Projecting the Patriots best starting defense for 2024

Going with the defense that provides the best chance to win
Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots
Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages
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The New England Patriots had a flawed offense in 2023. That's no revelation. They finished 4-13, three games behind the Jets, no less. All that "earned" the team their highest draft pick in 30 years, and the dubious distinction of the third pick overall in the 2024 NFL draft.

Yet, the silver lining was that there were three consensus top three quarterbacks in the 2023 draft. Since they desperately needed a QB, that scenario worked out just fine for them. They deftly drafted Drake Maye of the University of North Carolina, who may be the best of the three.

Despite that awful record, the team did have strength on the other side of the ball, the defense. Their D, even minus its best player, Matt Judon, and its top rookie cornerback, Christian Gonzalez, still played well. Both will be back this season and while there were no major additions on defense either in free agency or the draft, the outlook for the D remains excellent.

Despite the two devastating injuries, players like third-year defensive tackle, Christian Barmore, and linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley excelled. The rest of the D did its part, as well. ranked them the seventh defense overall in the NFL. In light of those injuries, that's a top performance.

This ranking was a tribute to the grit and determination of a unit that knew it had to overcompensate for a lackluster offense that couldn't score points. With Judon and Gonzalez back, the sky is the limit for the Patriots' defense. It would not be at all surprising if they aspire to be the No. One overall D in the NFL. It says here, it's within reach.

Here, we'll project the starting defensive unit as it should be, not as it may be. This exercise is to select the players on defense (as was the case with the offense earlier) that will give the 2024 New England Patriots the best chance to win. After all, what other objective is there?

The Patriots defensive line is its top strength

Bill Belichick's drafting was not always the best, to say the least in recent years. Yet, he had his moments. Among his best selections occurred on the defensive line, the best unit on the defense. None has been better than his second-round pick in the 2021 draft, defensive tackle, Christian Barmore.

Now entering his fourth season and armed with a well-deserved huge contract extension, Barmore will be poised to improve upon his breakout 2023. Last year, he lodged 8.5 sacks, Pro-Bowl numbers, if not recognized, as such. The big tackle will be poised to shatter his record and earn Pro Bowl or better accolades this season. And don't be surprised if he does just that.

The starting defensive line will probably be a three-man group. (Edge players will be included in the linebackers.) At tackle, the two choices are easy ones, but not so obvious perhaps for the Pats. The no-brainer is Barmore. The breakout 2023 star should be played smack dab on the nose, his best position. He can overpower any NFL center one-on-one and is a handful for double or even triple teams.

Beside Barmore is another emerging star, Keion White, predicted as the Pats' breakout player for 2024. While White is versatile and can be an edge rusher, his best position is inside in a gap. Combine him with Barmore inside, and this pocket-collapsing duo will rival any tandem in the league. There just will not be enough blockers to contain them and the edge guys.

The other starter in the three-man front will be reliable, if unspectacular, Dietrich Wise Jr. Wise is a steady player who'll give the Pats some pass rush, but won't break any records statistically. Regardless, he's their best option, assuming they deploy Barmore and White inside.