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

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Marte Mapu 

Mapu recently revealed that he was rehabbing a pectoral issue during the preseason last year. That may explain why the rookie played more special teams than defensive snaps.

If the former Sacramento State Hornet is healthy, he should be DeMarcus Covington’s secret weapon in 2024. Kyle Dugger called Mapu a “hybrid” during a game at Gillette Stadium last season, but his college profile page says he was named second-team Big Sky conference as an outside linebacker, and he started 12 games for the Hornets at nickelback! 

The former Big Sky defensive player of the year has two superpowers. First, despite weighing 230 pounds, he has an astonishing ability to squeeze between offensive linemen and appear in the backfield. His second cheat code is his strength.

Not many 230-pound players can tackle like James Harrison. Marte absolutely can; he demonstrated his raw power by ripping the ball out of Travis Kelce’s hands for his first career interception

Given the number of linebackers left in the off-season and Jaylinn Hawkins's arrival in free agency, it seems likely Mapu will play linebacker or as an auxiliary cornerback this season. But Marte’s ability to play at linebacker or defensive back means quarterbacks cannot tell if they’re facing a loaded box or more of a “dime” defense when he's on the field.

If fate smiles on DeMarcus Covington, the first-year defensive coordinator will be able to devise some creative defensive plays.