarcus Lawrence, Haason Reddick, Shaq Barrett and Trey Hendrickson, among others.
Additionally, the “Declining Forces” bracket (Nos. 22-28) is littered with some of the game’s most impactful rushers, including Von Miller, Chandler Jones, JJ Watt and Robert Quinn, who finished second in the NFL with 18.5 sacks in 2021.
You really mean to tell us Judon and those veterans don’t deserve to rank higher than those up-and-coming youngsters? Over the last five seasons, Judon’s averaged 8.5 sacks, 16 TFLs, 23.6 QB hits and 48.2 pressures. He’s a model of consistency and the nucleus of Belichick’s defense … but still has potential to live up to?
Give us a break. You’d think being the star of the Patriots’ defense, which has produced countless Pro Bowlers since the turn of the century, would give Judon some credibility and extra cushion among the national media.
Nope. All it did was earn him a spot in Tier 6 as the last edge rusher listed in Monson’s rankings. Oh well. At least Judon has found an extra source of motivation.