On paper the 2023 Patriots defense looks to be a top ten defense in the NFL. The pass rush will be lead by Matt Judon and the defensive backs will be lead by Jonathan Jones. Two very good leaders for this New England defense.
The defensive backs will be busy this year with some of the receivers they'll be facing. The Patriots addressed their secondary by selecting one of the best cornerbacks in the draft, Christian Gonzalez from Oregon. Some say it's a surprise he was available at pick 17, whereas some will say it was a miracle.
But what about the rest of the defensive backs? Obviously someone will need to step up to replace Devin McCourty as he rode off into the sunset this offseason. Who else will step up?
Well Jack Jones' career might be short lived in New England. Last week Jones was arrested at Logan Airport for having two firearms in his luggage. For now he's still on the team but that could change. If he ends up remaining with the team he'll be re-earning his coach's trust after being suspended by the team last year for being late to rehab sessions. If he's able to see the field hopefully those flashes of greatness he showed early last season comeback and happen more often.
Marcus Jones is a unicorn. He had quite the impressive rookie season showing his skill set on all sides of the ball. Since he is very versatile more should be expected of him this upcoming season. He won't be one of the starting cornerback's. But, in prevent defense expect to see Jones in there as well as whenever an opposing offense has a five receiver set on the field. Jones is a strong backup for either Jonathan Jones or Christian Gonzalez.
The best of the Joneses. He is the best defensive back on this team... for now. Last season Jones had four interceptions to go with 69 total tackles. He serves as a leader and a voice for the defense and he will be doing the same this upcoming season. He is a week one starter.
Gonzalez makes the secondary better. A top draft prospect that fell all the way to 17. So far Gonzalez has shined in OTA's and minicamp and will continue to do so. At Oregon Gonzalez was special. His final season at Oregon he finished with 50 total tackles, four interceptions and seven passes defended. It is rare he gives up big plays and will not be afraid to step against receivers like Stefon Diggs. Gonzalez most likely will be the other starting cornerback to go along side Jonathan Jones.
Patriots fans groan whenever they hear Myles Bryant's name. Bryant hasn't been special during his time with New England. But, at times he has stepped up. Then again, there's more times where he hasn't. Bryant will be competing for a roster spot this summer and could end up on the practice squad if he fails to make the roster.
At first everyone was asking themselves "who is this?" Dugger has become a staple of the Patriots secondary. Dugger is a tackling machine. In his three years with New England he's tallied a total of 234 tackles with many being hard hits. He's also intercepted the opposing quarterback two times in his career as well as defending 13 passes. Each season Dugger has improved and with him entering a contract year it should be expected of him continue this trend.
Jalen Mills returned to New England on a one year deal after being released earlier in the offseason. Mills has had an average career in New England due to a groin injury that limited Mills to just ten games last season. Mills looks to be playing safety this year as a possible replacement for Devin McCourty. He could be one of the starting safeties entering week one. He will need to be a vocal leader on the field as well.
2023 should be a comeback season after the dismal 2022 season for Adrian Phillips. In general 2022 was a season to forget for Phillips as he overall had a very quiet season for the Patriots. Phillips will most likely serve as a backup to Jalen Mills at the safety position.
Jabrill Peppers is in New England for two more seasons. After a quiet 2022 campaign big things are expected from the former Michigan Wolverine. Peppers could possibly steal one of the starting spots at safety depending if he can beat out Jalen Mills or Kyle Dugger. With the other safety spot up for grabs Peppers is a name to watch throughout training camp. Last season Peppers had 60 tackles. More should be expected from him this upcoming season.
Other names to watch out for
Guys like Joshuah Bledsoe, Shaun Wade, Isaiah Bolden, Cody Davis and Ameer Speed will also be competing for some of the last roster spots on the defense. Both Bolden and Speed are incoming rookies. As for Bledsoe, Wade and Davis they know what it takes to make the Patriots roster. Shaun Wade is definitely looking at his last chance to make the roster whereas guys like Bledsoe and Davis have the possibility to be placed on the practice squad (more likely Davis than Bledsoe). Bledsoe has showed positive signs of a playmaker but will need to show more this summer at training camp.