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MORSE: Patriots Roster Analysis – Defense

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
2 years ago at 1:48 pm ET
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

MORSE: Patriots Roster Analysis – DefenseRich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Its’s the bye week and I am conducting my analysis of the roster as it currently sits through 13 games.

Defensive Line


Lawrence Guy 45 Tackles 1.5 Sacks – Guy was just nominated for the Walter Payton Man-of-the-Year for Community Service.  On the field, he brings that same leadership.  Steady force at DT.  He is second on the DL in tackles.   Very glad we re-signed him.  Started slowly as did the whole DL, but now the Patriots are very difficult to run on.

Davon Godchaux 48 Tackles 1 Sack – Started very slow and some questioned his signing as a Free Agent.  He is coming off a 10 tackle game against the Bills.  That’s phenomenal for an NT that is usually just occupying space and taking double-team blocks to free up LB to make the tackles.

Dietrich Wise 34 Tackles 2 sacks – He is playing DT rather than DE.  He is a tweener.  Not big enough for a DT,  not fluid enough to play the hybrid LB/DE.  He has long arms and he uses them to pressure the QB.  He can be run on if you attack him directly.

Christian Barmore 31 Tackles 1 sack – He has been a pleasant surprise in his rookie year.  Barmore has been very disruptive and an excellent pass rusher from the DT position.  It’s not the sacks but the pressure he brings up the middle.  He is not allowing the opposing QB to step up into the pocket and sets up the other defenders to make sacks. His run defense needs work (experience) as he is playing on passing downs mostly.   I was down on Barmore when the Pats drafted him.  I thought he was lazy.  He has been the complete opposite and has bought into the Patriots Way.  Glad I was so wrong.

Carl Davis 16 Tackles 1 Sack – He is healthy which was his problem last season.  He is the immovable object at NT and gives Godchaux some relief at the tough NT position without any drop-in play.

Henty Anderson (IR) 4 Tackles – When healthy, Anderson was a big disappointment.  I had high hopes for Anderson coming in as a Free Agent.  He never seemed to grasp the defensive concept and didn’t contribute much.

Dan Ekuale  (PS) 3 Tackles 2 sacks (2 games) – I needed to add Ekuale because of his contribution in very limited snaps.  He has a knack for getting pressure on the QB.  He has been called up twice from the PS and had a sack in each game.  I would expect that he will receive a futures contract from the Patriots at the end of the season and I think they have found a diamond in the rough with Eukale.  In 2020, he signed with JAX and was elevated to the 53 man roster in September for the year.  The third-year DT, in 16 games coming into this year, has 17 tackles and a sack.

Tashawn Bowers (MIN) 1 sack – Need to acknowledge Bowers limited contribution before he was poached off the Practice Squad.

Bryon Cowart (PUP) has been out since pre-camp.  I don’t see him being activated and he will revert to IR for the season.


Matt Judon   49 Tackles 12.5 Sacks – He has come as advertised when they signed him to a lucrative Free Agent contract.  Through 13 games he has 12.5 sacks and threatens to break the single-season record for 18.5 sacks set by Hal of Famer Andre Tippett.  His pressure off the edge has been crucial in the run game as well.  He is also excellent at holding the edge and forcing the runner inside.   Defensive MVP for Patriots.

Chase Winovich 7 Tackles 0 Sacks – He has regressed to nothing but a third-down pass-rushing specialist and special teams contributor.

Josh Uche  10 Tackles 3 Sacks – Uche was unstoppable in training camp and Pre-season games.  Then the regular season started and he was nowhere to be found.  He did manage 3 sacks in 9 games.  He is currently on IR and not sure if we will see him again this year.

Ronnie Perkins  After missing 10 games, he has been activated to the 53 man roster but has yet to make a play.  The Patriots drafted Perkins knowing that he was hurt which dropped his draft stock and the Patriots were able to grab him late in the third round (96th overall).  Perkins is transitioning from a hand in the dirt DE to OLB/Edge rusher.  Patriots coaches have been pleased with his progress, but he was inactive for the game Monday Night against the Bills.


