The New England Patriots 2023 season is over for both them and their Patriot Nation faithful. It's been their worst season since 2000, over two decades ago. This wasted season is mercifully at an end after the Patriots strategically lost to the New York Jets of all teams, thereby maintaining their position with the third overall pick in the 2024 NFL draft. That's a very good development.
In any event, a few players did some good things, not enough to make a huge difference, but some did. A few key rookies look like the real deal. Certainly, Christian Gonzalez and Keion White, the team's top two draft picks, both consensus picks, by the way, showed well in the time they played. Rookie punter Bryce Baringer also justified his fifth-round status with a fine season as a bonafide NFL punter. That took some doing as expending a fifth-rounder on a punter is risky business. And, of course, sixth-round pick, Demario "Pop" Douglas also surprised.
Some veterans performed well, including stalwart center David Andrews. The offensive line's struggles were around him, not with him. Poor performances all along the O-line and at quarterback were pivotal to the team's abysmal showing. They need to be addressed, especially quarterback and offensive tackle. On defense, Jahlani Tavai (surprisingly) and Ja'Whaun Bentley also excelled.
There was one young veteran player, however, who emerged from the shadows of pure potential into the daylight of potential realized and real progress achieved. He's easily the team MVP, and he finally had that breakout season that some observers felt was just a matter of time (health being a factor).
New England Patriots MVP, defensive tackle, Christian Barmore
Christian Barmore has been a factor in the interior of the defensive line since his arrival in 2021 as a 2nd round pick from Alabama. His talent was obvious, but his health was and remains an iffy consideration. Yet, one thing is clear: Barmore is now an established absolute huge wrecking ball of a defensive lineman. He's the Patriots' best D-lineman, their best defensive player this season, and far and away their best player anywhere.
Barmore's breakout season statistically looks like this. He notched 64 total tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 16 quarterback hits. Barmore played in all 17 games and started only 6 (a topic for another day), with 750 snaps representing 66% of overall defensive plays. He ended the season on another high note with ten tackles in the last game against the Jets.
Barmore, like his linemate, rookie Keion White, was unfortunately played in a position that was not his best too often. That would be on the nose, over the center. On too many plays, he was played in a gap where he's solid but not so effective. Similarly, White was played on the edge rather than in a gap, his best position. Play them both in their best positions as starters in 2024, and the Patriots' starting defensive tackle situation is set.
Barmores' best 2023 stat, however, is one that's a game-changer. He will collapse the pocket and occupy two or even three offensive linemen on every play he's on the field. But, the aspect that was essentially lacking, finishing the play, was an area in which he needed to step up his game to get to the next level. That was in sacks, and in 2023, he finally had his breakout season.
New England Patriots' Christian Barmore was a sack machine in 2023
Barmore emerged as an interior sackman par excellence this season. He logged 8.5 sacks to accompany those improved tackles, quarterback hurries, and QB hits. But it's the sacks that are game-changers and shut the door on any given play on the offense. And that's where he raised his game and became a star. He was a Pro Bowl-level performer whether he got/gets the designation or not.
Barmore will be entering his fourth and final year of his rookie deal. Like other better fourth-year players, he hasn't been granted an extension. As with a couple of other players, that's a mistake, assuming there aren't any serious injury-related concerns.
If not, he should be locked up to a long-term deal now or soon after a new GM is in place. One of the most important and exciting aspects of the Patriots' future is the combination of Barmore and White as the Patriots' 2024 starting defensive tackles, aka interior D-linemen. Utilized adroitly and astutely, they are a two-man, pocket-collapsing wrecking crew.
An early supporter of Barmore, it's certainly nice to see a player who's been a solid contributor, finally advancing up to the top echelon not only of NFL defensive tackles but of D-linemen generally. It was "time for the beast in Christian Barmore to erupt", and it certainly did in 2023.
Barmore is the clear Patriots' defensive and overall MVP and can along with the aforementioned Keion White, become a truly fearsome tandem at defensive tackle in the future. The young star has earned a nice contract extension and the personal security it brings for the player and the talent it keeps on the team. As Captain Picard of the Enterprise was wont to say, "Make it so."