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Rookie defenders impress as they look to carve out roles

Ronnie Perkins and Christian Barmore are off to strong starts as they look to find their place in the Patriots' defense.

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While rookie quarterback Mac Jones has been getting plenty of attention during Patriots OTAs, two rookie defenders will be looking to build off of strong minicamp performances and carry over that confidence to training camp next month.

Both Christian Barmore and Ronnie Perkins were active participants during the Patriots' three-day minicamp and both will have an opportunity to help forge a new generation of potent defenders for New England.

"It was great," said Perkins after Wednesday's final session of minicamp. "Came in, got a lot of knowledge from the coaches and veterans. Got to learn the about the Patriots Way, so I definitely give it a 10 out of 10 experience."

"Learning from the veterans, learning from the coaches every day, just getting better as a player, just focusing on my craft," said Barmore of his experiences this week.

Barmore, drafted in the second round, 36th overall, has all the tools necessary to dominate. After growing up emulating Reggie White, it's hard to miss the influence of the Hall of Famer on Barmore's game, who took over the National Championship game with his disruptive play. Often looking like a man amongst boys in college, now Barmore is undertaking the huge challenge of finding his role in the Patriots defense.

"I just want to keep working and learning," said Barmore, adding that it's up to the coaches where he plays. "Put some extra time on film, extra time learning and have your mentality right on the playbook."

Perhaps Barmore's most intriguing skillset is that as an interior rusher. With excellent size and strength, the rookie already looks like a handful for veteran NFL offensive lineman. If he can provide some interior push to get opposing quarterbacks off the spot, he can make an immediate impact.

Perkins was selected in the third round after a productive career at Oklahoma, one that saw him develop into one of the best edge rushers in college football. To help get him up to speed in the Patriots' defense and the team's history, Perkins has watched some old Patriots film, including the study of Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel and Rob Ninkovich.

Perkins said the current veterans had already been in his ear.

"One of the biggest things they've told me is don't forget what got you here," said Perkins. "Be who you are, put in the same work. It's a different level of competition but don't forget what got you here."

Like many defensive end, edge and linebackers, how exactly Perkins fits into the Patriots defense will remain to be seen. But his high energy and strength are sure to be an asset.

"Effort played a big part of what got me here but also technique," explained Perkins. "At the end of the play you make a lot of plays just by using effort. The ball is not gonna always end up where are you are, you gotta make that extra effort to go get the ball."

Now, after a productive three days of minicamp, the rookies can turn their sights toward training camp, where the training wheels come off and the real competition starts.

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