There will be many x factors for a team that got blown off the field in the AFC Wildcard game a season ago, but the importance of the man with the red sleeves will be magnified not only because of what he can deliver on the field, but his experience and what he can teach the younger players on the team.
Once Kyle Van Noy was let go and Hightower was not re-signed, the weight of the defense, at least the front seven now lays on Judon’s shoulders.
New England Patriots will depend on Matt Judon’s leadership in 2022
As one of the more experienced players and productive players on defense, Judon is looking to be even better in 2022 than he was in his first season with the Patriots in which he was a nuisance off the edge with 12.5 sacks and 25 QB hits. He did tail off towards the end of the season, but there is no doubt he was a tremendous pickup for Belichick.
He is also both funny, wise, and optimistic about his role in the Patriots’ defense. Especially this upcoming season.
"“I’m so much more prepared,” Judon told reporters, via Patriots.com. “We’re all speaking the same language and I can talk to my coaches differently this time than last year. We’re reading the same book, same language, same page now and we can expand upon what we did last year.”"
After how the team ended the 2021 season, there is emphasis on the defensive side of the football to get younger, faster, and more physical. While Christian Barmore is one player who comes to mind when it comes to youth and physicality, there are several young linebackers the team is relying on to make big leaps in 2022.
That is where Judon’s leadership and mentorship will be the biggest X-factor this upcoming season. The Patriots did trade away Chase Winovich who had edge rush capability, but perhaps that is because of the other players behind Judon like Josh Uche, Ronnie Perkins and Anfernee Jennings.
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If just one of those players breakout or at least make an impact, the New England Patriots defense will be that much better. Judon knows there are ways he can teach them on the field, but also believes sharing his experience growing up in the league can be a bigger motivator.
"“I’m just trying to impart some of the wisdom that was imparted on me growing up,” Judon said. “I had great mentors and leaders throughout my years in the league and I think it would be terrible of me to leave this league and just take all my knowledge with me. They might take some, they might be, ‘Alright, this is what I do,’ but as long as I’m there and if they ask, I’m going to help. Whatever I can do to make their career smoother, that’s what I’m going to do.”"
Hopefully, they decide to listen and some of that edge rushing ability can rub off on those players, especially Uche and Perkins who have the skillset to be explosive players off the edge for the Patriots in 2022.