There’s been a lot of ink spilled over the Patriots inability to stop the run last season. To my eyes, the problem was mostly outside runs and not so much straight up the middle, so we need players who can set the edge well. Is my memory foggy? It seemed like Matthew Judon lost containment too often, especially late in the season/playoffs. There’s also been a lot of talk about the decline in his performance (i.e. sacks) late in the season, but I think that’s because he was getting double-teamed more and held on pretty much every play. – Wanda Dunn
I agree with your point about the edges being a problem in containing the running game but I also feel like stopping things between the tackles was a problem as well. Overall the run defense has been a problem for at least the last three seasons, and there have been a number of personnel changes among the front seven during that time. The edges were definitely problematic down the stretch last season, as you pointed out. Judon wasn’t as effective in this area in the second half of the season, just as his production as a pass rusher declined as well. He needs to perform more consistently if the Patriots defense is going to improve much. There will likely be an unproven player on the opposite edge since veterans like Kyle Van Noy are no longer with the team. That means someone such as Ronnie Perkins or Anfernee Jennings will need to step up and fill a role to help get things fixed up front. But run defense is definitely an area that has suffered as of late.
The Patriots drafted the fastest wide receiver and the fastest running back at the Combine this year. Marcus Jones didn’t run the 40, but could he be the fastest cornerback in the draft? – Craig Dube
Marcus Jones can absolutely fly and would at the very least have been among the fastest cornerbacks at the Combine had he been healthy enough to run. Whether he would have been the fastest is impossible to determine because he didn’t actually run, but his tape at Houston shows his speed and most pre-draft publications had him running sub-4.4 40s so he would have been in the mix if he had been healthy enough. But Combine 40 times don’t really mean much once the players get to camp and start the process of becoming NFL players. I’m excited to see the Patriots rookie class in action out on the field later this month.