5 second-year Patriots players who need to step up in 2024

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The Patriots loaded up on offensive players in the 2024 draft. That was partly because they have a new offensive coordinator, and he needs some weapons, but it was also an unintended consequence of their 2023 selections. That class included five defensive players.

But misfortune played a hand in limiting the effectiveness of their 2023 picks.

Just as first-round pick Christian Gonzalez seemed to have settled into life in the NFL; he suffered a brutal injury. He dislocated his shoulder so severely that his labrum was torn. The labrum is the cartilage surrounding the “socket” part of a ball and socket joint in the human body. Shoulder dislocations can be problematic, with some osteopaths claiming there’s a 90% relapse once a shoulder has suffered a dislocation!

He wasn't the only one who missed time due to injury problems, though. Five of the 12 draftees featured on the injury report at one time or another!

Gonzalez and co. will have to come through the 2024 season unscathed if Jerod Mayo is to turn the Patriots' fortunes around in his first year. But Gonzalez isn’t the only second-year player who will have a big say in how the 2024 season turns out in New England. 

5 second-year Patriots players who need to step up in 2024

Keion White 

White was the Patriots’ second-round pick last year. He was featured in 16 games but only played more than 66% of the defensive snaps in a single game on two occasions. Both Jerod Mayo and Bill Belichick were at pains to explain that they had a gradual development plan for White.

That seemed odd for a player taken in second-round pick, and unsurprisingly, the 24-year-old had a mixed season overall.  

Despite drawing rave reviews from fans and journalists alike, the 6-foot-5-inch defensive end only recorded one sack on a defense that struggled to get quarterbacks on the deck. The Georgia Tech product had a season of two halves. He only managed one solo tackle and four total tackles in the first seven weeks of the season.

However, he recorded his sac along with five QB Hits, two tackles for a loss, and 18 total tackles in the last seven. 

The Patriots' defense was pretty fluid in 2023. They used a 3-4 base, but they occasionally found themselves with as many as six guys on the line of scrimmage. If they mix it up this year, White would be better suited to a defensive tackle role than lining up at end. In Matt Judon’s absence, he sometimes lined up as a stand-up linebacker, but he lacks the burst Judon and other pure pass rushers have.

His power is there for all to see, but he doesn’t seem to have the “bend” that analysts highlight when they explain how pass rushers have beaten offensive tackles. Being a dynamic defensive tackle seems better than being a slow EDGE defender. With White and Christian Barmore taking on double team blocks, the Patriots linebackers would have plenty of space to operate.

Wherever White plays, he has to have a productive sophomore season. He was trending upward in the final two months of the 2023 season, so if the Patriots can avoid the injury bug, White’s job should be easier this time.