Patriots' defense showing no fear for divisional opponent ahead of the 2023 season

New England Patriots linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers
New England Patriots linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers / Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Outside of the nonstop speculation and rumors that have dominated headlines regarding the Patriots this offseason, another point of emphasis has been their position within the AFC East since the Jets made the blockbuster trade for four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers earlier this year.

Despite being months away from the start of the 2023 regular season, doubt has been cast on the Patriots' future with New York's new quarterback joining the division, with the Bills and Dolphins also hitting their stride in recent years with Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa.

The consensus has decided New England is now fourth in the division, solely based on the rosters as seen on paper, leaving little hope for the team to be successful in the coming years. But what matters the most in this situation is the Patriots' attitude as they face an even tougher in division schedule than they have in many years.

When speaking to reporters earlier this week, linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley expressed his excitement to face the Patriots' ever-evolving rivals and shared that he looks forward to being a part of a competitive division.

"You’re always excited to see the different moves teams make. (It) just adds competition around the league. I thrive off competition in general. So, especially in our division, seeing the different moves teams make always gets you excited about what’s to come. I’m always eager to get out there and see what the next team has and what they’re cooking up so we have the opportunity to stop it."

Bentley also discussed the Jets' new quarterback, acknowledging their offense will undoubtedly be different than in years past. But shared he and his teammates are excited about the challenge of facing Rodgers twice a year.

"Aaron Rodgers is definitely a fantastic quarterback for sure. He’s definitely going to add some things to the Jets as far as their offense is concerned. Hands down, it’s going to be a hell of an opportunity for us to go against him twice a year. But if you ask us, we’re excited about the opportunity. We have no choice but to be excited about it."

Returning cornerback Jonathan Jones also professed his excitement about facing the Jets, specifically when speaking on "The Crew" podcast, dispelling the myth that the Patriots are shaking in their boots at the thought of facing the improved Jets team months before the start of the season.

"It is (stacked). It’s a great division to be in, especially as a cornerback. We accept that challenge with A-Rod joining the East, I think it’s going to be an exciting year. … I like to play against some of the best competition. Being in New England, practicing against Tom (Brady) every day, games were usually easy because you practice all week against one of the best. So, having great competition in your division, it makes you better. It’s going to make a lot of your games outside the division a little bit easier."

Hearing optimism from Patriots players is a much better indicator of the overall attitude of this offseason compared to last year, especially given the current narrative surrounding the team's future. Hopefully, that mindset can continue throughout the summer into the regular season, keeping New England motivated to have a successful season and proving the doubters wrong.