4 bold predictions for the New England Patriots 2023 season

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones should have a lot to smile about this season.
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones should have a lot to smile about this season. / Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
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Someone will make the NFL All-Defense Rookie Team

This should be a big year for rookies on the New England Patriots defense. The first three selections were on defense, bookended by two cornerbacks as the final picks. All five made the roster following the NFL roster deadline.

The top three selections are primed to have plenty of opportunities to show their greatness.

Christian Gonzalez, New England’s top selection, is already being projected by multiple publications to make the rookie all-defensive team. He is expected to start from day one and is in the hands of Belichick, who knows a thing or two about coaching defensive backs.

What Gonzalez has shown in the preseason so far has been very promising. He’s been sticky in man coverage, more physical than the scouting reports suggested, and made a great recovery during the preseason game against the Green Bay Packers that resulted in an interception, though he was flagged on a very ticky-tack call.

But a case can be made that Keion White has been the best rookie defender this preseason. In the preseason opener, White was a force, generating a handful of pressures against the Texans.

He will join a rotation up front that includes Deatrich Wise Jr., Matt Judon, and Josh Uche, which will be a problem on the stat sheet for White.

White can play either end or tackle in odd or even alignments. While this versatility will benefit the Patriots, it will limit White’s opportunities to tally sacks, an overrated stat to measure defensive linemen productivity.

The player to watch out for is the one Belichick has kept tucked inside his vest like a sawed-off shotgun under a trench coat: Marte Mapu.

Mapu has practiced all preseason but wore a red non-contact jersey for most of the summer. He shed it during the joint practices against the Packers. He saw his first game action in the final preseason game and flashed intriguing closing speed on occasion.

It feels like Belichick doesn’t want to show his hand with this kid. Mapu could be a game-changer for the defense as a linebacker/safety hybrid the league hasn’t seen in Belichick’s hands before.

Reports from training camp suggest that Mapu could be special. And we know the last safety Belichick selected, Kyle Dugger, already is. Adding Mapu to Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, Jalen Mills, and Dugger almost feels like cheating.

The element of surprise, plus playing alongside talented veterans, should put Mapu in excellent position to make plays. Gonzalez and White could be great for the Patriots, but Mapu could sneak onto one of the rookie all-defensive teams.