With the offensive side of the ball out of the way for New England Patriots training camp 2023, it is time to focus on the bread and butter of this football team: their defense. The defense will look to carry this football team again for a third straight year. Just like the offensive side of the ball, the New England defense has many hot topics of their own this off-season.
New England Patriots Training Camp 2023: Defense Preview
Two Unexpected Players Will Attend New England Patriots Training Camp
We have answers on two players whose presence at New England Patriots training camp was up in the air. Lawrence Guy has reported to Foxboro after all. Guy held out all of New England’s off-season program as he was unhappy with his contract. This is excellent news for the Patriots, as Guy has been one of their key defensive linemen since 2017. Although there may still be discussions regarding his contract, his attendance is a positive sign.
Cornerback Jack Jones is also expected at the team’s training camp. Jones, arrested on June 16 carrying two loaded guns in his carry-on at Logan Airport, was arraigned in court on June 20 and will return to court on August 18. Although the Patriots were silent about the matter, Bill Belichick shed some light on the situation in his press conference on Tuesday morning:
“Jack will be out there,” Bill Belichick says on CB Jack Jones, adding that he can’t comment based on the legal process.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) July 25, 2023
Can Christian Gonzalez Be The Next Star Patriots Cornerback?
The Patriots were able to sign their top two draft picks the other day, so there is no question about their participation now. Christian Gonzalez and Keion White will be two significant additions to this defense.
White will undoubtedly be introduced opposite Matthew Judon in pass-rush situations. Meanwhile, Gonzalez has the chance to become the top corner if he can prove himself.
Patriots first round pick CB Christian Gonzalez signed his rookie contract today. It’s a 4-year deal worth $15,102,868, fully guaranteed.
Included are $1.746m in training camp roster bonuses over 24-26. It gives Gonzalez a portion of his pay up front instead of during the season
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) July 21, 2023
Every successful Patriots team has had an excellent number-one corner. This is true going back to Ty Law, Darrelle Revis, Stephon Gilmore, and, most recently, J.C. Jackson.
For lack of a better term, Gonzalez has a lot of pressure on him. He will be looked at under a microscope after being drafted where he was. The former Oregon Duck certainly had the skills and athletic ability to be worthy of the 17th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Now, the rookie has to go out and prove it in training camp.
Depth At The Safety Position
Depth in the secondary will likely factor in roster construction in this camp. With Jalen Mills moving back to safety this year, the Patriots have four legitimate NFL-talent safeties.
With Kyle Dugger leading the way for this position group, veterans Adrian Phillips and Jabrill Peppers will look to build on their performances last year. Phillips had a down year in 2022, but that was to no fault of his own. Phillips’ role was utilized mainly in passing situations, with Peppers being used more in the box as an additional “linebacker”.
Peppers should be utilized more this season given how players develop more the longer they spend in Bill Belichick’s defense. While Dugger will likely fill the void left by Devin McCourty, Peppers will likely find more playtime in Dugger’s 2022 role.
New England Patriots Pass Rush
Upfront, it all starts with Matthew Judon. Judon has had the third most sacks in the NFL since joining the Patriots with 28. He had more help last year in that department, with Josh Uche recording 11.5 sacks.
Now, with the addition of Keion White, the Patriots pass rush should be one of the strongest units in the NFL. Judon has had very strong starts to his two seasons in Foxboro, though he has tapered off at the end of both seasons in terms of production.
In 2021, Judon recorded all 12.5 of his sacks before the Week 14 bye week. Last year, Judon recorded 13 sacks in the first nine games, then had just 2.5 sacks in the final seven games. So consistency should be a key focus for Judon this season.
Matthew Judon: "I'm finding stuff like this, and just making it home. Trying to be more part of the community. I honestly never want to leave; that's not my intent, forever. I want to retire here." https://t.co/3XR3jb1d6r
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) July 24, 2023
The Patriots should also be excited about the return of a healthy Christian Barmore. Barmore missed half the season with a knee injury last year. Even after his return, he looked like a shell of himself. Barmore is a vital cog in the Patriots defense and having him back fully healthy is something that this Patriots team desperately needs.
The defense will have to win this team some football games this year if the Patriots want to make the playoffs. The stat over the past two years that the Patriots are winless when they give up 25 points or more speaks volumes.
Offensively, things appear to be improved. However, the defense drives this football team. More will be clear over the coming weeks in camp, but this Patriots defense will be fun to watch.
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