New England Patriots: 2 brightest spots as 2023 season approaches

Oct 24, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots outside linebacker Matt Judon (9)
Oct 24, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots outside linebacker Matt Judon (9) / Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots summer camp is in full swing, and player evaluations are in progress. The New England Patriots enter 2023 having made some excellent additions at some positions while skimping on a few others.

Here, we'll look at their two brightest spots as the clock ticks down to the Patriots' first game at home against Philadelphia on Sunday, September 10.

Meanwhile, the pre-season will kick off on August 10th against the Houston Texans, also at Gillette Stadium. Pre-season games will winnow down the team from nearly 90 players to the 53-man roster and added practice squad.

With all this in mind, let's look at the two brightest bulbs on the Patriots team in pre-season. While all this can change in an instant with an unfortunate injury, let's assume that what's currently available will be when the season commences.

The New England Patriots' top bright spot is the defensive edge position.

For the first time in years, the edge is solid top-to-bottom. No discussion of the best unit or players on the New England Patriots can begin without signaling out edge player extraordinaire Matt Judon. Judon is their best edge, best defender, and best player, period—no shortage of superlatives there.

Signed in the 2021 offseason, Judon is the Patriots' best free agency signing since Steph Gilmore. He's a Pro Bowl-plus player and, if injury free, will continue to be one of the league's best defensive players. Coming off a 15.5 sack season and 28 over two seasons, he leads the Patriots' defense and sets the tone for a defense aiming for a playoff berth or better.

With numerous questions on offense, the team will rely on Judon and his teammates to be difference-makers. This means sacking the top quarterbacks in the AFC East, led by Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills and Aaron Rodgers, the best Jets quarterback in decades.

Judon needs another top season if the Patriots' defense is to improve. The good news is he has plenty of help. Josh Uche had a breakout season in 2022 with 11.5 sacks. He presents a formidable twosome with Judon at the edge. Additionally, the team invested a second-round pick on powerful edge/defensive end, Keion White from Georgia Tech.

The versatile White provides great depth on the edge for the New England Patriots. It's the team's top unit, and should White's play equal his athletic ability and potential, the sky's the limit. All in all, it is the team's best unit.

Next, we'll look at an offensive unit that's the other brightest spot on the Patriots.

New England Patriots' tight end duo is another bright spot

Added to the top unit, the edge, is another unit with significant off-season change. That's the tight-end unit. In a lightning-fast trade at the outset of free agency, the New England Patriots unloaded disappointing Jonnu Smith and his hefty salary to Atlanta for the proverbial bag of footballs (a seventh-round draft pick). This was a nice move, and it was lauded by Patriots observers.

Returning is solid but unspectacular, Hunter Henry. He's impressed in summer camp and he'll be a solid part of the revamped Patriot offense under accomplished Offensive Coordinator, Bill O'Brien.
Henry can be counted upon for about 50 catches and a handful of TDs. Coupled with a top free agent addition, the tandem will be one of the NFL's best.

That addition is Mike Gesicki.

The Patriots moved expeditiously in free agency to sign Gesicki from Miami. He's a favorite in this space. While he had a down season in 2022, it's expected he'll bounce back and be a solid cog in the New England Patriot offense.

Look for Gesicki to contribute about 60 receptions and half a dozen TDs this season. He, along with JuJu Smith-Schuster, are the two top Patriots additions this offseason.

The only downside in the tight-end equation is depth. Only waiver-wire level players are available behind the top two. Anthony Firkser, rookie Jonny Lumpkin, Scotty Washington, and Matt Sokol will compete for a roster spot or, more likely, a position on the practice squad.

The Patriots needed to draft a tight end this season and neglected to do so. An injury to one of the top two TEs will potentially be a negative game-changer. It's a huge risk.

Those two units are the two top brightest spots for the New England Patriots as 2023 approaches. No unit is perfect, and several still need an upgrade. But edge and tight end, barring catastrophic injury, should be two of the best.

What do you think are the two brightest spots on the Patriots? We'd like to hear.