Dont’a Hightower 52 Tackles .5 sacks – He is the glue that holds the Defense together.  Hightower started the season slowly.  He seemed to be a step slow in his read and reaction.  The year off due to him opting out had a direct effect on him.  As his play improved, the Patriots Defense also improved.

Kyle Van Noy  42 tackles 4 Sacks – Van Noy also started slow but his improved play has been noticeable.  He has set the edge better than he has his entire career.  Chipping in with 4 sacks helps.

Ja’Whaun Bentley 81 Tackles 1 Sack –  Bentley slimmed down and he has become a quicker player.  The veteran reacts to run plays quickly.  He is their number one run stuffer.

Jaime Collins 7 Tackles 1 Sack 1 INT – Collins has not played much in the 6 games he has been active for the Patriots.  His INT was a thing of beauty and athleticism.

Jahlani Tavai 9 Tackles 0 Sacks – The reclamation project from the Lions has been a fill-in player in the nine games he has been active.  On Monday he was inactive as a healthy scratch. His contribution has been mostly on Special Teams.

Calvin Munson 9 Tackles 0 Sacks – His contribution has been on Special Teams.  Interesting he was active Monday Night and Tavai wasn’t.  Just goes to show how much Bill values Special Teams.

Brandon King 8 Tackles 0 Sacks – King’s a Special Teams Specialist only.  All his tackles have been on Special Teams.

Camerone McGrone  (NFI) Rumor has it that McGrone may be ready to start practicing.  He was drafted knowing he was hurt and this would be a Red Shirt year.  At 6’1” 238 lbs, he is more like Kyle Dugger than a true Inside Linebacker.

Terez Hall (PUP) No new all year on Hall which probably means its’s wait till next year.

Raekwon McMillan (IR) Hurt in Preseason Training Camp, McMillan was playing well and I thought he had a chance to make the final 53.   I don’t know the status of McMillan’s contract for 2022.

 Harvey Langi (IR) 3 tackles 0 Sacks – Langi only played in 7 games, mostly on Special Teams.


JC Jackson 44 Tackles  7 INTs – With the departure of Stephon Gilmore, Jackson has emerged as the number one shutdown CB for the Patriots.  He is second in the league with 7 Interceptions.  Trevon Diggs leads with 9. Some players have a nose for the ball and Jackson also has the quick reactions to adjust to the ball in flight.  He is going to get paid next year one way or another.  I can see the Patriots franchise tagging him so they can work out a long-term deal the next year.  They will be up against the cap in 2022, and unless Jackson agrees to backload his contract (I would think he would want to frontload it like Gilmore) then they would postpone a long-term deal until 2023.

Devin McCourty 44 tackles 2 Interceptions –  The 12-year veteran and team Captain is the leader of the secondary.  He inspires his teammates to give it their best effort every snap.  This very well could be his final season as old man time is catching up with the 34 yo.  I would say he is a step slower but he makes up for that with his experience and guile.

Kyle Dugger 80 tackles 3 Interceptions – Dugger has come as advertised when Bill Belichick made the bold move of trading out of the 1st round in 2020 and selected Dugger as his first pick overall in the 2nd round.  Dugger was my draft binky in 2020 and I was incredibly happy they selected the DII player from Lenoir-Rhymes.  He has proven this year that his selection was justified.  He missed the Monday Might game on the COVID list, otherwise, he would lead the team in Tackles.  He is just one behind Bentley.  The Patriots often play a 3 safety Defense, sometimes called the Big Nickel.  Either Dugger or Phillips plays more of a Linebacker position.  Dugger is excellent against the run.

Adrian Phillips 64 Tackles 4 INTs – Philips is third on the team in tackles.  As mentioned about Dugger, Phillips plays the Big Nickel and is also a very good tackler against the run.  Phillips has also chipped in with 4 INTs.  Last season Phillips was very strong against the run and played more linebacker than Strong Safety.

Jalen Mills 32 Tackles 0 INTs – Mills has been a huge disappointment to me this year.  He is the worst coverage back the team has.  He was beaten by Gabriel Davis on Buffalo’s 4th down pass attempt and if it wasn’t for Myles Bryant’s terrific pass breakup, Mills would have been the Goat.  I could see Mills getting replaced if not this year then next season.  The Patriots have been bringing along Shaun Wade slowly.

