Much has been said in the offseason about the Patriots roster and the direction in which they seem to be heading. As NFL teams finalized their game day rosters last week, the new philosophy the Patriots are implementing became clear with the team they chose to start with for the 2022 season.
Although there are several questions surrounding the team and how they may or may not perform this year, the players who made the team assured everyone that change was on the horizon in New England in a foreseeable future.
It’s all about youth and speed
The Patriots made no secret of their intentions this year when discussing their draft strategy a few months ago. The coaching staff has put an incredible emphasis on getting younger and faster as a whole.
Much of the conversation started shortly after the end of the 2021 season, especially because of How? ‘Or’ What the Patriots’ season ended. It was obvious throughout the season that the team needed an overall boost, but it finally came to a head in the big playoff loss to the Bills.
Inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo would comment on what the team was hoping to do specifically on defense in February. He noted wanting to inject speed (among other things, of course) with their draft and free agency decisions in the upcoming offseason.
“You always want to go faster, but what we covet here is just versatility and intelligence, football intelligence. Those are things you definitely want to have in your team. Now we have guys who were new to the system last year and I think going forward they’ll have a better understanding of that and also through the draft and free agency we’ll definitely be looking to get faster, to become more explosive and to put more playmakers on the field.
Director of player personnel Matt Groh also made it a talking point when he spoke to the media ahead of the draft in April.
“We are looking to be faster everywhere. It’s not just defense. It is an offence. These are special teams. He’s not just a linebacker. I think there are several ways to do this. I think we did some of that last year and worked on doing that in free agency.
It became abundantly clear that the Patriots had decided to start from scratch by recruiting younger, faster talent to overcome their playoff loss. Several key defensive players were not re-signed during free agency, such as Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, despite their tenures with the team.
Offensively, adding young players alongside Mac Jones was also a priority during the draft. Of their nine draft picks, seven of them would go on the offensive side of the ball. They would double to running back, one of whom was the fastest in the draft class. And they would select the fastest receiver, emphasizing the desire to speed things up.
Defensively, they would draft two cornerbacks to join Jonathan Jones and Jalen Mills. As one of the most scrutinized positions on the team, due to the loss of Stephon Gilmore and JC Jackson, the addition of two rookies with immense potential proves the Patriots are continuing their new ideology.
While the division slips away from them, the positions they enjoy replacing and upgrading show their willingness to do what it takes to stay competitive.
Adding more hybrid players
It’s well known that Bill Belichick has always loved all-around players and part of the philosophy going forward seems to be to add even more positionless all-around players. Outside of its penchant for the hybrid-style player, the NFL also seems to be moving in that direction. What teams are looking for when drafting is towards greater overall flexibility.
The Patriots defense has been following this trend for several years at this point and has quite the collection of hybrid players this year. Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips and Jalen Mills certainly lead the way in this category with their abilities to line up all over the secondary.
But even more multifaceted gamers are ready to join them with the addition of Jabrill Peppers hybrid security. As the team progresses with the intention of getting faster and more talented, lining up guys with deep defensive knowledge and skills will inevitably give the Patriots the edge over their opponents.
The offense also went positionless this year, adding a plethora of versatile players through the draft and free agency.
It started in the draft when New England would choose to retake Pierre Strong Jr. and would continue with the signing of veteran RB/WR Ty Montgomery. Their additions would become vital after losing Brandon Bolden in free agency and James White to unexpected retirement during pre-season.
They would resume signing out-of-position players until a week before the regular season with the signing of RB/WR/QB/ST player Lynn Bowden Jr. to the practice squad. His presence adds another gimmicky player for Belichick to develop and utilize, continuing the team’s new path.
It’s extremely likely that the NFL will gradually change that Belichick will bring in more of these types of players. Considering his success with them in the past, the upside is high for that to continue this year as well.
Develop a more physical and faster defense
Along with bringing youth and speed to the team, the defensive players chosen to fill the 53-man roster show the Patriots plan to adopt a much more aggressive style this season.
Their struggles were on full display in the second half of 2021 as opposing offenses were able to accomplish almost anything they tried to do in a game. The quarterbacks were untouched and the running backs ran through them easily, resulting in several devastating losses to end the year.
But this season is already on another track. Throughout training camp and the three preseason games, whether it was the starters or the second team on the field, the performance of the defense constantly stood out.
Not only were they better at stopping the run, but several players were also able to easily break into the backfield and get to the quarterback. Their sheer physique and speed were on display, giving the team plenty of options for the players to be used in different ways.
With so many young and enthusiastic players on the roster this season, the Patriots have an increased opportunity to once again present a dominant defense. Although they came to camp as the most concerning side on the ball, they proved all summer that they are here to play and play hard.