New England Patriots need to get smarter, faster and tougher in 2022

New England Patriots (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
New England Patriots (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots made some strides in the 2021 NFL season, but with the way it ended, Bill Belichick and crew are going to have to make some upgrades to compete within their own division.

In other words, they are going to have to add some toughness and speed through free agency and the draft and hope some of their younger players take major leaps in 2022.  Despite a seven-game winning streak and what they look like they have in Mac Jones at the quarterback position, the once dominant title holder of the AFC East must battle with the Bills and Miami Dolphins for years to come.

While Josh Allen has looked unstoppable against the Patriots’ defense, just imagine if the Dolphins add Deshaun Watson.  Yes, Belichick has some work to do on the defensive side of the ball and the offense also must take a leap to keep up with those teams.

The New England Patriots lack of speed on defense exposed

Thoroughly exposed in the Wild Card game against the Bills, the Patriots main need is on the defensive side of the football where Belichick must change his approach in personnel.  He needs to add some speed which CBS analyst Boomer Esiason noted as the team’s main need this offseason.

"“I need speed on defense,” Esiason said during his weekly appearance on the Greg Hill Show. “I need more speed on defense. Their linebackers are big, and they’re really good run-stuffers for the most part, Saturday night notwithstanding. But I also think when I see Bill’s team, I see a well put-together team, but I also see a team that lacks overall team speed. They do have big, lumbering, slow guys.“This game is based on speed. If you watched any of the games over the weekend, the real superstars in this league are the guys who can really go after it. … These are the guys that we need. We need fast guys who can make plays, and they can make them suddenly. I don’t necessarily know that the Patriots have that on defense. They need more team speed on that side of the ball.”"

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It feels like speed on the defensive side of the ball has been a need for a few seasons now.  While Belichick has drafted players in the last couple of drafts who fit the mold, those players haven’t seen much time on the field other than safety Kyle Dugger and defensive lineman Christian Barmore.  Other high to mid round draft picks like Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Ronnie Perkins, Josuah Bledsoe and Cameron McGrone have the athleticism and speed, but will have to develop into roles.

As the addition of veteran pass rusher Matthew Judon has given the team some much needed pass rush, more is needed.  Belichick must move past reliable, but aging linebackers like Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins and add some younger veterans to the mix of younger players.

There will be some intriguing names out there in free agency on all levels of defense to build around Barmore, Judon, Duggar, Adrian Phillips and hopefully J.C. Jackson.  Bill Belichick must identify those players and how they will fit into his system while also not overpaying.  He must think about players who can defend quarterbacks like Josh Allen.

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Most importantly, Belichick must stop being stubborn when it comes to his defensive philosophy.  It is time to change his approach because as Esiason pointed out, the game features players who can get after it.  The New England Patriots have been missing those kinds of players lately, especially on the defensive side of the football.

When the game speeds up, the Patriots have continually been left in the dust.