New England Patriots: 2 positional areas of strength pre-training camp

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 12: Hunter Henry #85 of the New England Patriots runs the ball against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on December 12, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 12: Hunter Henry #85 of the New England Patriots runs the ball against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on December 12, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots have key deficiencies at some positions, but at two, they are in solid if not spectacular shape.

Their most critical is their almost total lack of top offensive tackles, except the inscrutable Trent Brown, who can be one of the top left tackles in the NFL when he’s at his very best.

They are also deficient at running back after the departure of Damian Harris and the release of his presumptive replacement James Robinson.

In addition, the team is weak at defensive tackle, a position that versatile 2023 second-round draft pick Keion White will hopefully help rectify.

They also may have questions about cornerback depth though the arrival of potential star rookie Christian Gonzalez will hopefully fix them in a hurry.

But at two positions, the team has strength, at least in the starters at the positions. Let’s take a look at where they look pretty good.

New England Patriots edge players are top notch

The New England Patriots have two top starters at the edge position on defense who are almost as good as it gets in the NFL. They of course are the inimitable Matt Judon who came aboard as a free agent and emerging second-round pick Josh Uche.

Judon is one of the New England Patriots best free-agent signings in history, if not the best. He was a Pro Bowler while at Baltimore though a rather unheralded one and has been even better since signing with New England before the 2021 season.

In his two seasons with the Patriots, Judon has racked up 28 sacks. That’s an average of 14 sacks per in anyone’s calculation.

He doubled his 2020 sack production in his last year in Baltimore with 12.5 in 2021. He then bettered that with a whopping 15.5 in 2022.

Judon was a Pro-Bowler in each of his first two seasons in New England and has become one of the true faces of the New England Patriots, as well. Categorize that as a top signing in anyone’s book.

Flanking Judon on the right side last season was the breakout Josh Uche. Uche looked like other typical Patriots second-round flops in his first two seasons after being drafted in 2020.

He had four sacks total in 2020 and 2021 before a breakout season with 11.5 sacks in 2022.  He’s in the last year of his rookie contract and could leave a la J.C. Jackson and Jakobi Meyers after 2023 if he’s not re-signed.

With Judon and Uche along with White mentioned above, who may be able to play standing up as well as a down lineman, the team is great at the starters if not deep at the edge.

New England Patriots are solid if not deep at tight end

A second position, this one on offense, at which the New England Patriots are solid is at tight end. But wait, this space has criticized the team for not drafting and/or signing a tight end in the offseason?

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Indeed, but the problem is not the two starters, Hunter Henry and move tight end Mike Gesiki. Henry is solid if not spectacular.

While he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations after signing as a free agent in 2021, Henry certainly hasn’t been anywhere near a bust either, like the now-traded Jonnu Smith who was signed that same offseason.

Henry caught 50 in 2021 with nine TDs but his production dropped to 41 and two TDs in 2022. With a dysfunctional offense generally due in part to poor coaching decisions, Henry should be expected to come closer to the 50-catch level than below in 2023.

Gesicki came over from Miami as a free agent and will likely be the team’s best signing in this past offseason. Gesicki had 73 catches in 2021 but dropped to 32 in 2022. Expect a total of 50 or so this season along with some TDs from Gesicki. He’s a top red-zone target.

dark. Next. New England Patriots: 2 key positions that need immediate bolstering

The issue with the tight end position is depth, however. An injury to either Henry or Gesiki and the position will drop to a weakness. It’s a razor-thin margin, especially since the team eschewed drafting any tight ends in 2023, a clear mistake.

So there are two positions at which the New England Patriots are strong, at least with their starters if not with depth.

What positions do you think are the Patriots’ strongest? We’d like to hear.