PATRIOTS ROSTER REVIEW/STATS PREDICTIONS: Defense

If you didn’t check out my Offensive review, go check it out!

Defensive Tackle: Danny Shelton, Malcolm Brown, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler

Since the departure of Vince Wilfork, the Patriots have not had a lot of production out of the defensive tackle position. It wasn’t too long ago the team played in Super Bowl 49 with Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga manning the middle of the defensive line.

Former first-round pick Malcolm Brown has been a solid player as a run stuffer but hasn’t shown the center pash rushing ability he showed in college. Though the pairing of another former-first rounder, Danny Shelton, gives the Pats a solid lane stuffing duo up front. Shelton could very well be the best pickup of the offseason coming over in a trade with Cleveland.

Lawrence Guy has been a dependable player as well and offers the team great depth. Adam Butler gets another shot on the roster after a few strong performances last season and offers some quality upside.

With quality depth at defensive tackle, the Patriots have the ability to switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front seamlessly.

Stats Predictions:

Shelton: 52 Tackles, 3 Sacks

Brown: 45 Tackles, 2.5 Sacks

Guy: 26 Tackles, 1 Sack

Butler: 11 Tackles, 1.5 Sacks

Defensive End: Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise Jr., Geneo Grissom, Keionta Davis

There is a lot of upside with this group that struggled with consistency and ability to create pressure last season. Trey Flowers looks to reach his true potential as a pass rusher and has the tools to do it.

The addition of Adrian Clayborn adds a veteran presence to this young group. Clayborn has had a productive career and should bring stability to the line. Like Danny Shelton in the middle, Clayborn’s addition will be one of the best moves of the offseason.

Behind Flowers and Clayborn, there is a lot of unknown yet exciting players. Derek Rivers, who missed all of his rookie season after being selected in the second round, has the raw talent to blossom as a pass rusher. Rivers has the size and speed to allow him to play on the line and standing up as a linebacker similar to past players like Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel, Rob Ninkovich, and other hybrid edge rushers.

Deatrich Wise Jr. also showed a lot of promise last season in limited time. Like Rivers and Flowers, Wise also has the speed and strength to create a pass rush off the edge. This could be a breakout year for Wise and he will get his opportunity opposite of Flowers on the line.

Grissom and Davis bring depth to the line but shouldn’t see much time barring injury. Grissom has been around the team for a few years and Davis did enough to crack the roster, but neither are expected to make much of an impact.

Stats Predictions:

Flowers: 68 tackles, 11 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles

Clayborn: 35 Tackles, 7 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble

Rivers: 38 Tackles, 4.5 Sacks

Wise Jr.: 41 Tackles, 5 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble

Grissom: 9 Tackles, .5 Sacks

Davis: 4 Tackles, 0 Sacks

Linebacker: Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Nicholas Grigsby

Having Dont’a Hightower back will be a welcomed sight for this group that had it’s ups and downs last year. Hightower is a special player when he’s on the field in regards to leadership and playmaking ability and his absence was well noted. Having Hightower back will allow the Patriots to employee more blitz packages that are well suited to Hightower’s skill set; He has been hard to block in the past and will bring that edge back to the defense this season.

Kyle Van Noy’s name doesn’t excite many Patriots fans, but he has been a solid player that can rack up tackles. Van Noy was thrown into the top linebacker spot last season, but having Hightower back will allow him to return to a less prominent role which is better suited for him.

Rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley has shown potential to be a solid player in the preseason. Bentley is big, mean, and reminds me a lot of Brandon Spikes. Bentley will see the field a lot in his first year and he will make the most of his chances.

The one time up and coming Elandon Roberts will join Grigsby as a depth player. Roberts struggled last season but still has the skills to be a fine role player on the team.

Stats Predictions:

Hightower: 85 Tackles, 5 Sacks, 3 Forced Fumbles

Van Noy: 64 Tackles, 3.5 Sacks, 1 Interception, 1 Forced Fumble

Bentley: 74 Tackles, 1.5 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles

Roberts:  36 Tackles, .5 Sacks

Grigsby: 7 Tackles, 0 Sacks

Cornerback: Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Duke Dawson, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Keion Crossen

One of the deepest positions on the defensive roster, the Patriots have a lot of talent at cornerback this season and a lot of youth.

After a rocky start in New England, Stephon Gilmore has lived up to his big contract. Gilmore is the only clear-cut starter out of this group and will be on the field the majority of defensive snaps.

Eric Rowe has been a dependable player as well. Rowe player very well last season and is capable of lining up with bigger receivers and tight ends as well. Rowe’s size makes him a versatile, valuable piece on the defensive.

Behind Gilmore and Rowe, the team has a quality group of young players. Speedster Jonathan Jones showed a lot of potential playing in the slot before an injury derailed his season.

J.C. Jackson has been a preseason star and may have earned some time playing on the outside. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jackson and Rowe splitting time throughout the season.

Second round pick Duke Dawson hasn’t shown much but his draft capital should allow him to see some play time at some point in the season. Though, at this point, Dawson and Keion Crossen find themselves on the outside of this deep rotation. Dawson will get his shot, but rookie Crossen may have to wait for poor play or injury to the others to see the field.

Stats Predictions:

Gilmore: 54 Tackles, 3 Interceptions

Rowe: 24 Tackles, 2 Interceptions, 1 Forced Fumble

Jackson: 21 Tackles: 2 Interceptions

Dawson: 14 Tackles, 0 Interception, .5 Sacks

Jones: 31 Tackles, 1 Interception, 1 Sack

Krossen: 2 Tackles, 0 Interceptions

Safety: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jason McCourty

It’s hard to ask for a more reliable group. The top three safeties, D. McCourty, Chung, and Harmon are all looking to continue their solid play.

Devin McCourty isn’t the flashiest safety in the league but he prevents big plays better than anyone else in the league. The defense will once again employee the tactic of man-to-man coverage on the outside with the sideline being the second defender and McCourty will lock down the middle of the field. As long as #32 is patrolling the middle, quarterbacks must be wary about throwing there.

Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon are both versatile enough to play man-to-man and stop the run. Since Chung has returned from his short stint in Philadelphia, he has been one of the best run-stopping safeties in the league and can match up with tight ends each week. Harmon also allows the Patriots to put him into the rotation like another starter without missing a beat.

Jason McCourty, who wasn’t a lock to make the team, brings a solid, veteran into the fold. Playing both safety and cornerback in his career, J. McCourty can do it all. He may have lost a step at this point in his career but he still brings enough to the table to offer valuable depth at either position.

Stats Predictions:

D. McCourty: 88 Tackles, 1 Interceptions, .5 Sacks

Patrick Chung: 79 Tackles, 1 Interception, 1 Sack, 1 Forced Fumble

Duron Harmon: 33 Tackles, 2 Interceptions

J. McCourty: 21 Tackles, 1 Interception

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