he New England Patriots have made some improvements this offseason but experts are concerned about one area of New England’s roster.
“The Patriots’ starting outside cornerbacks are Jalen Mills and either Terrance Mitchell or the recently unretired Malcolm Butler, as things stand right now,” ESPN’s Ben Linsey wrote. “That talent doesn’t line up with what New England has done on defense in recent years, including last season, when it ranked second in Cover 1 rate. It doesn’t require much imagination to see that cornerback group getting exposed in a man-heavy scheme. That could force the Patriots into more zone coverage in 2022.”
Should Patriots Fans Be Concerned?
New England relied on their defense a ton in 2021. Matthew Judon found himself in the Pro Bowl as he led New England in sacks (12.5) and also tallied 60 total tackles. J.C. Jackson was also superb in coverage leading the Patriots in interceptions (8).
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This was in part due to the fact that the Patriots had a rookie quarterback in Mac Jones. While Jones excelled throwing for 22 touchdowns a lot of the pressure was put on the defense as the QB adjusted to the NFL.
Relying on Jackson to save the day with lockdown coverage or a game-clinching interception isn’t in the cards for New England in 2022. The cornerback is now a member of the Las Vegas Chargers.
So now Butler is faced with the task of filling the hole left by Jackson. The cornerback is coming out of retirement at the ripe age of 32 years old and while he had a full season off, it will be interesting to see how the cornerback performs after an entire year away from the game.
After that, Jonathan Jones will also have to step up in the absence of Jackson. Jones has appeared in 85 games and has recorded seven interceptions, five forced fumbles, and 2.5 sacks along with 261 tackles. In 2022, the Patriots will need Jones to step up.
The same can be said for New England’s quarterback. With the Patriots defense taking a step back, the pressure will be on Jones to succeed in 2022.
Why Will the Patriots Rely on Zone Coverage?
The main reason that New England will need to rely on zone coverage is due to how short they are at the position. The Patriots cornerback group tops out at 5 feet 11 inches which includes Terrence Mitchell, 2022 draft pick Jack Jones, and Butler. Jonathan Jones stands an inch shorter and Marcus Jones, who was also drafted this year comes in at 5 feet 8 inches.
When it comes to facing large wide receivers such as D.K. Metcalf, Mike Evans, Cooper Kupp, and Adam Theilen, New England could struggle mightily. This season opposing quarterbacks will be unafraid to attack the Patriots secondary as long as Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, and Judon stay out of the backfield.
So the spotlight will be on New England’s secondary in 2022. If they are able to do better than experts expect, the Patriots could sneak their way into the playoffs for the second consecutive season.