NFL analyst believes the Patriots have top 5 defense heading into the season 

Detroit Lions v New England Patriots
Detroit Lions v New England Patriots / Kathryn Riley/GettyImages

When Yogi Berra wasn’t busy winning World Series rings or defending freedom in World War II, he was a great source of mind-bending quotes. One of Berra’s finest truisms is “It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future,” and while that’s undoubtedly correct, it doesn’t stop us from trying. 

In early May, it was NFL analyst Dan Pizzuta’s turn to take on the difficult task. As reported by Dylan Sanders of Athlon Sports, Pizzuta confidently predicted the Patriots will have a top-five defense in 2024. Dylan Sanders of Athlon Sports reported 

NFL analyst believes the Patriots have top 5 defense heading into the season 

In his article ranking NFL defenses after the draft, Pizzuta had New England’s group fifth in the entire league. The only defenses ahead of them, according to Pizzuta, are the Ravens, Chiefs, Jets, and the Browns. If that seems wild to you, that’s because it is. 

Pizzutta’s theory is based on the fact that the Patriots were a very good defense in 2023 but were let down by their subpar offense. He's 100% correct there, but he’s ranking defenses after the 2024 draft, and the Patriots only drafted one defensive player, Marcellas Dial. Dial was one of the Patriots' odd picks (and there were a few). His tape shows him taking poor angles and missing tackles, even when he does get in good positions. 

By comparison, the Dolphins drafted three defensive players, and two look like potential stars. The Jets, who feature are second in Pizzuta's rankings, waited until the fifth round to draft their first defensive prospect but still added more than the Patriots. The Bills added five new defensive players in the draft, but they are in somewhat of a rebuild.

Pizzuta highlights how the 2023 Patriots defense ranked highly in advanced analytics like DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) and EPA (Expected Points Added) per play. They’ve also bought back all of the important pieces of the 2023 unit.

That level of continuity does give them an edge over the likes of Kansas City who Pizzuta ranks third. L'Jarius Sneed, Mike Edwards, and Willie Gay Jr. departed Kansas City in the offseason. At least, the Patriots' defense should be better than the Chiefs at the start of the 2024 season. Maybe it's not such a wild prediction after all.

Pizzuta rightly points out that this Patriots defense is very “defensive back-heavy" and, while everyone is healthy, New England's defensive backfield will be one of the five best in the league. But the defensive front is paper-thin. In 2023, they ranked 27th in sacks despite ranking fifth for QB hurries.  

John Morgan III is the only pass rusher they appear to be interested in adding to the 2023 group. They picked the Arkansas product up as an undrafted free agent, so he’s not guaranteed to make the final roster. Matt Judon needs help, though, and if the team learned anything in 2023, it should be that they’re walking a tightrope by only having one specialist pass rusher on their roster. 

Can the Patriots defense live up to the hype again this season?

It’s not out of the question that the Patriots' defense will end the 2024 season in the top five, but if it does, it won’t be because they reinforced it during the draft. As Pizzuta says, there’s a “Belichick factor” at play, too.

He cites Mayo’s experience coaching under the most successful coach in the playoffs, but the noises coming out of Foxborough during OTAs suggest Mayo’s regime is poles apart from his predecessors.

If the players are as loose on the pitch as they are in the dressing room, discipline will be an issue this season. The offense can also help out the defense in 2024. If they can string drives together, the defense can sit on the sidelines and study some film. The Patriots' drives lasted just 2:21 on average last year, the shortest time in the league. 

 Berra was right; knowing how the future will pan out is tricky. But if Pizzuta's prediction has done one thing, it's certainly set tongues wagging and raised expectations in some quarters.

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