Jon Jones  20 Tackles 1 INT – Jones got hurt in the 6th game and has been put on Season Ending IR.  He is a terrific slot corner and maybe more valuable in that difficult-to-play position than to start at LCB.  The slot corner needs to have incredible quickness as well as speed.  Bryant has filled in admirably.

Myles Bryant 28 Tackles 0 INTs – Through 9 games Bryant has done a gerat job replacing Jones as the slot corner.  He also has the speed and instinct to play Safety and may be the heir apparent to Devin McCourty.  He is a sure open field tackler.

Joejuan Williams  20 Tackles 0 INT – In 11 games played, the third-year 2nd round pick has disappointed.  He has yet to live up to the hype of a big cornerback or safety.  He gets beat often in man coverage and is very susceptible to double moves.   I think Sean Davis will be pushing for his spot.

Shaun Wade 1 Tackle 0 INT – Wade has only been active for one game this year.  He was a highly touted DB out of Ohio St.  Wade is big for a CB at 6’1” and he ran a 4.46 40 at his Pro Day.  He was limited in what he could do because of a turf toe injury.  Not sure if that injury has lingered into this year.  He was a 5th rd pick by BAL in this year’s draft and then traded to the Patriots.

Sean Davis – Davis has no stats so far as he saw his 1st action of the season on Monday Night.  I was very surprised he was active and Wade wasn’t.  Even more surprised to see him in the game at crunch time.  He was in the game before Phillips goy hurt and was also in coverage for Buffalo’s final play.  Davis was elevated from the Practice Squad for the Monday Night game and relegated back to the Practice Squad after the game.   Davis is big at 6’1 202 lbs. The 6-year vet was a 2nd round pick of Pittsburgh in 2016.

Cody Davis 11 Tackles 0 INT – When you put Special next to Cody Davis you must be talking about his Special Teams contribution.  He leads the team in ST tackles with 9.  He is the personal protector for punter Jake Bailey.

Joshua Bledsoe (NFI) – I believe Bledsoe has started to practice.  This doesn’t mean he will get activated.  He will probably revert to IR for the season.  This is the 23rd draft pick that the Patriots drafted knowing they were injured and willing to give them a red-shirt year.  I was not impressed with Bledsoe at the Senior Bowl practices.  I thought he was slow to react.  He gets beat off the LOS and is always a half step behind.  He is known as a hitter and a good open-field tackler.


Special Teams


Nick Folk Team MVP!  He has been phenomenal this year.  33-36 on FGs, 29-33 XP, all three misses have been beyond 50 yards.  He has 5 kicks made beyond 50.  Tied his career-long with 3 53 yard kicks.  This is from the man that played the Patriots in a Thursday Night game in week 5 at Tampa Bay in 2017.  He missed 3 FGs in a 19-14 loss for TB.  He was placed on IT the next week and released after the season.  He was out of the NFL for two year until the Patriots signed him in October 2019.  He didn’t even make the 53 man roster out of camp this year.  He was re-signed before the 1st game and has had an All-Pro Year.


Jake Bailey Bailey hasn’t had as good a year as he did last season when he made the Pro-Bowl.  His efforts have been pretty good.  He is excellent as a Kick-Off Specialist too.  Bailey is ranked 19th in the league in NET yards per punt at just over 40 yards.

Punt Returner

Gunner Olszewski has been 2nd in the league with a 12.3 punt return average.  His two-year totals are the best in the league.

Gunners There is no better duo than Mattew Slater and Justin Bethel.  Quite often you see the opposition get zero return yards due to Bailey’s kicks and the outside pressure of these two.

Long Snapper

Joe Cardona – He is steady and reliable.  It’s an unsung art.  If you don’t hear his name then he didn’t screw up and that’s exactly what you want.

Kick-Off Returners

The team has had Brandon Bolden and Gunner Olszewski back to return kick-offs.  Olszewski has averaged a shade over 25 per KO return.

Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

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