Patriots Insider Hints at a Change in Defensive Philosophy in 2022

New England Patriots

Getty Images Patriots Bill Belichick looks to change mindset

It’s no secret the New England Patriots are at a turning point in their franchise. The Patriots are attempting to find the direction of their team while they build and develop rookie QB Mac Jones. However, defensively, the Patriots seem to be adding depth to the secondary and linebackers as marquee players begin to age out.

NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran appeared April 5 on WEEI’s “Gresh and Keefe” and said that he believed the team’s defensive philosophy would change in 2022.

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Curran’s Observations on the Offseason

Given the superior offensive talent in the AFC East, Curran said, the Patriots will move away from man-to-man coverages.

“I think they’re going to be a zone defense,” Curran said on the radio show. “They’re going to be fast at linebacker. There are going to be a lot of safeties on the field who can hit and cover and run. They’re going to try and weaponize themselves to deal with the AFC East competition, which is very fast offenses with mobile quarterbacks. You don’t want to play man against [Bills quarterback] Josh Allen anyway, otherwise, he will be running up your backs because he can scramble. You want to play zone so you can keep your eyes on him. So I think that’s the way they’re trending.”

Curran also suggested that the Patriots could be looking to sign more safeties and faster linebackers to slow opponents’ passing games. He pointed to University of Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean as someone the Patriots could target in the NFL draft.

“I think Nakobe Dean from Georgia would be kind of that ideal guy,” he said. “[He] can be on the field all three downs. Who’s the power running game the Patriots have to deal with, really? Not a ton. It’s more running, read-option quarterbacks. … Just, be able to get Josh Allen down.” projects Dean, who is 6 feet tall and 225 pounds, as a player who will “become a good starter in two years.” Several notable mock drafts project Dean getting selected late in the first round or early in the second round, with one predicting he is selected as high as 18th, by the Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots will have the 21st and 54th overall picks in the draft, which starts April 28.

Mike Giardi Predicts Potential Draft Picks for the Patriots

NFL Network’s Mike Giardi tweeted a draft scenario for the Patriots, predicting that  the Patriots would take a top-tier cornerback or linebacker with the No. 21 overall pick. PatriotsWire’s Isaiah Houde compiled Giardi’s tweets for a story published April 11 and added a couple of other potential draft options.

Houde wrote that receiver Jameson Williams, receiver Chris Olave and Dean could be attractive to the Patriots, as could Christian Harris, a speedy linebacker.

The Patriots have addressed some defensive issues but also lost two of their key offensive linemen. The absence of veteran guard Shaq Mason and starting center Ted Karras could play a factor in the run game, which was eighth best in the league in 2021, according to ESPN. Without two key forces in the middle of their offensive line, Jones’ pocket presence could be affected.

Giardi tweeted several options that could interest the Patriots in filling that gaping hole.

“Don’t be surprised if the #Patriots go w/ a big body if they stay at #21. They’ve spent a lot of time with some of the top prospects, from tackles Trevor Penning & Bernhard Raimann to interior players Zion Johnson & Kenyon Green. They have a hole at LG and future tackle issues.”

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