Latest outlook for the Patriots secondary
By: Jake Rajala
The New England Patriots secondary is certainly not an intimidating group entering the 2022 season. In particular, their cornerback room appears to be their weakest unit. They don’t have an outside cornerback like Darrelle Revis, Stephon Gilmore, or J.C. Jackson. Malcolm Butler and Jalen Mills are projected to be the starting outside CBs. Mills may have strong leadership traits, but he also allowed six touchdowns in a span of 12 games last season. Furthermore, Butler was retired in 2021 — so it’s far from clear if he will be an effective CB moving forward. Ben Linsey from ESPN expressed that the Pats CB group is their biggest weakness. He stated that the Pats could be exposed in man coverage, which could force the Pats to use more zone coverage in 2022.
The Pats CBs will also routinely face AFC East WRs like Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, and Corey Davis. It seemed to be bad timing that Jackson left the Pats CB group, while Hill entered the division. Belichick and his crew will surely need to do a better job coaching the outside CBs than at any previous point in their coaching tenures.
The Patriots safety group has talent, versatility, and quality depth. Devin McCourty had three interceptions last season and a shiny 76 grade from PFF. He may be 34, but he is still capable of playing at a high level. Kyle Dugger was a pleasant surprise in his sophomore season — as he notched four ints and earned an admirable 71.8 grade by PFF. The new face Jabril Peppers, also known as another Michigan Wolverine legend on the Pats defense, will seek to be a heat-seeking missile and a ball-hawk. Peppers ousted 11 pass deflections, 2.5 sacks, and 8 TFLs in 2020. It’s no secret that Belichick will lean on the Pats safety group to be extra special with the rebuilding CB group moving forward.
The Pats have been a Top-2 unit in passing yards per game allowed in two of the past three seasons. It will be a serious challenge to come close to that outcome in 2022, but the Pats pass defense that has impressively moved on from gifted CBs in the past can certainly be an above-average pass defense in 2022. The Pats still have the best defensive coach in NFL history (aka BB), a modest CB in Mills, and a well-rounded safety unit.