Patriots Projected to Sign Speedy All-Pro LB

Getty De'Vondre Campbell

The New England Patriots need speed in a major way. The need for more raw athleticism is on both sides of the ball for New England, but the void is particularly obvious at linebacker. Because of this issue expect New England to be linked to athletic linebackers in free agency and in the NFL Draft. One NFL analyst already has the Patriots as potential landing spot for one of the top free agent linebackers available.

Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine predicts the Patriots will sign Green Bay Packers impending free agent De’Vondre Campbell.

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Campbell flashed 4.58 speed coming out of the University of Minnesota when he was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2016. While he showed flashes during his first four years in the league with the Falcons and one season with the Arizona Cardinals in 2020, Campbell exploded with the Packers in a contract season in 2021.

Campbell earned first-team All-Pro honors as he lodged 146 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 2 sacks, 6 quarterback hits and an impressive approximate value score of 14, per Pro Football Reference.

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If he can continue his momentum, the 28-year-old Campbell seems like the perfect successor to an aging Dont’a Hightower.

The Cracks Are Showing at Linebacker for the Patriots

Former Patriots safety and current NFL analyst Rodney Harrison called out the team’s speed issue back in October 2021. He was a guest on WEEI’s Merloni and Fauria and the latter asked Harrison if he thought the Patriots’ linebackers looked slow.

“You’re spot on. It doesn’t seem like they’re slow — and I love those guys and I have so much respect for those guys — but yeah, they are slow,” Harrison said. “When you start watching LaVonte David [Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker], you start watching Devin (White) [Bucs LB] move and blitz and move from sideline to sideline, it’s a night and day difference,” Harrison added after he watched Tom Brady and the Bucs defeat the Patriots in Week 4 of the 2021 season.

“And that was the thing that really stood out to me. I’m like, ‘Look how fast and athletic Tampa Bay linebackers look.’ And the Patriots linebackers — the defense just looks slow. It’s always kind of looked like that, and it starts with those backers, man. Those guys have experience and things like that, but that’s something the Patriots definitely need to upgrade a little bit moving forward. That’s speed.”

The loss to the Bucs wasn’t the only game where the lack of speed at the linebacker–inside linebacker specifically–was an issue. The Buffalo Bills torched the Patriots defense in the second regular season meeting and in the postseason clash.

There were multiple reasons the Patriots couldn’t slow down Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense, but one of the biggest was New England’s inability to contain Buffalo’s mobile and rugged quarterback when he ran.

In this highlight from the December meeting in the regular season, Allen makes multiple plays with his mobility and the slower Patriots linebackers simply can’t contain him.

Josh Allen Leads Clutch TD DriveAllen leads the Bills downfield for the score! The Buffalo Bills take on the New England Patriots during Week 16 of the 2021 NFL season. Subscribe to NFL: Check out our other channels: Para más contenido de la NFL en Español, suscríbete a NFL Fantasy Football NFL Vault NFL Network…2021-12-26T21:07:22Z

Upgrades are needed.

Other Options For Upgrades in LB Speed

The Patriots had three injured linebackers on their roster who might have upped the ante in the athleticism department. They lost Raekwon McMillan for the season to a knee injury during the preseason. His speed and aggressiveness might have landed him in the starting lineup. New England also drafted the Cameron McGrone in the fifth round in 2021 knowing he would likely miss the entire season rehabbing a knee injury.

While not a complete burner, he does appear to be a bit more of a downhill and aggressive player capable of making some plays that could be outside of the older Patriots’ linebackers’ reach.

Lastly, there is Anfernee Jennings. He landed on injured reserve before the season which robbed him and the Patriots of a second season together. Jennings was taken in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft and hopes were high for him.

If he can return and make an impact in 2022, the lack of depth and athleticism at linebacker may not be as glaring of a weakness as it was in 2021.

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