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Training Camp Positional Snapshot: Edge/Linebackers

In the lead-up to 2023 training camp, we’re inspecting the Patriots roster position by position. Today, an examination of the edge and linebackers.

Patriots linebacker Matt Judon (9).
Patriots linebacker Matt Judon (9).

ANALYSIS

The second level of the Patriots defense will feature similar continuity to the defensive line group that plays in front of them and it's a big, tough and experienced group that had a highly productive 2022. But can they take the next step against the league's best?

Let's start with the off-the-ball linebacker group that will play primarily inside the defensive formation. The team signed captain and emerging team leader Ja'Whaun Bentley (team-leading 47 stops) to a two-year contract extension earlier this summer, while Jahlani Tavai (8th-highest graded PFF Patriots defender) also received an extension during the 2022 season. The duo has some surprising versatility and good size, and both are coming off their best-graded seasons of their careers according to PFF. Their physicality and ability to also play along the edge make them prototypical Patriots linebackers. Both will be heavily involved this season.

Mack Wilson was retained on a one-year deal after playing 234 snaps in 2022 with three sacks and eight stops, while former Raven and Lion Chris Board is known for stellar special teams play but has also logged plenty of snaps at linebacker and should provide some additional depth. This duo gives a jolt of speed to the group that could be valuable.

Terez Hall and Calvin Munson are familiar faces in New England and have both made contributions as Patriots over the past few seasons despite being on and off the team. Olakunle Fatukasi split his undrafted rookie season between the Bucs and Broncos and will look to make some noise in camp to turn heads.

On the edge, Matthew Judon enters his third year with the Patriots having produced 31 total sacks and two Pro Bowl appearances since joining New England. Judon is a critical every-down presence for the defense, but one that could benefit from even more complementary play across from him off the other edge. Josh Uche had a breakout 2022 with 11.5 sacks and is entering a contract season where he'd like to exceed those totals. Uche is a potent pass rusher and his rising snap totals (38 percent) could indicate a growing role for the former Wolverine.

Anfernee Jennings provided solid depth on the edge in 2022, especially against the run, after missing all of 2021. His 32 percent of the defensive snaps meshed well with Uche and the duo balances each other out situationally. Keion White could be a factor with this group as well; he's a big, powerful player who saw time standing up on the edge during OTAs. It would appear the group could use that kind of fresh depth, as Ronnie Perkins has failed to get on the field in his first two seasons but still has some intriguing potential if he can stay healthy and finally break through.

Damarcus Mitchell was an underrated special teamer after making the team as an undrafted rookie in 2022. He played just five defensive snaps but over 70 percent of the special teams snaps. He'll be one wild card to watch in camp as he looks to enter what appears to be a unit that could use a new face or two to emerge.

This entire group was highly productive and often dominant in 2022, however they struggled in some areas against the better teams in the NFL. Can the veteran group take a new step and get over that hump in 2023? There aren't a lot of new pieces in the mix so it will be up to some familiar faces to take that final step that would put the Patriots firmly in contender territory.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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