Patriots' 3 weakest positions on defense heading into the 2024 season

When you're good, you're good and this won't be easy
New England Patriots v Denver Broncos
New England Patriots v Denver Broncos / Dustin Bradford/GettyImages

The New England Patriots are looked upon here and elsewhere as a potential last-place team in the AFC East. It's not the rosiest picture. However, that all hinges on the offense and whether the team is astute enough to take the required measures immediately to make a few key adjustments. If they don't, say hello to your new friend, the bottom of the East once again.

The offense had numerous additions, which was a positive. As much as new personnel head Eliot Wolf may regret not drafting more on defense, he did exactly the right thing by going offense-heavy. Regrettably, he neglected the second most important position on the team and left tackle completely. This mistake could wreck the season before full pads are even put on in camp.

Here, the focus is defense, and it's refreshing to have difficulty identifying three of the D's most glaring weaknesses. The Patriots' defense is solid, and unless and until certain moves are made on offense, they'll have to carry the team again. So here we go, spotlighting the three areas of greatest weakness on defense, such as they are.

The Patriots top weakness on defense is the edge position

When you have perennial Pro Bowler Matt Judon on the left edge, things can't be all bad at the position. Unfortunately, there are extenuating circumstances. First, Judon is returning from a serious injury that shelved him for much of the 2023 season. If he's fit, he's the defense's (and the team's) best player. If not, things could get dicey.

After Judon, there are lots of question marks.

Little was done in the offseason to bolster the position. Josh Uche was re-signed, and Anfernee Jennings is about to enter his fourth season. Both are inconsistent players. Each had one good season under his belt. No one knows which version will appear in 2024. If the poor ones are on display, the right edge will stink.

Add Judon's questionable health status and encroaching age (he'll turn 32 in August), and the edge becomes a potential area of weakness. One other player can be deployed on the edge and play well. It's second-year player Keion White. Yet, White's best position is inside on the defensive line in a two-man wrecking crew, alongside Christian Barmore at defensive tackle. Playing him on the edge is a lousy idea.

The edge position will be solid if everything goes right. Yet, if things go askance, it could be a weakness that can turn a good defense, one of the AFC's best, into an also-ran. Not adding talent and depth was a mistake that could have been costly.

Two other positions that could crash the Pats defense

The defensive end is another thin position on the Patriot's defense. They have reliable Dietrich Wise Jr. to man the left-end position. Wise is a solid, if unspectacular, veteran who gives you a solid day's work but won't wow you very often.

The other possibility, again not suggested, is to use a possible 2024 breakout player at tackle, the aforementioned Keion White at the right end. Once again, White can play that position, but if he does, you negate the overwhelmingly positive impact he can have at tackle. Lack of depth creates those tough decisions, and you'll weaken somewhere no matter what you do to try to ameliorate them.

The final of the three top defensive weaknesses is the free safety position. Since the retirement of long-time free safety Devin McCourty, a future Pats' and maybe Pro Football Hall of Famer, the position has lacked a defined player.

Brenden Schooler, successor to now-retired special teams superstar Matthew Slater, may be able to fill the void. He may just have what it takes. Other than Schooler, however, the cupboard is bare. It's a weak position, and only the potential switch of Marcus Jones to free safety may save the day. We'll see.

Fortunately, at strong or box safety, the Pats are stacked. They can deploy recently re-signed Kyle Dugger, a potential Pro Bowler, and hard-hitting Jabrill Peppers. Adding to the depth is 2023's third-round pick, Marte Mapu. He showed little last season but will hopefully justify his lofty draft status in 2024.

Those are three positions of relative weakness on a strong 2024 Patriots' defense. The unit is the team's strength as it readies to play real football next month. Absent major injuries, they should lead the 2024 Patriots.

Not starting Drake Maye at quarterback from Day One; however, as strongly suggested here, will keep overall expectations low, and consign the team back to the bottom of the AFC East, no matter what the defense does. You still have to score more points than the other team to win.

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