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New England Patriots Defensive Report Card


New England Patriots Defensive Report Card

The Patriots report card will review each defensive position group for the New England Patriots and give them a grade.  All players are subject to grading, depending on how often they play. Based on the grades, fans should know what they need going into the off-season.

Patriots’ Defense leads the team

The defense was the strength of this football team. While they did miss the playoffs, the unit looked good as a whole. The young guys looked great throughout the year proving to be pieces for the future. Most of the veterans had some of their best seasons, while also being leaders for those younger players.

Defensive Line

The defensive line for the Patriots played well all season. Davon Godchaux and Christian Barmore held down the interior of the trenches against the run. The two helped lead the New England defense to allow only 4.1 yards per carry, top five in the league. Deatrich Wise also had a pretty decent season, coming in third on the team in sacks with 7.5 while also being top twenty in pressures. The unit as a whole played great in pass rush and against the run, and that includes players who did not play that much. Daniel Ekuale, Lawrence Guy, and Carl Davis all played their roles well to help the defensive line perform higher than expectations. In the future, look out for Christian Barmore to have a Christian Wilkins type of breakout as a run defender.

Grade: B+


The linebacker group does include Josh Uche and Matthew Judon, who excelled. The two edge rushers combined for twenty-seven sacks, Judon with 15.5 and Uche with 11.5. Uche broke out this season after a disappointing first couple of years and became an amazing third-down pass rusher. As for Judon, we all knew who he was but I did not expect him to dominate on the level that he did. That duo will prove to be one of the more talented pass-rushing duos for the next couple of years.

The interior linebackers played also played well. Ja’Whaun Bentley had a great year, grading out as PFF’s eighth-best linebacker (80.4). Jahlani Tavi had a great fourth season in the league, playing well against the run, and was a good man coverage linebacker (80.6 PFF grade in man). He could cover tight ends and running backs well, but he was not asked to do it too much.

Grade: A-


The secondary for the Patriots was a confusing position group. While on paper they played well, at times there were issues. Besides the stats, people should look at all of the film when judging this position group. Jack Jones and Marcus Jones played very well at times but there were rookie mistakes from the two, to be expected. Jack Jones was great as a rookie, no doubt about it. The issue is Marcus Jones, his height is an issue. Against the Bengals, he was getting cooked by Tee Higgins due to the height advantage he has over Marcus.

Jonathon Jones and Jalen Mills also played well most of the time. Being the best corner on the team is one thing, but Jonathon is a great veteran leader for the team. Mills had injuries late that would have voided the Marcus Jones Tee Higgins situation. Jones needs an extension, so let’s see if Belichick wants to give his best corner an extension. Overall, I think Bill needs to go after a true cornerback in the offseason.

The safeties played incredibly. In his age thirty-five season, Devin McCourty had four interceptions, tied with Jonathon Jones for the team lead. He may retire this offseason, but with Matthew Slater coming back that may change everything for McCourty. Kyle Dugger was absolutely incredible. He was PFF’s sixth-best coverage safety and had a ton of explosive plays. While he made some great tackles, his biggest plays were his touchdowns. Dugger scored three total touchdowns in 2022, two pick-sixes, and one fumble recovery touchdown. Adrian Phillips also played decent as the backup safety. The secondary as a group had its highs and lows.

Grade: B-

Patriots’ Special Teams Unit

The special teams unit for the Patriots proved to be a detriment at times. Jake Bailey was hurt and suspended throughout the year, so Michael Palardy punted the team for half of the year. Cody Davis got injured in week 6, after proving to be a great special teams player. There was also Brendan Schooler who broke out as a special teams ace, but he missed the Buffalo game where the Patriots allowed Nyheim Hines to return two kickoffs for touchdowns. Without Cody Davis and others, there were some big plays given up throughout the whole season.

There were some positives. Nick Folk played well, per usual, but he is close to retiring and has a decently weak leg as well. Marcus Jones was a First Team All-Pro punt returner, proving to be a very versatile player for the team on defense and special teams.

Patriots Defense Overall Grade

The Patriots’ defense report card overall is a B.

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