The Patriots will open up the postseason on Sunday when they host the Los Angeles Chargers in a divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Depending on the outcome, there could still be about a month of important football left in the Patriots season.
But that doesn't mean there isn't time to peek ahead and take a look at some possibilities in 2019. Specifically, PFW is interested in the current rookie class and trying to determine how they might look moving forward.
For most of the current draft class 2018 was a lost season. Injuries either curtailed or ended the season for Isaiah Wynn, Duke Dawson, Ja'Whaun Bentley. Christian Sam, Braxton Berrios and Ryan Izzo, leaving just Sony Michel and Keion Crossen (Dawson has since been activated off IR as well). There have also been undrafted rookies like J.C. Jackson to consider.
So with the playoffs dominating our coverage this week we thought we'd provide a brief outlet with this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question: Which current Patriots rookie has the brightest future?
PFW's Andy Hart says …
There was a lot to like about the rookie linebacker during the summer, and even at the start of the season, but then he was lost to a torn pectoral muscle. Before that, Bentley showed signs of having the range and athleticism to make plays from sideline to sideline against both the run and the pass, and he was probably just getting started.
Bill Belichick thought enough of the rookie to bring him on trips after he was placed on IR, so Bentley was able to absorb everything along the way in terms of game preparation, film study and everything else that goes along with life on the road.
Bentley should slide right back into a starting role next season and we'll be able to see if he can continue to make the plays we saw briefly during the summer. Adding that kind of mobility to the linebacker corps will help the entire defense, and Bentley's stock is clearly on the rise.
PFW's Paul Perillo says …
The Patriots have a long line of successful undrafted players, and more than a few of them have been defensive backs. The last one was Malcolm Butler, and J.C. Jackson has drawn favorable comparisons to him ever since he stepped onto the field in a Patriots uniform this spring.
Jackson first showed signs of life in the preseason when he immediately responded to a couple of penalties by making some plays. He had a pair of interception against the Giants and earned his spot on the team with his toughness and physicality.
After a slow start to the season, Jackson was inserted into the starting lineup in early December and hasn't looked back. His physicality is evident and he plays with a confidence that all good cornerbacks need. He loves to press receivers at the line and he has shown the speed necessary to run with them as well.
Jackson could very well be the Patriots next Pro Bowl-caliber corner and his future is very bright.