People are beginning to recognize just how good the New England Patriots defense can be in 2021. There are a number of noteworthy additions and returns to the Patriots defense, but one of the most intriguing and potentially impacting is of pass-rush-specialist Matthew Judon.
Musket Fire’s Kristen Wong is high on Judon and his potential in New England. Wong says Judon could turn the Patriots’ defense into “a different beast.”
Last year, the Pats struggled to get very many quarterback sacks; the pass-rushers just couldn’t handle the heat. They ranked 26th in defense against the run last season and 27th in red zone touchdown percentage allowed. Now, sack-expert Judon joins the returning Kyle Van Noy and fellow free-agent addition Raekwon McMillan to round out New England’s suddenly stacked linebacker group. Other noteworthies: Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Anfernee Jennings all remain on the roster, along with Dont’a Hightower coming back from an opted-out 2020 season. Could this group be the best pass-rush corps in the 2021 season? The answer hinges on Judon, who neither “makes” nor “breaks” the defense. He changes it, elevates it, and transforms the linebacker group into a different beast altogether.
Judon Started Making an Impression on His Teammates Early
ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote about the potential of the Patriots’ defense. Veteran safety Devin McCourty spoke about Judon’s work ethic just through OTAs and mini-camp. He said:
“It’s to get my body in condition, to make it harder [than] it will be on Sunday. I’m always up for a race and a challenge.”
Judon, who will turn 29 just before the start of the 2021 season, has been very consistent during his NFL career. Since 2017, Judon has compiled 30.5 sacks. If Judon can get to the quarterback eight times for the Patriots in 2021, he will have made the requisite impact.
Chemistry Will Be Important on the Defense
There is no questioning the talent New England has on defense. Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whuan Bentley, Josh Uche, Kyle Dugger, McCourty, and rookie defensive tackle Christian Barmore join Hightower, Judon and perhaps Stephon Gilmore, if he isn’t traded.
Hightower was asked about the defense’s camaraderie and overall team chemistry during a meeting with the media earlier this month.
It comes both ways. Building camaraderie it’s different for everybody, but to me essentially it’s just being able to relate to another guy. Whenever the whole accountability thing comes in, knowing God’s purposes. Not just for a check but you know a lot of guys are here to take care of their family for specific reasons. Know their story, know their journey. Whenever a guy is out there and they know you know hell or high water, I’m going to do my job just because you know they mean that much more to me. I feel like that’s part of camaraderie.
It’s all easier when you win, and if New England’s defense is as advertised, that won’t be much of a problem.
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